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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

Make up your bloody mind

For an organisation to run successfully, they must identify goals, prioritise them, examine alternative ways to achieve them, then decide on a co-ordinated approach to move forward.

Nothing could be less descriptive of government in this country which seems to actively work against itself, flip-flopping around to appease interest groups resulting in policies that contradict each other.

For example, take the latest decision to fiddle with the skilled visa program.  Employing Australians first is a good idea but cutting funding to TAFE and universities leaves us with skills shortages.  If you want to be self-sufficient then you need to invest in education and training but this recurrent expenditure will no doubt be put in the “bad debt” basket by our shallow Treasurer.

We are similarly self-defeating when it comes to action on climate change.  We had the carbon price that everyone agrees is the best way to create changed energy behaviour but it was axed because, according to the Coalition, it made energy prices too high.  Except abolishing the carbon price did nothing to curb rising energy prices and led to increased emissions for the first time in a decade.  There is no longer any incentive for polluters to pay for the research and development into more sustainable practice.

We had a bipartisan renewable energy target.  Until we trashed it and cut ourselves off from billions in private investment.  Policy uncertainty has made investors wary so, instead of letting the market decide, we now find ourselves in the ridiculous position of the government paying polluters, shelling out for new coal mines and gas plants and for a grand scheme to pump water uphill, all at the same time because their own indecision has made private funds dry up.

Under a barrage of evidence of aggressive tax avoidance, the government has made some token attempts to pursue guilty corporations.  But at the same time they cut thousands of jobs from the ATO and greatly reduced their capacity to investigate.  Then they hired some back to make a special taskforce, at the same time as they are fighting to reduce taxation even further for these companies.

The government has repeated the mantra of jobs and growth ad nauseum, signalling hundreds of billions will be spent on building defence materiel to create a couple of thousand jobs (maybe).  Or railways to nowhere for a couple of hundred jobs (until it gets fully automated).  At the same time, they have cut over 15,000 public service jobs with the likelihood of many more to go as continued efficiency dividends cut to the bone.  Many of these were forced terminations costing the government a fortune in redundancy payments and the public the frustration of severely curtailed services.  Try ringing Centrelink.

We are told over and over again anecdotes about small business and how they are the backbone of the country but the government’s competition laws and purchasing policy are killing small businesses.  The local store can’t compete with the supermarket chains.  The local chemist can’t compete with the discount warehouses.  The farmer is at the mercy of monopoly distributors.  The government insists on buying as cheaply as possible so gave the contract for military dress uniforms to a Chinese company.  Not to mention the reporting burden placed on small businesses by the introduction of the GST.  Doing monthly Business Activity Statements is an onerous task let me tell you.

Uncertainty about funding has hamstrung many government agencies.  Funding for the CSIRO was slashed causing many scientists to be lost and programs to be cut, and then funding was increased again.  Funding for ASIC was slashed and then partially restored.  Same with funding for Community Legal Centres and domestic violence programs – slashed in one budget, restored a year or two later.  We had future funding agreements for schools and hospitals until Abbott tore them up, only for Turnbull to slowly dole out dribs and drabs to cover short term funding crises.  It might sound good when you announce the new funding but only if you ignore the previous cuts and the damage they caused in lost expertise, reduced services and uncertainty causing stagnation.

The government says it wants to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure yet they have completely ignored the advice of Infrastructure Australia and refused to do cost benefit analyses in many cases or to release them in others.  Barnaby tells us they don’t matter.  Instead their priorities seem to bear the stench of pork-barrelling and grandstanding – literally – you can count on getting an upgrade to the local grandstand come election time.  Oh and some CCTV cameras.

The prime example of the government working against its own goals is the sacrosanct property tax concessions.  Their hysterical defence of same has seen the government contradict themselves so many times it’s hard to keep up.  Negative gearing doesn’t inflate house prices but it will send them tumbling if reined in.  Morrison says that more investors will mean longer term leases and rental security but the evidence shows that investors are more interested in the capital gains which are realised when the property is sold.

If you want to create jobs, you don’t create conditions that skew investment away from productive enterprises and into existing housing.

Morrison is now saying that downsizing helps to free up housing supply but it was his government which scuttled Labor’s program encouraging older Australians to downsize their homes announced in the 2013 budget only to be scrapped the next year.

Seniors over age pension age who have lived in and owned their home for more than 25 years, who then downsize to a home of lesser value, will be able to place at least 80 per cent of the excess sale proceeds (to a cap of $200,000) from the sale of their former home into a special account.

This special account will be exempt from the pension income and assets tests for up to 10 years, or until a withdrawal is made from the account, whichever occurs first.

Superannuation is another area where the government is all over the place.  In 2014 they abolished the low income earner co-contribution only to reinstate it two years later.  They promised no adverse changes to super and then froze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% instead of it increasing incrementally to 12%.  They also made retrospective changes that affect wealthy superannuees instead of grandfathering the new rules to allow for future planning without adversely affecting those who invested under the laws of the day.

With concerns about an aging population, freezing the SG and considering allowing young people to raid their superannuation for the deposit for a house are bad ideas.  The first decision lessens the retirement income of all workers, particularly the young who would be even worse off if they withdrew early from their account.  Adding more buyers into an overheated market will do nothing to curb rising prices.

Increasing the retirement age to 70 is also a very questionable decision.  When they increased it from 60 to 65 it just resulted in a spike of people on the disability pension.  Keeping older people in the workforce reduces the number of jobs available to young people and families.  Delaying the age at which they can access the pension sends people in their 60s on the soul-destroying job hunt when they could be helping to care for their elderly parents and their grandchildren.

And let’s not forget the NBN which could have facilitated the decentralisation that Barnaby wants to impose on us.  Now we have a hotch potch of technologies which rely on inadequate infrastructure and insufficient technicians to cater for the many different required skills.

These are just a few examples of the directionless flip-flopping that is dished up by our politicians who follow rather than lead so can never be sure of where they are headed.

Businesses and investors need stability.  They are not getting it.  The vulnerable need support.  They are not getting it.  The environment needs protection.  It’s not getting it.  The country needs vision and leadership.  It is most definitely not getting it.

Instead of focusing on good policy, our Treasurer is spending his time working out how to sell pork-barrelling and handouts to the rich as good debt and recurrent expenditure on health, education and welfare as bad debt.

Digging policy holes and then filling them in is not productive.  Just make up your bloody mind.

One could be forgiven for thinking this is just another shameful dog-whistling lie

Spud Duddy is demanding that the ABC and Fairfax apologise to him for doubting his version of events leading up to shots being fired on Manus Island.

“These people can take the word of somebody that’s been discredited but that is an issue frankly for the credibility of the ABC, Fairfax and others, and I think they need to reflect on their position because they’ve really turned into advocates as opposed to professional journalists.”

Speaking of credibility…..

The government attacked Gillian Triggs for the AHRC Forgotten Children report which found prolonged immigration detention caused significant mental and physical illness, while hundreds of assaults and 128 cases of self-harm were reported between January 2013 and March 2014.  It also uncovered 33 reports of sexual assault.

Tony Abbott dismissed it completely saying “It’s absolutely crystal clear, this inquiry by the President of the Human Rights Commission is a political stitch up.”

Until the government’s own Moss Review confirmed the horror detailed by Ms Triggs.

The review by former Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss found evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors, and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours inside the centre on Nauru.

It also exonerated 9 Save the Children staff who had been deported under instruction from Scott Morrison for suspected “subversive” behaviour.

“They are employed to do a job, not to be political activists. Making false claims, and worse allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable, whatever their political views or agendas,” Mr Morrison said in October during a press conference as he launched the Moss Review.   “The public don’t want to be played for mugs with allegations being used as some sort of political tactic in all of this.”

He was wrong.  In January this year the department settled a court case compensating the Save the Children staff and issuing a statement saying it “regrets any hurt and embarrassment caused to the SCA employees.”

When Reza Berati was killed on Manus Island, Scott Morrison blamed the refugees for leaving the centre.

“I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act co–operatively with those who are trying to provide them with support and accommodation,” he said.  “When people engage in violent acts and in disorderly behaviour and breach fences and get involved in that sort of behaviour and go to the other side of the fence, well they will be subject to law enforcement as applies in Papua New Guinea. But when people co–operate and conduct themselves appropriately within the centre then yes I can.”

Except he was beaten to death inside the centre by people employed by our government.

When Sarah Hanson-Young said she had been spied on when she visited Nauru, Peter Dutton called her an “embarrassment to the country”.

“My experience of Senator Hanson-Young is that she gets most of the facts wrong most of the time.  She makes these allegations which are completely unfounded.”

Until a Senate committee found out it was true and that security had been instructed to destroy the evidence.

 

When it comes to offshore detention, this government has no credibility at all and I will believe Dutton’s version when he provides proof.  Until then, I give it as much credence as every other shameful dog-whistling lie this government has told ever since they found it politically advantageous to demonise asylum seekers and anyone who dares to advocate for them.

Who’s running this show?

When asked about the conditions of the written agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to form a Coalition government after last year’s election, Barnaby Joyce said “The first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential. That’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six.”

What did they have to hide?

As Mark Kenny put it, “to actively deny that exposure dishonours the democratic process… if the Prime Minister’s first act is to ink a private arrangement in which policies and patronage are seen to be traded.”

It has been widely reported that part of that horsetrading was Barnaby’s insistence that a plebiscite would precede any changes to marriage law.

A Galaxy poll in August 2012 showed that 64% of Australians believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Another poll conducted by Crosby|Textor in late June 2014 showed that almost three-quarters of Australians (72%) now support legalising same-sex marriage, including around half (48%) ‘strongly supporting’ it. Just a fifth (21%) opposed this to any degree with those strongly opposed, a small and shrinking 14%.

A Reachtel poll in February this year revealed almost 62% of those surveyed believe that their Federal member should be allowed to vote for same-sex marriage when the issue comes to parliament with almost 60% believing that should happen this year.

There are 226 elected representatives in Federal parliament.

Of the 204 that do not belong to Barnaby’s Nationals, 62% are in favour of marriage equality, 17% are undecided, and 21% are opposed.  This roughly correlates with community opinion.

Of the 22 Nationals members, 18% are in favour, 23% are undecided, and a whopping 59% are opposed.  This is completely unrepresentative of what the people of Australia actually think.

Ever since the election, Barnaby has been flexing his muscles.  Fiona Nash has announced that, unless they can present a case as to why not, the entire public service will be moved to the bush.  Matt Canavan is strongly pushing for the Nationals slush fund (aka the NAIF) to be spent subsidising an Indian billionaire’s coal venture.  The inland railway, that may or may not make Barnaby Joyce’s Pilliga property more valuable, will go ahead.  Dog whistling about 457 visas and citizenship is designed purely to shore up Barnaby’s party against James Ashby’s One Nation.

Approximately 10% of Australians live outside urban areas.  Nationals make up about 10% of our MPs but they occupy over 21% of the ministry giving them a disproportionate voice in Cabinet.

After Tony Abbott deliberately scuttled any chance of marriage equality by inviting Barnaby’s bozos to join the Liberal’s party room debate, Malcolm Turnbull contacted Alan Jones asking him to intercede.

“This is ridiculous Alan, this plebiscite stuff,” Jones quoted Turnbull as saying at the time.

Well Malcolm, you’re the boss now – well at least in name.  You could actually have the courage of your convictions for once and allow the lawmakers to vote now on what is an inevitability.

Not only would it remove a festering topic, it would put Tony Abbott in his place and remind Barnaby that he isn’t running the show.  Despite what Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews may think, it would undoubtedly give you a lift in the polls and would give you some clear air to get on with more pressing issues before the next election.  It would remove a wedge issue from Labor’s arsenal.

Why are the Nationals allowed to impose their will on the country against the wishes of the vast majority of politicians and citizens?  What is Barnaby going to do if you decide to have a parliamentary vote – give up being Deputy PM?  I don’t think so.  Dissolve the Coalition?  Hardly.

The February Reachtel poll also showed that 41% of voters are less likely to vote for the Government if the Liberal Nationals Coalition continues to block members voting according to their conscience.

For everyone’s sake, show some ticker and to use Barnaby’s words, just get ‘er done.

The world is bat poo crazy

The world is bat poo crazy.

Barnaby Joyce is our Deputy Prime Minister, Pauline Hanson is dictating policy, and Spud Duddy is being touted as our next leader.

Action on climate change is seen as too expensive.

We can’t afford foreign aid for our neighbours but we can afford $400 billion for new war toys on top of 2% of GDP each year on defence.

In order to stop terrorists killing innocent people, we spend a fortune bombing innocent people in other sovereign nations.

In the name of keeping people safe, we close the door to those fleeing war and oppression.  In order to stop refugees drowning at sea, we lock them up indefinitely in corrupt hellholes or send them back to their tormentors.

The Western defenders of democracy, freedom and human rights continue to pour obscene amounts of armaments into any hotspot with the bucks to pay.

To create tolerance and cohesion, we scapegoat minority groups.

To fix the budget, we cut income to the poorest consumers and revenue from the wealthiest tax avoiders.

A gross debt of $260 billion was a disaster but a gross debt of $500 billion is sound economic management showing a credible path back to surplus.

In order to “create jobs”, we pay billions of dollars to subsidise coal-mining which is moving towards making everything autonomous from pit to port but could not afford to subsidise car manufacturing which employed many more people and kept manufacturing alive.

To facilitate decentralisation, and to improve competition, we build a hopelessly inadequate NBN.

To fill skills shortages, we close TAFEs and then argue about what hoops imported workers must jump through to be exploited by unscrupulous employers.

To encourage children to attend school we employ truancy officers and threaten to cut off their parents’ income or block their citizenship.

To foster creativity and innovation we revert to Direct Instruction with a focus on phonics and our Judeo-Christian heritage.  We cut research funding and increase university fees.

With youth unemployment at dangerous highs, we extend the retirement age to 70.  Expect a spike in disability pensions as happened when they increased it from 60 to 65.  Unless you are a politician (past or present), judge or one of those endless Board members, getting a job in your 60s is pretty hard.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Australia are homeless and more than 13% live in poverty despite the country having achieved 25 uninterrupted years of growth.

In an attempt to lower electricity bills, we have watered down the Renewable Energy Target saving households, on average, 50c a week while adding to the uncertainty that has strangled renewable energy investment.  The government continues to collect 10% GST on every electricity bill.

To make health more affordable, we cut preventative health programs and make going to the GP more expensive.  Despite the statistics showing how much is spent in the last few days of life, dying with dignity remains a forbidden topic.

To help young Aboriginals who are struggling to cope, we lock them up, abuse and humiliate them, and then punish them more for not becoming model citizens.

Homosexuality is still seen by the lawmakers of the country as deviant behaviour that precludes gays from the same rights as others.

“Intellectual” and “do-gooder” are now derogatory terms and environmental protection is “lawfare” or, even worse, “socialism”.

As the world struggles with the challenges of climate change, inequality, overpopulation, resource depletion, famine and war, all our time is spent discussing “fake news” – a term I have come to loathe.  Truth and evidence no longer matter when we have facebook confirmation.

And what’s more….

Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Can the lunacy end or are we doomed to hasten our own destruction?

Barnaby’s thought bubble is blatant pork-barrelling

Yesterday, regional development minister Fiona Nash told the Press Club about the Nationals grand scheme to move the public service to the bush.  Their decentralisation policy would be applied across the whole of government.

“All portfolio ministers will be required to report back to Cabinet by August on which of their departments, functions or entities are suitable,” Senator Nash said.  “Departments will need to actively justify if they don’t want to move, why all or part of their operations are unsuitable for decentralisation.”

“Relevant ministers will be required to report to Cabinet with robust business cases for decentralisation by December. It’s important for government to lead by example and invest in rural, regional and remote Australia.”

In March, Jack Waterford wrote a scathing criticism of this thought bubble.

“Success in politics may entitle a party to expend public resources in support of pet theories or so as to reward and punish enemies, or to seek to cultivate constituencies. But the current Joyce crusade about getting government agencies into the bush – transparently so that the Nationals can out-Hanson Hanson – will do the Nationals no good, will do the country no good, and will do the nation no good.

The big losers from self-indulgent transfers of bodies such as the pesticides regulatory authority to Armidale, in the New England region of NSW (and Joyce’s electorate), will be people involved in agriculture. And the taxpayer, stiffed for an extra $40 million or so. The consequence of the disruption that Joyce is demanding will almost certainly be a worsened access by farmers and graziers to the best agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and a reduced quality of service to Australian agriculture and our export trade. We can scarcely afford it.

Think-tanks, repositories of specialised knowledge, regulators, and consultative bodies only rarely operate effectively away from their key audiences, and away from where the power is. The pesticides authority has almost no direct interaction with farmers or graziers, almost no association with university research, or the sorts of professions educated by institutions such as the University of New England. Very little of its work is on the ground with farmers. Its dealings are with chemical and pharmaceutical companies, with agencies at national and state level, and with the world of regulation, control and information sharing.

[T]he National Party, One Nation and many of the ragbag of people focused on decentralisation, a more human scale society, or, perhaps, the turning back of the clock for a recreation of some imagined monocultural bucolic past can’t get much beyond feelings and prejudices, convictions and emotions. The intellectual sloth and ingrained ignorance of the National Party, or at least its Barnaby Joyce wing, ought to be particularly galling to taxpayers, given the party’s access to the resources, funds and brains of government, and its lack of scruple about the misappropriation of public resources to its own.”

Waterford points out the hypocrisy of the idea when so many government services in rural and regional areas have closed and there are so many other services needed that would be of actual benefit to the community.

We have seen the closure of banks, post offices, schools, TAFEs and police stations, the centralisation of Medicare and Roads Authority offices, the amalgamation of local councils, and the privatisation of employment services leading to the closure of CES offices.  Small businesses have been sucked into the vortex of regional cities, concentrating health services and leaving smaller towns without local facilities.  The corner store has been replaced by a supermarket, the local chemist and the local hardware shop by large discount warehouses, all much further from home for those in rural and remote areas.

Communities are crying out for aged care facilities, for more teachers and police, for nurses and ambulance officers, for Aboriginal services, for baby health facilities and child care centres, for dentists and doctors and legal aid, for counselling and community support groups to address the tragedy of depression and suicide that is far too prevalent in country areas.

Instead of spending a fortune pork-barrelling and grandstanding and making announcements with no thought of the cost, consequences, logistics or benefit, it’s time the National Party actually did some good for the people they represent rather than playing politics with Pauline.

If you want evidence-based decision making then you need to actually consider the evidence

Why is the government considering giving Adani a billion dollars?  According to Richard Denniss, it’s a muscle-flexing exercise for Barnaby’s boys.

“Subsidising the world’s largest export coal mine at a time of declining world demand for coal…has become a way to prove the Nats can get things built and to show their rivals in the Coalition that the junior partner has some real power.”

Barnaby concedes that they might cop “some flak” from environmentalists whilst completely ignoring the concerns from other coal producers.

Glencore’s head of Australian coal said in 2015 that “bringing on additional tonnes with the aid of taxpayer money would materially increase the risk to existing coal operations”.

Even the former Coalition resources minister, Ian Macfarlane, now the head of the Queensland Minerals Council, admits that some mining companies are opposed to Adani’s subsidies, stating “it’s a competitive world and some of our members see it as giving an advantage to one of their competitors”.

Thankfully, the decision on whether to give Adani the money is not up to Barnaby or his former staffer and cheerleader for coal, Matt Canavan.  In order to be eligible for a ‘loan’ from the Northern Australia Investment Facility, the project must be uncommercial.  NAIF’s rules require it to only lend to projects that “would not otherwise have received sufficient financing from other financiers”.

But the man running the Carmichael project for Adani, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, told a CEDA function a few weeks ago that they have plenty of financing options including selling off 49% of the Abbott Point port.

“There is a lot of sources of funds which are available to Adani and we will use these shareholder options as and when required.  This project will get funded, this project will see execution this year.”

This reinforced what Adani spokesman Ron Watson said late last year when speaking about Adani’s application to NAIF for funding for the railway.

“It’s not critical. We have obviously applied for it because it’s available,” he told Fairfax Media. “This is something that governments of all political persuasions have done in the past and I assume will do in the future. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s make or break for the project.”

So how to get subsidies for a project that claims it doesn’t need them?  Richard Denniss revealed Barnaby’s cunning idea.

Joyce’s solution is to argue that while the mine will be profitable, the monopoly railway line that would connect the coal mine to the port will not be commercial and, in turn, that the railway line will be eligible for a NAIF subsidy. Perhaps a court will have to decide if the monopoly railway between a profitable mine and a healthy world market could ever be considered “uncommercial”.

Adani’s political support, at state and federal level, is driven by the supposed number of jobs that will be created by the project.

Adani claims that 8291 jobs will be created in construction, while there will be 11,834 operational jobs, which is in stark contrast to the testimony given by their own economic advisers ACIL Allen who caused a stir in 2015 when they told Queensland’s Land Court that just 1464 direct and indirect jobs would be created with only 483 of those jobs in the Local MIW Region.

Adani has insisted that those comments were in relation to the mine only, not the other parts of the project like the railway and the port, but the report clearly states that they are modelling “the economic impacts of the Carmichael coal mine and rail project (the Project) proposed by Adani Mining Pty Ltd (Adani).”

“The Carmichael mine is to be located in the Galilee Basin, in Queensland, with the coal to be transported by rail to the Port of Abbot Point.  This report does not consider the economic impact of any expansion of the port at Abbot Point. My understanding is that this is a separate project subject to different commercial considerations from the Carmichael Project.”

According to the EIS for the Abbott Point port expansion, it will create between 82 and 164 direct and indirect jobs for less than a year of construction with ongoing employment of 1 direct job and 1.1 indirect jobs into the future.

Since those reports were produced, Adani have significantly scaled back the first phase of the mine.

“The first phase obviously will be very small, we have a 25-million-tonne open-pit mine to run,” Janakaraj said.

Carmichael’s smaller scale will reduce the power challenges in the near term, with the first stage small enough to be powered by diesel generators.

This might put a dint in Clive Palmer’s hunt for public money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund a $1.25 billion coal-fired power station and carbon capture and storage facility linked to his Galilee Basin  China First project, which has not yet started.

Also relevant to the discussion is the fact that Indian coal imports fell 22 per cent in January 2017 year on year.  This is now the second financial year in a row of decline and the rate is accelerating.

When asked what he hoped Adani would deliver for Queensland, the state’s Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham suggested jobs were a bigger priority than royalty flows.

“The main thing is obviously the jobs it will deliver to the state, both in construction and in long-term development of the Galillee Basin, there is no doubt about that, it is the jobs we are focused on,” he said.

Perhaps he is unaware of Janakaraj’s boasting to shareholders about his true intentions.

“We will be utilizing at least fourty-five 400-tonne driverless trucks. All the vehicles will be capable of automation. When we ramp up the mine, everything will be autonomous from mine to port. In our eyes, this is the mine of the future.”

When Malcolm Turnbull challenged for the leadership, he said “There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls. We need to be truly consultative with colleagues, members of Parliament, senators and the wider public.  We need an open government, an open government that recognises that there is an enormous sum of wisdom both within our colleagues in this building and, of course, further afield.”

If Gina’s boy Barnaby wins this one, we will know that evidence-based decision making is well and truly dead in Australia and that the man who said in 2010 “A zero emission future …  is absolutely essential if we are to leave a safe planet to our children and the generations that come after them” is now totally impotent.

The suppository of all wisdom’s verbal diarrhea flows unchecked

 

Returning triumphant from his taxpayer-funded pollie pedal ride, Tony Abbott has engaged in a media blitz to pass on his diagnosis of the problems of modern politics.

First, he wrote an article in The Telegraph outlining how the Coalition was on the road to defeat and what they should do to turn it around.  Then we find that he has replaced Scott Morrison for the regular gig with Ray Hadley on 2GB.  Also appearing on Sky, Abbott seems determined to be noticed.

And he is not expecting any backlash for speaking out.  Talking to Ray Hadley, Tony revealed that he shirtfronted senior minister Matthias Cormann when he criticised Abbott for a similar spray against the government in February.

“Mathias and I had a man-to-man talk you might say about that particular outburst of his,” he told 2GB host Ray Hadley. “We had a very blunt conversation about it. If you don’t like what someone is doing, rather than speak out publicly at least in the first instance you should have a man-to-man discussion.”

Can he not see the hypocrisy of that as he takes to the airwaves to tell the country what his government is doing wrong rather than discussing it in the party room?

So what wisdom did the failed ex-PM have to offer?

Mr Abbott says to retain power and please the public the government must reform the Senate (I thought we just did that); stop subsidising wind power (and presumably subsidise coal instead); dump the Human Rights Commission, “a nanny-state bureaucracy which persecutes journalists but does nothing about Muslim extremists” (he had to get “Muslim” in there somewhere and he has never considered human rights important); protect workers but make it easier for future generations to get work (no mention of how); abolish the Safe Schools program (which we all know is a Marxist brainwashing exercise to make all children transgender); and “don’t apologise for Australia; celebrate it” (as we cut foreign aid, fail to act on climate change, and fail to close the gap on indigenous disadvantage).

No mention of foreign policy.  No mention of taxation reform.  No mention of housing affordability.  No mention of the corruption and nepotism of the political class.  (Ok, that last one was a flight of fancy on my part.)

Speaking of Abbott’s failed attempt to join the priesthood, Fr Brian Wright said:

“The study of theology did not capture Tony’s imagination.  He did passably well; not as well as his academic background may have indicated.  I do not recall that he ever talked about theology while at Manly.  His concern was with churchmanship.  Tony is inclined to score points, to skate over or hold back any reservations he might have about his case.”

Nothing has changed.  Even in the church, for Tony it was all about the politics and not about the substance as shown by his comments on why he left.

A “cooperative” style of management ran counter to the Church’s age-old hierarchical structure.  l felt “had” by a seminary that so stressed ”empathy” with sinners and “dialogue” with the Church’s enemies that the priesthood seemed to have lost its point.”

Abbott craves power.  His only method to achieve it is to latch onto niche causes that he thinks will make him popular and to attack anyone or anything that stands in his way even if it is his own government.

While Abbott insists he is against dumping a sitting Prime Minister, I am sure he will have no such hesitation in rolling a defeated one and he seems to be doing everything he can to make that happen.

Informed citizens or contented consumers

There is great value in maintaining a national broadcaster that is publicly owned and funded, politically independent and fully accountable. Public ownership brings a distinct difference to the broadcasting system, with national broadcasters required and able to provide comprehensive, innovative programs not influenced by commercial imperatives.

But it seems the government’s appointees to the board of the ABC have a ‘new direction’.  As Richard Ackland put it, they want to turn what was once “a bright shining jewel in an ocean of mediocrity” into “mainstream sludge.”

In October 2014, the government appointed Peter Lewis to the board of the ABC.  This was a highly inappropriate appointment as Mr Lewis, who has a background in commercial media finance with Channel 7, was the author of a controversial, and secret, review of the ABC that was still under consideration by the board.

“Mr Lewis’s appointment appears to be a reward for him having devised a blueprint for how the ABC should be cut. It also looks to be an attempt by the Government to impose an agenda of commercialisation on the ABC.

Peter Lewis should never have been appointed to conduct a review of the ABC due to his recent employment in senior roles with media companies that are competitors of the ABC. It is even worse that someone with such a clear potential for conflict of interest has been appointed to the broadcaster’s governing board.”

A month later, Matt Peacock, 7:30 reporter and ABC staff-elected director, was told he faced redundancy after management placed him in pool of candidates to assess on ‘skills matrix’.  At the time, he was one of the board members who had to decide where to make the $254m cuts from the broadcaster.  One can only wonder how a threat like that would affect his ability to represent the staff on the board.

In November 2015, the government completely ignored the independent nominations panel who makes recommendations about ABC board appointments to appoint Donny Walford whose only qualification appears to be being a South Australian woman who owns a private company that helps women get on boards.

They also appointed Kirstin Ferguson, a Queensland woman whose background is mostly in the resources industry.  Neither woman has experience in the media.  They appear to have been chosen specifically for their gender and location to even things up.

In December 2015, it was announced that Michelle Guthrie, a former executive at Google and News Corp, would take over as Managing Director.

Under her watch, the ABC has announced a series of controversial changes starting with the abolition of the ABC Fact Check Unit. Then the closure of The Drum opinion and analysis website. In November the ABC announced it would make cuts to TV science program Catalyst that included redundancies for up to 9 staff, a decision that infuriated the scientific community. It then revealed significant programming changes to Radio National, including the removal of almost all music programs from the station.

Guthrie told the ace reporters, researchers and producers who put together Australia’s premier investigative current affairs TV show Four Corners that she would like to see in the lineup more stories about successful business people.

When it came to the program about children on Nauru speaking about their dire existence as captives of Australia’s offshore refugee policy, the managing director thought Four Corners should have found some happy children to interview.

Phillip Adams, who has presented Late Night Live on Radio National since 1991, says: “On the Richter scale of dread this is the most intense I’ve ever seen – and I lived through the Jonathan Shier years.”

Of Guthrie, Adams says: “She seems to talk to fellow bureaucrats, not program makers.”

In February this year, the government appointed Georgie Somerset to the board.  She is a beef cattle farmer and member of lobby group AgForce Queensland which is “a peak organisation representing Queensland’s rural producers.”

AgForce lists as a policy success its continued “fight to ensure that the significant international scrutiny that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is attracting is informed by credible science and practical targets rather than emotion and politics.”  They want “voluntary methods” rather than “mindless regulation.”

“I believe that agriculture is a cornerstone for the Australian economy and ensuring that the agricultural community has a voice in important decision making and policy setting forums is essential,” she said.

The government once again ignored the nominations panel to also appoint Vanessa Guthrie, chair of the Minerals Council, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the land.   She has more than 30 years of experience in the mining and resources industries, holding a variety of senior executive roles at Alcoa, Woodside Energy and Goldfields Limited.  Until last year, Guthrie was the managing director and chief executive officer of Toro Energy.

Simon Mordant, who was hired using the Gillard government’s merit-based appointment process and whose tenure runs out in November, said he was a “passionate believer in arts and current affairs, and a strong believer in the role of an independent public broadcaster. I was interested in the role in the context of public service. I also feel I can not only contribute to, but also learn a great deal from, an industry going through dramatic change.”

He will also probably become a victim of the Coalition’s reckless need to purge all things Gillard.

Last month, the Prime Minister appointed his long-time friend Justin Milne to be the chair of the ABC board.

Milne and Turnbull worked together at internet service provider Ozemail in the 1990s and Turnbull appointed Milne to the NBN board in 2013.  He also sits on the board of Tabcorp Holdings.

Outgoing Chairman James Spigelman was disappointed to not have his term extended but his parting words show he was fighting a losing battle against the ‘new direction’.

“The ABC has a great future. I tried when I was first appointed to give a framework to what I thought was important to the role of the ABC, that the ABC has to treat its audiences as citizens not as consumers.

It’s a big difference. Treating them as citizens means not only treating them with respect but treating them as people with rights and duties, not as people with wants and needs.”

Unfortunately, it is doubtful this current board even understood what he meant.

For the sake of our children and our planet, we must demand better

In 2012, former judge and anti-corruption campaigner, Tony Fitzgerald, wrote an article titled The body politic is rotten in which he espoused the view that “ethics, tolerance and civility are intrinsic elements of democratic society and that the politicians’ mutual contempt and aggressive, “end justifies the means” amorality erodes respect for authority and public institutions and compromises social cohesion.”

He called for greater scrutiny of candidates and more rigorous preselection processes to find the best person rather than “professional politicians with little or no general life experience and unscrupulous opportunists, unburdened by ethics, who obsessively pursue power, money or both.”

“Populism, paranoia and unrealistic expectations are encouraged and the naive and gullible are made envious, resentful and disdainful of fellow Australians.  Financial backers are provided with special access and influence and supporters are appointed to public positions. Information is withheld, distorted and manipulated and falsehoods and propaganda are euphemistically misdescribed as mere “spin”.

Opposition, dissent and criticism are discouraged by personal abuse, often protected by parliamentary privilege, and unwelcome ideas are condemned as “elitist” or “un-Australian”. The public interest is subordinated to the pursuit of power, party objectives and personal ambitions, sometimes including the corrupt acquisition of financial benefit.

The huge gulf between governance principles and political practice can be directly traced to the calibre of those whom parties select to represent them. Unless and until that improves, the present national embarrassment will continue.”

I would add that the quality of political debate sunk to gutter level with the Bradburyesque victory of Tony Abbott in the Liberal leadership ballot in 2009 and his subsequent unholy alliance with Peta Credlin who wrote “the brutal reality is that negative works.”

A few days ago, Tony Fitzgerald again spoke of the sorry state of politics in this country where “many politicians regard ethics and empathy as barriers to success.”  Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Mathias ‘deal-with-the-devil’ Cormann immediately spring to mind.

“Politics today is a clash of interests, not ideas. The established parties, which receive large sums of public money to finance their campaigns, are controlled by professional, “whatever it takes” politicians driven by self-interest and ideology and addicted to vested interest funding.

To them, political ethics is merely an amusing oxymoron. Power provides a rich opportunity for personal and political advantage: cronyism, the sale of access and influence and the misuse of public money are now scandalous.

The “winning is all that matters” conduct from politicians affects community attitudes. Australian society is gradually becoming less egalitarian and more cynical and self-centered as economic policies redistribute wealth upwards, widening the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” and producing a largely powerless underclass.

In the circumstances, community unrest and political instability are inevitable, as is the eruption of disruptive ultra-nationalist groups which promote sham nostalgia, foster prejudice, rebrand ignorance as common sense, encourage resentment toward an educated, progressive “elite” and mislead the gullible with crazy theories and empty promises. They thrive on the anger felt toward the political establishment by ordinary people who see themselves as outsiders.”

Cue Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

We have a right to expect that politicians behave like normal, honourable people: treat everyone equally, tell the truth, explain decisions, disclose any direct or indirect benefits for themselves or their allies.  We have a right to expect decent candidates chosen on merit rather than talentless party apparatchiks gifted positions in reward for blind allegiance to factional powerbrokers and unquestioning support for the party line.

Our elected representatives should be role models for ethics, integrity and altruistic public service.  Parliament should be a forum in which they identify and prioritise the challenges facing our nation now and into the future and, using all the expert advice available, honestly discuss the pros and cons of viable alternatives.

Without oversight, and a big stick, it seems this will remain an unattainable dream.

Instead, we are subjected to a “venal, vicious and vulgar” power struggle where so much time is wasted on denigrating each other as important decisions are ignored.

Fitzgerald advocates for the establishment of an effective national anti-corruption organisation, an independent parliamentary integrity commissioner with investigative powers and a multi-party parliamentary committee to penalise breaches.

For our part, it is up to all of us to inform ourselves about candidates and to know who we are voting for.  If the party can’t field a decent candidate then don’t blindly give them your vote.  Make them preselect worthy people rather than puppets.

For the sake of our children and our planet, we must demand better.

It’s not the ABC’s fault that you look like idiots

It was inevitable that James Ashby’s One Nation would fall out with the ABC.  James likes to very much control the questions that can be asked of his band of miscreants, and by who, and he likes the power to terminate the interview when he sees fit.

And is it any wonder.  When One Nation Senators go off the leash, their lunacy is revealed for all to see.

Watching Malcolm Roberts dismiss Brian Cox and NASA evidence of climate change on Q&A was just a taste of things to come.

Pauline blames Barrie Cassidy for her self-destruction just before the WA election when she expressed her admiration for Putin and her opposition to vaccination.

And then there were those bastards at Four Corners who did a “stitch-up” by asking where James’, or is that Pauline’s, plane had come from.

Pauline’s response?

She would be talking about the allegations raised in the program “in my own time, when I think it is right.  I will explain everything if there are questions to be answered.  There is not really, but anyway, I will be making some comments with regards to that.”

This from the woman who sells herself as the honest politician.  If it was just a witch hunt by the ABC then it should be easily cleared up.

And now we have Andrew Probyn “big-noting himself” by reporting that Hanson and Brian Burston, along with four other MPs, were to go on an ANZAC day junket to Afghanistan and Iraq.  The trip was subsequently cancelled due to security concerns.

Malcolm Roberts went into full meltdown.

Pauline seems to think the ABC’s reporting of her upcoming trip would have put the soldiers that would have had to protect her at risk.  It apparently had nothing to do with her inflammatory remarks about Islam not being a religion and her concerted and continuing campaign to ban the burqa, halal certification, Muslim immigration, the building of mosques and pretty much all things Islam.

I would hazard a guess that the ADF were extremely grateful to be able to cancel the trip considering the government has already warned about a possible ANZAC Day terrorist attack.  As Crikey points out, while wondering how a small crossbench party can get two spots out of six delegates, “If you’re not in the Defence or Foreign Affairs portfolio, a trip to Afghanistan primarily consists of opportunities to don body armour and have your photo snapped with Australians troops.”

Brian Burston has demanded that funding be cut to the ABC or One Nation will block government legislation.

“I’ve contacted (Finance Minister) Mathias Cormann and said One Nation wants the ABC funding reduced by $600 million over the forward estimates,” Senator Burston told The Australian.

“If they’re not forthcoming in reducing funding to the ABC as part of their budget repair we’ll have to seriously consider what budget repair options (we ­support) that the Liberal Party puts forward. It’s about time we apply a little bit of pressure on the government to do something about the left-wing, Marxist ABC.”

Burston has been on a mission to destroy the ABC from the outset as shown by the following excerpt from his maiden speech:

“A further example of elite contempt for ordinary Australians is public broadcasting. The cultural Marxist takeover of the ABC began in the late 1960s when Allan Ashbolt stacked the current affairs department. Ashbolt introduced the radical critique of mainstream Australia that had become fashionable in university departments of humanities and social science. Almost 50 years later, there is not one conservative program or anchor on the ABC—not one, in a billion-dollar enterprise. The ABC’s oppositional stance to traditional Australia has grown to include the two other taxpayer-funded public broadcasters, the Special Broadcasting Service, SBS, whose explicitly ethnic mission is to cater to the identity and interests of the multicultural community, and most recently the National Indigenous Television network, NITV, created to represent the identity and interests of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. For budgetary reasons, NITV is now within the SBS stable. All three broadcasters are biased against mainstream Australia. They distort Australian political culture and support aggressive political multiculturalism. The systemic bias of public broadcasting is one of the clearest manifestations of a hostile cultural establishment. This bias has been known for decades but the conservative side of mainstream politics has failed to correct the situation. The time for complaint and diagnosis is over. It is time for the nation to break the bias of public broadcasting before that bias breaks the nation.

How might this be done? The main proposals have been to defund and privatise the ABC. But the country needs public broadcasters. Despite or perhaps because of their biases, the ABC, SBS and NITV have constituents who benefit from their services. It would be sad to throw the babies out with the bathwater. Might not balance be achieved between channels? A fair balance might be struck by leaving the minority ethnic channels intact while transferring funding from the ABC to establish a new channel that might be called the Patriotic Broadcasting Corporation, whose explicit mission would be to represent the identity and interests of mainstream Australia. It would present news and current affairs from the perspective of the historic Australian nation. Stripped of its mainstream content, the remaining ABC structure would receive funding commensurate with the size of its inner city, Greens-voting constituency. Australia needs more diverse public broadcasting in keeping with the growing diversity of the population.”

Just to be clear here, in the lower house, One Nation received 1.3% of the primary vote and the Greens received 10.2%.  In the Senate, One Nation received 4.3% of the vote and the Greens got 8.7%.

One Nation blames journalists for trying to “get Pauline Hanson’s scalp”.  What they fail to see is that they are the architects of their own demise by the sheer idiocy that spews forth every time they open their mouths.

HSR could be a game changer

Once again, we find our Prime Minister arguing the case for something he thinks is a “thoroughly bad idea.”

In an address to the Brisbane Club in March 2015, Malcolm Turnbull condemned Joe Hockey’s proposal that first-home buyers be able to dip into their superannuation.

“My own view is that would be a thoroughly bad idea,” Turnbull said, in response to questions after the address.  “It’s not what the superannuation system is designed to achieve.”

Aside from greatly reducing retirement income and also the stockpile of money available for investment by superannuation funds, it seems only logical that this would drive up house prices with more first home buyers having to compete with investors for a limited stock of housing.  Even if you have a deposit, the sale will still go to the highest bidder.

We are constantly told that it is a supply problem causing the housing crisis in Melbourne and Sydney and that our urban transport infrastructure cannot cope today let alone into the future.  The rapidly expanding city population puts strain on local ecosystems, open spaces, clean air and clean water and concentrates the impacts of waste and garbage.

Tony Abbott is calling for a halt to immigration, completely ignoring the impact that would have on the ratio of aged people to workers in our society and consequently on productivity and growth.

Peter Dutton is saying we should make migrants go live in the country.

Why just migrants?

We now have cities struggling to house and employ their populations, alongside regional communities striving to grow and attract residents, business, skills and services. We have increasing challenges for the movement of people up and down the east coast, alongside significant pressures on transport costs—for industry and individuals alike.

Surely if we built high speed rail from Melbourne to Brisbane we would solve an enormous number of our problems.

Firstly there would be the employment involved in its construction and then ongoing employment in operation and maintenance.

HSR would substantially improve accessibility for the regional centres it served, and provide opportunity for regional development.  It would allow cities to compete with each other. While Sydney might be more attractive at the moment, it is also much more expensive, so the opportunity to save costs by moving to regional areas that had easy access could be an option for some businesses.

Melbourne to Sydney is one of the busiest air routes in the world.  HSR will move millions of air and road trips on to rail. It will open up space on the existing rail network for freight, taking hundreds of heavy goods vehicles per hour off the roads.  In so doing, It will also help cut carbon emissions.

Cheaper housing in regional areas is an obvious drawcard and increased regional population would provide even more jobs as schools, hospitals, child care and aged care would be needed to cater for community needs.  Retail businesses and construction would gain a boost.

Improved telecommunications like teleconferencing and a national broadband network (a real one rather than the FttN crap) make this all the more feasible.

As with action on climate change, the longer we delay this crucial infrastructure, the harder the task becomes.

Malcolm tells us he’s a “nation-builder”.  Well here’s his chance.  Instead of just mentioning HSR in passing before an election, instead of giving $1 billion to an Indian billionaire for a railway to nowhere, instead of announcing another feasibility study on the snowy-hydro, instead of tinkering with superannuation, get started on something that could really be a game changer.

Scomo’s con job

Last Thursday, Treasurer Scott Morrison gave an Address to the AFR Banking and Wealth Summit in which he spruiked his “national economic plan” as outlined in last year’s budget.

“In last year’s Budget I said we needed to focus on jobs and growth. This year’s budget will continue this unapologetic focus.”

Morrison goes on to say “Unless you are driving economic growth, you cannot secure the jobs, wages and services that Australians rely on.”

Considering we have had over 25 years of uninterrupted growth, it is obvious that growth alone does not automatically translate into better outcomes for all citizens.  Instead, this dream run has contributed to skyrocketing wealth for the very few while the vast majority are experiencing flat wage growth, high underemployment, unaffordable housing, a decline in services and rising inequality.

Scott said he “will ensure the Budget works to place downward pressure on the cost of living – especially on energy costs and housing” with absolutely no indication of how he might achieve this.  Perhaps all will be revealed in May though somehow I doubt it.  If he has a plan then why is it a secret?

Whilst mentioning Australia’s extremely high level of household debt ($2.1 trillion), Morrison said we should be comforted by the fact that the debt concentration is in higher income households.  Households in the top two income quintiles hold around 60 per cent of Australian household debt.  For some reason, I don’t find that at all comforting.  When highly-leveraged speculative investments go bad, it is rarely rich people who suffer.

And Scott is apparently taking on the banks – or so he says.

“We are also addressing the problems in our banking and financial system to ensure our banks and financial institutions are held to account, by ensuring customer disputes are heard and resolved, that we are maintaining competitive pressures in the system to ensure that customers get the best deal and that there are serious sanctions in place to deal with bad behaviour and malfeasance.”

Considering the many cases that have come to light about wrong-doing by the banks, and in the absence of any punitive action, it is hard to believe Morrison’s words.

Speaking of himself and Kellie O’Dwyer, Morrison said “Together we have acted on the ASIC capability review to increase the resources and powers of ASIC to deal with malfeasance in the banking and financial system.”

ASIC’s role includes market surveillance, corporate law breaches, consumer credit, insider trading, takeovers, small business and financial literacy.

Are we supposed to forget that Tony Abbott cut $120 million in funding from ASIC in 2014 which caused the chairman to warn that proactive surveillance would substantially reduce?

There was also the Turnbull government’s bizarre idea of selling off the national corporate registry.  The cost to ASIC of operating the register is somewhere less than $6 million a year.  However it charges businesses and the public around $720 million a year for using it – a return to government coffers of over 10,000 per cent.  The entire budget for ASIC’s operations in 2015 was $311m, less than half of that revenue from the register.

At least six bidders had shown interest in the ASIC registry privatisation before Matthias Cormann finally pulled the plug on the idea in December last year after intense opposition from Nick Xenophon, GetUp! and journalists.  For some unfathomable reason, Labor did not oppose the idea.

Morrison then moved on to tax.

“If we wish to continue to see our living standards rise — to create more jobs with higher wages — then we need to ensure our tax system encourages investment and enterprise.”

Despite everyone being in agreement that property tax concessions have skewed investment away from more productive enterprises, that is never part of Scott’s tax plan which seems to rest solely on tax cuts for businesses which “will allow small and medium sized businesses to invest more, employ extra staff and pay higher wages – putting more money in the pockets of hardworking Australians.”  This claim is not backed up by any modelling of course.

Morrison seemed unaware of the uncomfortable paradox with his segue into cracking down on multinational tax avoidance where he assured us that we now have “some of the toughest laws in the world…which are expected to raise almost $4 billion over the budget and forward estimates.”  The proposed tax cuts will give these tax avoiders a far greater windfall than any liability we may try to claw back.

Moving onto superannuation, Scott boasted of how “3.1 million Australians will benefit from the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset.” Cool bananas, except they are just reintroducing a scheme that was axed in the 2014 budget.

On income tax, Morrison said “By pushing up the tax threshold on the middle tax bracket from $80,000 to $87,000 per year, we’ll keep average full-time wage earners on the lower rate for longer.”

Big deal.  What that means is that anyone who earns up to $80,000 gets no benefit while those who earn over $87,000 will save about $6 a week.

We were then regaled with the number of jobs that would be created in the defence industry.  For example, the over $3 billion we are spending on Offshore Patrol Vessels will create 400 jobs.  That’s $7.5 million per job to go to foreign contractors.  The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is supposed to create 2,600 extra defence industry jobs by 2023.  I’ll believe that when I see it.

Scott reannounced the government’s “record $50 billion investment in Australia’s land transport infrastructure” but it remains just words.

In January the AFR reported that delays and apparent reductions in the Coalition’s $50 billion spending plan are dragging on economic growth and contributing to an annual $18 billion of potential “missing investment”.

But it was when talking about repairing the budget that Morrison went into full obfuscation, or is that lying, mode.

“Since we were first elected in 2013 we have reduced the growth in expenditure from over 3.5 per cent to less than 2 per cent and reduced the growth in debt by around two thirds, which when Labor left office was growing at 34 per cent per annum.”

Government expenditure under Labor reduced from 24.9% of GDP in 2011-12 to 24% in 2012-13.  Since coming to office, the Coalition’s expenditure has been 25.6% in 2013-14, 25.5% in 2014-15, 25.6% in 2015-16 and in last year’s MYEFO, was projected to remain at 25.2% over the forward estimates.

As for the debt, the net debt of the General Government sector was $161,253 million at 31 August 2013.  As at 28 February 2017, net debt is $317,425 million.

Whilst saying, in one breath, that “Since last year’s Budget, almost $25 billion of budget repair measures have been successfully implemented and legislated,” Morrison insisted on blaming Labor saying that “The Budget will need to address Labor’s continued refusal to cooperate on repairing the budget.”

“We know Labor will continue to oppose us, especially when it comes to budget savings and implementing our enterprise tax plan. Not because they don’t think it’s right – but because they have chosen to play cheap politics with our economy.”

From the man who thinks welfare, education and health expenditure should be cut to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and to spend hundreds of billions on Tony’s jets and subs.

The con job continues.

Honesty and integrity or a grab for cash?

On Wednesday July 15, 2015, One Nation posted on their website an article titled HANSON TAKES HER MAIDEN FLIGHT IN HER NEW PLANE.

Miss Hanson said, “I am proud to announce, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation will be launching their new plane just finished being built by an Australian company last week. The maiden flight will be at the Caloundra airport at 10am followed by the first official flight to Rockhampton this Friday, to attend the Reclaim Australia Rally on Sunday.”

“I am thankful to now have a plane as this will enable me to visit people around the state, and interstate, including those in small remote communities who have never had their representative take the time to visit them.”

Pauline invited the media and public to attend the plane’s unveiling at the Caloundra Airport the next day.

On July 28, 2015, in an article in the ABC Sunshine Coast, James Ashby said he helped Ms Hanson find an Australian-made plane because, “Pauline’s all about keeping things local”. They travel to a political event at least once a week, he said.

On January 16, 2016, The Australian reported One Nation boss Pauline Hanson boasting about her frugality:

Senator Pauline Hanson says she fills her own plane with petrol and drives herself to the airport, parking in the budget carpark and getting a bus to the terminal.

The Queensland senator says she also always travels economy and if she needs to go to remote places she uses her own plane at One Nation’s expense.

“I’ve still got my plane, well the party’s plane, but all the trips I’ve done in that since the election I’ve filled it up myself,” Senator Hanson told Sky News.

On January 18, 2017, Independent Australia revealed that the plane was, in fact, registered to James Ashby personally and was acquired by Ashby on 5 June 2015.

Fast forward to April 2017 and now James Ashby says that the plane is his and he has nothing to hide.

Ashby has told the Huffington Post Australia that the plane, whose funding and ownership was brought into question by a Four Corners investigation, is owned by his company and he regards it as his.

While Ashby has told HuffPost Australia that the plane is privately owned by him, he did not explicitly say where the money came from to purchase the Jabiru.

Regardless, he said “I have done nothing wrong” and stated that all flying hours in the plane used for political purposes have been declared.

When One Nation Treasurer Ian Nelson started questioning James Ashby’s growing control over the party and some questionable reporting practices for donations, he was promptly removed and replaced by Hanson’s brother-in-law Greg Smith.  Keep it in the family.

On March 23, 2017, The Australian reported that the Australian Electoral Commission has launched an audit of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, amid revelations of an internal brawl over sensitive documents.

Apart from a $191,000 loan made to the party by senator Pauline Hanson and donations from Melbourne high-rise developer Bill McNee, One Nation has only disclosed a small number of financial gifts. Mr McNee, through his company Vicland, has been one of One Nation’s largest backers, donating $57,720 in 2014-15, and $10,000 leading up to last year’s election.

Senator Hanson was reimbursed for her loan last August, drawn down from a $1.62 million election refund from the AEC.

According to the One Nation site, “Pauline has never given up her fight for Parliament and to represent the Australian people with honesty, integrity and determination for a fair go for all.”

It seems increasingly apparent that honesty and integrity have very little to do with Hanson and Ashby’s grab for cash.

The insidious takeover by the IPA

When Leigh Sales asked Malcolm Turnbull why Section 18C was getting more attention than things like “out of pocket medical expenses, the fact that suicide rate among teenage girls has gone up 45 per cent in the past year, the fact that the average Australian female worker loses nearly all of her take-home pay in child care”, Turnbull blamed the ABC.

“Leigh, this is a question you should address to your editors at the ABC – very seriously. 18C is talked about constantly on the ABC, talked constantly in what’s often the elite media.”

What Sales should be asking is why the IPA, the only people who care about this pointless crusade, have such disproportionate representation and influence both in the media and in Parliament.

In their 2016 Annual Report, the IPA boasts that, during the year, they had 1,378 mentions of IPA research in print and online media, 451 radio appearances, 155 television appearances, and were mentioned in Federal Parliament 75 times.

As Elizabeth Farrelly wrote last year, “The IPA is usually described as a “radical libertarian think tank” but it’s not libertarian, since its freedoms for the few spell oppression for the many. It’s also not-thoughtful and so not-public it’s almost clandestine.”

The IPA is all about protecting the wealth of the privileged few and they will use whatever spin and misinformation they need to to do so.

Featured in their 2016 Annual Report is a “research” paper by Mikayla Novak titled The good news on poverty: Things are getting better for the poor in Australia

What follows is an astonishing attempt to pretend that the rich aren’t siphoning off more of Australia’s wealth into the pockets of the very few, or if they are, it shouldn’t matter because more people have fridges nowadays than used to and they work a few minutes less to buy some milk.

“The key concern in the inequality debates should not necessarily be to what degree are the rich more wealthy than the poor, but whether we have witnessed an improvement in the degree of uplift in living standards experienced by the poor and disadvantaged.”

What Ms Novak completely ignores is that the gap between the lowest and highest groups is increasing as ACOSS points out:

  • The wealth of the highest 20% wealth group increased by 28% over the period from 2004 to 2012. By comparison the wealth of the lowest increased by just 3%.
  • Over the 25 years to 2010, real wages increased by 14% for those on lower incomes (10th percentile), compared with 72% for those on higher incomes (90th percentile)

According to the Conversation, a reasonable estimate is that, currently, the poorest 40% of Australian households effectively have no wealth at all: about half of them actually have negative net wealth because of their personal debts. At the opposite pole, the wealthiest 10% have more than half the nation’s total household wealth. The top 1% alone have at least 15% of the total wealth.

There is little question that the IPA is now driving Liberal Party policy as they work their way through their 75+25 demands. They have, with the help of George Brandis, Mitch Fifield, Michael Kroger and others, installed James Paterson in the Senate and Tim Wilson in the lower house.  David Leyonhjelm is also a member as was Bob Day.  The Speaker Tony Smith is a former research assistant and the new leader of the WA Liberal Party Mike Nahan was executive director for 10 years.  Janet Albrechtsen (director), Tom Switzer (adjunct fellow) and Chris Berg (senior fellow) have the media covered, with Alexander Downer’s daughter Georgina (adjunct fellow) and Andrew Bolt’s son James (Communications Coordinator) being groomed in the wings.

They are currently running their climate change denial/fossil fuel promotion program at full steam with their annual report mentioning four “research” papers:

  • Ensuring a Future for Australian Coal Fired Power Stations
  • Section 487 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act: How activists use red tape to stop development and jobs
  • Southeast Australian Maximum Temperature Trends, 1887-2013: An Evidence-Based Reappraisal
  • The Fossil Fuel Subsidy Myth

They are rabidly anti-red tape, wanting all regulations done away with, and invariably anti-union because an organised work force is anathema to their plans.

Elizabeth Farrelly’s advice should be heeded.

“Ideas themselves are not dangerous, but when money and “ideas” hold hands, get suspicious. Then get cracking. Fight for our freedom to see the strings and who’s at the pulling end.”

At July 1, 2016, the IPA had cash reserves of over $3 million after receiving donations of almost $5 million during the year including 13 separate donations over $50,000 each and a further 21 in the range $10,000-$50,000.  Reportedly, 91% of their revenue came from donations by individuals.

When they finally achieve their aim to destroy, privatise, or takeover the ABC, and to allow founder Keith Murdoch’s boy Rupert to take over the entire media with no accountability for accuracy or requirement for balance, Australia will truly be theirs.

Cue the show ponies

Malcolm Turnbull has, it seems, decided that the ‘energy crisis’ is all the fault of the Labor Premiers in South Australia and Victoria.

The blackouts in South Australia were due to Weatherill’s fixation with renewables and the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria was due to Andrews’ lack of planning.

That is, of course, total crap.

In early September last year, a few weeks before the huge storm that caused the infamous blackout in South Australia, Jay Weatherill warned that current rules allowed private electricity companies to drive “prices higher by withholding supply”.

This is exactly what happened during SA’s blackouts – the gas-fired power station Pelican Point chose not to supply more electricity.

Tony Wood, energy program director of the Grattan Institute, said after the February blackout, when Engie only had one unit running at Pelican Point and chose not to fire up the second, “If the price for power stays high — at say $10,000 per megawatt hour — and stays there for several hours, (Engie) can make a lot of money,” Mr Wood said.

“But if they start their second plant (sending more power into the system) and the price crashes to $300 per megawatt hour, they don’t make as much money.”

In an attempt to address this problem, the South Australian Government launched a tender to buy 75 per cent of its long-term electricity needs in an effort to increase competition.

A few days after that announcement was made, and still weeks before the blackout, United States-based Solar Reserve chief executive officer Kevin Smith said his company was interested in bidding for the tender by building a solar thermal project at Port Augusta.

The notion that this is a remedy thought up by Nick Xenephon and Malcolm Turnbull is just wrong.

We are also supposed to believe that Xenephon’s demand that pensioners get a paltry one-off payment is some sort of win for energy affordability.

Why doesn’t he just vote against the government’s budget savings measure which cuts the clean energy supplement – $4.40 a week for single unemployed, $7.05 a week for a single person on the aged or disability pension to help them with rising energy prices.  The government argues that, with no carbon tax, these payments are not necessary but they kept the compensation that working people got with the increased tax free threshold.

Not content with blaming Jay Weatherill, Turnbull then turned on Daniel Andrews saying the closure of Hazelwood was “a consequence of the Labor Party’s complete failure to lead on energy.”

“Daniel Andrews has allowed that enormous baseline power station to close.”

In fact it was the French owners of Hazelwood, Engie, who also own Pelican Point, that made the decision to close Hazelwood as it was rated as the least carbon efficient power station in the OECD and was beyond its use by date.  Five of Hazelwood’s eight boilers were desperately in need of major repairs which would have cost over $400 million to make them safety compliant.

As Turnbull and Xenephon prance around announcing more feasibility studies, ignoring that the chief scientist was already conducting a nationwide review, one thing is abundantly clear – the show ponies’ only concern is political posturing.