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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.”

Stay tuned – Breaking story about Angus Taylor, Barnaby Joyce and water buybacks

Over the last week or so, an important story has been doing the rounds about water buybacks.

The woman who broke the story had her twitter account disabled though the story is still available. (Not linking to it in order to avoid similar legal threats).

Investigative journalists Michael West, who has added to the story, and Margot Kingston, whose twitter feed automatically retweeted the story, have received legal threats.

Yesterday, Michael West tweeted “Update #Watergate: have found extra stuff, still working through accounts, need to get it right due to legal threats, will publish late today.”  I am still waiting to read his update.

The Guardian wrote a story titled “Questions over companies chosen for $200m of Murray-Darling water buybacks” on Wednesday.

Today, the ABC’s Laura Tingle, wrote under the heading “Watergate resurfaces, Joyce and Taylor scrutinised”:

“A story about water buybacks that has been floating around since 2017 in various forms threatens to do that to the Coalition after both the Guardian and The Project’s Hamish McDonald and business writer Michael West brought it to the mainstream media this week.

It centres on two water licences bought by the government for a total of $80 million in 2017 from a company once associated with Energy Minister Angus Taylor, Eastern Australia Agriculture, in a deal signed off by the then Water Minister Barnaby Joyce.”

McDonald’s report on The Project is compulsory viewing.

On Thursday, Tony Burke issued a media release with questions for Scott Morrison though I cannot find a copy of it other than as a screenshot – not sure if it has been removed?

On Good Friday, the Department of Agriculture issued a media statement in response to the information hitting the public domain.  That in itself is extraordinary.

Let me take this opportunity to say of course Angus and Barnaby have done nothing wrong.  Who would ever imply such a thing?  But perhaps it’s that very thing, that this deal was all legal, that raises more questions than anything else.

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“Is that supposed to be a selling point?”

When Scott Morrison looked the camera in the eye and told us that “If you vote Labor, you get Bill Shorten.  If you vote Coalition, you get me”, Tanya Plibersek rightly asked “Is that supposed to be a selling point?”

It’s little wonder that Morrison has taken this campaigning approach.  When you have no policies, you have to find something to say.  It has perhaps escaped his attention that nobody wields supreme power in Australia – well no-one in politics anyway.

So what would we get if a Morrison government was elected?

According to him, we would have $387 billion less to spend on health, education, infrastructure, action on climate change, skills training, research, aged care, child care, welfare, and paying down the debt.

On top of that huge hit to revenue, he is committed to spending $400 billion over 20 years on strike force armaments that will likely be obsolete before they arrive.  Modern warfare is not going to involve manned submarines and jet fighters.

We will get new coal-fired power stations, underwritten or subsidised by the government as no financial institution or investor is interested, at the same time as we spend millions on feasibility studies for large hydro projects whose business case says they are not viable until coal is phased out.

Emissions will continue to rise.  Billions more will be spent on the failed Direct Action plan which has been rebranded as the Climate Solutions fund.  Reductions will continue to be claimed for projects that have not been delivered as rapacious land-clearing continues apace.

Water (mis)management will remain in the hands of the Nationals as unscrupulous farmers steal water for irrigation and fraudulently trap and sell floodwater back to the government.

Instead of an electric vehicle industry, we will become an arms exporter.

Wealth inequality will continue its inexorable rise as tax concessions and tax cuts for the wealthy are prioritised.

Wages will remain stagnant and workplace entitlements will continue to be eroded.

The “temporary freeze” on the Superannuation Guarantee will remain.

Foreign Aid will remain at record lows with money only spent to outbid China for influence in the Pacific.

Discrimination will be entrenched under the guise of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

There will be no Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

There will be no increase to Newstart.

Foreign policy will be dictated by Trump.

The British monarch will remain our Head of State.

Migrants will be blamed for everything – traffic congestion, hospital waiting times, insecure employment, unaffordable housing, crowded schools, crime, diluting our culture and values – you name it, it’s their fault.

Live animals will continue to die in horrific conditions as they are shipped north during summer months.

Privatisation and outsourcing will continue as the government sells off assets and profitable enterprises and slashes public service jobs in favour of much more expensive consultants whose message they can control.

The ABC will continue to have its funding cut while the Murdoch media will get unexplained handouts and rule changes that allow them to increase their stranglehold on Australian media.

The CSIRO and university research will miss out on funding as money is given to private groups like the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The bullying tactics of the hard right, where they threaten and intimidate their colleagues in order to get their own way, will continue.

And we would have another three years of blaming Labor and attacks on Bill Shorten and unions.  It seems no matter how long this lot are in office, they will never take any actual responsibility.  Things happen to this government, not because of them.

Come on Australia, we can do better than this.

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Was ‘Mediscare’ really a lie?

An obviously still bitter Coalition, amplified by a compliant media, have decided to use Labor’s so-called ‘Mediscare’ campaign last election as a reason to call Bill Shorten a liar.

As Medicare does not make a profit, it obviously could not be sold.  So what did they mean by the Coalition want to privatise Medicare?

In January 2015, the SMH reported that “Tens of thousands more Australian public service jobs are to be sized-up for potential privatisation as the Abbott government begins work on its contestability program”.

“Medicare, Centrelink and some Veterans Affairs payment services may be taken over by private players.”

In February 2016, Andrew Probyn wrote an article titled Govt eyes massive Medicare, health privatisation, in which he revealed that “Medicare, pharmaceutical and aged-care benefits would be delivered by the private sector under an extraordinary transformation of health services being secretly considered by the Federal Government.”

“The West Australian has learnt that planning for the ambitious but politically risky outsourcing of government payments is well-advanced, with a view to making it a key feature of Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first Budget in May.”

Despite concerns about access to very private information – private companies would administer claims and payments while overseeing eligibility criteria – and warnings of thousands of job losses, the government pressed ahead with a proposal for a “proof of concept” trial of its $50 billion-plus outsourcing with companies like the big banks, Telstra and Serco expressing interest.

The rationale was that the private sector would be “faster and more efficient” and would therefore, some time in the future after huge set-up costs to rebuild data and payment systems, save the government money.

The Australian reported Health Minister Sussan Ley had commissioned “business innovation and technology experts” to consider new ways to process Medicare benefits.

When, during the election campaign, Labor rightly drew attention to the government’s plan to outsource/privatise the payment system, Turnbull was forced to scrap his plans.

The campaign included sending out text messages that said “Mr Turnbull’s plans to privatise Medicare will take us down the road of no return. Time is running out to save Medicare.”

Robocalls from Ged Kearney said “I’m really concerned that under the Turnbull Government our hospitals are under threat” pointing out that the Coalition was “ripping $57 billion out of our hospitals.”

“Please this election, vote to save Medicare and vote to save our public hospitals,” she said.

Anyone who mistakenly thought that the government was going to sell off Medicare obviously has no clue what Medicare does.  You can’t sell a government system paid for by a levy on taxpayers that costs tens of billions to run each year.  There is nothing to sell.  It isn’t a profit-making venture.

But the government could, and almost did, decide to pay private companies to provide the payment service and determine the eligibility criteria putting the medical records of all Australians into private for-profit companies’ hands.  It also used the 2014 budget to cut promised funding to public hospitals.  And it grabbed the first opportunity to sell off Medibank Private which was actually a profitable business.

Scott Morrison, as he rails about Shorten being a liar, assures us that he has never intentionally told a lie.  Well there’s one for starters.

He is lying that the budget is back in surplus.  He is lying that we are on track to meet our emissions reduction targets.  He lied about Save the Children staff encouraging children to self-harm.  He lied about the circumstances surrounding the murder of Reza Barati.  He lied that he was not part of the leadership spills.  He lied about the Medivac Bill leading to a wave of rapists, murderers and pedophiles invading our shores.  And that is just a small selection.

If this election is to be about trust, the Coalition deserve to be sent into oblivion.

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Election campaigns are unedifying spectacles nowadays

The spectacle of political parties jostling with each other for ascendancy is ugly.

Promises of money are thrown around like confetti – a tax cut in five years’ time, an infrastructure spend after two more elections, hubs aplenty, and always a crumb for the little people at the local sporting club.

Huge numbers over ridiculous time frames are touted with an accuracy that is impossible to believe considering projections do not last six months and are often influenced by events beyond the control of our government.

Accusations fly about racism, sexism, economic vandalism, ecoterrorism, cronyism, corruption, intimidation – the pack is waiting to rip apart anyone who misspeaks or who is photographed with the wrong people, now or in the past.

The government is spending an inordinate amount of time on a scare campaign about Labor’s costings.  It is a sad indictment of themselves that they are not focusing on their record over the last six years and their vision for the future.  They haven’t articulated the reasons behind what they are doing and the results they hope to achieve.  Saying “a strong economy” over and over isn’t a plan – it’s an aspiration reduced to a slogan without a goal.

Why is it that when we talk about reform it is nearly always about how much something costs rather than what it is worth?

I remember the joy of the Whitlam years.  It was invigorating.  The changes he made – not promises for the distant future but real achievements – could truly be labelled reform.

  • Ended conscription and got us out of Vietnam
  • Opened relationships with China
  • Established Medibank
  • Introduced the supporting mother’s benefit and welfare payment for homeless people.
  • Equal pay for women and extended adult minimum wage to include women workers
  • Abolished the death penalty
  • No-fault divorce
  • Federal funding for state schools
  • Free university education
  • 25% cut in tariffs across the board
  • Sewerage connection
  • Reduced voting age to 18
  • An Order of Australia replaced the British Honours system
  • Racial discrimination act
  • Land rights to Indigenous people
  • Replaced God Save the Queen with Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem.
  • Established the National Gallery of Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Heritage Commission, FM and community radio.
  • The film industry flourished

Talk about tax cuts, national security, and surpluses doesn’t have the same inspirational ring to it somehow.

And before anyone brings up the economic indicators from Gough’s time in office, they should read Ian Verrender’s excellent article showing how comparatively well Australia did in a global context where the price of oil skyrocketed and stagflation and recession crippled the UK and the US.

Ah, those were the days when one could feel pride in our nation and real hope that we were moving forwards towards a better society for all.

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You don’t have to be dumb to be a Liberal but…ah stuff it, yes you do

Despite having repeatedly shown appalling judgement in her political career – mistakenly locking up Cornelia Rau and overturning deportation orders to grant Francesco Madafferi a visa for example – Amanda Vanstone is the go to girl to represent the “moderate” Liberals in the media.

As she blankets all news sources with her ABC radio program, her columns in the 9 newspapers, and regular TV panel appearances on the ABC and elsewhere, we are supposed to accept her as some sort of wise counsellor sharing her astute insights.

This is the woman who, as a member of Abbott’s National Commission of Audit, advised Hockey on the disastrous 2014 budget.

At the time, she said “We do have a long term budgetary problem and we need to fix it.”

Instead of tackling the unsustainable tax concessions introduced by her and her colleagues in the Howard government, Amanda’s approach to doing this was to slash the public service, privatise assets and outsource services, cut welfare payments, make people pay to see a GP, drastically increase the cost of getting a university education, and scale back government industry and innovation programs.  Charities, NFPs and NGOs had their funding slashed.

So imagine my surprise on reading her headline in Sunday’s SMH, “Labor’s plans will hurt many people who aren’t rich at all.”

Now that’s rich coming from you Amanda.

Ms Vanstone goes on to bemoan the fate of these people “who aren’t rich at all” if Labor should win office.

Those people who are struggling on $90,000 a year, earning $23,000 more than the average wage, will apparently be slightly worse off under Labor’s plan.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison understands they need a break. They’re working hard to get ahead and just need some support,” writes an anguished Amanda.  “You make a fairer society by helping people move permanently up the ladder.”

Amanda argues that you do this by helping people who can save a bit of money to invest in a small rental property.  If they can’t reduce their tax through negative gearing then “you leave gains in the property market as the exclusive privilege of those who are rich enough to pay nearly or all the purchase price.”

Okay.  But what about the people who can’t “save a bit of money”?  What about those that can’t even afford to rent a home for themselves let alone buy a “small rental property”?  How do we help with their “upward mobility”?

Amanda then moves on to the excess franking credit policy saying Labor thinks everyone with shares is rich.

“They just seem to have no idea how many people on pensions or part pensions have a few shares.”

Amanda seems to have no idea that pensioners and part-pensioners are exempt from the change, and to be ineligible for a part-pension, one must have reasonable income and/or assets.

Not to be left out of the madness about electric vehicles, Amanda warns that Labor hasn’t told us who they are “going to hit”.

“Some might say the faster we move to electric vehicles the better. Not the people who have just bought a new non-electric car. Not the people who make a living selling petrol.”

I’m not sure what Amanda doesn’t understand about 50% and, as it was the Coalition’s expectation too, one would assume they felt the market could sort that out.

“If you’re thinking of voting Labor ask them, when government revenue from fuel excise drops dramatically, how will they make up the shortfall? There’s only two ways – you pay more tax or services are cut. It’s that simple.”

Oh Amanda, I think I would rather ask that question of the Coalition who, according to you, will have $387 billion less to “make up the shortfall”.  What services will they cut?

And she rounds off with a cracker, telling us that many of the Labor team “don’t like or trust their own leader.”

“After all, his own team have seen him ruthlessly dispose of leaders.”

Short-term memory loss, Amanda?

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When it comes to taxation, Labor has a purpose – the Coalition has a slogan

As the Coalition do their usual big scary number thing, the real debate about taxation is being obscured.

The government’s plan is to cap taxation to an arbitrary percentage of GDP.  No-one has ever explained why or how they came up with a figure of 23.9%.

They want rich people to pay less tax, flattening out the income tax scale and making it more regressive.

They have already gone back to indexation of the fuel excise, which is a regressive tax, and smokers are now making a much larger contribution to revenue.

For the moment, they seem to have shelved their plans to cut the corporate tax rate for big business or to increase GST or introduce a GP co-payment.

We are given statistics about how much of the tax burden is borne by the top income earners but they are rarely accompanied by analysis of what share of income they receive and what share of wealth they possess.

The top quintile earn almost as much as the other 80% of households combined.  The wealth of the highest quintile households, on average, is 80 times that of the lowest quintile households.

We hear a lot about “taxable income”, ignoring the fact that the wealthy are able to employ accountants to manipulate their investments and spread their income to reduce their tax obligation to zero.

Sixty-nine Australians who earned more than $1 million in the 2016-17 financial year did not pay a cent of income tax.  Not even the Medicare levy.  Thirty-seven in this group claimed franking credits totalling $7.8 million.

They claimed millions in deductions, primarily for the “cost of managing tax affairs”, but also for “gifts or donations”.

According to ATO data, one-third of large Australian companies paid no tax in 2016-17 despite making a gross profit.  They do this through a variety of means – claiming tax losses and concessions that can go back several years, distribution of profits to other entities within the broader group, reinvestment back into the business through share buybacks to name a few.

Even taking into account all these legal methods of tax minimisation, the ATO still estimates that there is a shortfall of about $1.8 billion on the tax that should have been paid.

The Coalition want to reduce taxes for people who have the greatest ability to pay them and the greatest capacity to avoid them.  The only justification offered for this approach is a slogan – if you have a go, you’ll get a go.

Labor’s approach is to cut income taxes for low and middle income earners in order to stimulate consumption.

They will restrict negative gearing to new dwellings in order to stimulate construction.

They will reduce the tax concession for capital gains tax to 25% still allowing investors to get a quarter of their income tax-free.

They will cap the deduction for managing tax affairs to $3,000 so people’s taxable income will better reflect their actual income.

They will stop giving people refunds on tax they haven’t paid.  Franking credits are supposed to be a tax offset, not a gift.

Labor has proposed introducing a minimum tax rate, of 30 percent, on distributions from a family trust which means they will be less likely to be used for tax avoidance and wealth creation.

They want to increase the Superannuation Guarantee to 12% which will have a significant impact on retirement savings, especially of young workers.  They also want to introduce superannuation payments for those on parental leave and to decrease the $450 a month threshold at which the SG kicks in – both of which will largely advantage women and young people.

Labor’s tax policies have a purpose as opposed to a slogan.

Projecting taxation revenue for the next ten years is a ridiculous and pointless exercise.  Their predictions don’t last for six months.

Treasury was very quick to point out that the numbers they supplied to the Coalition were not based on Labor’s policies and did not take into account how the interaction of policies might affect their projections.  Changing taxation rules changes behaviour so without considering this the big scary number is utterly meaningless.

But one thing is clear.  If the Coalition go ahead with all of their proposed tax cuts, they will have to severely restrict government spending and services or get used to growing deficits.

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Why we should elect Labor – brought to you by the Liberal Party

In his 2005 tax policy paper, Malcolm Turnbull described negative gearing and the CGT discount as a “sheltering tax haven” that is “skewing national investment away from wealth-creating pursuits, towards housing”, and has caused a “property bubble”. Turnbull also acknowledged that “Australia’s rules on negative gearing are very generous compared to many other countries” and that “the normal deductibility principles do not apply to negatively geared real estate such that the taxpayer is not obliged to demonstrate that the negatively geared property will generate positive cash flow at some point in the distant future”.

In 2014, Turnbull said “Looking at Australia’s tax regime you would say that it is too tough on people earning income… but is incredibly concessional to older people who have made their money.”

Joe Hockey, in his valedictory speech in October 2015, agreed.

“tax concessions on superannuation should be carefully pared back….. negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property”

When it comes to electric cars, the Treasurer and the Energy Minister were both real fans…until they weren’t.

In October last year, Angus Taylor said in a media release that “Electric vehicles have the potential to lower transport costs, enhance fuel security, and increasingly create more sustainable cities with less pollution and better health outcomes for our communities.”

Josh Frydenberg penned a whole article on the advantages of EVs.

“Better coordination of existing and future activities around research and development, charging infrastructure planning, vehicle fleet targets and financial incentives, will bode well for the industry in the exciting decade ahead.

A global revolution in electric vehicles is under way and with the right preparation, planning and policies, Australian consumers are set to be the big beneficiaries.”

Then we have the National Energy Guarantee debacle.

In August last year, Frydenberg spruiked the benefits of the NEG in a media release.

“The Guarantee is designed by the experts, backed by industry, business and consumer groups and supported by independent modelling which shows the average household will be $550 a year better off under the National Energy Guarantee and existing policies underway.

The National Energy Guarantee is in the national interest because it will deliver the investment certainty the sector needs, while lowering power bills, enhancing Australia’s economic competitiveness and strengthening the reliability of our energy system.”

When it comes to stagnant wage growth, just last month, Scott Morrison said “I want Australians to earn more.”

Perhaps the final word should go to Malcolm Turnbull.

“The politicians and parties that can demonstrate they can be trusted, that they will not insult the people with weasel words and spin, that they will not promise more than they can deliver, that they will not dishonestly misrepresent either their own or their opponents’ policies – those politicians and parties will, I submit to you, deserve and receive electoral success.”

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FauxMo’s “truth campaign”

Scott Morrison told radio host Alan Jones the Coalition would not resort to a “fear campaign” but would run a “truth campaign”.

Guffaw.

Apparently, joining the rest of the world in the uptake of electric vehicles and emissions standards is a “war on the weekend”.

A screeching Michaelia Cash, with neck chords fully distended and flanked by a smirking ScoMo and a dumbly nodding Lucy Wicks, vowed “We are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes.”

The performance was reminiscent of Michael “Elvis” McCormack who warned that a 45% emissions reduction target will mean we can “forget night footy, forget night cricket.”

Oh, and it will “cost Australians at least $9000 a year.”

Then we had the overblown and dishonest response to a bill allowing sick refugees on Manus and Nauru to get specialist medical attention.

“It is going to see hundreds of people coming here quickly, it will be quite confronting and that’s the reality of the bill that they passed in the parliament,” Mr Dutton said.

Linda Reynolds told us the passage of the bill made her “physically ill” and would “come at the cost of the lives of others”.

We would be impotent in stopping all the “murderers, rapists and pedophiles” from invading our shores.

Whyalla wipeout, $100 lamb roasts – these people have form in hysterical hyperbole.

The marriage equality debate wasn’t about human rights according to Tony Abbott – it was about “religious freedom, freedom of speech and political correctness”.  A florist he said “could lose her business because of her beliefs”.  All of a sudden, “traditional marriages would mean nothing”.

And the Safe Schools program wasn’t about respectful relationships and anti-bullying – it was about “gender whispering” and “sexualising our kids”.

The idea that Morrison will run a “truth campaign” is laughable.  He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word.

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The truth as opposed to what Melissa Price says

Today, the misnamed Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, announced that, on the advice of the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, she was approving the Adani mine.

That is completely untrue.

On 24 January 2019, the Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) requested Geoscience Australia and CSIRO to provide groundwater-related advice on draft management plans provided by Adani Mining Pty Ltd.

They provided their advice on 22 February.

The review found that the modelling used is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the EPBC Act conditions are met. A number of limitations were also identified in the proposed monitoring and management approaches indicating they are not sufficiently robust to monitor and minimise impacts to protected environments.

The following are the answers provided to the specific questions posed by the government.

Q2a. How appropriate is the numerical model scenario selected by the approval holder to inform the Groundwater Management and Monitoring Plan and Rewan Formation Connectivity Research Plan and for incorporation into the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan as required by the conditions of approval?

The SEIS model used by the GMMP is the most conservative of the model scenarios as it predicts the greatest impacts from the mine development in all aquifers. However, being the best choice of available model runs does not mean that this model run is considered to be fit-for-purpose.

Q2b. Are there any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are more appropriate to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met?

The review of the available model scenarios did not identify any other model scenarios put forward by the approval holder that are considered more appropriate. However, this review has identified a number of limitations, which mean that the model is not suitable to ensure the outcomes sought by the conditions of approval are met

Q3. Are the monitoring and management approaches proposed in the GMMP and GDEMP consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation and sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes above are met?

The proposed monitoring and management approaches described are consistent with the most plausible conceptualisation of groundwater source to the Doongmabulla Springs complex. However, limitations identified mean that the proposed monitoring and management approaches are not sufficiently robust to ensure the outcomes set out in 2b are met.

The Minister conceded in her media release that there were problems identified by the review.

That advice identified areas of groundwater modelling, monitoring and management that required further work.

That advice recommended a number of actions, which the Company has accepted in full, including:

  • A substantial increase of early warning monitoring between the mine and the Doongmabulla Springs using additional deeper bores and an additional bore site to monitor flows

  • Tightened corrective action triggers requiring an immediate response to any unexpected groundwater impact

  • Commitments to re-run the model addressing all Geoscience Australia and CSIRO concerns within two years of the commencement of coal extraction (noting there are no predicted impacts to nationally protected matters within 15 years).

On Friday, the department called in the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia to give them a verbal briefing on the promises made by Adani.  Most unusually, both organisations produced a letter dated the same day saying that the promises addressed some of their concerns whilst “noting that there are still components of that advice that will need to be addressed through the approval of the research plan.”

Suggesting that “Both CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have confirmed the revised plans meet strict scientific requirements” is a real stretch.  Reading their actual report shows that many of their concerns remain but they were obviously pressured to write a letter in response on the same day they got a briefing from the department last Friday.

Considering Adani’s loose relationship with the truth in the past, giving approval on the basis of promises is madness.

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Living in a marginal seat can be hell

I live in the marginal seat of Robertson, misrepresented by the wholly inadequate Lucy Wicks.

Lucy was a Tony Abbott captain’s pick, parachuted into the area displacing the locally preselected candidate, much to the understandable chagrin of the party members.

Ever since, it has been a sandbagging effort to keep her there.

Aside from constant polling – I am one of the few people left with a landline because the mobile phone tower Lucy has been promising for three elections is still “coming soon”, just like the surplus – we have been porkbarrelled with rushed and ill-planned developments.

The Central Coast was one of the early areas for rollout of FttP NBN.  And then the Coalition took over.

My 94 year old mother-in-law has FttP.  My home and business became the guinea pigs for FttN which was an unmitigated disaster.  No-one knew what they were doing.  My business lost all telecommunications.  Frantic calls got phone and internet back within a few days but EFTPOS, fax and security were out for two months causing a loss of an estimated $20,000 and many regular customers.  I was eventually paid $5,000 in compensation by Telstra.

Then there was the much-vaunted decentralisation of the ATO with an office opening up in Gosford.

A primary school on prime waterfront land was closed.  To appease the community, we were told the site would become a performing arts centre – part of a cultural, recreational and arts precinct.

Then along comes Lucy Wicks who decides that putting the ATO building there was a better idea – jobs for the area, flow on to local businesses – you know the drill.

Canberra-based developer Doma Group, a previous Liberal Party donor, was awarded the contract and allowed to purchase the site for $3.3 million.  Before the building was even completed, they had sold it to the City of Brisbane Investment Co – CBIC was set up in 2008 by Campbell Newman when he was Brisbane Lord Mayor – for $43.5 million on the strength of a ten year lease commitment from the Federal government worth $70 million.

This was despite a rival bid by Gosford Council and a local developer, proposed for the CBD rather than the waterfront precinct, which was valued at around $38 million.

To summarise, the state government closed and sold a school to a Canberra developer, who then onsold an unbuilt building to a Queensland local government investment body for more than $40 million more than they paid for the site and the Federal government will lease it back for ten years for $70 million despite a local bid for about half that amount.

Surely it would have been better for the local council to acquire the site, pay local contractors to build the building, and then rent it to the Feds for whatever they were willing to pay.

Or for the state government to keep the site, build the building, and then collect the rent.

Lucy’s great idea meant that the people of Gosford lost a school and a performing arts centre and the financial benefit went to a private company in Canberra and a local government in Queensland.

Well done you, Lucy.

Ms Wicks also has a bad habit of claiming credit for what other people have done.

“Ms Wicks stood in Parliament on Wednesday to speak about 12 major projects and initiatives, but failed to mention that council has planned, driven and is delivering at least nine of these for residents on the peninsula,” Cr McKinna said in February 2016.

“(The) council developed the masterplan for Woy Woy Oval’s redevelopment, secured $5.5 million in federal and state funding for the project and we’re currently building it. Plus, we’ve invested almost $3 million towards the redevelopment, but no recognition from our local member.

“It’s a similar deal with upgrade works at McEvoy Oval in Umina.

“(The) council staff have put in a huge effort along with local sporting groups to develop a masterplan for the entire site, invest $220,000 towards­ the project and also make sure the NSW Government matched our funding contribution.”

But Lucy wants the accolades.

I am so looking forward to seeing the back of this useless member.  She will not be missed.

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If the government really cared about suicide prevention, they would look at what causes it

Much has been made of the government’s budget commitment towards tackling mental health needs and suicide prevention.  Whilst the election influx of funding will no doubt be welcome, it is hard to believe that this government really wants to address the issue.

If they were serious about their concern, they would look at who the most vulnerable groups are and what the contributing factors might be.

We know the LGBTQI community suffer a higher risk of suicide yet this government vehemently opposed the Safe Schools anti-bullying program, put us through a divisive survey where we were asked to decide if our fellow Australians should be allowed to marry, and then formed a committee to determine how religious people could continue to discriminate against gays.

Indigenous Australians are also a high-risk group.  The Black Dog Institute identifies drug and alcohol abuse, poor living circumstances and trauma as contributing factors and suggests that protective factors that make us more resilient and that can reduce suicidal behaviour include supportive social relationships, a sense of control, a sense of purpose, family harmony, effective help-seeking and the availability of positive connections to good health services.

Instead of this, the government has imposed the cashless welfare card on Indigenous communities based on their postcode rather than their individual circumstances.  Indigenous people are taken from their families and incarcerated for minor misdemeanours like unpaid fines.  Community support groups have had their funding slashed.  Remote communities have had services cut because living on their traditional land is now described as an unaffordable “lifestyle choice”.

Overall, the age-specific suicide rate in 2017 was highest in men aged 85 or above (32.8 per 100,000), which has been the age group with the highest rate since 2011.  Yet the religious influence on government has made discussion about dying with dignity one fraught with a lack of understanding.

Many people are terrified about the idea of going into an aged care facility but the government steadfastly refuses to regulate about staff qualifications and staff to resident ratios.  Accessing home care packages that would allow people to remain in their own homes for longer is a tortuous process.

Tragic cases of children committing suicide highlight the dangers of bullying yet the highest office-bearers in the land dutifully line up each week to be bullied by the bullies-in-chief, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones.  The language used by the government and the behaviour displayed in Question Time is an appalling example of shouting and intimidation rather than the respectful debate we should expect from our leaders.

An estimated 400 Australians with gambling-related problems commit suicide every year but this government, as one of its first actions on taking office, decided to wind back the already inadequate gambling reforms introduced by the Gillard government.  The Tasmanian government actually made keeping poker machines a campaign issue in the last election.  They would rather appease their donors and rake in their share of the profits than protect their constituents.

Poverty can also be a contributing factor in self-harm yet the government steadfastly refuses to increase welfare payments to a basic subsistence level.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that ‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’.

Unfortunately, we have a government who is more focused on wealth creation than on protection and support for those who need it the most.

 

Voters should heed the warnings given by Liberal women

Yesterday, Jane Prentice joined a growing list of Liberal women calling out their own side.

“Impatient ambition, treachery and lies are now, more than ever, part of our political fabric.  Increasingly we are seeing candidates and elected members whose primary focus is not a desire to serve their communities, but to serve themselves. Personal ambition seems to be replacing an ambition for our nation,” Ms Prentice warned in her farewell speech having lost preselection despite having been a sitting member since 2010.

Julia Banks made similar comments when she chose to leave the party.

She said she had always put Australia’s national interest “before internal political games, factional party figures, self-proclaimed power-brokers and certain media personalities who bear vindictive, mean-spirited grudges intent on settling their personal scores … Last week’s events were the last straw”.

Banks took aim at members of “the reactionary right wing … aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsement or silence.  The Liberal party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and to themselves, rather than listening to the people.”

Lucy Gichui spoke of the intimidation she and others were subjected to, saying the deterioration in political culture had reached crisis point.

“I don’t think anybody would want to be in that kind of an environment where your friends are no longer friends and the colleagues you sit next to they are no longer looking at you with the same eyes – that we are parliamentarians together.  It is also the betrayal. You can imagine that people who have been your mentors, all of a sudden you don’t know who they are.  You can imagine that people who have been your friends, then you are deemed to be in different camps, and even what is the worst thing is to have to choose when you don’t think you have to choose.”

“The minute you have to toe a certain line, you are being intimidated, you are no longer using your free will.  Politics can be a decent career for all. Even in politics I should be able … to make free will decisions. Any time somebody is overpowering you … that’s not political. We should be able to work in a professional environment.”

Linda Reynolds said, at the time, that she did not recognise “the bullying and intimidation that has gone on”.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, this is a sad day for my party and for our nation.  I just hope … whatever happens tomorrow that the behaviours that we have seen and the bullying and intimidation that I do not recognise as Liberal in any shape, way or form be brought to account.”

Outgoing Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, said she’d had a number of conversations with male and female MPs and it was clear that people were subject to “threats, intimidation and bullying” and that she had been “a little bit disgusted” by some of the commentary in recent days directed at women in the Liberal party to toughen up, or implications that women were being snowflakes or princesses.

Julie Bishop echoed those remarks.

“I have seen and witnessed and experienced some appalling behaviour in parliament, the kind of behaviour that 20 years ago when I was managing partner of a law firm of 200 employees I would never have accepted,” she said.

“Politics is robust, the very nature of it, it’s not for the faint-hearted.  But when a feisty, amazing woman like Julia Banks says this environment is not for me, don’t say: ‘Toughen up, princess.’ Say: ‘Enough is enough.’”

Ann Sudmalis also complained of “bullying, betrayal and backstabbing” by members of the Liberal party.

“Politics is a place where if you do not have great resilience, the actions of others can impact on your mental health,” Ms Sudmalis told Parliament.  “I have decided enough is enough. Who was this about? Certainly not the people who elected me. It was about ego-driven ambition, bullying and betrayal and my local position is completely untenable.”

Veteran former senator Judith Troeth, who represented Victoria from 1993 to 2011, said the party’s administrators “set the tone” and needed to take responsibility for systematically failing women.

“Why would you leave a good career to risk a short-term venture into politics only to see one’s career aspirations cut short by random cruelty and anarchy and brutality?” she asked.  “Sometimes what you put up with at work is just not feasible and it’s just not worth doing anymore.”

Julie, Kelly and Julia all decided to leave, Jane, Lucy and Ann were kicked out, and Linda’s silence was bought with a big promotion.

Meanwhile, the main protagonists, the bullies they spoke of, remain protected as Ministers and influential members of the Morrison government.

It is up to we voters to heed the warnings given by these Liberal women and say “Enough is enough”.

The standards you walk past are the standards you accept.

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It’s only words, and words are all I have

The Coalition have delivered a budget full of promises that they hope will win them re-election but, until those promises actually eventuate, they’re only words.

It is perhaps more instructive to examine what the government has actually done with its two terms in office rather than listen to a whole heap of things that haven’t happened yet.

The budget is not in the black.  At the end of February, there was a deficit of $10.657 billion.  The budget predicts that that will reduce to a deficit of $4.2 billion by the end of June.

They have not paid down “Labor’s debt”.  They have increased net debt from $161.2 billion at the end of August 2013 to $370.9 billion at the end of February 2019 despite a strengthening world economy.

The Coalition like to make much of their job “creation”.  From November 2007 to September 2013, the Labor Party, whilst negotiating the GFC, created 1.1024 million jobs.  The Coalition have, by the end of February 2019, created 1.0952 million jobs.

Ever since the carbon price was removed, emissions have gone up.  The latest figures show that emissions to the end of September 2018 were expected to be 2.6% below emissions in 2000.  Our commitment was to reduce them to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.  This will only be achieved by dodgy accounting.

Meanwhile we suffer increasingly intense droughts, floods, bushfires and cyclones and the Great Barrier Reef hovers on the edge of extinction as bleaching events come more frequently.

The mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Scheme, with water theft facilitated by the government, has put our largest river system, and all those who rely on it, under great stress.

Instead of a world-class FttP national broadband network that could cope with the demands of the future, we are using aging copper connections that cannot even deal with the demands of today.

Foreign aid has been slashed in every Coalition budget with it now at its lowest level ever.  Meanwhile, defence spending has received an increase above and beyond what had been budgeted every year.

Not only did we not get the “rolled gold” paid parental leave for “women of calibre” that we were promised, parental leave entitlements have been cut back with parents no longer able to combine the government leave with workplace leave.

Penalty rates have been cut, wages have stagnated, and job security has been eroded.

Over three million people are living in poverty and more than 100,000 are homeless.

Power prices have skyrocketed and we still don’t have an energy policy.

Little progress has been made on Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage.  Aboriginal people are incarcerated at record rates and recommendations from countless reviews remain ignored.  In what was a heartbreaking snub, the Uluru Statement From the Heart was summarily dismissed.

In 2012, Australia ranked 7th on Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI).  By 2015 it had slipped to 13th and has remained there ever since.

In 2014, we were mentioned on the Human Rights watch list for the first time and have scored a mention every year since.

At the end of February, there remained 974 people stuck on Manus and Nauru for whom the government has been unable, or unwilling, to find resettlement places.  In September last year, incoming UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet referred to Australia’s offshore processing centres as an “affront to the protection of human rights.”

In July 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern over the rate of gender-based violence against women in Australia, the treatment of asylum seeker and refugee women in offshore detention on Nauru, and the lack of harmonization in state and territory legislation on abortion.

The UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders released a report on Australia in February 2018 highlighting efforts to undermine the Australian Human Rights Commission, and how activists face “enormous pressure” and vilification from public officials and media outlets.

It is unsurprising that Australia has fallen out of the top ten on the World Happiness Index this year.

Two sitting Prime Ministers have been knifed by their own party, scandals have abounded, and internecine warfare remains fierce with the hard right inflicting policy paralysis and the Nats deciding it’s every man for himself.

Tony Abbott once asked for the government to be “judged on what we do, not on what we say.”

And so they should be.

The budget is just words and numbers on a bit of paper that cannot erase the reality of the last six years.

The shit-eating grins and smirks need to be well and truly wiped off the faces of the worst government ever.

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Whatever the cost of Labor’s policy, the Coalition’s inaction on climate change will cost infinitely more

As the Liberal’s break into the predictable hysteria about Labor’s climate change policy, demanding to know how much it will cost the economy, Rio Tinto cut its 2019 outlook for iron ore shipments from Australia’s Pilbara region due to production disruption and damage caused by tropical cyclone Veronica.

The damage from the cyclone coupled with a fire at a port facility in January will lead to a loss of about 14 million tonnes of production in 2019, the miner said in a statement.

At today’s iron ore price, that equates to over $1.7 billion dollars lost revenue for one company from one cyclone.

In February, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state budget is estimated to take a hit of at least $1.5 billion after catastrophic bushfires and floods ravaged Queensland over the summer.

The $1.5 billion damage bill includes repairs to infrastructure such as the rail network and the cost of emergency assistance and grants.  This does not include the cost to the Federal government or to insurance companies, businesses and households.  Nor does it include the tragedy and heartache and the inevitable health toll.

Tens of millions were spent fighting the bushfires in Tasmania, but an even greater cost is the loss of world heritage listed old growth forests that may never recuperate.

And then there’s the Great Barrier Reef which Deloitte Access valued at $56 billion with an economic contribution of $6.4 billion per year.  At the Conversation, they contend that, if you include things like the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs, the reef is actually priceless and irreplaceable and that any policies or projects that may damage the reef simply cannot go ahead.

Today, the ABC are reporting that the Kakadu wetlands are “highly vulnerable to future saltwater inundation because of climate change-induced sea-level rise and concomitant increases in extreme weather events such as storm surges and flooding”, according to the CSIRO Marine and Freshwater Research 2017.

A report by the Commonwealth Bank has put the potential cost of the drought at $12 billion and warned of food price hikes.  That view was backed up by Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe who told a parliamentary committee the drought was so significant the RBA board had looked at rainfall charts.

“If things return to normal fairly soon we could expect a rebound, but if it goes on like it did in the drought at the turn of the century then the effects on the economy are significant.”

He said in 2002/03 farm output fell around 25 per cent knocking a full percentage point off Australia’s growth and leading to many rural workers losing their jobs.  As well, food prices rose by 4.5 per cent.

The 2018 International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ World Disasters Report found Australia’s damage bill for natural disasters over the past decade came in at $37 billion.

Rising sea levels will put coastal property at risk and rising temperatures, both in the ocean and on land, puts whole ecosystems at risk.

The government has decided to quote modelling by Brian Fisher, who is already well known for his very dodgy modelling in favour of the coal mining industry, to say that Labor’s policy will cost workers $9,000 per year.  This is, of course, complete rubbish and totally at odds with modelling by Frontier Economics and research by the ANU.

The question is not how much Labor’s policy will cost.  The cost of not taking action is far too great to contemplate.

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The economy is going great but the same can’t be said for the people

The Coalition will go into the next election on the back of what is expected to be a strong budget.  There will be figures and announcements that back up their mantra of jobs and growth, lower taxes, and a surplus budget.

So if we are doing so well, why are 13.2% of the population (17.3% of children) living in poverty?

Why are 110,000 people homeless?

Why is the life expectancy of Indigenous people 10 years less than non-Indigenous people?

Why do our children rack up a large debt to gain the qualifications to provide the skilled labour we need?

Why are hospital waiting lists growing?

Why is home ownership falling?

Why are we subjecting our elderly to abuse from untrained staff?

Why do so many of our young people commit suicide?

Why are our disabled still excluded from contributing to society?

Why are we continually told about old people freezing/boiling to death because they cannot afford to turn on their appliances?

After 28 years of continuous growth, unemployment supposedly at 4.9%, years of lowering the tax rates, and a budget surplus (albeit largely based on a temporary windfall of higher than expected commodity prices), why are an increasing number of Australians being left behind?

We hear a lot about the importance of a strong economy but little emphasis is placed on the benefits of a happy society.

Whilst governments recognise the value of investing in infrastructure, they seem to ignore the value of investing in people.

I was going to say they throw money around like it’s water – except under the stewardship of the Coalition, water has become more precious than money.

We spend hundreds of billions buying war machinery but we can’t increase Newstart and Youth Allowance and the aged pension.

We give billions out in contracts with no tender process and no follow-up assessment while we cut the unemployed off from any payment if they don’t jump through all the hoops imposed on them weekly.

Companies who make billions in profit pay no tax but welfare recipients are pursued mercilessly for decades’ old potential debt.

Despite record company profits and low unemployment, wages remain stagnant.

We import workers to fill skills shortages but we can’t provide free tertiary education to skill our own workforce to meet the needs of the future.

We let developers denude the landscape but we cannot build affordable public housing.

We spend hundreds of millions on advertising and awareness campaigns on domestic violence but we close down refuges and defund legal advisory and support groups.

We spend billions of dollars locking people up for addiction-related ‘crimes’ but we cannot fund rehabilitation centres in the regions.

We have the money to fund religious school chaplains in state schools but not to fund a full-time youth counsellor trained to recognise and refer mental health issues.

We can afford to pay billions to consultants but we cannot afford to employ public servants with experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government.

We talk a lot about innovation and fund all sorts of ‘hubs’ and committees as we build an inferior national broadband network.

We can spend money on subsidies for fossil fuels but blame subsidies for renewables for rising power prices.

Instead of charging polluters for the pollution they produce, we spend billions on emissions reduction as we watch them rise every year.

Over 250 years ago, Edmund Burke, who is widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, gave a speech when he was elected to Parliament as a member for Bristol.

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole—where not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member, indeed; but when you have chosen him he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament.

The winner-take-all result where the party or Coalition with the majority of seats has all the power just does not work.  Politicians are focused on beating their opponents rather than working collaboratively to do what is in the best interests of the nation.  And increasingly, it is attracting those who are in it for themselves.

We must break the influence of vested interests and lobbyists who, by donating to a political party, can buy a whole bloc of votes.

We must invest in a public service capable of giving frank and fearless advice based on real evidence and who have the resources to oversee and assess the results from the expenditure of public money.

But first and foremost, we must elect people whose focus is on facilitating all Australians to make the best contribution they can to our society and supporting them to lead happy fulfilling lives in a healthy environment.

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