"Write again, Blue Eyes."

“Tickets please … Tickets please”…The porter made his way from seat to…

Reasons not to

Oh for a government who didn’t spend all their time finding reasons…

Convenient Demonologies: Stopping Migrant Caravans

President Donald J. Trump has been engaged with berating human caravans, a…

Hell hath no fury: The makings of a…

By Dr Strobe DriverNormally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues…

Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations…

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead…

Morrison's latest prop

So the Liberal Party has hired a bus as a new toy…

Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power

Soft power was always a term best suited for eunuchs. It relies…

What does a minute's silence mean?

It means, "shut the f*ck up!"It means, make no noise!It means let…

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Category Archives: News and Politics

Reasons not to

Oh for a government who didn’t spend all their time finding reasons not to:

Bring sick children on Nauru to Australia to get medical help

Resettle refugees in New Zealand (or prior to that, Malaysia) or…let’s make this easy and cheap and only fair….here

Reduce emissions

Invest in renewable energy

Protect water security, the water table and environmental flow

Stop habitat destruction and land degradation through rampant land-clearing

Protect the Great Barrier Reef

Increase Newstart and Youth Allowance

Increase the Superannuation Guarantee

Increase the minimum wage

Make big companies pay tax

Wind back overly generous tax concessions for property, family trusts, superannuation, self-education expenses (read overseas holiday), cost of managing financial affairs, business use of cars, excess franking credits etc

Give Indigenous people a voice in their own affairs

Celebrate Australia Day on another date

End discrimination based on sexuality and actually accept and love people for who they are

Take affirmative action to promote women to leadership roles

Fund public schools and hospitals

Make early childhood education accessible to all

Invest in public transport

Provide affordable housing

Legislate mandatory qualified staffing levels in aged care facilities.

Build the infrastructure for electric cars

Encourage union membership and the protection and collective voice it gives workers when negotiating with employers

Separate church from state

Allow people to choose to die with dignity

Legalise pregnancy terminations

Tax religious organisations on their profitable businesses and place conditions and accountability on any public money given to religious organisations

Fund community groups who help the disadvantaged

Embrace multiculturalism and avoid racial profiling

Increase foreign aid

Increase the public service rather than outsourcing and offshoring

Decrease spending on defence materiel that will be outdated before it arrives

Build communications infrastructure that can accommodate the needs of the future (NO MORE FttN)

Make university education cheaper, not more expensive.  It is an investment that pays dividends and our children should not start life with a large debt from their education.

Become a Republic with an Australian head of state and our own flag.

Be open, transparent, honest and accountable.

Continually fighting against things has drained both the government and the people.  We need leaders who can explain why we should do things, not why we shouldn’t.

Convenient Demonologies: Stopping Migrant Caravans

President Donald J. Trump has been engaged with berating human caravans, a spectacle that might have been odd in another era. At first instance, it all seems fundamentally anachronistic, a sort of history in reverse. It was, after all, the caravan packed with invasive pioneers that gave the United States its distinct frontier identity, moving with relentless, exterminating purpose in ultimately closing it.

On October 19, some 7,000 Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras and Guatemala, made an attempt to cross the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico. “Una necesidad nos obliga,” came the justification of a 20-year old man to the Washington Post. The ultimate destination for most: the United States.

Such a necessity does not merely apply to states in social and political decay. Honduras has historically been an eviscerated client state, its politics those of a marionette of Washington’s interests. In similar fashion, Guatemala continues to bleed before the preying involvement of Washington in its history. The US-owned United Fruit Company craved gangsters for capitalism, and the Central Intelligence Agency obliged in protecting its assets, assisting the overthrow of the Arbenz administration in 1954.

The Mexican authorities made various attempts to repel the human stream with violent though modest success. With the November mid-term elections looming, this small group became electoral dynamite for Trump. It gave him a chance to militarise matters, announcing the deployment of 5,200 troops to the US-Mexico border. (Some 5,600 have currently taken their positions.)

The language of General Terrence John O’Shaughnessy, in describing the proposed plan, resembled a description of an armed operation against an elevated enemy. “Our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up southern Texas, and then Arizona, and then California.”

In the words of the previous US president, Barack Obama, “They’re telling us the single most grave threat to America is a bunch of poor, impoverished, broke, hungry refugees a thousand miles away.” Film director Spike Lee, presenting his latest effort, BlacKkKlansman, at the Los Cabos International Film Festival in Mexico, was even more unvarnished. “Agent Orange was on the campaign trail for his fellow gangsters and stirring his base by saying the migrant caravan was his invasion.”

If there is something that tickles and engages the populist sentiment, Trump is up for it. His “base”, as it were, is up for rocking, chilling and entertaining. Obama might accuse Trump of being a fan of the “political stunt”, but that is the essence of this administration, a sequence of aggravated rehearsals that have distracted when needed and enraged when required.

Some of these ploys have gone beyond the category of temporary fancy. Senior policy advisor Stephen Miller had demonstrated that policies of indignation can have purchase at chance moments. While Trump is always bound to claim copyright over such ideas, it was Miller who proved influential in sketching the selective Muslim ban and the head-scratching policy of separating children from parents at the border. Immigration is being larded with further, stifling regulations with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirming that a mere 30,000 refugees for resettlement will be accepted by the US in 2019.

Such cruel exercises are the stuff of modern reactionary politics, notably from governments wishing to remove the clammy hand of international law upon them. Refugees, the outsiders, the marginalised, are ideal fodder to mince and grind. It is the language of Australian Prime Minister John Howard who, in the federal elections of 2001, insisted that the island continent would become an impregnable fortress against the undesirables coming by sea. He illustrated this fact by deploying, much in the Trump manner, soldiers against refugees stranded at sea in August 2001. “We simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination.” Given Australia’s lethal natural barriers, the remarks were as incongruous as they were fictional.

It was a policy twinned with the feather brained notion, ruthlessly exploited, that terrorist operatives might sneak their way to Australia on leaky vessels, avoiding more salubrious options. As Australia’s defence minister Peter Reith brazenly asserted at that time, such boat arrivals “can be a pipeline for terrorists to come in and use your country as a staging post for terrorist activities”. Howard himself added taste to the fear: “you don’t know whether they have terrorist links or not,” he suggested rather casually to Brisbane’s Courier Mail.

Trump would have approved of such laxity, having himself claimed, with an approach immune to evidence, that there might well be “unknown Middle Easterners” heading to the US in these migrant caravans. When probed on the matter by CNN’s now bedevilled Jim Acosta, Trump twisted slightly. “There’s no proof of anything but they could very well be.”

Trump’s language of the demonised caravan is also the language of a host of European leaders who have decided to dust off chauvinistic sentiments long held in the archive and ignore any central, humanitarian approach to refugees. At work here is a species of depraved transatlantic consensus on cruelty propelled by strongman bullying. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán fantasises about Muslim hordes in an Ottoman invasion redux, a positioning that elevates himself as defender of the West against Islam and the dark forces of the barbaric East. “We don’t see these people as Muslim refugees,” he snorted in an interview with Bild in January this year. “We see them as Muslim invaders.”

Other states contemplate a further entrenched, barbed wire approach, finding much value in shirking or adjusting the refugee resettlement quota. Poland can add itself to Hungary in that regard, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stating his position plainly to Radio Poland in January that “we will not be allowing migrants from the Middle East and North Africa to enter Poland.” Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are not far behind.

Like his Australian and several European counterparts, Trump has deployed the instruments of violence and demonization against refugees with a degree of commitment and, it must not be forgotten, success. It also supplies a fitful reminder how criticising him for doing so remains a more difficult exercise, given the number of states which have gotten a cold regarding refugees. A certain villainy against humanity has taken hold.

Hell hath no fury: The makings of a Turnbull return

By Dr Strobe Driver

Normally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues with a particular emphasis on war and conflict however, the arrival of Malcolm Turnbull on the ABC’s Q&A programme made me want to offer a possibility of Malcolm being the ‘comeback kid,’ a term that was originally applied to Bill Clinton. So I suppose there is some relevance to international relations. Nevertheless, the opportunity was too much, as was the chance to suggest how he will ‘come back.’

The well-balanced, nuanced, articulate and commendable accuracy—albeit with only accomplishments writ large—in the ex-prime minister’s (pm) appearance on the ABC’s Q&A special edition as part of New South Wales Festival of Dangerous Ideas programme on 8 November, 2018, was exceptional only in that the ex-pm was able to contain his incandescent rage at those that unseated him (read: kicked him out of office). It should also be noted that Mr Turnbull also kept insisting that though he is ‘retired,’ that does not exclude him from making a comment about his ‘brilliant leadership,’ and the aforesaid ‘accomplishments’ therein. Nor should an ex-pm be excluded from the debate as a free and opinionated citizen in the liberal-democracy of Australia—all should have their say outside of the shackles of slander and smear in a robust democracy. Was it just me, or did others get the notional understanding that Malcolm Turnbull is in the nascent phase of being a ‘comeback kid’? The once ‘Honourable’ Malcolm Turnbull wants the title back! This was his first go at establishing what will be a fast and furious transition to Minister of Parliament, although a few things will have to happen first.

The most important ‘thing’ to happen is that the Honourable Bill Shorten wins the next election and within this happening there is a ‘blowback’ within the Liberal Party and its ‘rusted on’ voters. The demise of Ministers Abbott, Birmingham, Cormann, Dutton, Hunt, Seselja—or at the very least, a significant plunge in their popularity—and several others such as Craig Kelly and Nigel Scullion and other ‘faceless men’ (that term sounds familiar), will have to take place as this will segue into Turnbull being ‘invited’ back to the ‘sensible centre’ of the Liberal Party; and the Liberal Party per se. Where will this mysterious invite emanate from and will there be enough constituents in the area concerned to vote for Turnbull because he is well … the one and only Malcolm Turnbull. What has to happen is the revenge-vote has to come to the fore and the constituents concerned will want to send a message, to the Honourable Member Shorten and paradoxically, the Liberal Party as well. Who will it be and what seat will it be? Subtleness is the key here, and more to the point it will have to be like a hand-pass in Aussie Rules—seamless, a small move and able to help someone else kick a goal, something for the  greater good.  From then on it is Malcolm who will be kicking goals all the way back to the prime ministership. Turnbull has this as his ultimate goal after last week’s Q&A, and he knows time is short but he does have the sympathy vote in hand; a large portion of the Australian public thinking he is ‘PM material;’ and he is still young enough to pursue this avenue. And theoretically, if Shorten makes a hash of it then he only has four or so years to wait—and as it stands there is a dearth of talent in the Liberal Party—especially ‘leadership talent.’ This is perhaps Turnbull’s greatest weapon within the Liberal Party. Where will he go and what will he do to achieve this?

Casting an eye over the Liberal Party and their seats as well as their ‘rusted on’ supporters one can be forgiven for thinking that the Honourable Karen Phelps might be the first to have her seat removed as Liberal Party people remove a person who was a blip on their political radar. This is however, unlikely as to vote someone else in instead of Malcolm is tantamount to being traitorous to the cause, whereas voting in Phelps was not traitorous, it was a reaction—it was voting out the Liberal Party not voting Phelps in. This happened in the resurgence of the Labor Party in Victoria after the mind-boggling horrors of the Kennett years in Victoria, it wasn’t that Bracks was particularly great, it was he was so vastly more in touch with the people of Victoria that he would ‘do.’ Out with Kennet, not in with Bracks and the other ‘99ers’ as they were called.

So, who will give up their seat in order to place Malcolm in a robust conservative position with a strong middle-of-the-road sentiment? We have to go to the old stomping ground of Bennelong where they were willing to give a radical new-age thinking a go and an articulate woman a chance (Maxine McKew). After they realised what they ‘had done,’ they returned to lackadaisical ‘everything will be fine,’ ‘no need to panic,’ run-of-the-mill political mainstream—the Honourable John Alexander. This is where Turnbull’s greatest opportunity is, a solid Liberal seat that doesn’t want to venture into the unknown again, (because it was obviously quite scary to have an articulate woman in the job), yet it offers unlimited opportunity for another go at the prime ministership—and who in this seat would not be begging for a change from the humdrum of the current incumbent?

Turnbull and his advisors must be looking at Bennelong and their mouths must be watering, a seamless transition, a ‘rusted on’ group of voters and the chance for these ‘aspirationals’ to have a prime minister in their midst. And whats more, it wouldn’t cost Turnbull a cent (unlike his last grab at the job), he would just majestically reappear—the first step in his new Aussie ‘bloke having a go’ at what is rightfully his; and should never have been taken away. Don’t underestimate Turnbull’s ambition; or his rage.

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University. The views expressed in this article are his own.

 

Morrison’s latest prop

So the Liberal Party has hired a bus as a new toy for PM Scott Morrison. As a special gesture, they have also arranged for the bus to be covered in advertising so no one can mistake who is on the bus. The initial run for the bus is from the Gold Coast to Townsville located on the North Queensland coast, something like 1400 km in four days. Despite the initial publicity, the bus run was subsequently truncated to Rockhampton and Morrison flew to Townsville.

It makes sense. Morrison claims he a ‘fair dinkum’ Prime Minister who is on the road to listen to the Queensland community. Since Morrison’s elevation to the Prime Ministership, he hasn’t reversed the opinion poll trend which suggests that the ALP would win an election somewhere between a whisker and comfortably. Neither has he successfully articulated (despite a lot of invitations) the reasons why he or Peter Dutton would be a better option for the Liberal Party coming into an election that Malcolm Turnbull was.

So, he of the oversized props, including a lump of coal in the House of Representatives and the ‘daggy dad’ persona, is the latest in a long line of politicians that have hired transport vehicles to ‘go out and meet the people’. The USA’s long distance train operator, Amtrak, suggests that the first use of a train in a political campaign was in 1836 and also mentions Truman’s 1948 ‘whistle stop’ tour of 28,000 miles and over 300 speeches. Reagan also campaigned by train, dubbing it the ‘Heartland Special’. The premise of using the train was the train could stop at every ‘whistle stop’ or small community and the candidate could give their standard speech from the train, then alight and meet the locals. The theory goes that the locals — having met the candidate for a high office would be more likely to vote for the person they met.

Trump and both Clintons used planes as have a number of Australian politicians — Australia doesn’t have 28,000 miles of rail lines in the one gauge for a start — and others around the world have used buses, from advertising on the side of commuter buses to the ‘Bill Bus’ used by Opposition Leader Shorten at the last Federal Election. Even the fictional Vice President in the satirical TV comedy series ‘Veep’, had a campaign bus. You might remember Turnbull pinched the slogan at the last Federal Election.

The point of being on a road or rail trip is to stop at the small local communities and meet and greet the locals. Morrison’s trip last week covered a number of Federal Seats held on small margins by the LNP in Queensland, so meeting and greeting in small communities is a great idea — right?

Well it might be, but Morrison wasn’t travelling on the bus. As the Brisbane Times reported:

The ghost bus will be left with only its driver on board for several key legs, including the 400 kilometre-plus stretch from the Sunshine Coast to Gladstone.

That’s right, Morrison and his entourage will be flying to and from campaign appearances on RAAF VIP planes that you and I are paying for. Apart from the obviously missed opportunity to personally charm some people in small towns that just happen to be in marginal LNP seats, the Australian taxpayer is paying for Morrison and crew to travel to and from political rallies at our expense.

So, the Liberal Party’s hired bus is another prop. If you’re a resident of any of the communities between the Sunshine Coast and Gladstone you are being ignored. It’s not like the 400 or so kilometres between the Sunshine Coast and Gladstone is out in the middle of the Nullabor and there are no communications facilities to allow Morrison and others to do something productive or more likely surf the internet when they are fed up with asking if they are there yet. The Federal Government funded a good deal of the communications infrastructure along the Bruce Highway some years ago to ensure communication was possible by either mobile phone or laptop connected to the 3 or 4G networks.

Who knows, if Morrison sat on the Scomobile ©, he might actually observe that the Bruce Highway (part of National Route 1), predominately funded by the Federal Government, is nowhere near the standard of the Hume and Federal Highways that would be used by Morrison if he chose to drive from his electorate to Canberra. But then again, he may not. As anyone who has caught public transport with advertising covering the windows will tell you — it’s almost impossible to see out of the window if it’s dirty or wet. Queensland is pretty dusty, there are usually some roadworks on the Bruce Highway to add a bit more dirt and it rained last week.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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According to the WEF, the planet is ‘on the brink’

The Global Risks Report 2018 produced by the World Economic Forum lays out very clearly why this ridiculous debate about emissions reduction must stop.  If they won’t believe the scientists, perhaps the economists can convince them.

Our planet on the brink

“Among the most pressing environmental challenges facing us are extreme weather events and temperatures; accelerating biodiversity loss; pollution of air, soil and water; failures of climate-change mitigation and adaptation; and transition risks as we move to a low-carbon future.

Extreme weather events in 2017 included unusually frequent Atlantic hurricanes, with three high-impact storms—Harvey, Irma and Maria— making landfall in rapid succession. According to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, which is used to measure the intensity and duration of Atlantic storms, September 2017 was the most intense month on record. It was also the most expensive hurricane season ever.

Extreme rainfall can be particularly damaging—of the 10 natural disasters that caused the most deaths in the first half of 2017, eight involved floods or landslides. Storms and other weather-related hazards are also a leading cause of displacement, with the latest data showing that 76% of the 31.1 million people displaced during 2016 were forced from their homes as a result of weather-related events.

Last year also saw numerous instances of extreme temperatures. When the data are finalized, 2017 is expected to be among the three hottest years on record—the hottest was 2016—and the hottest non–El Niño year ever. In the first nine months of the year, temperatures were 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and further increases are inevitable—the most ambitious target included in the Paris Agreement envisages increases only to 1.5°C.

Average changes are giving rise to localized extremes: during 2017, record high temperatures were experienced from parts of southern Europe to eastern and southern Africa, South America, and parts of Russia and China. California had its hottest summer ever and by the end of November, wildfire burn across the United States was at least 46% above the 10-year average, and was continuing into December. Chile had its most extensive wildfires ever—eight times the long-run average—while in Portugal more than 100 wildfire-related deaths were recorded.

Rising temperatures and more frequent heatwaves will disrupt agricultural systems that are already strained. The prevalence of monoculture production heightens vulnerability to catastrophic breakdowns in the food system— more than 75% of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and it is estimated that there is now a one-in-twenty chance per decade that heat, drought, and flood events will cause a simultaneous failure of maize production in the world’s two main growers, China and the United States. This would cause widespread famine and hardship.

Fears of “ecological Armageddon” are being raised by a collapse in populations of insects that are critical to food systems: researchers in Germany found falls in such populations of more than 75% over 27 years. More broadly, biodiversity loss is now occurring at mass-extinction rates. The populations of vertebrate species declined by an estimated 58% between 1970 and 2012.

Globally, the primary driver of biodiversity loss is the human destruction of habitats including forests—which are home to approximately 80% of the world’s land-based animals, plants, and insects—for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production. A record 29.7 million hectares of tree cover was lost in 2016—an area about the size of New Zealand. This loss was about 50 percent higher than 2015. As much as 80% of the deforestation in Amazon countries is accounted for by cattle ranching, suggesting that pressures on environmental and agricultural systems will intensify as the global population increases, pushing up demand for meat.

Pollution moved further to the fore as a problem in 2017: indoor and outdoor air pollution are together responsible for more than one tenth of all deaths globally each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than 90% of the world’s population live in areas with levels of air pollution that exceed WHO guidelines. Deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, where health problems caused by pollution exacerbate strains on already stretched health systems and public finances. In November 2017, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi when air pollution reached more than 11 times the WHO guideline levels.  Urban air pollution is likely to worsen, as migration and demographic trends drive the creation of more megacities.

Soil and water pollution cause about half again as many deaths, according to findings published in October 2017 by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health. The Commission estimates the overall annual cost of pollution to the global economy at US$4.6 trillion, equivalent to around 6.2% of output.

Many of the associated risks to health are still not well understood. Research suggests, for example, that the huge volume of plastic waste in the world’s water— approximately 8 million more tons every year—is finding its way into humans. People eating seafood could be ingesting up to 11,000 pieces of micro-plastic every year. Microplastic fibres are found in 83% of the world’s tap water. One concern is that these micro-fibres could bind with compounds containing toxic pesticides or metals, providing these toxins with a route into the body.

The growing urgency of acting to halt climate change was demonstrated in 2017 with the news that emissions of CO2 had risen for the first time in four years, bringing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to 403 parts per million, compared with a preindustrial baseline of 280 parts per million. The increase in emissions last year was partly a result of developments in China, where the heatwaves mentioned above led to a 6.3% increase in energy consumption, and extreme drought in the north of the country led to a switch from hydro to coal-fired power generation.

There are reasons to expect further upward pressure on CO2 concentrations in the future. Having absorbed 93% of the increase in global temperatures between 1971 and 2010, the world’s oceans continue to get warmer and studies suggest that their capacity to absorb CO2 may be declining. Research also suggests that tropical forests are now releasing rather than absorbing carbon dioxide.

The risk that political factors might disrupt efforts to mitigate climate change was highlighted last year when President Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. However, several other major economies—notably China—reaffirmed their support of the Paris Agreement during 2017. In addition, many US businesses, cities and states have pledged to help deliver on the country’s emissions reduction targets. This kind of network of subnational and public-private collaboration may become an increasingly important means of countering climate change and other environmental risks, particularly at a time when nation-state unilateralism appears to be ascendant.

In addition to meeting the immediate environmental challenges that we face, we also need to focus more acutely on the potential economic and societal risks that may arise as transition to a low-carbon and environmentally secure world accelerates. Moves towards financial disclosures to quantify the transition risks that businesses face have been accelerating, as has the idea of fossil-fuel divestment.  For example, in November 2017 the managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund recommended divesting from oil and gas shares, and in December the World Bank announced a moratorium after 2019 on financing upstream oil and gas-related investments.

The potential spillover effects of climate-related transition will be more far-reaching than its effect on financial disclosure norms. For example, dramatic changes in the way energy is produced are likely to trigger large-scale labour-market disruptions. Structural economic changes in affected countries and regions could also stoke societal and geopolitical risks.

There is no scope for complacency about the sufficiency of global efforts to deal with climate change and the continued degradation of the global environmental commons. Equally, however, it is time to prepare for the structural challenges and changes that lie ahead as those efforts gather pace.”

When is it OK to lie ? Don’t ask a politician !

It seems that in politics telling lies, fabricating half truths and being wilfully misleading is now par for the course in this game of crazy golf.

Trump has turned it into an art form ; that is, if you are not much of a connoisseur when it comes to modern art : which reminds me of the true story of an attendant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York who had to inform a group of people staring transfixed at an item adorning a wall that, what they were looking at was in fact an air conditioning duct. That may or may not be a true story : you be the judge.

In the past couple of weeks, our new prime minister has been flailing around looking for a policy or at least something to wack Bill Shorten over the head with. Inevitably it has come down, once again, to the dire consequences facing Australia and possibly the planet if Labor gets into office and does away with negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions currently available to those who engage in churning existing housing stock at the expense of new home buyers. It seems to add some weight to Scomo’s argument to paint these property speculators as mums and dads and he frequently mentions nurses, ambulance drivers, police and other such ordinary people. So far he has stopped short of suggesting that homeless people will have their investment opportunities curtailed by not being able to negatively gear their investment portfolios.

Morrison fails to mention that the Labor proposal will only affect existing housing stock and thus should encourage investors to put their money into building new houses and apartments which is generally seen as a good thing. He also overlooks the fact that the Labor policy will not impact existing negatively geared  investments : they call it grandfathering.

They also put their fingers in their ears and sing lah lah lah whenever they are referred to the observations of their former Treasurer Joe Hockey who, in a moment of economic clarity, which coincided with him leaving the parliament for a cushy job in the USA, told us that :

“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.”

So, lying also takes the form of obscuring or rewriting historical fact to suit changed or changing circumstances or to fit in with the narrative that you have chosen for the day. Malcolm Turnbull was recently on Q&A embellishing his legacy and throwing in a couple of curved balls for antiquity :

You know, think of the big social reforms, legalising same-sex marriage. I mean, what a gigantic reform that was, I was able to do that … I legislated it, right? So I delivered it.

Well, that was a big fib because, as we all know, Malcolm allowed a noisy group of nut-jobs to divert the parliament from its proper course and forced upon a reluctant nation a postal plebiscite. A plebiscite that would not be binding on the parliament, would cost a fortune and the financing of which was never approved by our parliament (in fact it was knocked back in the Senate) and which proved to be socially divisive.

A big fib can have consequences if spotted by a dogged fourth estate of investigative journalists and media hounds dedicated to uncovering the truth (and I wouldn’t wish to imply that this is the business model of Fox, Sky-after-dark or news Corp). Richard Nixon found this out and he was ultimately brought down over a fairly innocuous raid on the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington. The raid was engineered by the Republicans for the purposes of planting listening devices which it was hoped would assist the party and Nixon in achieving their re-election ambitions. What brought down Nixon was not the raid but his emphatic denial of any knowledge of the scam and subsequent revelations that proved he had been fibbing.

Secret raids, listening devices, political advantage, doesn’t that ring a bell and bring us closer to home ? Our very own Watergate involving government authorised bugging of the Timor Leste parliament offices for political, commercial and territorial gain during the reign of John Howard and his Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer. When the scam became public the leading protagonists covered themselves in a blanket of national security and once again, stuck their fingers in their ears and sang lah lah lah in unison. To add a very Australian twist to the story, they decided, in an act of cold-blooded retribution, to prosecute the whistleblower and his lawyer for telling the truth and are currently trying to have the matter heard in secret : national security and all that dont’cha know !

Then you have what Winston Churchill referred to as Terminological inexactitudes which are still lies but are dressed up in their Sunday Best so as not to look like a bare-faced lie. For instance, former President Clinton said  I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”. Well, that may well have been technically true depending on how you define sexual relations but it’s obviously not an excuse that, say for instance, Barnaby Joyce could have volunteered, is it ?

In recent days we have observed a sudden need for a show empathy towards asylum seekers on the part of former hard-nosed immigration ministers. Purely it seems for political purposes as the mood of the nation changes and as a federal election beckons. This, after five years of name calling with racist overtones directed towards Illegals, requires some deft gymnastic backflips in what amounts to the weaving of what the Brits would call a tissue of lies and a veil of deception.

The spinmeisters for former Immigration ministers Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have been working overtime : yes, they do still get penalty rates as political advisers !

So, we have been told by Peter Dutton that :

“I think in the Immigration portfolio, you are defined by Nauru and Manus. Now, I didn’t put any people on Nauru and Manus, I got people off. I would love to get everybody off there tomorrow — if I could have brought them to Australia in a charter flight overnight I would have”.

and from Scott Morrison, who said he has :

… cried ‘on his knees’ for the plight of asylum seekers held offshore.

Speaking at a lunch organised by suicide prevention service Lifeline, Mr Morrison said he had prayed for the children still on Nauru, confirming there were still just over 30 on the Pacific island.

Morrison said he had prayed for the children in detention on Nauru and he hoped it had made a difference.

I don’t know about you, but my heart bleeds for these two men who have been so deeply conflicted between their obvious compassion as Christians for refugees and asylum seekers and the demands of their political antennae. If I was either of these two blokes and if I know anything about Christian Gods, I would be watching out for thunder-bolts from above after those elaborate and breathtaking fabrications.

And The Wheels Of The Bus Go Round And Round, But Scottie Morrison Doesn’t Notice…

“The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town.”

Scott Morrison has been doing his best to help Victorian Liberal Leader in the election campaign by spending his time travelling round Queensland on a bus and avoiding the southern state altogether.

Of course, when I say travelling on a bus I mean that he spends some time on the bus but only to get from A to B. However, letters such as C,D,E, etc are another matter. In order to get from say, Rockhampton to Townsville, he takes a VIP plane.

You may have heard the interview.

JOURNALIST: Prime minister, you’re on the bus tour. Why are you flying?

PRIME MINISTER: Well the bus is going all the way up to Rockie and that’s where it was always planning to go. I mean, it’s a big state and I need to cover as much of it in four days as I can. So we were never planning to take the bus to Townsville, we’d always planned to take that last leg up to Townsville by plane because that was the most effective way to get there and to spend the most time there with people on the ground. I mean, these visits aren’t about sitting on a bus. They’re about actually engaging with small businesses and our supporters and the people of Queensland and listening to them.

JOURNALIST: Then why have the bus?

PRIME MINISTER: Because it gets me from A to B.

JOURNALIST: Will you be taking the bus to Rockhampton from here?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. The bus will be going to Rockhampton from here. That’s right.

JOURNALIST: With you on it?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve got to get there earlier than the bus tonight.

JOURNALIST: So you will be flying to Rockhampton?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll get into Rockhampton tonight and I’ve got a programme tonight in Rockhampton and the bus can’t get me there quick enough so I’ve got to fly.

JOURNALIST: So you’ll be flying to Rockhampton and the bus will catch up with you and then you’ll fly onto Townsville?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll be flying onto Townsville. And your point is what?

JOURNALIST: I’m just interested in the point of the bus if you’re not on it.

PRIME MINISTER: I am on it, I just got off it. I’m on the bus right now.

JOURNALIST: But not onto Rockhampton or Townsville?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah well it’s a practical thing. I want to spend as much time on the ground with Queenslanders, and when I can be on the bus and go from place to place on the bus, that’s great. But I’m not going to sacrifice time with Queenslanders, listening to them and hearing them and talking to them about what’s important to them, just to satisfy the media’s interest in the timetable for the bus.

At this point, I feel that I really, really need to emphasis that this is not one of my made-up interviews. This is a fair dinkum, ridgy-didge interview with our Prime Minister. If you catch the video, you’ll notice that not only does he sound absurd but he has the sort of look I’d have if I were just appointed head of BHP: I know that I’m not meant to be here, that it’s some sort of accident, but, gee, I’m having a lot of fun saying stupid things until this whole mess is rectified.

Now, there are a few things in this interview that are really worth exploring. For a start, why does a politician do a bus tour? I could be wrong here, but I would have thought that the whole point is so that one can travel round the particular area and stop every few kilometres or so and talk to people.  Or, if one is more cynical, pose for photos. It sort of defeats the whole purpose of a bus tour if one is not actually on the bus except when one is picked up from the airport.

Ok, when he’s says, “I’m on the bus right now”, in response to the question about the point of the bus if he’s not on it, one can say, well that’s his picture at the back of the bus, so clearly there’s no time in this journey when our PM is not actually ON the bus. On the other hand, I find, Scottie’s understanding of the words “taking the bus” to be rather more problematic. His answer of: “Yes, the bus will be going to Rockhampton from here” seems to suggest that he thinks the fact the bus is following him to his destination means that he’ll be “taking” the bus. However, if I told you I was “taking you to Paris”, I doubt that you’d expect me to fly on ahead while you made your own way there.

But I find Promo’s understanding of almost anything to be problematic. For example, his comment about children on Nauru, “You’ll find yourself on your knees, you’ll find yourself in tears, you’ll find yourself wrestling with this tough stuff”, before telling us that he’d literally he’d been in tears on his knees over these issues. He, of course, didn’t want Border Force to keep pulling dead children from the sea. No, far better to tow the boats back to Indonesia waters where someone else can pull their bodies from the water. No, far, far better to have them starve themselves to death on Nauru where they can act as a deterrent to those who would seek to come here by boat. And let’s not forget, Australia has a history boat people causing trouble going all the way back to 26th January, 1788.

Still, it’s good to know that Scott Morrison doesn’t find it easy to waste billions keeping people on Manus and Nauru. It’s good to know that he occasionally gets down on his knees and cries about all the money he’s wasting every time he goes to Court to prevent an asylum seeker coming here for medical attention. After all, treating them might actually keep them alive and where’s the deterrent factor in that?

Besides, if one shows weakness on asylum seekers, what’s next? Concern about the planet? The sharks would soon be circling… and I don’t mean the ones at sea. Those sharks that swim in the Canberra bubble.

Ah, that song has become an ear-worm. I keep hearing “The Wheels of The Bus”:

The wheels of the Party keep falling off,
Falling off,
Falling off
The wheels of the Party keep falling off,
All through the year.

The Right of the Party keeps counting votes,
Counting votes,
Counting votes,
The Right of the Party keeps counting votes,
Till Tony’s resurrection.

How about we reduce cost of living pressure by increasing wages

The majority of Australians cite cost of living as one of the priorities that they want the government to address.

In typical one-dimensional ideological thinking, the Coalition’s only answer to this is to appoint a minister for getting power prices down who will take a big stick to the power companies.

The main reason that cost of living is an issue is because wages have stagnated for so long as housing, power, transport and other costs have risen.

Rather than recognising the danger of stalled wage growth, the Coalition have set about deligitimising the collective voice of unions, cutting penalty rates to our lowest paid workers, fighting increases to the minimum wage, and freezing the planned growth of the superannuation guarantee.

Rather than showing concern for the homeless and those who struggle to pay rent or buy their first home, the government is fighting tooth and nail to protect the tax concessions of those who own two or more homes.

Lifting the freeze on government fuel excise has added to the cost of petrol at a time when Iranian sanctions, Saudi tightness because of a war in Yemen, Venezuelan production going through the floor and disruptions in Libya have seen oil prices increase.

According to Professor John Buchanan from the University of Sydney’s Business School, the gap between wages and the cost of living is growing in many developed countries, despite rising productivity.

“Australian workers are more productive now than they’ve ever been, but they have not shared in the gains in the way that they used to,” he said.

This has obvious implications.  When people have less disposable income, either demand dries up or private debt grows, neither of which are good for the economy.

While many other developed countries have seen a decline or “levelling out” of personal debt since the 2008 global financial crisis, Australia’s debt levels have continued to increase.  The ratio of household debt to income has more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, going from 104% to 212%, according to the OECD Data released in 2015.

Poverty in Australia 2018 found that there are just over 3 million people (13.2%) living below the poverty line of 50% of median income – including 739,000 children (17.3%).  In dollar figures, this poverty line works out to $433 a week for a single adult living alone; or $909 a week for a couple with 2 children.  Many of those affected are living in deep poverty – on average, this is a staggering $135 per week below the poverty line.

The group of people experiencing poverty the most are, unsurprisingly, those relying on Government allowance payments such as Youth Allowance and Newstart. Yet the government’s reaction is to try to claw back welfare overpayments using a flawed system, and to steadfastly refuse to increase Newstart payments.  They have tried various attempts to make it harder to even get any payment and introduced penalties for non-compliance.

Instead of positive action, we get trite phrases like if you have a go, you’ll get a go, or the best welfare is a job.  They ignore the advice from the Business Council of Australia that the low payment is an impediment to actually getting a job.

Instead of increasing the tax free threshold to give low income earners some relief, as Julia Gillard did to offset cost of living pressures from introducing carbon pricing, the government wants to lower taxes for big business even though they are already making record profits and investors are lining up.

Any pretence that this government cares about cost of living completely evaporates on even a cursory examination of their performance since coming into office.

Malcolm the Messiah and a whole lot more

By George Theodoridis

The performance on last night’s Q&A (8th Nov) was beyond admirable. Beyond shock ‘n awe. Beyond expectation. Worthy of a tragic actor on an ancient Greek stage, one who played Agamemnon, say, or of a Shakespearean stage, one who played Richard II, say.

Actors of the Ancient Greek stage had to be good. Bloody good, since they had to play up to four roles in the one tragedy, roles of men, of women, of children, of servants and slaves, of gods and kings and queens and prophets, of murderers and of men who gouged out their eyes, all behind heavy masks and even heavier costumes, conducting the least possible stage business and exhibiting all of the human emotions.

They had to be good because they were all men and they only had their voice -their man’s voice to perform all these roles. Their full repertoire depended on just that human tool: their voice. Nothing else.

These men were so good at their job that their country often sent them off to other countries to act as diplomats or ambassadors or advocates. Interlocutors. Men like Aristodemos of Miletus for example and Neoptolemos, who, it is said, Demosthenes, the author of legal rhetoric, had paid 10,000 drachmas to teach him how to deliver whole lines of speech (Full stop to full stop) without taking a breath. 10,000 drachmas back then was a sum beyond belief. A soldier would have to survive 10,000 days of service to earn this much!

So yes, ancient Greek tragic actors were good.

Malcolm Bligh Turnbull’s performance was equal if not superior in skill to those ancient Greek actors and to those who played Shakespeare’s works.

When Jones’ introduction ended we could tell that this play would be one of a huge cast, of long held grudges, of Promithean and Epimethean interpreters of events passed and of events to pass, of events of great significance and of events that showed the banality of significant events.

There was our deposed, dumped and politically assassinated Malcolm, cogitating aloud, as was King Richard II to the Duke of Aumerle and as was Aeschylus’ Agamemnon to his brother Menelaos, about the hollowness of crowns, of thrones bereft of honour and of the vacuity of grand titles. The powerlessness of power. And he cogitated with the lyricism and the poetry of Richard II, arguably the most eloquent of all of Shakespeare’s characters and almost as mournful as Iphigeneia’s pleas to her father not to sacrifice her.

And, like the ancient Greek actors, he played many roles.

Malcolm the messiah, was one, Malcolm the king, Malcolm the Phoenix (not a hint of ash about him), Malcolm the Historiographer, Malcolm whose government was “blown up” (as he put it).

What was the number of Caesar’s assassins, as many as those of Malcolm? Sixty, perhaps? The autopsy on Caesar’s body (first ever autopsy) revealed some twenty three stab wounds. The look on Malcolm’s face, though free of any hint of ash, spoke of many more. Too many for him not to say, “I have left politics and I am now back in business.” Some of us could well suggest the man has never left the “business.”

Last night, Malcolm was just one more dumped PM, dumped PMs being a common sight in Australia.

For the first few moments of the show we were asking ourselves if he would reveal his Casca, the first to plunge the sword into Caesar’s body. Was it Scott Morrison himself? Abbott? Dutton? Coremann? Ciobo? That hand around Malcolm’s shoulder was Morrison’s just a couple of days before the dumping. Was that a sign like Judas’ kiss, identifying him to the conspirators in case they got the wrong man?

But we didn’t have to wait long. Malcolm pulled back the black curtains, opening them wide for us to see a phalanx of conspirators, all with knives of glistening steel, shuddering with anticipation: Abbott, Hunt, Cormann, Fifield, Ciobo, Cash, Keenan, Taylor…

Poor Malcolm!

Why did they do it? Why did they blow up the government? Well, Malcolm doesn’t know, and he said that we’ve got to ask them!

Malcolm came on the Q&A stage last Thursday to play the role he knows best: that of the miracle maker: Jesus and Lazarus all rolled into one; in the one act, in the one retelling of the story. Malcolm came on the Q&A stage to resurrect himself, to raise himself from the dead as Jesus allegedly did to Lazarus almost 2000 years ago.

So he listed all his miracles: “We delivered on jobs and growth, strong economic growth, reduced personal income tax, reduced company tax, record investment in infra structure, reformed schools funding, record funding in health and pharmaceutical benefits, record funding and support for Aust. Defence Industry, Australian steel industry, TPP, exemption from Trump’s trade restrictions… the bonking ban, the social reforms, legalising same sex marriage…” and on and on he went reminding us of his miracles. They were endless!

And to play the role of the saviour.

For goodness’ sake, didn’t we, the plebs in the fish markets understand that messiah Turnbull wanted to save us from the devil, Bill Shorten who will indubitably, send us to hell with increased taxes, increased Union power, reduced investment and put our economic growth and the jobs growth at risk?

Didn’t we, in the vegetable stalls and the meat stalls understand this?

Did we not see that Malcolm had descended from heaven to save us from Bill!

Obviously not!

I am still scouring my brain to understand why he gave me and millions of others the right to judge who can love whom and who can marry whom. Why would I be given a right that belongs to someone else? What right did he or any politician have to do that?

I’m still scouring my brain to work out why it is that religious organisations have so much political clout in this country and why schools of a religious “ethos” (scouring my brain to work out what that word means in the context they’ve dumped it in as well) want even more laws to allow them to treat gay students and staff like abhorrent miscreants and to sack them at will.

I’m still scouring my brain to work out why there ever were and still are, refugees who have nothing but good will for this country, who have asked for our help and who found themselves in utter despair thanks to our savage treatment of their country, through bombing and trade restrictions, why are these people suffering Guantanamo-like conditions under our bastardy in Nauru and Manus.

There are lots of other things too, that I am scouring my brain to find an answer to and I know full well that this country has been blown up so totally that this search will bear nothing but despair.

Scomo of course knew and appreciated Malcolm’s acting prowess so he did what Greek Govnt’s did with their best actors: he sent Malcolm to Indonesia to represent Australia as its diplomat in the free trade agreement between the two states, to calm down Mr Joko Widodo who was still unsettled by Malcolm’s dumping and by Scomo’s wish to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Poor Scomo! Malcolm turned his dream into a nightmare.

Finally comes the removing of the happy mask.

“I’m proud of the achievements I was able to make,” the messiah mused forlornly. And it was genuinely a forlorn sort of contemplation. You could see it in his eyes, lids rising and falling as if the weight of misery was upon them.

“I’m not miserable or resentful or bitter at all,” he said. “I am joyful! I got an enormous amount done… I’m very positive about my time in office. It ended sooner than I would like it to have ended and it ended in circumstances that remain unexplained but nonetheless, it was a time of great achievement… it (his dumping) was crazy, pointless, self-destructive.

I wish Scott all the best, I really do!”

But I could hear the words he was thinking, the words he didn’t dare to utter and they were uttered in Chinese: “I wish Scott an interesting crown.”

One like that worn by Richard the Second:

All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!

Richard II ACT III, Scene ii

Mid-Term Divisions: The Trump Take

President Donald J. Trump has a special, strained take on the world. Defeat is simply victory viewed in slanted terms. Victory for the other side is defeat elaborately clothed. Both views stand, and these alternate with a mind-bending disturbance that has thrown the sceptics off any credible scent. “It wasn’t me being slow,” came Frank Bruni’s lamentation in The New York Times. “It was America.” Dazzlingly unsettling, the results has been tight “but many of the signals they sent were mixed and confusing.”

Those daring to make predictions that the House would fall to the Democrats were not disappointed, even if they could not be said to be spectacular. Losses to the incumbent party in the White House in the mid-terms tends to be heavy, varying between 24 and 30. President Barack Obama’s presidency bore witness to 63 loses to his party in 2010. On this occasion, the GOP yielded ground in Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Senate, just to press home the sheer polarity of the results, slid further into red territory. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, who had, in any case, been deemed quite vulnerable in the state, fell to Mike Braun. Braun was one who drank from the cup of Trumpism, a move which seems to have paid off.  Missouri Democratic senator Clair McCaskill succumbed to Republican challenger Josh Hawley. North Dakota also turned red.

The Democrats showed some resurgence in various state level capitols. Key governor’s seats were reclaimed, though their victories in Illinois, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin were matched by Republicans clawing on to Florida. The governor’s offices of Arizona and Ohio also remained in the hands of the GOP. The defeat of Republican Scott Walker in Wisconsin was particularly sweet, given his lingering dedication to the abridgment of union rights that resulted in an effective end to collective bargaining for public workers.

Moving aside the gripping minutiae and individual bruising, and the US is a state fractured and splintering, putting pay to such notions as “waves” of any one party coming over and overwhelming opponents. Walls – psychic, emotional and philosophical – have been erected through the country.

Rural areas remain estranged from their urban relatives; urban relatives remain snobbishly defiant, even contemptuous, of the interior. “The midterms,” came a gloomy Mike Allen in Axios AM, “produced a divided Congress that’s emblematic of a split America, drifting further apart and pointing to poisonous years ahead.” The angry voter was very much in vogue, be it with record liberal turnouts in suburbs, or high conservative voter participation in Trumpland.

What Trump succeeded in doing after the mid-terms was implanting himself upon the GOP, grabbing the party by the throat, thrashing it into a sense that their hope of survival in the next two years rests with him. He could blame losses on Republicans who decided to keep him at tongs length, those who “didn’t embrace me”, while Democrats who sided against his choice of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh were duly punished.

Trump could also smirk with excitement that the punditry is still awry about how to assess the US political landscape. Republican pollster Frank Luntz insists in a magical two to three percent “hidden Trump” vote that analysts refuse to factor into their calculations.

The news conference in the East Room provided Trump the perfect platform to spin, adjust and revise. He also reverse heckled, striking out at journalists with brutal surliness. PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor was accused of asking a “racist question” in pressing for his position on white nationalists. “It’s a very terrible thing that you said.”

He could also weigh heavily into his favourite playground targets, one being CNN’s Jim Acosta. “CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.” (The politics of playground fancy also took another turn, with Acosta’s accreditation subsequently suspended “until further notice” by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.)

As has been frequent, if scattered, the president was not entirely off the message in attempting to reason the results. The “wave” that was supposedly to come from the Democrats had not exactly drowned the GOP, and in terms of performance, he could happily point to a Republican increase of numbers in the Senate.

He then brandished a weapon he has mastered since he became president: the art, less of the deal than the diversion. Within hours of the results coming in, Attorney General Jeff Sessions came another addition to the long list of casualties that has made this administration particularly bloody. Zac Beauchamp supplied a depressed note in Vox: the sacking of the marginalised and mocked Sessions was not shocking, which made it worse, a sort of normalised contempt. “The truth is that Trump firing Sessions, and temporarily replacing him with a loyalist named Matthew Whitaker who has publicly denounced the special counsel investigation, should scare us.”

Trump, for his part, anticipates “a beautiful, bipartisan type of situation” working with Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi. “From a deal-making standpoint, we are all much better off the way it turned out.” Far from being further rented, the chances for legislation have presented themselves, though the president was just as happy to issue a slap down warning: avoid initiating any investigations. “They can play that game, but we can play it better because we have the United States Senate.” As the dark lord of the Bush era, Karl Rove, surmised with apposite force: “Let’s be clear… Both parties are broken.”

The truth about power prices and generation – big sticks don’t work but renewables do

A few days before he was rolled from the top job, Malcolm Turnbull said “We will not hesitate to use a big stick, as we did with gas, to make sure the big companies do the right thing by you, their customers.”

Well the latest quarterly update from the AEMO shows just how effective that “big stick” was with the gas companies. The AEMO reports notes that:

“Wholesale gas prices increased across all markets compared to Q3 2017 despite a year-on-year reduction in demand (largely due to reduced gas-powered generation (GPG) demand). Average quarterly gas prices in the Declared Wholesale Gas Market (DWGM) in Victoria and Brisbane’s Short-Term Trading Market (STTM) were the second highest on record.

And it doesn’t look like getting better any time soon.

“2019 electricity futures prices rallied over the quarter, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. This coincided with: a reduction in hydro dam levels in mainland Australia; relatively high gas prices (coupled with some expectation of this continuing into 2019); forecasts of a hot and dry start to 2019; and concerns over the potential delays to the connection of new renewable projects to the grid.”

Luckily, Tasmanian hydro stepped up.

“The quarter recorded the highest NEM hydro generation since 2013, underpinned by record quarterly hydro output from Hydro Tasmania, which contributed to:

  • Tasmania’s wholesale electricity price reducing substantially (to $43/MWh) as Hydro Tasmania changed its market offers to increase output. Practically, the change in bidding translated to an additional 1,000 MW offered below $50/MWh compared to previous quarters – an 88% increase.

  • Comparatively high levels of inter-regional transfers north on Basslink and the Victoria to New South Wales interconnector. Total inter-regional transfers during the quarter were 18% higher than in Q2 2018, and were at their highest level since Q4 2016.”

Wind and solar also upped the ante.

“Over 1,200 MW of new large-scale solar and wind capacity began generating during the quarter. The amount of large-scale solar capacity that commenced generation during the quarter is higher than the NEM’s entire large-scale solar capacity at the start of the year. This, coupled with favourable wind conditions, led to record quarterly variable renewable energy (VRE) output which contributed to:

  • GPG continuing its downward trend in 2018: year-to-date GPG at the end of Q3 2018 was at its lowest level since 2006 and 21% lower than in 2017. Q3 2018 was the first quarter on record in which wind output has exceeded GPG.

  • Quarterly NEM emissions reaching their lowest level on record, both in terms of total emissions and average emissions intensity.

The South West Interconnected System (SWIS) reached over 1 GW of rooftop PV and solar farm capacity installed. High amounts of small-scale PV are resulting in falling minimum daytime demands as well as an increase in the occurrence of negative prices.

While the overall movement in average demand varied geographically, one element was consistent across all NEM regions – “the impact of small-scale PV in reducing operational demand in the middle of the day. Increased small-scale generation has the effect of offsetting consumption, thereby lowering the overall grid demand for electricity. This is a trend that has been increasing over time as the level of installed small-scale PV capacity continues to rise.”

While renewable generation in the NEM reached record quarterly levels, the New South Wales black coal-fired generation fleet recorded its lowest availability since Q2 2016, largely due to extended unit outages at Bayswater and Vales Point power stations.  Average generation from Queensland’s black coal-fired fleet reduced by 155 MW compared to Q3 2017 despite a 265 MW increase in average availability. The reduction in output was due to an increase in the duration of lower priced periods: Queensland’s wholesale price was below $60/MWh 36% of the time during the quarter, compared to 15% of the time in Q3 2017. This contributed to reductions in average output at price sensitive generators including Tarong and Stanwell power stations (-249 MW and -160 MW, respectively), with Millmerran Power Station reducing average output by 268 MW due to lower availability.

Brown coal-fired generation was steady compared to Q3 2017, but reduced by 216 MW when compared to Q2 2018, largely due to reduce availability and output from Loy Yang A Power Station.

We have heard many times the dubious claim that the South Australian blackouts were due to their reliance on wind energy.  But no-one seems to point out when things go the other way.

On Saturday 25 August 2018, at 1311 hrs, the NSW-QLD interconnector (QNI) tripped, separating Queensland from the rest of the NEM. This also resulted in activation of the Heywood Emergency Control Scheme and separation of South Australia from the rest of the NEM. There was also approximately 1,110 MW of under-frequency load shedding in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Market impacts included:

  • “The South Australia spot electricity price reduced to around -$450/MWh, due to the loss of export to Victoria which caused a temporary excess of supply in South Australia. Prices rapidly recovered to pre-event levels.
  • Queensland’s energy price increased to around $1,400/MWh for a single dispatch interval.
  • More than $10 million in frequency control ancillary service (FCAS) costs incurred – all mainland regions recorded FCAS prices at the price cap of $14,500/MWh.”

Key drivers of system strength directions during the quarter included periods of relatively low prices (<$50/MWh) and high wind output (>1,100 MW) which resulted in synchronous generators seeking to decommit from the market for commercial reasons.

This seems to be a common practice.  If the price gets too low, the generators shut up shop.

But don’t expect to hear any of this from the COALition.

“We need to change the rules in this country”: Doug Cameron

Doug Cameron knows how to command an audience. The ingredients are all there: hugely popular (and undoubtedly Labor’s most likeable senator), that fabulous Scottish accent, the passion in his voice, and the fire in his belly.

Speaking at the North East Border Trades and Labour Council he had found another captivated audience. And all the ingredients were there.

Doug Cameron is among the last of a rare breed as far as politicians go. His working-class background sets him aside from the modern-day politician who was likely to have attended an elite school and graduated from university with a law degree, or something equally ‘prestigious.’

Unlike most of today’s politicians, he knows what it’s like to do it tough, and he knows that working-class Australians are now also doing it tough. That’s why he fights for them. Relentlessly. Tirelessly.

And Doug Cameron has dedicated his time in parliament – emulating his union background – for that one cause: “Looking after working people.”

This was the theme of his talk, and it was echoed throughout.

Here is what Doug Cameron had to say on a range of important issues:

Unions and the Working Class

“My job was to look after workers and see the good decent rate of pay and make sure they had safe working conditions.

Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? Wage stagnation. Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? You get exploitation. Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? You get workers maimed and killed on the job. If there’s any basic reasons why you need a strong union movement, it’s decent wages, decent conditions, and the right to go to work and come home safely.

We do need to change the rules in this country.

I know that workers need strong unions … to advance the interests of workers and their families.

I never thought I would see the day that the Arbitration Commission would end up taking penalty rates away from working-class people in this country. You’ve got the Liberals doing the boss’s bidding in the Senate and you get all these speeches that workers need to be more flexible. Bosses don’t need to be flexible. What a terrible word, ‘flexibility’. Workers have got to be more flexible, but bosses don’t. All they want is to put more and more money in their back pocket at the expense of working people. So this flexibility is all one-way at the moment, and that’s why it’s important that Parliament actually makes the changes that allow working people to rebuild the union movement in this country. We need the union movement out there lifting the standard of living in this country, because no-one else will do it.

[Some politicians] reach out to working-class people using fear and racism as their weapons to divide the working-class. And we need to organise against that. We need to educate against that. And we need to start controlling those outcomes … because we don’t want to go down the path of Donald Trump in this country, where workers get screwed every day when they go to work.

We need to make sure we get good people in the Senate – and in the House of Reps – that stand up for working-class people and make sure that the first and final position they take is the support of the working-class in this country.

A senior Labor politician once said to me, ‘Doug, you’re a politician now, not a unionist.’ I said, ‘I will always be a unionist. Because I wouldn’t be in Parliament if it wasn’t for my union. I wouldn’t be in Parliament if it wasn’t for unionists like Sally McManus, and I hope that I have paid back the support that I got’.”

Climate Change

His dislike for one of the biggest threats to the environment – coal – could not be hidden:

“There is no long-term future for coal.

There is no long-term position where we can continue to pollute the atmosphere because everyone here will either have kids in the future or have grandkids and what we have to do is leave an environment at least similar to what we’ve enjoyed in our life because it’s unfair not the look after the environment and give kids of the future a decent life.

I say this as someone who brought my family up off the back of steaming coal.”

Free Trade Agreement

“I have never once voted for a free trade agreement. I have argued for fair trade… not free trade. Because what we get now is certainly not about free trade, and certainly not about fair trade. It’s about giving big business more and more power, and giving American companies intellectual rights over the rights of companies in this country. It’s given the right for overseas companies to attack our wages and conditions. I just think that is wrong. I opposed the free trade agreement in the Caucus, I then moved a resolution that we bring it back to the Caucus to resubmit it, and I was done over twice. I am now bound by that Caucus decision, but that doesn’t mean to say that the Labor Party member can’t get out and point out the problems with these free trade agreements. And it’s good to see that Bill Shorten has been out saying that when we win government – and I think we will win government next election – we won’t be signing any agreements.”

A Shorten Government

“There are a range of issues that we need to deal with. We need a decent education system and a decent health system. We need workers to be able to buy or rent houses at a rate that isn’t putting them into poverty. We need to make sure that big business don’t get $80 billion in tax cuts. Because when you hear people talking about small government, small government means less tax for the rich, and less services for the working class. That’s the bottom line. And never let any of the Coalition tell you that they are better economic managers than Labor. Labor brought this country through the global recession which left workers around the world in poverty. We built 150,000 jobs during that period by investing in infrastructure.

I’ll ask this, “What was Tony Abbott’s economic policy?” He cut the education system, funding for health, the ABC and the SBS. Young unemployed people were told they could starve for six months, and family benefits were cut. That was his first economic strategy. Then when Malcolm Turnbull came in, what was his first economic policy? He increased the GST. Now who does that hurt most? It doesn’t hurt the rich … it hurts working class people. That policy lasted about a week, then his final policy was trickle-down economics: $80 billion of tax cuts to the big end of town, the multi-national corporations and the banks. That was his economic policy.

And look what they did to marriage equality. They did everything they possibly could to stop Australians who loved each other from ever getting the same rights as other Australians. It was an absolute disgrace.

We want a Shorten government … looking after health, looking after education, changing the rules on industrial relations, and looking after working-class people … to bring back the TAFE system in this country, to make sure that TAFE is the backbone of the vocational education system.

Labor has good policy on the environment, good policy on industrial relations, good policy on health, and good policy on education. We want to make this once again one of the great egalitarian countries in the world.”

For me personally, what came to mind most was Doug Cameron’s difference to the modern politician: he puts people first. He is the heart of what Labor stands for.

Doug Cameron has chosen to retire from politics at the next federal election. His rapport with the working classes will be sorely missed.

The march of the demagogues

By Ad astra

Are you as unnerved as I am by the rise of demagogues around the world – leaders who gain popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the people, whipping up passions and shutting down reasoned debate, who overturn established customs of political conduct, or threaten to do so? Commentators often use ‘rabble-rouser’ or ‘leader of the mob’, as colloquial equivalents.

Today, there is no more observable demagogue than Donald Trump.

Writing in Vox earlier this month, Laura McGann and Starvos Agorakis had this to say in their article: The desperate demagogue – Trump has no choice but to escalate.

President Donald Trump’s closing argument for the 2018 midterm elections represents a dangerous escalation of demagogic rhetoric. If it works, things are only going to get worse.

During his presidential campaign, Trump shocked the media and half of the country by declaring Mexicans rapists and outlining an isolationist vision for America. He also covertly sent an “us versus them” message cloaked in the rhetoric of jobs and the economy…

It was a promise to his white supporters that he would put them ahead of other groups, like racial and religious minorities and immigrants – the very definition of demagogic politics.

This year, Trump doesn’t bother with fig leaves. He smears minority groups, particularly immigrants, with impunity. This week alone, he made comments, sent tweets, and unveiled policies (some real and some fake) all designed to further dehumanize and demonize his scapegoats.

Further on, McGann and Agorakis explain the thinking and motivation of demagogues: Trump’s actions

…looked erratic or even desperate, an irrational response to the reality that Republicans continue to trail in the generic ballot days before the election. It might be desperate, but it’s not irrational. Trump has a good reason to act as he has. It’s his most effective political strategy. And it’s a strategy that demagogues know has to keep ratcheting up to work. And if he’s not stopped now, he’ll only get worse.

“Every demagogue acts voluntarily and through choices. They are not how they are painted; they are not creatures of their own appetite, irrational and out of control,” said Michael Signer, a professor at the University of Virginia who has written extensively on demagogues. “They tend to be extremely opportunistic and shameless and ruthless political actors.”

You will not need reminding of the terms that Trump has used to describe ‘illegal immigrants’. When he authorized the separation of children from families, he insisted that these people were ‘infesting’ America, a term traditionally used to describe pests. He said that Democrats were to blame. “They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13”, a violent criminal gang based in Central America.

Referring to the ‘Caravan’ currently headed through Mexico towards the US, Trump tweeted ”Many gang members and some very bad people are mixed into the Caravan heading to our Southern Border. Please go back, you will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”  Robert Bowers, the alleged murderer in the synagogue shooting, posted similar comments about the Caravan on Gab, a social media platform that gives voice to white supremacists. In one post, Bowers wrote, “I have noticed a change in people saying ‘illegals’ that now say ‘invaders.’ I like this.” The company Trump keeps!

There is no end to the exaggerated rhethoric. Trump’s media supporters now claim that the Caravan is a health threat to American children, bringing to the US tuberculosis, leprosy, and even smallpox, a disease eliminated from the world in 1980! Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, reports that Trump said that black people were too stupid to vote for him during the 2016 election.

McGann and Agorakis point out that Trump’s message is growing increasingly extreme, but like all demagogues, he has no choice but to continue to ratchet up his worst words and worst behaviour. Although the media see his behaviour as aberrant, his supporters see exactly what they want to see; they believe his line that he’s not responsible for extreme rhetoric in politics or a sense of division in American life. They don’t support him in spite of his behaviour; they support him because of it. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Republicans agree with Trump’s recent claim that the national media has done more to divide than unite the country since Trump took office. A Gallup poll showed that 89% approved of the job he’s doing.

Although many of us question Trump’s rationality, McGann and Agorakis believe Trump knew exactly what he was doing – stirring up emotions among his supporters ahead of the mid-term elections in order to get them out to vote for Republican candidates in an effort to maintain control of the legislature.

Social psychology provides an explanation for such demagogic behaviour. It is termed: The out-group homogeneity effect. It is the perception that members of other groups are more similar to one another than are members of our own group: “They are alike; we are diverse”. How many times have you heard: ”Muslims are all the same”, or ”Immigrants are all the same”, or ”Boat people are all the same”, coming here illegally, taking our jobs, taking our houses, bludging on our social welfare.” In contrast, how many times have you heard: ”Aussies are all the same?” No, we’re different – diverse, adaptable, hard-working, socially responsible, generous, altogether good fellows ready to give our mates a leg up!

Demagogues exploit the out-group homogeneity effect to foster antagonism. It has been found among a wide variety of different social groups, from political and racial groups to age and gender groups. Thus, out-group judgments are overestimated, supporting the view that out-group stereotypes are overgeneralizations. Some social researchers view the homogeneity effect as an example of cognitive bias and error, while other researchers view the effect as an example of normal and often adaptive behaviour.

Image from edition.cnn.com

Stepping back from Trump and Putin – the Super-Demagogues – we can recognize many others. The election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil marks a new stage of the rightwards slide to fascism and its demagoguery. A frightening number of alt-right players are emerging in Europe: Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary; Heinz-Christian Strache, deputy prime minister of Austria; Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of Poland’s governing party; Janez Janša, leader of Slovenia’s largest party; Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s junior governing party; and of course Marine le Pen runner-up in the French presidential election in France, are some of them. Do read what policies they have in mind for their countries! They bring with them their own style of demagoguery. It should make us all fearful.

Year after year, we are witnessing the relentless march of the demagogues. Their influence extends inexorably. It will not stop. We must be alert. We should be very alarmed. The world is in peril. They are a danger to us all – now.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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The hysterical fringes have stopped sensible debate

So many important discussions this nation must have are being hijacked by sensationalist scaremongering and the caterwauling from the extreme right.

In true Trump fashion, racial profiling is on the rise.  Muslims, Africans and asylum seekers are vilified in a frenzy of xenophobia.  Aboriginal disadvantage is due to laziness and giving them too many free handouts.

We can’t even fix the tragic plight of the refugees on Manus and Nauru.  They are “quietly” bringing people here they tell us in media reports that are supposed to satisfy the growing calls for immediate action whilst saying “shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone”.  At the same time, to satisfy the indignant right, they continue to fight tooth and nail in court to stop these people being freed.

Any discussion about migration quickly simplifies to they are taking our jobs, making housing unaffordable, and clogging our cities.

The genuine issues get lost in an unhealthy lean towards white supremacy, encouraged by this fixation with insisting we all revere western civilisation.  Any criticism is unpatriotic.  It’s become like some sort of cheerleading exercise – we are here to lead the rest, always prove that west is best.

The same has happened with action on climate change.  It has been stymied by the threats of a few politicians to withdraw their loyalty to any leader who even mentions emissions reduction.  Anyone who mentions science is a greenie leftard warmist who spends their days at inner-city cafes eating smashed avo and drinking lattes.

These few have been actively courted and bombarded with misinformation from the Minerals Council, the IPA and other lobby groups and media determined to squeeze one last payday out of their coal assets or denialist propaganda.

With pretty much every expert, every agency, every organisation, every stakeholder, and every financier saying renewable energy will reduce the price of electricity, our government seems determined to guarantee the profits of anyone who will build coal-fired power.  While they crow about the surge in coal prices, they seem to forget that that makes coal-fired power even less competitive.  But hey, joining the dots isn’t big with the extreme right.

In trying to remove discrimination in marriage laws, and promote respectful relationships and acceptance of diversity by providing teachers with resources to use in schools, we have unleashed the extreme right religious lobby who are fighting hard to entrench their discrimination and undo any idea that society actually accepts people for who they are.

The success of these fringe-dwellers in frightening politicians has made everyone realise that sensible discussion ain’t gonna happen – loud threats work better and it’s dog eat dog in trying to shout the loudest.  View the education funding jostling.

It remains to be seen how far Labor will go in courting votes by trying to appease the wrong people but one thing is certain – until we remove the Coalition from office, any chance to progress sensible decision-making will be stopped by the Monash Forum and the Monkey Pod boys.

Why African Gangs Are More Dangerous Than Climate Change!

When your average Coalition MP speaks, a lot of people get very, very angry about what he (or occasionally, she) has said. These angry people try to argue about what’s making them angry.

However, this is probably the wrong approach. What we need to do is to simply ask the politician if they’ve changed their mind. When they say, “Of course not, we never change our minds. We’re committed to life exactly as it was in the 50s!” Then simply point out what they said about a different issue just a few years, days or minutes before.

Take protecting our borders. We can’t have people arriving by boat because we need to protect our borders, we’re told. Compare that with their statements on globalisation and how we need to be part of the world. We need to knock down artificial trade barriers and invite the rest of the world in… even if they want to bring their own workers.

Or compare the demands for religious freedom with the calls to ban the burqa. Ok, ok, the burqa may be cultural, but there does seem to be a contradiction there. Notwithstanding that, it is nice to see a party with so few male MPs who tell us that their party doesn’t need quotas, complaining that a particular garment oppresses women. Ok, I concede the merit argument: Women could get preselected if only they could find women the calibre of Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews or Eric Abetz… And they could make it to the ministry if only they could be like the new Minister for Immigration, David Coleman. Now, there’s a rising star. Remember his recent interview? You don’t…Maybe that’s because he hasn’t done one in living memory.

Then we have the whole 18C thing. People should be allowed to say what they like. However, you shouldn’t be allowed to call someone racist or sexist because that’s political correctness gone mad.

But I guess the most obvious recent example is the “African” gangs. I put “African” in quotation marks because it’s rather interesting that we refer to them as African. No, I’m not having a go at Dan Tehan’s statement about kids not knowing that Africa is a country. I’m just pointing out that we don’t have the children of immigrants from England or Scotland refered to as “British” gangs when they commit a crime.

Nontheless, we have to face up to the fact that the Sudanese community is over-represented in crime statistics. Even though they make up significantly less than one percent of the population, they account for about one percent of the crime. (I’m quoting these figures from the media, so they must be accurate). Yes, there are all sorts of reasons for this, such as there being a greater likelihood of being charged, or their difficulty adjusting to a new country after traumatic experiences in their youth.

This may be a novel defence, but I suggest that the lawyer for the next member of an “African” gang uses these figures to justify releasing the defendant without charge.

Why? Well, it’s very simple. It’s only one percent so if they all stopped, it would make no difference to the crime statistics. They would only hurt themselves financially. And for what? Nothing would be achieved. It’s only when everyone else stops committing crimes that we’ll make inroads. Besides the science on crime isn’t really settled yet…

Yes, the Coalition on climate change does sound rather strange when you apply it to other areas…

Now I could keep going on about Liberal inconsistencies and point out the contradiction of spending half a billion dollars on upgrades to the War Memorial, while skimping on support for veterans, but that’s hardly a change of mind. The Coalition have always been good at glorifying war, while pretending that any individuals who are having problems adjusting afterwards aren’t really worth discussing because there’s plenty help for them.

And, of course, Scott Morrison doing a bus tour of Queensland where he flies just about everywhere isn’t a contradiction; it’s more the norm when your government uses “Utopia” as a “How-To- Govern” video, rather than a cautionary warning.

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