Trump's new world disorder catches Turnbull government napping.

"Watching Donald Trump take the oath of office is like seeing Bobo…

There is a big problem in the construction…

In November last year, Malcolm Turnbull issued a press release titled ABCC…

The Fiction Of Unemployment

"This is actually why Smith’s (Adam) work is so important. He created…

Federal ICAC: The Keys to the Electoral Mint?

By Tim Jones Would the promise of a Federal ICAC give one of…

Day to Day Politics: How time flies when…

Monday 23 January 2017 1 How time flies. Thursday 26th is Australia Day.…

March in March 2017: Are You Angry Enough…

Are you angry enough yet? That is the question March Australia would…

Pauline’s picks are on the nose

As someone who has railed against the rise of the political class…

Trump's First Day!

Ok, I'm going to try and be fair and remember that not…

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Category Archives: News and Politics

Trump’s new world disorder catches Turnbull government napping.

“Watching Donald Trump take the oath of office is like seeing Bobo the Clown Photoshopped into the Last Supper,” writes the ABC’s Simon Royal. Many Americans are equally shocked. A narcissist with no concern beyond himself and his wealth, a political simpleton, with no experience in public life and little understanding of public issues, an egoist who poses as a populist reformer, a redneck who made his contempt for tradition, protocol and taboo his byword, the 45th President of the United States is a shocker.

Could Americans have chosen a more divisive, more unfit figure? The inauguration, 20 January of the seventy-year-old, reality TV star, real-estate hustler, former beauty pageant entrepreneur, six-times bankrupt and one time professional wrestler installs a president with a 40% approval in opinion polls, the lowest on record.

Trump gained 3 million popular votes less than his rival, Hilary Clinton. It shows. Washington public transport figures reveal fifty per cent fewer locals turn out for Trump than Obama. Protesters take to the streets.

Trump already has half the population offside – and not just in the USA. Eclipsing the inauguration crowd, half a million women in pink knit “pussy hats” march on Washington, the following day in the largest protest demonstration in US history while around the world 1.5 million more march in support in 161 cities across all seven continents. “You can’t comb over misogyny reads one sign.” “Make America compassionate again” reads another.

“It’s been a heart-rending time to be both a woman and an immigrant in this country, says activist America Ferrera. “Our dignity, our character, our rights have all been under attack and a platform of hate and division assumed power yesterday.”

“You are really special, amazing people” Trump tells the CIA the next day, ignoring the Women’s March. He makes a beeline for the CIA HQ in Langley Va; after the National Prayer Service. He’s going to need to build some bridges, at least, with the CIA, having trashed their reputation in dismissing evidence Russia intervened in his election.

The “amazing special people” will require more persuasion than empty flattery, however. Sadly, it’s all Trump knows – along with contesting the truth of anything unflattering to himself.

The newly inaugurated president has already gone to work on his attendance figures, attacking reports of poor attendance. The media’s lying, he says of estimates of 250 thousand. He’s sure it was over a million people. His media people are working on it. Give them a few weeks and it will be at least a million and a half.

White House press secretary, whining Sean Spicer uses his first White House briefing to lecture the press on its “deliberate false reporting” for ten minutes before walking out without taking questions. This administration will be holding the media to account, he says.

It’s an alarmingly adversarial start to the Trump Presidency’s relationship with the press, yet it continues the Trump campaign theme that bad news is fake news and the tactic of disputing all reporting which may be critical or hold Trump presidency to account.

Trump can, however, count on a Mexican wave of support down under. Luckily for the new president and for the “ordinary Strines” she claims to represent, (while consistently voting with the government), Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has sent its envoy Brian Burston to give the 45th president its own special blessing.

Burston’s already in the press with his endorsement of the new type of One Nation candidate and how they are heaps better than the 1998 train wreck, QLD PHON party. For starters, this time the party is way smarter. Any fool can see that unlike today’s breed,

They ran dopes, unemployed, inexperienced, not all that intellectual

Hanson’s too busy, herself, she says with state election matters involving travel which she books up to her federal government account, unable or unwilling to see when challenged that this is a rort. Burston pays his own way to the US Trump mother ship.

Busy indeed. Hanson assembles her WA candidates but refuses to speak about them, in a Trump-style attack on right of the press to scrutinise public life. “I’m not going to have trial by media here, with all of my candidates. If this interview is going to be all about the candidates that represent me, I’m sorry, but this interview is finished,” Hanson says.

Piquing interest, is One Nation’s candidate for Dawesville, Pastor Lawrence Shave, whose Bikini Baristas business plan will enable consumers to ogle women in swimwear while they satisfy their caffeine fix. Pastor Shave also professes divine, healing powers but Hanson stops the presser.

Hanson’s new WA breed of candidate is a step up from the old guard including former PHON Senator, stand up comedian Rod Culleton whose latest routine is to refuse to accept the Federal Court and Senate ruling that he should be removed from his seat because he is bankrupt. He says he is solvent and will not leave his office. He could now face prosecution for impersonating a government official. It’s a sobering prospect. Yet Pauline’s distracted.

A Trump-struck Hanson shuns the former sheep farmer to put tickets on herself.

So keen is PHON to be invited to Trump’s big bash, empiricist Malcolm Roberts badgers DFAT to find them some spare tickets. Later, these are flourished as evidence of One Nation’s hotline to The Donald and of PHON’s clout in US-Australian relations. Now all Strines can see how big PHON is. Earlier Hanson, or James Ashby on her account, tweets:

“Would you believe it? I have been gifted tickets to the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony of Donald Trump – What an honour!” Of course it’s not. Reports quickly emerge of masses of discarded tickets at the under-subscribed ceremony. “Gifted”, also, is a big stretch.

SBS journalist, Lee Lin Chin is quick to attack Hanson’s grandstanding: “Who hasn’t got tickets? No actual Americans want to go so they’re just inviting everyone. I’ve got a +8 for my man harem,” the pint-sized presenter replies.

The Donald’s Oz cheer squad extends beyond One Nation, or Lee’s man harem, however. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep before you even consider Corey Bernardi.

Never to be upstaged, former Labor PM and UN leadership hopeful, Kevin Rudd calls for a fair go for Trump. Patronises him. Like a child with a tantrum, Trump, should “calm down” his dangerous talk on China and Taiwan, seize our help with nuclear disarming North Korea and bring back the TPP, suggests “One Kevin” Rudd ever bubbling with practical ideas.

Always at arms’ length from practicality, PM Turnbull is upbeat about the TPP. Why, he’s been on the blower to The Donald, jumping the Trump shark, thanks to Greg Norman. Bill Shorten says it’s “a waste of time” and “a distraction” from a PM who has no plans for jobs.

Shorten is proved correct on the time-wasting when an unusually coherent White House statement that is not a lecture or a tirade confirms Trump’s promise to withdraw from the TPP is one of the Administration’s first acts. So much to undo, so little time.

Oz-media’s made itself look silly smoothing the way for Trump, the vulgarian at the gate. The ABC’s inauguration commentary is saccharine with mindless Coalition optimism, which is quickly revealed as so much wishful thinking from a government caught on the nod.

The official ABC spin seems to be that now he’s thrown his rattle out of his playpen and he’s got what he wanted, The Donald will morph into a sensible and moderate monster who only wants our constant undivided attention and who has the nuclear codes to do it with.

Nothing in the Donald’s inauguration speech, not even an echo of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises “…and we give it back to you, the people,” suggests that Trump will soften his campaign rhetoric in favour of more statesman-like role once in power. Everything he says about isolationist foreign policy, in his “dark and inward-looking” fourteen minute speech, his “America first, only America first” is an alarming departure from US interdependence.

So much for the Turnbull’s government’s agility. Its foreign policy, like its domestic planning is rooted in inertia; do nothing, or as little as possible, repeat mindless Abbott era slogans, bag Bill Shorten and see what evolves.

Now it’s caught flat-footed. Foreign Affairs light-weight Julie Bishop says she’s been on the job, briefing Trump’s team on Australia’s requirements but that could mean anything and besides, there’s no evidence whatsoever anyone’s listening. Or ever will. Even the national broadcaster struggles to spin that.

To be fair, Aunty is distracted by the shock resignation Friday of Director of TV’s Richard Finlayson which comes at a time of deep unrest within the ABC, under former Murdoch executive, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie, a Turnbull appointee, whose reign is mired in job losses, cost cutting and ringing accusations of “piss poor management”.

Guthrie is critical of Four Corners-type programs and seems not to understand the role of investigative reporting at all; wants to do “more about successful businessmen”. It’s a work in progress. Already ABC news is lurid with tabloid stories; sensation displaces information.

Expect a puff piece soon on Mr Donald Trump, the people’s president and the inspiring business types who comprise his cabinet. When it’s properly run down and ready to be privatised as the IPA wishes, the ABC could be flogged off to an American. Rupert Murdoch is reported to be currently enjoying Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull’s harbour-side hospitality.

Other media outlets are also complacent; Donald-conciliatory. The least predictable presidency, the least qualified and most divisive figure on the world stage ever is spun as more of the same. Nothing to see here. Business as usual.

“The fair-minded thing is to give the guy a go,” a folksy Rudd tells Seven’s Sunrise on Friday, aglow with sanctimonious hypocrisy given his undermining of Julia Gillard. Rudd’s voice upstages Turnbull as intended – briefly- but fails to quell what is reported to be hundreds of Americans who try to block the entrances to the Inauguration. Dump-Trump demonstrations take place in other cities in America and throughout the world.

“Illegitimate, bastard” shouts Code Pink women’s rights organiser, Madea Benjamin, who makes it into the section reserved for honoured guests and journalists and Joe Hockey before she is thrown out by police. A protestor gets dangerously close to the new president, if not quite in The Donald’s orange face, at least not far below it.

“Trump is not going to be stopped at the top, he’s going to be stopped from the bottom, from people rising up,” says Ben Allen, a thoughtful 69-year-old retired teacher from San Francisco.

“We support the right of everybody in this country, no matter what nationality, what religion, the colour of their skin, to be respected as a human being, and this guy doesn’t respect anybody.”

As he speaks, removed from the web is the Department of Labor’s report on the rights of lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgender people. The White House’s exposition on climate change and efforts to combat it are also excised. Police hurl flash bang grenades to banish protestors from the inauguration parade route. The smell of tear gas wafts over K street, the heart of Washington’s lobbying district. So much to undo. So little time.

To borrow a Trumpism, its 45th president is bigly disliked already – before he’s even had time to” bomb the shit out of ISIS” or leave NATO or reverse Obama’s sanctions against Russia for hacking the election. He’s yet to slash corporate taxes, bring back water boarding, dismantle Obamacare or lift a brick to wall out waves of Mexicans.

Civil Rights leader, veteran Democrat Congressman John Lewis boycotts the inauguration also because Mr Trump is an “illegitimate” President, he says. Thin-skinned Trump takes this personally, as he does all criticism- even working into his speech an “all talk no action” gibe at “politicians” to echo his earlier tweet that “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

“All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!” Trump dismisses Lewis’ role in the protest movement which led to the landmark voting rights act of 1965 and the end of racial discrimination in voting in the US. Lewis has already achieved more for his people and for human rights than Trump ever will.

Malcolm Turnbull may not have been certain Tuesday just who would represent Australia at Trump’s swearing in but Ambassador Joe, Big Noter, Hockey clears that up with tweets that he, along with “all the chiefs of mission”, would attend all the events. We don’t hear that much from Joe: it’s good to know he’s still alive and tweeting. Doubtless he’s been busy saving the TPP and working on that people-trafficking asylum-seeker swap deal.

A messianic figure, in his own eyes, at least, Trump vows to be the greatest job producer that God ever created, a feat he will achieve by cutting taxes for corporations, a trickle-down con trick familiar to Australian voters deceived by similar promises. It’s a key detail in a fact free speech which is stuffed over-full of dreaming big and winning.

“We must think big and dream even bigger,” he says. “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” There’s no explanation of how this will be achieved or even what it means, just echoes of a former casino operator philosophy overlaid, perhaps, with the mindless Neoliberal cruelty which divides all human endeavour into winning and losing.

“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” Trump fist pumps. But expect delays. His transition team has only two of its fifteen cabinet members approved and has made only 29 of 660 executive appointments. Trump Inc. is nowhere near ready for government.

Big business is investing heavily in bringing back its wealth. Trump’s inauguration is awash with corporate donations. Chevron ($660,000) and Boeing ($1.3 million) are some of the big business donors who help the Trump team raise more than $131 million for their inauguration hoe-down — double any previous President’s send-on. A big donation secures an intimate dinner with the President and First Lady.

Doubtless, Trump aims to invest heavily in himself, (as did Turnbull with his $2 million donation to his own campaign.) Of course, he claims he won’t. Yet delegating his business affairs to his sons is no substitute for a blind trust. One expert on corporate governance warns that Donald Trump will be a “hopelessly conflicted president” whose unprecedented swag of commercial conflicts of interest will undermine his presidency.

“Parliament is set to return in just over a fortnight but why are they even bothering?”, asks Fairfax’s Adam Gartrell, who points out that MPs have little or nothing on their plates. The government’s legislative list is minimal. The new travel allowance and expenses bill shouldn’t take up more than six months.

As luck would have it, a new president of a newly Disunited States and a new world disorder will afford plenty of distraction, even if it’s only reading The Donald’s tweets. And being terrified.

There is a big problem in the construction industry but it isn’t the CFMEU

In November last year, Malcolm Turnbull issued a press release titled ABCC necessary to stop CFMEU lawlessness

The statement tells us that “The ABCC was established by John Howard in 2005 to ensure unlawful union action was properly investigated, dealt with and penalised”, emotively claims that “militant unions are making it more expensive to build hospitals, schools and roads – or international sports facilities”, and warns that “Australia can’t afford such lawlessness and dysfunction in our third-largest industry.”

The PM goes on to make the completely false statement that “During the seven years the ABCC was in place, construction industry productivity increased by 20 per cent.”  This is just a flat out lie.

He further claims “Since the ABCC’s abolition, productivity has flatlined, while the rate of disputes in the sector has increased by 40 per cent. In all other industries, the rate of disputes has declined by 33 per cent.”

Turnbull said “When there’s a problem with the construction industry, it flows through our whole economy. And there is a big problem.”

He’s right about that.  He just isn’t being honest about the real culprits who were exposed in a Senate report on insolvency in the Australian construction industry which was published in December 2015.  The following is an excerpt from that report.

The industry’s rate of insolvencies is out of proportion to its share of national output. Over the past decade the industry has accounted for between 8 per cent and 10 per cent of annual GDP and roughly the same proportion of total employment. Over the same period, the construction industry has accounted for between one-fifth and one quarter of all insolvencies in Australia.

This outcome isn’t, as some have argued, the result of market forces. While the construction industry is highly competitive and market forces play a part, there are other powerful factors at play. The structure of the commercial construction sector, serious imbalances of power in contractual relationships, harsh, oppressive and unconscionable commercial conduct play a major role when combined with unlawful and criminal conduct and a growing culture of sharp business practices all contribute to market distortions. As a result, the industry is burdened every year by nearly $3 billion in unpaid debts, including subcontractor payments, employee entitlements and tax debts averaging around $630 million a year for the past three years

In the view of the committee, the relative inaction that has characterised most government responses to the completely unacceptable payment practices in the construction industry has to end. The continued viability of the industry in its current structure requires Commonwealth intervention to ensure that businesses, suppliers and employees that work in the industry’s subcontracting chain get paid for the work they do.

The committee considers that the estimates of the incidence of illegal phoenix activity detailed in this report suggest that construction industry is being beset by a growing culture among some company directors of disregard for the corporations law.

Over three thousand possible cases of civil misconduct and nearly 250 possible criminal offences under the Corporations Act 2001 were reported in a single year in the construction industry. This is a matter for serious concern. It suggests an industry in which company directors’ contempt for the rule of law is becoming all too common

Recent studies indicate that illegal phoenix activity (across all industries) may cost between $1.79 billion and $3.19 billion per annum. Given the over-representation of construction businesses in insolvencies and phoenixing, the committee believes the construction industry is responsible for a substantial proportion of this cost.

The economic cost of insolvencies in the construction industry is staggering. In 2013– 14 alone, ASIC figures indicate that insolvent businesses in the construction industry had, at the very least, a total shortfall of liabilities over assets accessible by their creditors of $1.625 billion. Others who have analysed the data place the amount at $2.7 billion. The construction industry consistently rates as either the highest or second highest as against all other industries when it comes to unpaid employee entitlements.

Businesses now operate in an environment in which non-payment for work carried out is commonplace, cash flows are uncertain and businesses lower down in the subcontracting chain have little power relative to those at the top of the chain. In this environment, there is very little incentive to invest the necessary capital to adopt new and innovative construction methods, invest in new capital equipment or invest in workforce skills development.

The construction industry consistently ranks in the three least innovative industries in the country. According to latest available ABS innovation data, only a third of construction businesses could be classed as ‘innovation-active’ compared with more than half of businesses in the warehousing, media and telecommunications and retail sector businesses. Less than fifteen per cent of construction businesses had innovation in development, compared with over thirty percent of manufacturing businesses and 35 per cent of media and telecommunications businesses.

As innovation is a key driver of productivity, profitability and job creation, the lack of innovation in the industry must be addressed.

The construction industry accounts for an unacceptably high proportion of total alleged criminal and civil contraventions of the Corporations Act. This is indicative of a culture that has developed in sections of the industry in which some company directors consider compliance with the Corporations Act to be optional.

This culture highlights the importance of a reform to legislative and regulatory framework so that it better protects law abiding industry participants from unscrupulous business practices.

Section 596AB of the Corporations Act prohibits transactions entered into with the intention of preventing the recovery of employee entitlements or depriving employees of their entitlements and imposes a criminal sanction for breach. Yet, despite clear evidence of this occurrence, no prosecution under section 596AB has ever been initiated.

The report goes on to make 44 recommendations whilst pointing out that the problems have been known, and recommendations ignored, for decades.

This report is the latest in a long series of inquiries and reports dating back to at least 1995 that have considered the merits of changes to the law to regulate the payment of head contractors, subcontractors, workers and others in the building and construction industry. These inquiries have provided report after report, recommendation after recommendation, to State and Commonwealth governments, providing compelling evidence that any participant in a construction project who holds or receives money on account of the contract and is under an obligation to pay another participant, should be subject to a statutory obligation to hold the money as a trustee.

Similarly, a number of inquiries and reports have recommended the introduction of uniform, national security of payments legislation in the construction industry.

Yet, little or nothing has been done.

And it seems this will continue.  Why go after the company directors when you have unions to bash.

The Fiction Of Unemployment

“This is actually why Smith’s (Adam) work is so important. He created the vision of an imaginary world almost entirely free of debt and credit, and therefore, free of guilt and sin; a world where men and women were free to simply calculate their interests in full knowledge that everything had been prearranged by God to ensure that it will serve the greater good. Such imaginary constructs are of course what scientists refer to as “models,” and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. Actually, I think a fair case can be made that we cannot think without them. The problem with such models—at least, it always seems to happen when we model something called “the market”—is that, once created, we have a tendency to treat them as objective realities, or even fall down before them and start worshipping them as gods. “We must obey the dictates of the market!”

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by Dave Graeber

Back in the 1980s, people spent a lot of time discussing the future of work. One thing I remember being told was that we needed to be ensuring that students knew how to use their leisure time because with the improvements in technology, we’d all be working fewer hours.

Of course, we all presumed that meant that the working week would be shorter for all of us rather than the situation where the employed are expected to work longer while the unemployed have so much leisure time that we feel it necessary to compel them to go for a large number of jobs which they’re unlikely to get rather than actually using their time productively. Simply, even though there aren’t enough jobs to go around, we want to make sure that nobody feels ok about not working; they need to blame themselves rather than changes in the economy.

It was William Gibson who said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” In his book, “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”, Kevin Kelly suggests the following scenario:

“First, machines will consolidate their gains in already automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Robots like this already work in Amazon’s warehouses. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. In fact, prototype pill-dispensing robots are already up and running in hospitals in California. To date, they have not messed up a single prescription, something that cannot be said of any human pharmacist. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually advancing to toilets. The highway parts of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs. By 2050 most truck drivers won’t be human. Since truck driving is currently the most common occupation in the U.S., this is a big deal.”

He goes on later to tell us:

“In fact, any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, translator, editor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic. We are already at the inflection point.”

Now this leaves the question of what “unemployed” in a future world where it’s those who own the means of production who acquire even more of the wealth, and then complain that they need to pay taxes to support those who have no meaningful way of supporting themselves. At least with the industrial revolution workhouses were a possibility because there was still work to do, but in a world where technology can do the vast majority of things, we may need to rethink the whole way the economy is shaped. Otherwise, we may end up with governments suggesting that certain companies need a billion dollars or so, because they didn’t benefit from the tax cut owing to the fact that they haven’t paid tax for years, while the rest of us are left to our devices.

There are no simple answers, but it’s clear that the answers we’ve been trying for past few years won’t work into the future. When the Liberals have been tell us that they support Jobs, somebody needs to tell them that he died a few years ago and Apple is run by someone else now.

Whatever the answer, maybe it’s time to do more than think outside the box; we need to think outside the clichés too. The following video isn’t a solution, but it might be some sort of start:

P.S. If you’re a teacher, you might find this blog interesting:
https://rossleigheducation.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/creative-commons-ok-its-not-clickbait-but-if-you-dont-know-what-it-is-you-probably-should-read-this/

Federal ICAC: The Keys to the Electoral Mint?

By Tim Jones

Would the promise of a Federal ICAC give one of the majors the keys to the electoral mint? Tim Jones urges Turnbull or Shorten to take the microphone.

ICAC – The Keys to the Electoral Mint

In what is evolving into a series of ongoing scandals of rorting and corruption, federal MPs’ expenses are increasingly under the microscope – as they should be. However, scrutiny of use of taxpayer money should be constant. It should not just be a reaction to a particular scandal. Calls have been made to establish a federal version of the state anti-corruption body, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

There is a serious political opportunity here. We are in an age where, according to one recent poll, 80% of Australians think politicians are corrupt. The federal leader who introduces the bill to establish a federal ICAC has the keys to the electoral mint. As the one (seemingly) honest politician, they could win elections for their party in a landslide for years to come. If the other party rejects the proposal, so much the better. You take that fact, and you break them with it. They support corruption, or they have something to hide and so on. The campaign literature writes itself.

Is Shorten Wasting an Opportunity?

The fact that the LNP appears to reject the idea outright gives Labor leader Bill Shorten this very opportunity. However, his support for the idea has been weak, much like his leadership.

This is a consequence of Kevin Rudd’s no knifing clause in the Labor constitution. This was designed to create stable leadership by making it impossible to knife the leader. However, this job security has bred complacency in Mr. Shorten and a marked lack of leadership.

Even accounting for the fact that he was on holiday during the Sussan Ley scandal (and why would you not come back early at the presentation of a half-volley on leg stump?), his silence on this scandal has been deafening. The reason behind this silence is not clear. A don’t ask, don’t tell policy among politicians? A fear at what would be found if his own or his colleagues’ expenses reports were scrutinised, or something else? Whatever the reason, Mr. Shorten’s silence on this issue is deafening.

The ICAC Board

Who would sit on such a board? Naturally, sitting politicians would be banned – foxes guarding the hen-house and all that. Sitting politicians should have no say in who will be on the board, for the same reason.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed that certain former politicians, including Dr. John Hewson, Dr. Craig Emerson and perhaps also Kristina Keneally, offer sober analysis and often criticise their own side of politics. These people are examples of being able to take the politician out of the party and the party out of the politician. Are they infallible? No, and no-one is saying that. But they are outside the current hyper-partisan political battlefield and so are more likely to offer something approaching impartiality.

Other possible appointees would include political science academics, CPAs and other financial experts. For the I in ICAC to mean anything, there would be no government oversight of the board a la former NSW Premier (he has since resigned).  Mike Baird, caused trouble for an an ICAC investigator after they uncovered inconvenient truths about him.

There should be no communication between government and board, aside from subpoenas for records and testimony. Any sitting MP or Senator found with falsified records, or who lies to the board, will be terminated and prosecuted. Funds recovered and an immediate by-election called with no appeal. The parliamentarian should, of course, surrender any post-service pensions or entitlements upon conviction.

The time has come for corruption to end. The age of transparency must dawn. All parliamentary expenses, both during and post-service, are paid for with tax dollars. The people have a right to know how those monies are spent.

Mr. Turnbull or Mr. Shorten, take the microphone

 

Originally published on criticalanalystsite

 

Day to Day Politics: How time flies when your incompetence creates havoc

Monday 23 January 2017

1 How time flies. Thursday 26th is Australia Day. A day conspicuous for the arguments it raises as to whether it’s the best day to celebrate it or as some Indigenous folk would say it’s “invasion day”. It’s also the day we celebrate the selection of the Australian of the Year. A person of great accomplishment in one way or another.

It is also unofficially the day that the political gloves are taken off and the combatants get down to business. Yes, time does fly. On this day last year I wrote:

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

The media focus is on the incumbent and often a 10 second grab on the nightly news is about all one can expect. Often you are damned if you support something with bi-partisan intent or damned if you don’t.

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

Having said that, the Opposition Leader this year does have a lot of ammunition to fire at the Prime Minister. I don’t intend to get into the ongoing debate as to if Bill Shorten is the right man to lead the Labor Party.

What I do know is that both sides had better take the Trump factor seriously. The frustration with Australian politics is at breaking point and it will only take something even miniscule to tip the Australian politic on its laconic head. It’s a trust crisis that is causing systemic community breakdown. According to the 2017 Trust Barometer by Edelman, Australia is experiencing a steady year to year meltdown in the trust of politicians. Only 37% of our voters trust the Government. Only 32% trust the media. I expect the likes of Bolt and his cohorts of the same ilk are responsible for that.

The left can do much to lift the country out of the malaise it’s in. It could make a series of commitment’s that would lead to a more inclusive people’s democracy. There is no shortage of ideas on how this could be accomplished.

The right have governed so poorly that it is solely concentrated on repairing things it has stuffed up. Just look at the mess they made over the Christmas New Year period. So much so that it has no policy agenda for the year. The Coalition reeks with internal dissent just waiting for Bernardi or others to break ranks and blow it apart. Its leader is beholding to extremists.

Its policies on climate, the NBN, NDIS, the economy, marriage equality, Offshore detention, expenses, Centrelink, pensions, and a multitude of others are in a complete shambles and now they are talking about raising the Medicare levy that will bring in an extra $4 billion a year. The question is will they spend it on health.

How time flies. The budget is due in 4 months and the Government hasn’t yet had its so-called Zombie bills from 2014 passed by the Senate. Surely they cannot just leave $13 billion in the budget and pretend it’s real.

The fact is that Turnbull can only ever govern to retain power and a Government that does that isn’t worth voting for.

2 For Turnbull, the value of having a moderate, popular and charismatic leader in Mike Baird in NSW, Australia’s most populous, state was immeasurable.

3 The grubby James Ashby whispered in the ear of the famous redhead and she turned a human tragedy into an argument against those of another race. In itself another tragedy. She is now known as the Government tea lady. Given her propensity to vote for all things conservative the title fits well. She has not yet apologised

4 On top of that another grubby individual David Leyonjelm made a totality inappropriate remark on the same subject. Both he and Hansen are unworthy of being taken seriously about anything.

Well its free speech and it does show people up for what they represent. This is what he said about the Bourke street disaster where 5 people were killed be a deranged driver.

“Probably one of those semi-automatic assault cars.”

5 ”More than a million women march and protest against Donald Trump”

600 Marches in 57 countries screamed the headline on the Huffington Post web page. The many videos from around the world were truly astonishing. The crowd in Washington alone was arguably larger than at Trump’s inauguration the previous day. Women of the world made their point.

New Press Secretary Sean Spicer disagreed with comparisons with the Obama and Trump inauguration crowds, stating that the Trump’s inauguration was the largest crowd ever witnessed. Which of course is probably the first of many whoppers he will tell in the next four years.

President Trump also lambasted the media:

“Now, that’s not bad. But it’s a lie,” he said about his crowd. He falsely claimed there were people stretching from the steps of the Capitol, where he spoke, along 20 blocks back to the Washington Monument.

“So we caught them and we caught them in a beauty and I think they’re going to pay a big price,” said Trump.

Now any fair-minded person comparing pictures of both would have to say that the President was also lying. Now in the totality of things crown sizes may not be all that important but when Presidents lie we are duty bound to call them out.

This is likely to occur daily over the next four years. If you differ you are a liar in Trump’s mind.

My thought for the day.

“Those who say that everything happens for a reason have a lot of explaining to do.”

 

March in March 2017: Are You Angry Enough Yet?

Are you angry enough yet? That is the question March Australia would like to know. In 2017, March in March are taking it to the streets again!

In 2014, Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Coalition Government saw the anger well up in so many people and March in March took it to the streets. Three years later the Australian people are still angry and Malcolm Turnbull, like Tony Abbott before him, still does not have a positive or progressive agenda.

Although this morning on Twitter John Wren thinks he knows where the Prime Minister’s agenda might be. If only Irona was not on holidays! 😂😂😂😂

The Liberal and National Coalition Government is still NOT listening to the people and March in March is BACK!

The Liberal Government has failed miserably under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull and the list of things the Australians are angry about is almost endless.

It is time to Stand Up Australia!  Instead, this year bring your best banners of Fizza, as the Lyin King has been removed and replaced! Thank you Australia! Give yourselves a round of applause!

How Many are YOU Angry About?

Here is the list presented by March in March as some of the things you may be angry about. If you are angry about any of these things, something else, or maybe just the flat-out incompetence of the Turnbull Coalition Government – then get amongst it. Boots on the ground people!

march-in-march-1

March in March – Get Involved Today!

Watch the Video below for how to get involved today; or visit the March Australia Activist Interchange Facebook Page:

 

What is the Point?

As we saw with the influence that marches like these had on the influence of the removal of Tony Abbott and the influence of pure people power to remove Campbell Newman from power in Queensland, with Labor and other parties taking 40 seats off the LNP Government. The removal of the Newman LNP Government freed Queenslanders from mass sackings, removal of civil liberties and the closure of many vital and important public and community services and the privatisation of our important assets.

Boots on the Ground does make a difference.  

Get involved today!

Originally published on The Red Window Blog

Pauline’s picks are on the nose

As someone who has railed against the rise of the political class myself, I can, to a degree, understand the anger which has expressed itself in the election of people with no experience in governance.

But surely there must be some criteria, some selection process as to the appropriateness and capacity of the people to whom we hand the reins of the country.

As shown by our current government, formal education does not necessarily lead to enlightened altruistic public service.

But nor does coming up through the ‘school of hard knocks’ automatically confer the ability to grasp the complexities and responsibilities of being a member of parliament.

It is unlikely that any candidate would have an entirely pristine past but they must expect it to be examined and be able to withstand such scrutiny.

Which is why Pauline Hanson’s press conference in WA the other day was so bizarre.

She was there to launch her party’s campaign for the upcoming election but refused to talk about the candidates.

“I’m not going to have trial by media here, with all of my candidates. If this interview is going to be all about the candidates that represent me, I’m sorry, but this interview is finished,” Ms Hanson said.

“I am not going to stand here and continue a conversation with regards to these candidates. You are treating me totally different to the different political parties.”

“But it’s a very valid question, as it goes towards your candidate’s reputation,” a journalist is heard saying.

The question related to One Nation’s candidate for Dawesville, Lawrence Shave, and his plans to start a business called Bikini Baristas, in which scantily-clad women would sell coffee to consumers.

According to his facebook page, Ps Shave also has supernatural powers.

“I have been gifted with supernatural means as in Matthew 4:23-25 as many years ago I stood on the bow of a fishing trawler at (sic) said to the destructive cyclone that was coming upon us to destroy the boat, crew and myself “I command In Jesus Name to remove yourself from this ocean” the weather station in Perth said that its (sic) was the first time in history that the cyclone split in two, one going inland and the other half going out to sea.”

The pastor believes he has healing powers saying he wants to deal with the sick directly from the ministry of Jesus.

“So the Gifts of healing are given to the church to restore physical health by Supernatural means from the Holy Spirit.”

When asked by 6PR host Gareth Parker about his bikini baristas, Ps Shave channelled his inner Trump.

“If the uniform looks good, why not? They look good, I’m always attracted to them because I’m a man.”

Then there is ON Murray-Wellington candidate Ross Slater, who has been consistently outspoken about his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Redefining marriage will shatter the natural family structure, society’s moral code and affect everybody, because it’s only the beginning,” Mr Slater said in a letter to the Bunbury Mail in July last year.

“Same-sex couples entertain hetero bashing by suing people who refuse assistance with their “wedding” or condone their lifestyle.

“Bible quoting, introducing adultery decoys and continually referring to the shining sun disguises devious attempts to dismantle a sacred institution gay couples are neither eligible for, nor respect.”

One wonders how he slipped past James Ashby who disendorsed Shan Ju Lin for saying “gays should be treated as patients” and that “Abnormal sex behaviour leads to abnormal crime.”

In 2004, Andrew Denton interviewed Pauline Hanson on Enough Rope about some of her ON colleagues during her first stint in parliament.

ANDREW DENTON: One Nation MP Jeff Knuth said, “It would be better “if the Aborigines went back to the pastoralists and said, ‘Can we just… We’re not going to take your land. We’ll just live on it and work for you if you’ll give us a bit of meat.'”

Your Health spokesman, Ray Danton, actually publicly questioned the statistics on Aboriginal infant mortality as though they might have been made up for some other reason.

PAULINE HANSON: There were some radicals that tagged themselves to me. They saw me come along and, you know, this woman came along and they thought there was their platform to go and say whatever they wanted to.

ANDREW DENTON: But he was your Health spokesperson.

PAULINE HANSON: Oh, look, I wouldn’t even know… I don’t even know who he is. I know Jeff Knuth actually won his seat.

Senator Brian Burston assures us that the new One Nation team is a world away from the rabble who won 11 seats in Queensland in 1998,  imploded and took Hanson down with them.

They ran dopes, unemployed, inexperienced, not all that intellectual … we’re more cohesive than the previous bunch,” Burston said. “We’re a more intelligent bunch for a start.”

That was, of course, before the Culleton debacle.

But Pauline says we should trust her choices because they all filled in a form and she spent 2 days chatting with them.

“I came here before Christmas, I spent two days interviewing the candidates that came forward at that time, I was very happy with the calibre of candidates in this state.”

On past and current performance, I think Pauline will take anyone she can get to bump up the numbers of the One Nation push for a New World Disorder.

 

Trump’s First Day!

Ok, I’m going to try and be fair and remember that not all Trump supporters are bad. It’s just the ninety percent who give the rest a bad name.

Trump promised so much on his first day that there was a lot of breathless speculation about what he’d actually do.

Apparently, he went to a prayer service, followed by a visit to the CIA to tell them that he really, really respected them and that when he made nasty comments about how they got the WMD thing so badly wrong, well, he didn’t really mean to mock them and those reports of an “Operation Oswald” that wasn’t what his advisers thought it was, was it? Anyway, boys, no hard feelings, carry on making America great again!

I presumed he’d be heading straight back to New York to tell someone to get rid of what somebody had written on the Statue of Liberty. Apparently there’s this poem which includes the lines:

 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

How inappropriate! I mean that could give Mexicans the wrong idea. Who on earth would put something so inappropriate on the Colossus to America’s greatness?

There was a little video doing the rounds on social media which pointed out that Trump had quoted Bane from “The Dark Night Rises” in his speech. I guess after the furore when Melania used large chunks of one of Michelle Obama’s speeches, he wanted to make sure that he wasn’t quoting Barack.

People may also remember this attempt to emulate Leni Riefenstahl.

I was wondering why he didn’t get them to appear at his inaugaration, but someone told me that they were suing him because of a failure to pay travel expenses like he promised. Surely such a thing can’t be true. Trump misleading someone!

Meanwhile, back here in Australia, I’ve heard rumours that Turnbull is quite enthusiatic about Trump’s election because he thinks that now an alleged billionaire is in the White House, people won’t think of him as out-of-touch because he’s merely a multi-millionaire who was brought up in the slums of Vaucluse. He’s also quite excited about the idea that when Trump starts actually doing things, his own strategy of sitting on his hands and stealing slogans from Tony Abbott will look good by comparison.

Sorry, Malcolm. You’re on a slippery slide. You’re not liked, you’re not trusted, you’re considered out of touch and arrogant and nobody expects you to follow through on anything. And that’s just by the Coalition MPs.

Interesting times ahead!

In Times of Crisis, who are our True Leaders?

Yesterday, a heartbreaking tragedy occurred in the centre of Melbourne. Four people are dead including a young child. In times of crisis and tragedy, it is important to reflect on how our leaders respond.

Why are the Words of our Leaders Important?

It is important to reflect on the words of those who seek high office and those who eek to represent the people.

Their words can either unify us in strength and respond with solutions that will protect us from greater harm, or they can divide us and offer us non-practical knee jerk reactions.

The words of leaders should console us and give us the strength to carry on.  Their words should respect the lives lost and those who are injured.

These words should pay tribute to those who selflessly put their own lives in danger, whether it is emergency services or volunteers at the scene.

Our leaders should respond with genuine empathy, seriousness and concern. Their first concern should always be about the people.

The public and of course other leaders should outright condemn politicians who make a tragedy all about themselves or their agenda.

I will leave the responses from our various leaders and politicians below for the readers to judge.

Malcolm Turnbull – Liberal Leader. Prime Minister of Australia

The prayers and heartfelt sympathies of all Australians are with the victims and the families of the victims of this shocking crime in Melbourne today.  And we thank and acknowledge the heroism, the professionalism of the police and the emergency workers who rushed to the aid of the victims, joined by bystanders who mindless of their own danger sought to help those who had been attacked in this shocking crime. Their love, their selflessness, their courage, is the very best of our Australian spirit.

Bill Shorten – Leader of the Labor Party. Leader of the Opposition

All Australians stand with the people of Melbourne in this horrific moment.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the lost.

We pray for the injured and the frightened, in particular the very young children.

We pay tribute to the first responders. We give thanks for the bravery of the police, the speed of the paramedics and the skill of those who’ve worked to save the lives of the injured.

We salute those passers-by who rushed to the aid of their neighbours.

But we also know that on dark days like this, words are so inadequate.

Words can’t capture the horror we feel. Words can’t comfort those who’ve lost someone they love. Words won’t heal people who’ve been hurt or banish the fear. Words can’t put back the lives stolen in a few minutes of madness.

It’s difficult for all of us to comprehend how, why and what has happened. Harder still to understand that it happened here, in a country and a city that prides itself on being such a welcoming, safe and peaceful place.

Victoria Police have made it clear this was not an act of terror, it was an act of murder. A cowardly, senseless, destructive crime that has claimed the lives of innocent people.

We wait for answers, we wait for justice and tonight we hold all those in sadness and pain, close to our hearts.

People who are concerned about loved ones can call the helpline on 1800 727 077.

Daniel Andrews – Premier of Victoria. Leader of Victorian Labor Party.

Our hearts are breaking this afternoon.

People have died in the heart of our city.

Others are seriously injured. Young and old. And all of them were innocent.

All of them were just going about their day, like you or I.

Some families are just starting to find out the news about their loved ones, and right now, our thoughts are with each and every one of them.

I’m so proud of all the Victorians who reached out and provided care and support to strangers today.

I’m so thankful for all our police, paramedics and emergency services workers who launched into action, and will now be working around the clock.

And I hope that everyone can be patient and cooperative, so we can let these professionals do their job.

This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act – and justice will be done.

Richard DiNatale – Leader of the Australian Greens

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrible scenes we’ve seen in Melbourne’s CBD today.

Adam Bandt – Australian Greens. Member for Melbourne.

I’ve stood on those Bourke Street corners many times, including with kids. My heart goes out to everyone suffering today. Big thanks to emergency service workers, especially those trying hard tonight to save lives.

Pauline Hanson – Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party

I have just been told that there has been a terrorism attack in Melbourne.

People don’t look right. That they are not going to assimilate into our society, have a different ideology, different beliefs, don’t abide by our laws, our culture, our way of life, don’t let them in.  Make this country safer for future generations.

All terrorist attacks in this country have been by Muslims. (Journalist: No they haven’t).

It is up to us to accept, revere, reject, condemn & shame

Australia is not immune to tragedy. Our tragedies are from the actions of other human beings or forced upon us by nature with fires, floods and cyclones.

Regardless of our politics, we should always seek to reject those who do not put others first. This is an automatic indicator that the inherent requirement to represent others is simply not a driver for that person and their motivations for public office are disingenuous and self-serving.

It is up to us to accept and revere Leaders who stand with us, comfort us and guide us in times of tragedy. Our existence as human beings, as community members, as families and as individuals is above all else.

It is up to us to reject, condemn and shame those who are not genuine in their desire to serve the people. It is up to us to demand that the media and other leaders do the same. However, trusted and true Leaders should need no encouragement from the people to do so.

A Very Stark and Dark Contrast

There is a very stark and dark contrast between the words of Pauline Hanson today and that of other prominent leaders. As someone who the media promotes as a potential next Prime Minister; it is really important to frame Hanson’s words as the central to her motivations in public life.

Will the media continue to give a free rein and a supportive kid-glove approach to someone who believes they ‘say what Australians are thinking’ yet puts herself before others, even in times of devastating tragedy?

Well Pauline, yesterday Australians were thinking about the lives lost, the people injured and those who were left terrified and the work of our emergency services and volunteers. Australians were not thinking about where your next vote will come from.

The media is constantly giving the Pauline Hanson One Nation Party an absolute gamut of free advertising and promotion in the media, through their reporting, radio and TV shows.  The media should take responsibility and cease this free promotion of this self-serving right-wing nationalist immediately.  They are not oblivious to the power of influence they hold over the voting public.

Clearly, the contrast is in the video of this interview, where Hanson actually smirks as she turns away from James Ashby back to the media, before she went into her tirade about blaming terrorism and Muslims for this absolutely devastating tragedy.

 

Zero Compassion

Not once did she show empathy, compassion, concern or horror at what had occurred. Not once did she want to know more. The scale of the attack. How many injured. Was there still a threat?

Instead, Hanson smirked, turned to face the media and with smug satisfaction she announced there had been a terrorist attack in Melbourne.  Hanson used the death of others and the serious injuries of others to promote her populist ideology. 

Considering Populism is the stark contrast between the corrupt elite and the will of the people; for Hanson to completely exclude any concern for the people from her rant, really reeks of blatant hypocrisy. It is time to put Australia first and reject this charlatan.

Clearly Hanson is all about the conversion of votes into cash and the luxury the power that public office brings, because clearly, no one but herself was her concern today.

Imagine Hanson leading the country in a time of war?  No thanks.

It no longer saddens me that Hanson’s popularity is increasing. It absolutely distresses me.

The Media need to take some Responsibility

The media is a very, very powerful being and it can and does shape the minds of the voting public. They media are very aware of their own influence.  It is time the media took some responsibility for their role in the promotion of politicians.

We can no longer afford to stand by and to continue to allow the media to promote politicians who are disingenuous and self-serving and this is always very evident in times of crisis and tragedy.   I thank the media who have called her actions out.

Let’s hope Channel Seven responds with a blanket ban. 

Our country and our people are too precious to waste our faith in those who do not stand with us, but stand for themselves.

I know along with everyone reading this, my heart goes out to the people who have lost their lives and were injured yesterday and also to their families.

I would like to end this article by directing readers to another very good article on this topic by Jennifer Wilson: Giving a Damn Still Matters.

Indeed it does. Let’s not lose that anymore than we already have.

Day to Day Politics: The Trump report No 7. The inauguration.

Saturday 21 January 2017

By the time you have read this Donald Trump will have been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America.

In the many articles I have read I am yet to come across any writing that adequately explains just what it is in the American psychology that has led them to commit this most licentious act of electing Donald Trump as their president.

Where else in the world would people deliberately elect as their President a man who is an acknowledged racist, sexist, a sexual predator, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a conspiracy theorist, a bully, an imposter, con man and would-be dictator?

Only in America.

In my view he will be a disaster for America and the rest of the world. His history has always been that of a lewd controversial man, a narcissist of the worst kind. Scandal has been as much a part of his life as is the daily necessity to eat. He has bought together a bunch of malevolent like-minded people to help him achieve his aim of ”making America great again” but in doing so has never really explained what he means.

It is but an empty slogan designed to rekindle another slogan ”the great American Dream’’ If so America has picked the wrong man to do it.

It is a dream that most American’s now see as an illusion, one that was perpetrated on them by those of little understanding, who really believed that if you achieved success by making money, you elevated yourself to a superior economic class.

”Only I can make America great again,” he said.

America has picked the wrong man. A man at war with everyone.

Before the inauguration Trump – from inside the world of his own self-importance – was trumpeting that it would be the most successful, best attended ever.

Robert Reich former member of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet had an opposing view:

”Trump insists “people are pouring into Washington in record numbers” for his inauguration, and brags about his “unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout.” But according to Elliott Ferguson, president of Washington’s convention and tourism bureau, the “level of enthusiasm” and demand for hotel rooms has not reached that of previous inaugurations. In fact, some hotels have reduced the minimum-night stay from four nights to two. Other hotels are only half full. “It’s been much, much slower than anyone would have anticipated for a first-term president.”

An estimated 800,000 to 900,000 people are expected to travel to the Washington on Friday – far below the estimated 1.8 million who came when Barack Obama took office – and it’s not clear how many are coming to celebrate or to protest. Trump’s transition team has been running advertisements on Facebook and Twitter “personally inviting” people to come to the inauguration, with a video of Trump promising that the concert will be “really fantastic”

As I perused the American media the day after the event and I read his speech the thing that strikes me most is the naked popularism he employs. It tap dances on every word. The American people have taken charge of Washington but it is he who will make the decisions. Only he can make America great again.

The man who owns America spoke thus:

”Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.”

His speech is full of the same grandiose rhetoric of the election campaign. There is no explanation of how these things will be achieved and who will foot the bill. Just words that await unwarranted applause from a man with few principles.

”That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you.”

The absurdity here is that his speech is full of what he thinks is wrong with America. A speech that overlooks the fact that the country is entering a period of economic prosperity and that we live in a vastly different world to the one he wants to take us back to. America, as Australia found out is simply not competitive with other countries in terms of manufacturing.

”What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

I’m assuming then that the people will demand that he pay tax, release his tax record, place his business in a blind trust and refuse to benefit from overseas business interests as demanded by the Constitution.

”You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Well they didn’t come in their millions and he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

”From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

”Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.”

”We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.”

History has already judged and it shows that what we need is more internationalism and less nationalism. The world dislikes America for the superior view it has of itself.

Will the consumers of America accept the higher cost of living that goes with protection? And when other countries reciprocate, what then?

”We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.”

Does he mean America will enter yet another war they cannot win?

”There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.”

Well firstly the law seems to do an awful job if your skin is black. The people kill each other to the tune of 35,000 folk a year and yet he is in favour of the guns that do so. God always seems too disinterested to intervene.

”Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.”

”We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions.”

It was thriving before the World Financial Crisis hit, cause by real estate folk of his ilk. How can the world be freed from disease when he plans to eliminate funding for childhood inoculation against disease.

And to ”harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow” you first have to believe in science.

”And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they will their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator .”

”Together, we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, together we will make America great again.”

Like many of his statements I am not exactly clear as to what all of this meant.

Personally, I don’t want America to be great. I just want them to be one of many in a peaceful international community.

But when a President says every decision he makes in his four-year term will be “America first” you have to be a little frightened of what it will cost other nations to make them so.

My thought for the day

”It seems to me that the wisest people I know are the ones that apply reason, and logic and leave room for doubt. The most unwise are the fools and fanatics who don’t.”

 

Giving a damn still matters

Yesterday, in the Melbourne CBD, James “Jimmy” Gargasoulas, 26, used a car to mow down dozens of pedestrians. He killed four people, left a baby fighting for life, and seriously injured more than twenty others.  He was on bail from offences allegedly committed last weekend, including family violence, of which he has a long history. He is well-known to police.

Independent Senator David Leyonhjelm, gun lobbyist who threatened “difficult relationships” with the government if the ban on the rapid-fire Adler shotgun wasn’t lifted and whose favoured slogan is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” tweeted the following in response to the Melbourne news. One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts responded in a tweet he later deleted:

 

There were the predictable efforts by One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson to immediately frame the unfolding tragedy as the work of Muslim terrorists. Victoria Police acted quickly to douse such inflammatory assumptions by confirming that the events bore no resemblance to political terrorism.

The New York Times initially reported the situation couched in the narrative of terrorism, until tweeted protests from many Australians led to a rewrite.

Things worth thinking about

  1. Mass murderers are highly likely to have a history of domestic violence, terrorising their families before taking it to the streets. Therefore, it would make very good sense for us to make urgent and ongoing investment in addressing the crime of intimate terrorism as a first step towards protecting communities. As nothing else has thus far persuaded governments to consistently invest in curtailing the endemic plague of intimate terrorism in this country, perhaps recognition of the wider implications might.
  2. David Leyonhjelm and Malcolm Roberts ought not to be in public office. However, they are,and we have to deal with that reality, just as we have to deal with the reality of President Donald Trump, who also should not be in public office. There’s a view that people such as this ought not to be given oxygen. I disagree, not least because this is completely unrealistic: of course they will be given oxygen, and in view of that, to remain silent is to enable. It’s my intention to continue to call attention to Leyonhjelm and Roberts. Swamp them with your contempt. This is no time for silence.
  3. It’s time to reclaim the word “terrorism.”  It has been appropriated by the likes of Hanson, other politicians and media to the degree that it is now a thinly veiled substitute for “Muslim.” There is political terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism, non state actor terrorism, domestic terrorism, intimate terrorism: these are all valid descriptors of the act of terrorism, depending on its context. “Muslim” terrorism is not. Domestic violence is an act of terrorism in the private sphere. If we use this term it might be easier to see the connection between the intimate terrorist, and the public terrorist who is not acting from political, ideological or religious motives.

Leyonhjelm, Roberts, Hanson and their supporters have no interest in the suffering of those affected by Gargasoulas’s murderous acts. There really is something deeply awry in their psychology. There will be thousands of people, beyond those immediately affected, who will struggle to deal with the aftermath of this intimate terrorist’s crimes. The witnesses. The police who gave CPR when they could, and drove a critically injured child to hospital, not daring to wait for an ambulance. The paramedics, nurses, and doctors who treat the injured. The relatives, friends, and workmates of the dead and injured. Whole communities will have to deal with shock and grief but none of this is of the least interest to Hanson, Leyonhjelm and Roberts, who see only an opportunity in all this grief and this death and this injury and all this gut-wrenching sorrow, to further their own vile interests.

They are despicable individuals. Tell them this. Don’t be silent. Let them and their followers know that in this country, giving a damn still matters.

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Unlike Turnbull, Trump Holds No Fear of Debt

Whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, there was something he said in his inaugural address today, that Malcolm Turnbull should note well.

Trump said, “We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labour.”

This could be a blueprint for Australia as well. Does anyone think The Donald would be concerned about where the money comes from? Not likely. One suspects he is already ahead of the game.

Speaking a week ago to CNN’s Chris Cuomo, he said, “First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?” He was answering a question on the $20 trillion of US bond issuance and added, “I understand debt better than probably anybody. I know how to deal with debt very well. I love debt.”

Compare that boldness with the Australian government’s obsession with debt and bringing the budget back to surplus. Whatever one thinks of The Donald, he is right. He certainly has no fear of private debt and realising, as he clearly does, that sovereign debt is altogether different from private debt, one can surmise he will use it to, “make America great again.”

Furthermore, Trump has no fear of the American media.

How we yearn for someone like that here in Australia. Take the latest labour force figures released by the ABS. They paint a dismal picture.

As Professor Bill Mitchell repeatedly warns us, “we always have to be careful interpreting month to month movements given the way the Labour Force Survey is constructed and implemented.”

What Prof. Mitchell tells us though, is that the latest employment figures for December suggest, “the Australian labour market remains in a weak state and confirms that the September-quarter GDP figures, which showed real GDP growth being negative were probably part of a downwards trend.”

Unemployment increased in December to 5.8% making a mockery of the Turnbull government’s “jobs and growth” mantra. Furthermore, the underutilisation rate (underemployed and unemployed) is at 14.7% unadjusted.

Over the last 12 months, Australia has produced only 91,500 (net) jobs with 125,500 of them being part-time jobs. In other words, full-time employment has fallen by a disturbing 34,000 (net) jobs over the same period.

The disturbing trend toward part time work continues at an alarming rate where today, one in three Australian workers are part time, compared with one in five in 1988. This has serious ramifications for demand, for tax receipts and overall growth.

If ever our mainstream media had the ammunition they needed to press for a Trump like approach to drag our economy out of the doldrums, they have it now. Will they use it? Not likely.

Will our government cast aside their obsession with deficit spending? Not likely. Unlike Trump, our government fears the media. Every thought-bubble they have is followed by the question, “how will the media react?”

It may well turn out that while the world looks the other way, waiting in fear for how Trump might manage China or ISIS or immigration or any other of his more outrageous claims, the man himself might just reconstruct American infrastructure and in the process, restore its flagging economy.

And it probably won’t cost a sovereign cent.

The Centrelink debacle has only just begun …

By Mel Mac

We hear Artificial Intelligence (AI) bandied about a lot in recent times as well as innovation and agility and more recently we have been hearing terms such as robo-debt recovery, algorithms and malware. The Income Security Integrated System (ISIS) ISIS was set up in 1983 and oversaw welfare payment deliveries, customer service, support and compliance activities for Centrelink. In 2015 Marise Payne, former Human Services Minister (and now Defence Minister) called for an overhaul of the system: ‘To deal with the increased demands over the years the original system has literally had another 350 systems bolted on. To put it simply, we are running a turbo-charged Commodore 64 with a spoiler in the age of the iPhone.’

In the 2015-16 budget, the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) program was announced as the replacement for ISIS. The 2015-16, budget measure worth $60.5m is part of a $1.5 billion, seven-year program. The program was described by the government as one of the world’s largest social welfare ICT transformations.

In September 2015, the Department of Human Services (DHS) asked for expressions of interest (EOI) for the first tranche of WPIT for a core software provider. As part of tranche one a panel of members was also to be formed to compete for the other tranches. In a statement, Ms Payne said that: “Finding innovative and expert industry partners is the first step in providing a modern platform that will make interacting with government services easier for our customers,” the Minister added. “Over the next year, the department will commence two major procurement activities to secure a Core Software Vendor and Systems Integrators.”’

“The new system will reduce red tape for customers, lower the costs of administering welfare payments and save taxpayers money,” Payne said. “Customers can expect to see improvements to our payment systems by the end of 2016 with enhancements that will make online interactions quicker and easier.”

On March 2nd 2016, legislation was introduced to parliament to assist the government in chasing welfare debt by Social Services Minister Christian Porter. The changes allow interest to be charged on debts, ends the six-year limit on when debt can be pursued and stops debtors from being able to travel overseas. The new interest charge is around nine-percent and applies to social security, family assistance, child care, paid parental leave and student assistance debt. It won’t be imposed on those that have an approved repayment plan. The six-year limit brings it in line with tax debt and the travel ban brings it in line with child support debtors.

And by March 20th it was reported in the media that the DHS had partnered with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in a venture called Taskforce Integrity. Welfare recipients in areas identified as high-risk, received letters with the AFP logo alongside the Centrelink logo. This is a first, using a police logo on a welfare letter. The first batch of letters was sent to South Queensland and will be rolled out to other geographical areas around Australia considered high risk or noncompliant. The letters warn that the taskforce was “currently working in your community” and that providing the wrong information could constitute welfare fraud, resulting in a “criminal record or a prison sentence”.

The government’s new automated compliance system to detect overpayments began on the 13th of July last year. The system compares Centrelink information with records such as tax records, saving the government money on employing staff. The first error to come to light was it not computing the difference between 52 weeks in a year and 26 fortnights. And in December last year stories from the public began trickling through to the media.

In early August 2016, German software company SAP was selected to be the government software provider and tranche two was opened up for bidding. In the MYEFO published in December 2016 it was revealed that tranche two of the WPIT will cost $313.5 million over four years. The panel is to consist of IBM, HP, Capgemini, and Accenture; with the latter two currently competing for tranche two below:

  • Tranche 2 – Student payments
  • Tranche 3 – Job seeker payments
  • Tranche 4 – Family payments, including disability and carer payments
  • Tranche 5 – Seniors, pensioners and any remaining payments.

It is of note that IBM was also awarded a five-year contract by the DHS in March 2016 worth $484 million. DHS CIO Gary Sterrenberg said: “This innovative and flexible agreement allows the Department to use products, services and expertise through an on- demand model. It ensures value for money for government in maintaining the Department’s existing spend with IBM, with the opportunity to realign technology and services to areas which provide better outcomes for our customers over the five-year term.” And that: “This will also ensure the Government is prepared to transition to new infrastructure with more dynamic capability to support future programmes.”

This week Centrelink’s new robo-public servant was introduced in the media, and it is being tested on the public next month in February. Two robo-assistants will answer questions from the public, one will focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, (NDIS) and the other one on student payments. The plan is that if the trials are successful, they will be rolled out to replace traditional public servant roles behind the desk and on the phone in the DHS. Human Service’s Chief Technology officer Charles McHardie, also believes that virtual assistance will have a central role in the future of claims processing at the DHS or in WPIT.

Concerns about the right use of AI are real and there are many examples of it helping to increase inequality in many areas of our lives. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning or predictive algorithms, either intentionally or unintentionally. Machines are taught by humans and this includes any bias that may have. An example of predictive algorithms is Pro Publica’s study of an algorithm, built by a private company, it incorrectly flagged black defendants as “future criminals” more than twice that of white defendants. “The reason those predictions are so skewed is still unknown, because the company responsible for these algorithms keeps its formulas secret,” wrote Microsoft Research principal researcher Kate Crawford in “Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem.”

Australian businesses spend an average of $6 million a year on AI technologies according to recent research by Infosys. Algorithms are being developed for more and more things such as predicting investor responses to market shocks and offering financial advice. The research also found that: “Happily, Australia was the most ethically conscious country of the seven surveyed, with 69% [of businesses surveyed] saying ethical concerns were a major barrier to their organisation’s AI deployment plans, compared to just 33% in the US.”

To date 230,000 debt recovery letters have been sent out to Australians. There’s been countless articles written about it and there are 350 individual stories shared on the Not My Debt web site and a false debt tally of $2,124, 501. Thousands of Indigenous Australians have been sent letters with some just paying it off despite knowing it is wrong. Daniel Hayes told NITV News he was repaying the debt but when he started seeing news articles he stopped paying Centrelink. He said in early January that: “I’m in the middle of repaying them $3350 for apparently not declaring correctly in periods where I didn’t even have a job. When I asked for proof, they told me I had to go through my bank records, so I’ve paid it for a year down to $1600,” he said.

In early January, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, said: “I have had at least four people now approach me in my office who I would describe as presenting suicidal and in all those cases we’ve taken what action we thought was appropriate.”

Mr Wilkie requested an investigation into Centrelink by the Commonwealth Ombudsman before Christmas, they agreed on January 9th. Deputy ombudsman, Richard Glenn told the Guardian that the matter was “of significant interest to this office”.

“I can certainly say the ombudsman has approved an own-motion investigation into the matter… this one will be self-initiated because we have a number of complaints and there is significant public controversy about the issue. So, it is an inquiry into the issue at large, rather than into a specific complaint,” Mr Glenn said.

“Certainly, there’s enough information from complaints we’ve received and … that it’s an issue of significant interest to this office, and we’ll be pursuing it.”

The focus will be on three areas: the data-matching process used to compare Centrelink records with those of the tax departments; how Centrelink communicated with clients and how the agency managed the fallout.

Centrelink has been referring distraught people to Lifeline and several current and ex-Centrelink employees have told Mr Wilkie that there was little to no training for the recovery program. Mr Wilkie has written to the Ombudsman this week sharing what he has been told. It all reads badly but what jumps out at me, is that it has been alleged that senior departmental staff have been encouraging officers to compete with themselves over who can achieve the highest debt recovery quotas.

While all of this has been going on for weeks, the government denies that there is a problem, although they have agreed to soften some wording in the letters. And they’ve agreed to start sending letters by registered mail so that Centrelink can track if letters are being received. Many people have been unaware of any alleged debts until a debt collector was knocking on their door.

So far only The Australian has reported that there will be a senate inquiry into Centrelink. Perhaps last year’s failed Census inquiry report can assist them with it. The Turnbull and the Abbott governments don’t have a great record with technology. News about Australia’s biggest infrastructure, the National Broadband Network (NBN) is reduced to tiny PR pieces talking up their rollout but neglecting to tell the rest of the story. The census fallout may not be felt now but it will, that data has been compromised and is vital for planning things like infrastructure. Seeing this play out and knowing that the government is nowhere finished with their five-seven year WTIP plan, sends a shiver down my spine. We can take comfort in the fact that it has united us, so many are fighting for those affected but it is bittersweet, because it feels intentional and a government at war with its own people will never end well.

This article was originally published on Political Omniscience.

 

Centrelink debt: Guilty until proven innocent

 

By John Haly

Centrelink has been fraudulently issuing debt notices to people who owe no money. Persons so identified are then harassed and threatened to the point that they pay this un-owed debt rather than being penalised by a system, which they already know actively disparages them.

Labor’s Anthony Albanese, while being concerned about this government’s debt collection said, “No one would argue [against] that if someone has a debt from Centrelink, had payments to which they were not entitled, then it should be repaid“. I would argue to the contrary.

The Poverty of Welfare

Centrelink’s services exist to ensure the disbursement of social security payments whether that be for unemployment, or aid for families, carers, the disabled or indigenous. That financial aid in many cases has rarely increased, and in some has decreased in terms of CPI value. In the case of the baseline unemployment benefits, though indexed to the CPI, “there have been no legislated changes to real Newstart rates in over 20 years”, in fact since 1996.

Image from tai.org.au

This has raised legitimate concerns that the Newstart allowance is well below the poverty line,  which is an issue championed by:

Rorters! From Welfare or Multinationals?

These inadequate payments entrench poverty, inhibiting rather then aiding workforce participation. Mobility, presentation, education, literacy, and skill acquisition all cost money.  Financial stress adds to social marginalisation. Bullying by the job networks and policy victimisation generates social ostracisation in the community, and also limits possibilities for the unemployed and disabled.  So sorry  Anthony, but I am very much inclined to believe that if anyone got a little more money out of this dysfunctional system than the government was prepaired to provide, then they deserve to keep it.  Any extra money would only increase their chances of improving their lot, including their ability to contribute to the economy and to finding work.  Instead of attempting to recoup $3.5 billion in alleged “welfare debts”, why is the government not energetically recouping $6 billion from the tax dodging multinationals? 

What about getting a job?

The divergence between the Government’s unemployment numbers and Roy Morgan’s (image from roymorgan.com)

Numbers don’t lie but as the ABS knows, how they get presented matters. Apart from the financial constraints, there is the statistical improbability of finding work in any way. Roy Morgan demonstrates unemployment figures in December 2016 were 9.2%, which involves 1.186 million people. In fact, when you take into account underemployment, which has risen another 10.8%, the pool of potential job seekers rises to 2,584 million. All of these job seekers are competing for approximately just 163,100 jobs Australia wide (Nov 2016 Dept. of Employment IVI stats.). In the worst-case scenario, there are at close to an average of 16 people for every single job in the market and that doesn’t take into account the following:

And now, just to add to the psychological and financial pressures inherent in looking for work, the government has come up with a new strategy to inhibit your search, by occupying your time with digging up old payroll records. The news of this new tactic is ever-present. Twenty thousand people a week receive notices of debts – allegedly to recoup incorrect welfare payments. All of which are triggered by an automated debt recovery system, which is under intense criticism because of what is essentially, the (intentionally?) flawed logic of a computer algorithm.

Erroneous mathematics

Centrelink’s computers (IBM machines in case you were wondering) are attempting to match tax office data with Centrelink records to determine if there are discrepancies between Centerlink financial information and Tax office records.

But an inherent incompatibility exists between these two data sources, and it is a matter of timing. Centerlink has information about its payments made fortnightly, and possibly data relevant to jobs which clients were offered and accepted. Centerlink is unlikely to be aware of the continuing circumstances of that job or subsequent ones found independently in the course of any given financial year. The tax office has only an annual summary of income. There is no breakdown into weeks, fortnights or months. There is no breakdown of pay rates, when it was specifically known they earned it, or what changes to income streams occurred in the course of the year. The tax office data is therefore incompatible with Centerlink’s data. The government is comparing apples with oranges.

Despite this, Centrelink’s algorithm takes your yearly income as reported to the ATO, and averages it over each fortnight of the year. As any primary school age statistician would recognise, an annual “average” apportionment cannot measure individual fluctuations and is a flawed measure in any given fortnight. To assumes absolute consistency for all fortnights is absurd on a number of levels. The only group that may get close to this pattern are the fully employed and even then, there are allowances, overtime, uneven hours, holidays, sick leave, RDOs, wage rises, wage falls, changes of roles, and any manner of occurrences that will alter the payroll for any individual over any given week/fortnight. Certainly, the most unstable employment group and the most likely to have variants are the unemployed. It is common sense that if you are dealing with people who move in and out of employment in any given year where they may move from poverty one fortnight to sufficiency (or if lucky, excess) the next. It is common sense that averaging their yearly income will produce inaccurate results by which to measure any given actual fortnight.

Guilty before proven innocent!

So what does Centerlink do? They take the ACTUAL fortnightly records held by Centerlink along with any limited volunteered data and try to cross-reference it against a fortnightly averaging of annual taxation income data. The normal presumption of statistical probability would tell you the likelihood of such figures matching for this demographic, is extremely unlikely. You would have to presume the mismatches will be the most common occurrence. Any programmer (and I worked as one for most of my career) would tell you such a matching is deeply flawed. Therefore clients should be approached with the assumption of innocence. In the absence of specific information in Centerlink’s internal records for discrepancies, inquires should be made tentatively as to why there might be a prima facie case for a mismatch in numbers. The onus of proof should also be on Centerlink (and not the client), as the process is so obviously flawed. Something fully recognised internally within Centerlink, if not by the political policy makers. In the face of the inherently flawed logic of this approach, innocence till proven guilty would be the legally prudent course of action.

Debt assessment is followed in 3 weeks with debt claims (image from auswakeup.info)

So what does the government decide is the best course of action? To implement a process that presumes people to be guilty (of debt) till proven innocent. Twenty thousand welfare recipients a week have been receiving notices that they have 21 days to prove their “innocence”, or be hit with penalties. These include a 10 per cent debt recovery fee, jail time, a restriction on travel. The event for which they are being investigated may be anywhere up to six years in the past. Some recipients are paying up, not because they accept that they actually owe the debt, but simply because they can’t locate evidence from past years, or because they fear the repercussions of a punishing government bureaucracy. If you have ever had to deal with Centrelink or any of its private job network partners you will be well aware of how punitive they are. Surprisingly to the government – apparently – this is producing a backlash.

Flaws and error rates

Human Services Minister, Alan Tudge, insists the automated process is not flawed and despite protests to discontinue the letters he is forging ahead with gusto. For Trudge to declare, “he wasn’t aware of anyone who was completely convinced they don’t owe money but have been given a debt notice” is either grotesque wilful ignorance or a lie in the face of a growing body of evidence otherwise.  When even “Liberal Senator Eric Abetz acknowledged there seemed to be problems with the system“, then you know it has to be disastrous.

The one aspect of this (that nobody appears to be talking about) is the sheer workload this must be creating for Centerlink. Let’s assume Alan Tudge is correct that the error rate is only 20%, which is contrary to what centerlink whistle-blowers reveal is the case.  Giving him the full benefit of the doubt, 20K letters a week represents 4K fraudulent claims a week. Which is 16K a month and 192K a year. After 1.04 million data matching discrepancy letters in a year, they will not even cover all the numbers of unemployed in this country (1.186 million), let alone all the other welfare recipients for other reasons. Alan Trudge expects the system to “generate 1.7 million compliance notices”, which by his own estimates means at least 340,000 letters in error. Of course, the Centrelink compliance officer whistle-blower that spoke to the Guardian suggests the percentages of errors are vastly larger. Given that all of this was not only easily identifiable but unavoidably self-evident prior to the system being switched on, how is any of this not fraudulent?

Tudge’s apparent ignorance (image from Peter Martin on Twitter: @1petermartin)

Voters and workers affected

At the current letter-writing rate (if they can maintain it) this will take over a year and a half to complete, although Mr Trudge thinks it will take 3 years. By then Australian Lawyers will be in a feeding frenzy of class action suits with minimally 340,000 clients with legitimate grievances with the government. This will presumably still be an ongoing issue by the next election. According to 2014 Centerlink data there were 14.459 million Social Services payments made in the March 2014 Quarter to 50% of the population – interestingly, a reduction from previous numbers. There are only 13.5 million voters – according to AEC – who voted in the last election. This is not a vote winner.  But presuming you are not expecting to win the next election, leaving this mess on another party’s door to cleanup provides a damaging handicap. The amazingly short-term memory of the public, gives the coalition an advantageous opportunity to disparage what the next government will have to do to rectify the situation.

Access issues for Centrelink online facilitates debt being levied (image from theguardian.com)

Putting aside the legal costs, consider then the other real cost in man-hours for Centerlink to resolve each erroneous issue when there are minimally 4000 cases a week. To keep on top of the “erroneous” case load – if Mr Trudge is correct – requires the equivalent of 105 Centerlink officers processing each claim within an hour in a 38 hour week. This presumes the ability for each officer to address, research, confirm and redress an error on each letter in one hour and do no other administrative work. There appears to be mounting evidence it takes much more time. Plus that does not factor in the equivalent of the 421 Centerlink officers devoting a single hour in a 38 hour week, that you’d need to process the claims – and not fall behind – which Mr Trudge believes are valid. But these figures are conservative. As I previously explained, the error rate is far larger according to the Guardian’s Centerlink whistle-blower. The backlog of work is just going to be extraordinary, if it isn’t already. No wonder it is so difficult to get through to Centerlink on the phone. It was nearly impossible to get Centerlink on the phone when there was only 20,000 debt recovery letters sent in a year but now that they are doing it every week …. ? As for other means of communication, even compliance officers are complaining they cannot access the Centerlink online system efficiently, let alone customers.

Opportunities or Overload?

In truth, even if Alan Trudge did put an end to it; Centrelink will probably still be spending thousands of man-hours dealing with the consequences of this flawed and fraudulent system. The same would be true if the Commonwealth Ombudsman began investigating Centrelink’s debt recovery system and put a stop to it – disregarding the costs in legal redress, which are sure to follow.  Nothing about this course of action makes any logical sense, except to see this as class warfare against our vulnerable and easily disparaged citizens.

Well at least, it will probably increase employment opportunities in the community at Centerlink that will giving a few folk some extra, well sought after work. But wait, isn’t there a public service full time employment freeze?

This article was originally published as ‘Debt Collection‘ on Australia Awake.

 

Politicians must take responsibility for their greed, wastage and negligence

If you go to the website #notmydebt you’ll find fifteen pages of stories written by people who’ve received demands from Centrelink to repay debts the department has falsely raised against them. It’s a harrowing read.

Depending on which explanation you prefer, the aggressive efforts to extract monies from people who do not owe them has been caused by faults in the department’s new automatic compliance system; a malevolent attack by the LNP government on welfare recipients, or a combination of both.

Centrelink has advised some punters that their best course of action is to begin repaying the alleged debt while the review process is underway, that is, before it has been established that they actually owe anything. This places punters in a Kafkaesque bind: repaying a debt is an acknowledgement that you accept its validity. Punters are also threatened that if they don’t agree to a repayment scheme, their alleged debt will be referred to debt collectors, and their credit rating affected.

Regardless of acknowledged systemic faults, and an own-motion investigation launched by the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office, the robo-debt collection scheme is set to widen its net to include pensioners and disabled people in the coming months.

The latest information from Centrelink whistleblowers (who have, by the way, been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment by their overlords, as have welfare recipients accused of fraudulently obtaining benefits) indicates that there are indeed serious faults in the system AND that Centrelink authorities have ordered officers to proceed regardless of these faults. Indeed, officers have been instructed to refrain from acknowledging any errors they discover unless the citizen in their sights spots the error first, causing a crisis of conscience for some Centrelink employees who are obliged to refrain from identifying systems errors to distraught punters.

How any of this can be consistent with legal process is beyond me: it’s beginning to sound very much like the Turnbull government illegally obtaining money from citizens by deception.

Even Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has expressed his disapproval of Centrelink’s methods after a member of his extended family received a debt notice.

At the same time, a report from the Australian National Audit Office into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s payments for the management of contracts for security and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru reveals:

…$2.3 billion in payments made between September 2012 and April 2016, which it stated were not authorised or recorded correctly.

“$1.1 billion was approved by DIBP officers who did not have the required authorisation and for the remaining $1.1 billion there was no departmental record of who authorised the payments,” it stated.

The report further stated that contract variations totalling more than $1 billion were made without a documented assessment of value for money. (emphasis mine)

Is there any venture on the planet in which $2.3 billion dollars is spent without proper authorisation and record of authorisation, other than the Australian DIBP? Why is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton still in the portfolio, given that his department has apparently gone rogue?

Add to this the ongoing politicians’ expenses scandals exposing levels of rort (travel expenses being the least of it, it’s the office expenses we ought to be worried about) that if politicians themselves hadn’t written the rules would be criminal, and you have a grim picture of rampant abuse of public money, with minimum accountability.

You also have an exceedingly grim picture of the powerful and privileged attacking the most vulnerable. There is as well the abhorrent spectacle of greedy politicians refusing to take responsibility for their own indulgence and wastage, and instead accusing those least able to defend themselves of fraudulent behaviour.

Prime Minister Turnbull has promised action on politicians “entitlements.” Perhaps if it is made more difficult for MPs to get their entire upper bodies into the trough and wallow, politics will in time become less attractive to those amongst us with the least integrity. One can only hope.

News just in: Get Up has set up a website “Fraudstop” that advises people affected by Centrelink’s false debt claims of their options. 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.