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Tag Archives: Democracy

Is The Donald actually working for Hillary?

There’s been several versions of a conspiracy theory running the intertubes since early 2016, and it comes to this:

What if Trump is actually a plant for a Clinton Socialist takeover.

Think about it.

As recently as 2005 the Clintons and Trump were friendly; enough to receive invites to Trump’s celebrity wedding.  This at a time Hillary would have already started planning the 2008 election, and the possibility of 2016. The Washington Post even reported that in 2015 ex-President Bill Clinton had a conversation with Trump where he encouraged the serial philanderer to run… for the Republicans.

Until his announcement in 2015 The Donald had indulged in minor dalliances in political life, but had displayed a complete disinterest in actually running as a candidate.  Mostly, his pronouncements about the political sphere appeared to be configured to promote a latest business or reality TV venture, rather than any serious tilt at public office.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, in 2015 Trump decides to run for the Presidency of the Unites States of America.  At this stage the G.O.P. clown car was already packed with contenders, yet Trump figured that now was the time; and since his declaration has performed a text-book case study of Poe’s Law, that has delivered the most effective political takedown of the Republican Party since Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Why is it so?

One key to a successful coup d’état is isolating, or removing, those who would oppose your plans. Traditionally this means rounding up academics, the wealthy bourgeoisie or poor socialists, generals unwilling to toe the line, and whatever racial or religious group your campaign has been vilifying.  In the case of a Clinton Socialist Takeover (CiST) the academics, the poor and bourgeoisie are part of the new deal. There are really no groups to vilify, and while the right-leaning police forces would be harder to convert (more on that later); most generals would probably be relieved to not have Cheeto Jesus as their Commander-in-Chief.

So, this leaves the potentially millions of gun-toting, militia-subscribing, right-wing, po’ cracker, religious nut-jobs; who are out in the wind, armed to the teeth, completely intoxicated from chugging the Kool-aid… and almost impossible to identify from standard census data.

Enter The Donald.  Trump has been hugely successful in getting those people to self-identify. In public, on social media, responding to traditional media, and even figures within the media have all made their position and loyalties perfectly clear.

Add to this the efforts and exhortations of certain elements within the Alt-Right, who are well and truly out of the closet, and Trump has done a fantastic job of revealing a potential fifth column within a traditionally Democratic base.

Given the intelligence gathering apparatus that Clinton has at her disposal, is it really a stretch to think that all these people have been tagged, and are ready to be bagged? Perhaps to the self-same black-site internment camps that Trump has been telling his loyal supporters he would ship off all those foreigners.

Absurd? Perhaps.  However, consider the exponential curve of either ill-informed, ignorant, or offensive remarks that Trump has released, and then defended over the past few months.  Is this really the work of someone who is aiming to be elected by the general population? Or is it all part of a diabolical design to identify enemies foreign… and domestic?

The list of celebrities speaking out against the Drumpf keeps getting longer.  Now anti-vax Robert De Niro has disavowed Trump in true pugilistic style, and even Dan Rather is getting in on the act.  Along the way a growing number of centrist and even right-wing Republicans have dropped their support for Trump.  Again, an act of self-identifying as people that Clinton could potentially work with when she institutes the New World Order… or at least save herself the trouble of disposing of them.

Then there is the miraculous pivot from Bernie Sanders. After stating he would not back down, a conversation with President Barak Obama appeared to mollify his stance and reorient his energy.  What other insight could have turned such an idealist, other than being let in on the inside track about Trump’s true nature? Given that President Obama appeared to be the messenger, one has to ask: how far and how high do the threads of this conspiracy run?

In the unlikely event that all does not go to plan and Trump does win the election, it will be by some obscure function of the U.S. electoral colleges.  Clinton is almost guaranteed to win the popular vote; which means she has the perfect context for a people’s revolution against the tyrannical system perpetrated by the corporate oligarchy; which Trump so perfectly embodies.  Even better, should Trump escape he can agitate from some Caribbean locale (paid for by Clinton of course) as President-in-exile.  The ensuing attempts at domestic terrorism or revolution in his name would simply continue the course of self-identification, and give the Clinton benevolent dictatorship all the excuses it needs to clamp down on gun owners and religious fringe-dwellers.  Which helps deal with those pesky right-leaning law enforcement folks; who, instead of disregarding the importance of #blackLives, will have to deal with the far more real and present danger of a poorly-regulated militia.

Remember that Trump is a businessman, with problematic businesses dealings and not a small amount of debt.  He is also a consummate performer who knows how to sell to his audience.  What if Trump has made one last big deal to sell his name and pitch the U.S. of A. into a socialist utopia?

Is that so out of character?

As the man himself has made clear, his name is his brand… but like Elvis in Las Vegas, he has run out of venues.  In the rarefied air among the upper echelons of Yankee society there is nowhere else to go; except politics. Sadly he’s unlikely to star in his own bio-pic and, unlike Bloomberg who has his own media outlet, The Donald doesn’t actually have sufficient media clout or charisma to truly win public office.

The question remains; is Trump actually running for office? Is he really such an egoist that he truly thinks he can win?

Or, has The Donald realised that he has reached the realistic peak of his ascent, and has decided to cash in his chips before the House can win.  By making a pact to deliver the U.S.A. into the waiting hands of Clinton rule, has Trump truly made an art of the deal?

In defence of Pauline

A probably unpopular take on the return of the female redhead who challenges our parliament and how we see ourselves as Australians.

Ms Hanson would have got in anyway. The changes to the senate rules didn’t make her return any more likely.  What made it inevitable was the failed economic and social policies of state and federal governments that led the same anti-modern voters who elected Ms Hanson 20 years ago to come full circle.

Brief History
After Ms Hanson was ‘betrayed’ by her own party apparatchiks, these voters tried minor parties.  They muddled about trying to find a voice that reflected their own thoughts. Suddenly Tony Abbott gave them true hope that Australia would return to the halcyon and mythical days of the 1950’s, when men were Men… and White. Then he got the sack, and was replaced with an urbane do-nothing who was completely clueless about what was going on below the executive floor, let alone at the bar in the country pub.

The last few months under Turnbull gave voters time to think. Time to realise that maybe they’d been conned. For years, many of these voters have bought the ‘aspirational’ market-will-provide line trotted out by the LNP… It’s only recently that people are actually figuring out that trickle-down doesn’t work; but don’t yet understand what happened. People voted to stop the boats, and then lost the farm.

This time, just as last time, Pauline Hanson has attracted groups with an axe to grind. The Socialist Alliance, Animal Justice Party, and other groups on the Left are just as guilty of this sin.  It should not call into question the legitimacy of Ms Hanson as a representative, or the legitimacy of those who voted for her.

E-con 101
We are in the midst of another labour-force revolution, coupled with major shifts in social identity. Types and terms of employment are in flux; and so far, no one has any clear answers on how we can transition from where we are into the future. That scares most people. For people who have missed out on a promised life of stability; and who feel marginalised and under siege by changing labour, cultural and social norms, it is terrifying.

Hanson appeals to people who cannot cope with contemporary life, let alone the future; different cultures or skin colour are not really the issue. When pressed only the true believers have problems with race and sexuality.  For the majority, those things are an obvious symptom that they can use to define their position. The real problems come from change, from different ways of thinking, the rise of technology and change in labour, the shifting sands of meaning, being unable to trust the local newspaper (if you still have one).

If you read the One Nation website, it is an almost incoherent rant. It is filled with the confused and bitter ramblings of everyday people, who have no comprehension of the policy and economics that have led to their current condition. This is a group of people who have no particular political, economic or social ideology.  They thought our society was still based on the True-Blue, Fair-Go, rustic simplicity represented by the 1950s. Now they have awoken post GFC to discover that the new century is a complex and frightening place, and they want someone to blame.

We need to accept, despite how they express their concerns; people do have valid reasons to be concerned.  In the last 20 years Australia has become one of the least protected markets in the world.  However, the prosperity promised as result of these changes never arrived. Instead services and businesses have shrunk and vanished. Lives have been whittled away by neo-liberal economics and globalisation from the Right; and shifts in worldview and social justice from the Left.  This is a group of people who are no longer at the centre of Australia’s life, and they have been left to fend for themselves without any help to transition or understand the change.  They feel justifiably marginalised…

…as an intermission, I suggest you all take a moment to watch THIS and then come back.

Peoples is People
Supporters of Ms Hanson don’t see themselves as racist or homophobic; just as their mirrors on the Left probably don’t see themselves as social fascists.  They are just humans who are uncomfortable with diversity, and don’t know how to express themselves. The intellectual Left has had decades sitting in ivory towers to reform language to accommodate diversity.  For most in regional Australia or outer city suburbs, casual sexism and racism is a way of demonstrating affection.  Labelling a person as racist, sexist or homophobic doesn’t make them so, it only shames… and then angers them. But, again, they do not know how to express their confusion.  Pauline Hanson gives them voice. She is representative of the views of thousands of Australians.  The difference is that she is happy to take money from David Koch to air these grievances in public, rather than just bitching into a pot of Four X.

These Australians (and they exist on the Left as well) don’t care about facts, they just know how they feel. They don’t want to think about consequences, or geopolitics, or climate change, or complexity; they want things to be simple, and they don’t want to have to change. They don’t want to think about policy, they just want government to take care of them; and they will give their vote to anyone who promises to do that. Last election it was Tony, this time it’s Pauline.

The saddest thing about all this reaction to Ms Hanson, is that it didn’t have to be this way. Pro-environment sentiment in the bush is at an all-time high.  The Greens candidate Jeremy Buckingham has large support for his pro-farm stance. The Greens and ALP could have gone into the regions and actually spoken to these people.
If they had heard their grievances, and took them seriously enough to have the lengthy conversations needed to bring understanding, then the past two elections would have been very different.

A classic example of this is renewable energy. Regional and outer suburban manufacturing is collapsing.  Ironically, if a ‘jobs and growth’ argument for renewable energy and action on climate change had been prosecuted more effectively, it’s likely we would be a lot further along to reaching our emissions target.  Instead we are facing the prospect of a Royal Commission into climate science.  All because no one bothered to address the dog-whistling from the Liberals, and actually explain the issues and opportunities.

The shrill and uncompromising front presented by angry voters is just that; a front. However, while anti-corporate ranting is accepted without question; too often intellectual and urbane progressives have not bothered to engage with the people Ms Hanson represents, purely because of their views on social policy.

Which is unfortunate, as those views are rarely concrete, and more often simple, easy targets for confusion and anger: It’s a lot easier to blame an immigrant (or a corporation) than unravel the economic and policy choices responsible for ones current state. If anyone took the time to talk, they’d find reasonable, if uninformed people who are willing to give up acting on social prejudice for better work opportunities and better services.

As seen by the non-partisan cooperation between progressive greens groups and conservative farmers in the Liverpool plains or The Great Barrier Reef, on many levels Ms Hanson’s supporters are natural allies against the destructive aspects of corporate neo-liberalism.  If the socially and economically just future we all claim to wish for is to become a reality, complaining about Pauline Hanson isn’t going to help.

If the elections of 2010 and 2013 should have taught us anything, it is that mud-slinging and ignoring citizens only further fractures our society; with serious deleterious effects on our economy, civil society and democracy. If progressive, intellectual, inclusive citizens are truly concerned about what’s happening in regional Australia; then they need to stop criticising and start having conversations.

Will you have to swallow your own prejudices?  Yes.

Will you have to work with people you do not like? Yes.

Will it be hard work?

Yes, democracy is hard work; anyone who tells you different is selling something.

 

Day to Day Politics: With 17 backflips Turnbull qualifies for the Olympic diving team

Friday 15 April 2016

We can thank Malcolm Turnbull, for ridding his party, and the nation, of the combatant pugilist Abbott. He was rewarded for his effort with election winning polls and a personal popularity rating the envy of any celebrity. Initially with charismatic personality, he seduced and beguiled his way into the hearts of those who wanted nothing more than to see the back of Abbott and some who didn’t.

The punters welcomed, for the time being at least, his sense of reason, fairness, discretion and natural charm, even if these characteristics seemed out-of-place in a party so demonstrably right-wing.

After 7 months of what can only be described as waffle, it has become apparent that he is not the leader people thought he was. I have written hundreds of words, no, literally thousands, about his individual policy backflips but I have never collated them together.

Ben Elthan in his piece for New Matilda does just that and when viewed in their totality it becomes obvious the backflips are worthy of a gold medal. How a new leader could possibly backflip on so many issues is beyond understanding. Well except to suggest that he is incompetent and controlled by the right-wing of his party. Anyway, here is the list, you be the judge. You can read Ben’s piece on New Matilda. But first, here are the backflips Ben writes about:

1) Marriage equality

2) Climate policy

3) Raising the GST

4) Income tax cuts

5) Company tax cuts

6) Capital Gains Tax

7) Simplified tax returns

8) Funding for the Gonski schools reforms

9) University fee deregulation

10) International carbon permits for Direct Action

11) Safe Schools

12) Section 35P of the ASIO Act

13) An Australian republic

14) Tax disclosure

15) The “effects test” for competition law

16) The early budget

17) Income tax for the state.

2 During this week I wrote at length about the need for a Royal Commission into the financial sector. I think those who have so stridently opposed one underestimate public opinion on this one and are already into scare campaign mood. In reality the banks are about as popular as politicians. Here are a couple of small examples of why one is needed.

If one is looking for reasons to justify a Royal Commission into banking here is a small but significant one. The cash rate is 2%. The bank card rate on credit is 21% or there about. A 19% differential.

Here is another: Why is it, if you try to get a $10k personal loan unsecured at around 8% you have a 50/50 chance of being knocked back,  but banks can’t give you a $10k credit card at 20% quick enough.

Here are some bigger ones:

The fact is that on the evidence thus far our major banks are probably (should I use the word allegedly) guilty of insurance fraud, rate fixing and dodgy financial planning practices. They have no conscience when it comes to profit.

The objection to a Royal Commission brings into focus just what sort of democracy we are, or want to be. Are we one where the people are represented by the government of the day or some sort of corporatocracy where the government is just a political appendage of large corporations?

3 A factor we don’t consider when trying to analyse polling is the undecided factor. Lee Mullin. A Facebook friend sent me this:

“As most of the polls have the parties coming together it makes Morgan the standout as they are bucking the trend of the others. With the election getting ever closer, the polls start to take on more significance. I would love to know how they are dealing with the undecideds are they extrapolating them into the numbers or are they excluding them from the numbers and of course what are the raw figures on the undecideds. As that is where the election will be won and lost”.

4 Not often I would agree with the PM but on this he has my wholehearted support:

“I think as we all know, and I say this as a former mediocre rugby player, AFL is the most exciting football code”.

5 Waleed Aly wrote an interesting article this week in which he used a metaphor “The planets are beginning to fall into place for Labor” to explain how the growing discomfort with societal inequality in its many forms was giving Labor a narrative to really differentiate itself with the Conservatives.

They ranged from the wilful horror of Trump, to the right’s defence of the banking sector, into the unfairness of the Coalition’s monetary policy, the fact that major companies and individuals don’t pay tax, and the Panama papers. Notwithstanding the fact that the rich are becoming disproportionately wealthier year by year.

I have written on this subject on this blog before about inequality previously.

Aly is correct though. Both in Australia and overseas there is an acceptance that big business and right-wing governments are cheating. That the ordinary citizen’s rights are not being represented by government. The opposite is true. Governments are representing the interests of the privileged, the rich and big business. Labor has a chance to get back to its grass-roots and represent the common good of the people. I hope they grasp it.

My thought for the day.

“We must have the courage to ask of our young that they should go beyond desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial but greatness. That they should not allow the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of evil minds”.

PS: My worst fears have come to fruition. Yes I am regretfully sorry to inform you that Barnaby Joyce is Prime Minister.

Day to Day Politics: It’s bloody simple when you think about it … a Royal Commission, that is

Wednesday 13 April.

1 Labor proposes a Royal Commission into the financial sector. Particularly the banks. The establishment and those of a conservative ilk cry foul. ASIC, a major regulatory body say they continuously investigate crime and have adequate powers. Repeat, powers. In fact our financial institutions are overseen by four regulatory bodies. The harshest in the world, people of the right scream out.

To me it’s rather simple and I don’t profess any superiority of intellect.

A Royal Commission is needed to find out why in spite of the best oversight in the world it is not working. I can’t make it any clearer than that.

I don’t understand why it is at press conferences when the Prime Minister and others espouse what they see as an almost faultless system of regulation, why some journalists with a bit of brain doesn’t ask the fundamental question:

“Can you please explain then why it doesn’t seem to be working?”

Sabra Lane had the perfect opportunity to put the question to Deputy PM on 7.30 Tuesday night but let the opportunity slip.

Mind you it might have some relationship to the reason why the ATO can’t collect tax from multinationals. They sacked the staff collecting it, or conversely it might be, in ASIC’s case (200 sacked) that the $100s of millions ripped from its budget is affecting its capacity to investigate.

ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft at the commissions Annual Meeting last year said that they were “very thinly resourced”.

In 2013 he said Australia was too soft on corporate criminals and that the Country was a “paradise” for white-collar criminals and the regulator could do little about it because it lacked the resources.

So it seems they have heaps of power with no one to enforce it.

The argument that Labor opposed a Royal Commission last year is a nebulous one. Things can always get worse to the point where a change of mind is not only justified but necessary.

A change of mind when it addresses the common good is a worthwhile thing to do.

Or one also could argue that Labor is making a stand against the greed and corruption being perpetuated on us by big business and the right of the political spectrum in general. If you want to put this to the test, go to a pub or apply Turnbull’s own fairness test.

We don’t live in a right-wing democracy. When you only have Royal Commissions into matters relating to your political opponents and ignore those associated with you, you leave a stench of hypocrisy that has a whiff of gutter politics about it.

As for the banks reaction they are considering a mining type advertising campaign against the opposition.

To quote  marketing consultant Tony Ralph , who has apparently worked on a number of similar campaigns.

”no doubt the banks can run a campaign that will turn the political opportunism of a Royal Commission into an electoral nightmare for Labor”

And if Labor gained power and I hypothetically were leader I would have no hesitation into having a Royal Commission into the Ashbygate Affair.

2 Monday’s ABC Four Corners, if nothing else, confirmed that Clive Palmer is a grubby individual and that nothing in the world matters unless it is of benefit to him. His entry into politics was solely calculated to be profitable to him. The appointed administrator suggests that a “reckless” Clive Palmer instructed Queensland Nickel to pay him nearly $15 million and may have acted as a shadow director for the company according to an administrator’s report which recommends winding up the Townsville-based operation.

He might join a long list of corporate names like Elliott, Bond and Skase. Perhaps a Royal Commission into the breakdown of corporate law.

3 Tuesday’s Essential Poll still has the parties tied on 50/50 apiece. In my view 40% are rusted onto each party. The Greens have about 10% and the rest are undecided.

One should never pre suppose that in a democracy the party you support should be the only one that ever wins. But a vote for the Coalition this time would be an acknowledgement that you are satisfied with bad government and would be happy to experience another three years of it. That you would be happy with a further decline in the standards of our political institutions. You wouldn’t care if your children suffered in their education or if inequality increased. In short you would accept mediocrity, or worse. The right would of course interpret your vote as one of confidence and your regret would be twofold in the realisation that you had committed the same sin twice. Too late then.

I wrote this a short time after the last election:

“I have wondered since the election what I will write about for the next three years. I have concluded that it is my duty to hold the government to account. To see to it that the Government governs honestly and transparently and that the media reports news rather than opinion in the guise of propaganda”.

I think I have been true to my word.

“I feel people on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination. They have hate on their lips and their hate starts with the beginning of a smile”.

My thought for the day.

“Are you really doing what is important? What you believe in, or have you just adjusted to what you are doing”.

 

Day to Day Politics: Your corruption is worse than mine, and other taxing issues

Thursday March 31 2016

1 At the crux of the Senate stalemate over the ABCC legislation are two principles. Firstly the Government says the crossbench Senators, because some rorted the voting system, are unworthy participants. A DD will fix the problem it says. In itself that is debatable. Secondly the Government wants its ABCC anti-Union corruption bill passed.

The Senators suggest a compromise that would include all corruption. Not unreasonable you might say. After all corruption is knowingly rife in politics and business.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that corruption in the banking sector and its effect on ordinary people is far worse than that of unions in the building industry. And that corruption in politics is destroying our democracy.

Too unreasonably single out union corruption suggests you rate it worse than other corruption and leaves the Government open, particularly the Prime Minister, to further charges of hypocrisy. Union bashing in other words.

A recent survey by Essential Media found that most respondents opposed the reintroduction of the ABCC, and demonstrated that the Federal Government must be more active in countering misconceptions about the role and function of the construction watchdog.

It remains an open question as to whether the PM really wants a more democratic electoral system or if the ABCC is a more important matter than others that would seem more worthy of its attention.

If per chance the cross benches passed the bill, Turnbull would have some explaining to do as to what the real motive was.

The Essential survey on the following question:

What do you think is the main reason why the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would call an early double dissolution election?

Showed that 14% thought it was because Parliament won’t restore the ABCC. 15% said it was because he wants to get rid of the independents in the Senate and 30% said it was because his Government is losing support and he will have a better chance of winning if the election is held early.

2 The Crickey Poll Bludger in the absence of any Polling over Easter reveals Newspolls quarterly breakdown. It shows the Turnbull Government sinking in Vic, and SA with Victoria leading the way. Another poll reveals that the government will have a hard time selling its budget. An internal poll also shows that Bronwyn Bishop wouldn’t hold her seat of MacKellar and the Nationals will almost certainly contest the seat of Murray. Sharman Stone’s former seat.

This week’s Essential Poll still has the parties 50/50.

3 Those interested in American politics should read this.

‘Justice Scalia’s seat is vacant. Ginsberg is 82 years old, Kennedy is 79, Breyer is 77, and Thomas is 67. Nowadays, the data shows that the average age of a Supreme Court retirement or death occurs after 75.

These are 5 vacancies that will likely come up over the next 4-8 years. The next President will have the power to potentially create a 7-2 Supreme Court skewed in their ideology.

Think about that… 7-2. If the next President appoints 5 young justices, it will guarantee control of the Supreme Court for an entire generation. And 7-2 decisions will hold up much more over time than 5-4 decisions which are seemed to be lacking in mandate’ – Colin Powell.

4 It seems Tony Abbott will run his own campaign in the forthcoming election.

He has expressed his readiness to participate in the 2016 federal election campaign to support colleagues who hold marginal seats. Senator Nick Xenophon said he would be delighted to have Abbott campaigning in South Australia. I suppose Christopher Pyne will also welcome him.

Nifty Nick knows when he is on a winner.

5 I know I’m always on about the NBN but when Australia slips to 60th position in world speed ratings it’s about time we all took notice. What a cock up this supposedly ‘innovatively’ minded Government has made of this medium.

It is just ridiculous that we are building a copper-based service that will be redundant in ten to 15 years. We should all question why we are heading down such an inferior pathway at such a huge cost.

6 How refreshing it was on Tuesday to watch Paul McClintock, a businessman and former staffer to John Howard deliver a speech ‘Deficit to balance: budget repair options’ for CEDA, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia minus the politics at The National Press Club.

‘No economic problem in Australia is graver than the persistence of large budget deficits,’ he said.

The research was conducted by a 12 member commission that included current Reserve Bank board member Dr John Edwards and three former secretaries of the federal department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Michael Keating, Dr Ian Watt and Terry Moran.

What struck me was the way in which McClintock demonstrated that when you dispassionately divorce yourself from the politics, and objectively address an economic problem, just how much clearer the answers are.

Contrary to the Abbott/Turnbull governments’ notion that budget repair can only be achieved with spending cuts, the report calls for revenue enhancement. It reckons that $15 billion in revenue ‘enhancement’ measures and $2 billion in spending cuts would bring the budget to surplus in 2018-19.

Now you wouldn’t call these committee members raging socialists but their preferences for revenue raising were suspiciously Laborish.

Singled out were superannuation tax and capital gains tax. Introducing a flat 15 per cent discount on super contributions ($6.9 billion), reducing the cap for concessionary contributions to super to $10,000 ($8.5 billion), halving the capital gains discount ($3.6 billion) and abolishing negative gearing on all assets purchased after December last year ($2.6 billion).

Other options proposed included increasing petrol taxes, cutting the fuel tax credit scheme, cutting industry tax concessions, clamping down on work related tax deductions and extending the ‘temporary’ the budget repair levy.

Without action, the commission found personal incomes would bear the rising burden of taxation.

It all sounds reasonable when you take the politics out of it.

Recommend you read this article by John Kelly on the subject.

An observation.

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 dont’.

7 My first reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposal to give the states the right to raise their own income tax is that the electorate will never buy it. Imagine the States with that sort of power. He is just handballing a problem he can’t handle.

Turnbull indicated that over time if a particular state had a problem it might say.

‘OK, we have got an issue with one part of our services. Can we fix it ourselves or do we need more money? If we need more money, then they go, the state would go to their parliament, raise the money, go to the people and persuade them of the merits of it.’

A hard sell this one. I wonder how long it will stay on the table. We might even see a perpetually shifting population seeking the least taxing state.

And didn’t Scott say:

‘This is not a government that has any interest in lifting the tax burden on Australians’.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just get companies to pay some tax and stop all the subsidies?

My thought for the day.

‘For the life of me I fail to understand how anyone could vote for a party who thinks the existing education and health systems are adequately funded and addresses the needs of the disadvantaged’

PS: I read last week that the actual plebiscite question that was supposed to be revealed prior to the election had been shelved. Yesterday I read that the plebiscite itself is to be shelved indefinitely. Can’t be true surely.

 

Day to Day Politics: It’s really play school but they call it “Question Time”

Saturday 19 March 2016

Question Time in the Australian Parliament is an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest or political tragics like me, it is nonetheless the prism through which the Australian public form a perception of their politicians.

Now and then news services showcase Question Time, and voters are left wondering if it’s for real or just a group of bad actors auditioning for play school.

It is devoid of wit, humour, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

Question Time under former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roared with hatred. The Speaker gave the appearance of disliking men with a bitchy witchlike headmistress’s loathing more suited to an evil character in a Disney movie than a democratic parliament.

Her demeanour was obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating. She was consciously biased to the point of dismissing legitimate points of order out of hand. And in a mocking manner that lacked any dignity and grace. In doing so she gave the impression of a women obsessed with herself and her party rather than acting in the impartial manner the position demands. All with an authoritarian sharp-edged sarcastic manner calculated to make her subjects cringe. Her condescendingly belligerent manner lacked the civility required for reasoned discourse.

Unlike speakers before her she attended her party’s parliamentary meetings to listen and be advised of tactics in order to respond accordingly. Anything to humiliate the opposition. There can be no other reason for doing so. In addition she regularly used her offices for party fund-raising functions. Something previous speakers would never consider.

She threw out the ‘standing orders’ and invoked her own set of rules. Particularly when it came to relevance, sometimes ignoring points of order or dismissing them out of hand. She even allowed Ministers to continue talking when points of order had been raised, pretending to not to notice members at the despatch box. Answers were allowed that were so far removed from the question asked that one could be excused for thinking one had a hearing difficulty.

All in all she so corrupted question time that it became so totally dysfunctional that it either needed to be terminated or reconstructed.

A new speaker has returned some decorum to the chamber but it really serves little purpose.

While a lot of the contestation is part of the drama of the Parliament, no one would wish Question Time to be reduced to polite discussion without challenge. Never­theless, Question Time all too regularly descends into an unedifying shouting match between the Government and Opposition, damaging the public image of the Parliament and of politicians in general.

According to the Parliamentary Education Office the purpose of Question Time is to allow the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine its work. Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain their decisions and actions in their portfolios. Question Time also provides ministers with an opportunity to present their ideas, their leadership abilities and their political skills.

During Question Time, the opposition also has a chance to present themselves as the alternative government

Question Time occurs at 2pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about one hour. By custom, the Prime Minister decides how long Question Time will last and indeed if it will be held at all.

Ministers do not know the content of questions posed by the opposition during Question Time. These are likely to be tough, designed to test ministers’ capacity to answer quickly and confidently.

During Question Time, government backbenchers also pose questions to ministers, in order to highlight government policies and achievements. These are prepared prior to Question Time and are known as ‘Dorothy Dixers’, after a magazine columnist who used to write her own questions and answers.

Question Time has evolved in the Australian Parliament over a long period of time. The first Parliament made provision for questions on notice to be asked and the answers were read to the chamber by the relevant minister. Over time, questions without notice were also put to ministers, particularly in regard to important or urgent matters. The focus in Question Time today is on making the government accountable for its actions and dealing with the political issues of the day.

Well in short that’s the purpose. Does it work in reality? Of course not. Every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the last election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as the mouth that roared, or the fixer, had this to say:

“An elected Coalition Government will move to reform Parliamentary Standing orders in the House of Representatives.”

“Our reforms will make Parliamentary Question Time more concise and ensure Ministers are held to account and remain relevant to questions asked.”

“We will look to strengthen the definition of ‘relevance’ in the standing orders so Ministers must stay directly relevant to questions and ensure Matter of Public Importance debates follow Question Time.”

What a ludicrous load of nonsense. As I stated earlier, there is no requirement for relevance at all. And without it Ministers simply cannot be held to account. Without civility reasoned debate cannot take place. All we have at the moment is a shambolic gaggle of incompetent unedifying politicians not in the least interested in enhancing our democracy. It has degenerated to the point of being obsolete. It needs to be given the flick and rethought.

How should this come about? Try this. Bill Shorten should walk out of Question Time with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so. That being that Question Time has become untenable, so lacking in relevance that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After siting all the obvious reasons he should then, having prepared himself, launch into a list of proposals to make governments and Ministers more accountable. The whole point of his presentation should center on a better more open democracy. An address that takes the democratic moral high ground that is critical of both sides of politics.

“None of us can claim that in this place, first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people.’’

Let the ideas flow. I propose to appoint now, a panel of former speakers from both sides of the house, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time.

All this is hypothetical of course because I am thinking out loud. But consider the following.

1 An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. The Parliamentary Speakers Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance. Power over politicians expenses. It could include a ‘’Fact Check Office’’

2 Imagine if the Speakers Office adjudicated on answers and published a relevance scale on its website. This might serve two purposes. Firstly it would promote transparency and truth and secondly provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.

3 If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speaker’s office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speaker’s weekly accountability report.

4 Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the Independent Speakers Office with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.

5 Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back benchers want information then pick up the bloody phone. Question Time is not a public relations department. A place for policy advertising. Question Time is about Government accountability.

6 I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.

7 Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanour yet the Prime Minister and the Ministers in this Government do it on a regular basis. An Independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.

8 In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. Penalties apply.

Nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

Democracy is dead. Lunacy prevails.  Anyway I think I have made my point.

My thought for the day.

IF you have a point of view, feel free to express it. However, do so with civility. Then your point of view is laced with a degree of dignity.

Day to Day Politics: The Great Paradox of Our Times

Sunday February 7 2016

I have a confession to make. Writing a daily post is time-consuming. It takes a lot of research and you have to be on top of things, constantly thinking a day ahead. And of course one is reliant on the day-to-day political gossip for source material.

Occasionally though one just feels flat, in want of a day off. Today is that day.

Filling in for me today is my friend Stuart Whitman. I met Stuart on Facebook about four years ago. We have had coffee together a few times. His engaging personality and kindly disposition always makes for enjoyable discourse. Until this week Stuart worked in the Senate Canberra. He is well versed in the machinations of government and that of the Labor Party.

The Great Paradox of Our Times

The paradox of our times is that we live in a pre-revolutionary age of massive global economic, environmental, social and cross-cultural convulsions as the old order of the world we have known to be “reality” collapses around us yet the political status quo internationally lacks the courage or vision to lead the profound systemic change or even ask the deep questions we need to be asked or to re-imagine how the world can work.

Yet forces such as climate change, the new industrial revolution and subsequent loss of a large part of the workforce, and the widening inequality will not wait for us, they demand a brave and visionary response.

We can’t put these global bushfires out with a garden hose.

Not wanting to unsettle an electorate they wrongly assume is unable to think critically or act rationally or behave humanely, we are told to accept the crumbs of piecemeal progress because anything of the scale of transformational polices required to see our civilisation through to the other side, renders any political figure proposing them nuts or “unelectable”.

Instead of embracing the challenge and adventure of the age and the hard work required to lead and channel the coming transition to make sure it is peaceful, democratic and wise we have timid responses and focus group marketing lines. Instead of working together to ensure the global underclass is finally lifted out of their desperation and afforded dignity instead of growing in ranks of misery, we have a generation of people who don’t seem to be capable of thinking beyond the entrenched Thatcher-Reagan worldview of the past thirty years. The only world so much of the electorate and political class has ever really known.

There seems to be deep fear of any alternative to the view offered by Thatcher and Reagan that we are not to trust the common will of the people in the democratic state offering grand scale programs of much-needed reform and change. God forbid we challenge the dogma that the market has all the answers and the constituent body of the people is not to be trusted. Better to go quietly about your business and not rock the boat. Trust the powers that be and your political patrons, and shut your mouth and you will be looked after.

In an age that demands courage, everywhere we look we see cowardice.

Why is it that in this time the world-weary old men and women are now the radicals and so many of the youth even on the left of politics are so illogically conservative and reactionary?

I am thankful that although I was an infant at the time, I still have a memory of a world before Ayn Rand ruled. I hope I get to see it again in my lifetime.

Stuart Whitman.

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’.

 

Day to Day Politics. It’s not funny if it has no Insightful Truth. ‘Free Speech I Mean’.

Saturday January 16 2016

Author’s Note

Yesterday my ‘Day to Day’ post mainly focused on suggestions for a new way of doing politics and how I thought Bill Shorten should approach this election year.

By day’s end I was convinced that some, repeat some people don’t even read the content before commenting. One reason I write daily is to create discussion. In fact this blog welcomes it. However, some were so bewildering that I became concerned for my ability to articulate what it was I was trying to covey. So today I am taking time to digest people’s remarks and instead of my usual format I’m reposting an article I wrote last year.

Sunday I will be analysing Labor’s chances at the next election.

I am reposting this piece because the conservative right wing of the Coalition have an ambush waiting for the PM on Thursday. It looks like he will face pressure to reinstate the Coalition’s policy to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he previously backed a compromise bill up for debate in the Senate this week.

The so-called Day amendment would make it no longer an offence to offend or insult a person on the basis of their race. It would remain unlawful to humiliate or intimidate a person or group of people based on their race or ethnicity.

The bill defies Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment to adopting more inclusive government rhetoric. He can’t have it both ways.

The difference between insult, offend, humiliate and intimidate is a mystery to me.

Free Speech and an Enlightened Society.

I have written about free speech, hate, racial discrimination and the state of our democracy on many occasions and this question will not leave me.

Why is it, in ‘the name of free speech’ that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law?

You would think that an enlightened progressive free thinking society would want to eliminate it not legislate it.

It is not a question that requires great philosophical, ideological or even theological debate. It is a black and white question.

Supposedly we live in an age of enlightenment, a period where the world has made enormous technological advances, but at the same time our intellects have not advanced the capacity to understand simple tolerance.

Indeed, if we were truly enlightened we would treat our fellow human beings, with respect love and faithfulness. We would do unto them as we would expect them to do unto us and we would strive to do no harm. We would love life and live it with a sense of joy and wonderment.

We would form our own independent opinions on the basis of our own reason and experience; and not allow ourselves to be led blindly by others. And we would Test all things; always checking our ideas against our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not conform to them. We would readily admit it when we are wrong in the knowledge that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement and that it is truth that enables human progress.

And of course we would enjoy our own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.

We would uphold the principle that no one individual or group has an ownership of righteousness. We would seek not to judge but to understand. We would seek dialogue ahead of confrontation.

We would place internationalism before nationalism acknowledging that the planet earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and attention if we are to survive on it. In doing so we would value the future on a timescale longer than our own. We would recognise that the individual has rights but no man is an island and can only exist, and have his rights fulfilled, only by the determination of a collective.

We would insist on equality of opportunity in education acknowledging that it is knowledge that gives understanding. We would seek not to indoctrinate our children in any way but instead teach them how to think for themselves, evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. We would, in our schools open their minds to an understanding of ethics instead of proselytizing religion.

We would never seek to cut ourselves off from dissent, and always respect the right of others to disagree with us.

Importantly we not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

Lastly we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a replacement for fact.

If these things truly are the embodiment of enlightenment. How do we stack up? It is fair to say that some societies and individuals could lay claim to attaining a measure of it. For example in some countries gender equality is more readily accepted and there has been advances in education. Overall though I think the reader would conclude that in most instances our enlightenment has not progressed much.

This is no more empathised than in our understanding of what free speech is. Are we honestly enlightened if we think we need to enshrine in legislation an emotion people already have and use, to express hatred? There is something fundamentally and humanely wrong with the proposition. There is an intolerable indecency that suggests that we have made no advancement in our discernment of free speech. If free speeches only purpose is to denigrate, insult and humiliate then we need to reappraise its purpose. There are those who say it identifies those perpetrating wrong doing but if it creates more evil than good it’s a strange freedom for a so called enlightened society to bequeath its citizens.

To quote Jonathan Holmes

Let’s be clear: Charlie Hebdo set out, every week, with the greatest deliberation, to offend and insult all kinds of people, and especially in recent years the followers of Islam, whether fundamentalist or not. 

Look at some of the magazine’s recent covers: An Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood protester in a hail of gunfire crying “The Koran is shit – it doesn’t stop bullets”; a full-on homosexual kiss between a Charlie cartoonist and a Muslim sheik with the ironic headline “Love is stronger than hate”; a naked woman with a niqab thrust up her backside.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre as vile and as unjust as it was gave no excuse for repressive world leaders to lecture anyone on freedom of expression. The sheer hypocrisy of it was breathtaking. Some of the world leaders locked arm in arm in the Paris March were from countries with the world’s worst suppression of press freedom. To see the Foreign Minister of Egypt marching arm in arm with world leaders was two faced-ness in the extreme given that Peter Creste has now been in jail for more than a year.

It’s all in the name of satirical free speech but it’s not funny if has no insightful truth.

Is this really what an enlightened society means by free speech? Does it demonstrate our cognitive advancement? Is this what well educated men and women want as free speech or should  we see free speech as being nothing more or nothing less than the right to tell the truth in whatever medium we so choose.

One has to wonder why the so called defenders of free speech feel they are inhibited by what they have now. I don’t. I have never felt constrained in my thoughts or my ability to express them. I’m doing it now. But then I don’t feel a need to go beyond my own moral values of what is decent to illuminate my thoughts.

Why is it then that the likes of Abbott, Bolt, Jones, Brandis, Bernardi and others need to go beyond common decency, and defend others who cannot express themselves without degenerating into hate speech? The answer has nothing to do with an honourably noble sort of democratic free speech.

Why does this demand for open slather free speech always come from the right of politics and society? They seem to have an insensitivity to common decency that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

They simply want the right to inflict hate, defame with impunity, insult, and promote bigotry if it suits their purpose. And behind that purpose can be found two words. Power and control.

The way we presently view free speech simply perpetuates the right to express all those things that make us lessor than what we should be. Debate, in whatever form, should not include the right to vilify. It is not of necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. It is about an exchange of facts ideas and principles. Or in its purest form it is simply about the art of persuasion. The argument that bigots are entitled to be bigots or that unencumbered free speech exposes people for what they are, doesn’t wear with me. It simply says that society has not advanced. That our cultural ethical intellect has not progressed at the same rate as our technological understanding.

The fact that so many people agree with the free speech argument highlights the tolerance we have for the unacceptable right to hate each other, which to me is the sauce of everything that is wrong with human behaviour.

And we want to make it acceptable by legislating to condone it.

Are we really saying that in a supposed enlightened society that should value, love, decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the others point of view that we need to enshrine in law a person’s right to be the opposite of all these things.

If that is the case then we are not educating. We are not creating a better social order and we are not enlightened at all.

The fact is that free speech in any democratic system should be so valued, so profoundly salient, that any decent enlightened government should legislate to see that it is not abused. That it carries with it sacrosanct principles of decency that are beyond law and ingrained in the conscience of a collective common good.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of speech to vilify another.

My thought for the day.

‘An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren’.

 

Day to Day Politics. ‘Bashing Billy Shorten’

Friday 15 January 2016

1 Yesterday, I copped a bit if flak (on Facebook) from people who thought I was doing a bit of Billy Bashing when I offered some advice on how the Labor Leader should confront an election year. I did so because I for one am sick of the political scam that takes place in Australia every three years or every day for that matter.

Australian politics has for some time been suffering from the longevity of sameness. I advocate a change in the way it is practiced. It is time for us to reevaluate just what it is we want from our democracy. We don’t have a representative democracy that is participatory, one that administers for the benefit of all.

Because change is anathema to the conservative mindset it is more difficult for them. For progressive democrats it should be uncomplicated.

Anyway I was simply putting a point of view that going through the motions of a bland boring promises, promises, a traditional election campaign year would not achieve a Labor victory. I pointed out that being emphatically brazen by giving back the democratic process to the people just might.

We are at a point in time in our history where ‘change’ demands it be listened to. Where the events of recent times scream for it. It only requires a voice to demand it on behalf of the people.

The definition of servitude needs to be indelibly engrained into the minds of those seeking election and the self-serving attitudes that now exist need to be purged from the minds of our current politicians.

For too long we have suffered the indignity of insulting propaganda from all parties. So much so that if it wasn’t for compulsory voting no one would bother.

An example is Bill Shorten’s three-week tour to tell everyone he thinks an increase to the GST is a bad thing. Now I happen to agree, but really. It’s not a Coalition policy and possibly won’t be. I find that sort of electioneering insulting, in the same way as I have the deplorable policy announcements of the Government, while we have all been at play.

What bullshit they perpetuate when they say that they never underestimate the intelligence of the Australian people.

Yesterday I suggested that Shorten take a leaf out of the Bernie Sander’s book of how to do politics.

People like Sanders have a way of grasping the intestines of an argument and presenting a plausible answer that is simple to understand, and at the same time enthuses and leads people into an all-embracing narrative that inspires.

Others like the ill of mind conservative Donald Trump see complex problems and impregnate them with implausible black and white solutions.

We live in a society of our own making. One in which the cult of personality is the doorway to political success. All I am suggesting is for Shorten to take the bull by the horns, turn politics on its head, show Australians a new politic, embrace the people and present an inspirational narrative of how he sees the future. The same old, same old, way of politics will not see Labor in Government. It needs the ‘wow, he would do that factor.’

In my defence 1. Billy bashing.

2 If only President Obama had control of the Congress what a difference he might have made to that country. Pre Reagan I admired the bi-partisan quality of their politics.

This from his State of the Union address:

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have a go at it, you’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”

3 Conversely they may be on the brink of electing a man who two world leading countries are considering banning entry to. To think that the Republican Party could ever consider a man like Trump as a nomination to run for the Presidency illustrates just how low the GOP have fallen.

4 Fairfax reports that new parents in low-paid jobs stand to be $10,500 worse off under a Turnbull government paid parental leave plan intended as a compromise on cuts proposed by Tony Abbott, according to new university research.

The research, commissioned by women’s group Fair Agenda and conducted by the University of Sydney’s Women and Work Research Group, shows mothers who work in healthcare, teaching and retail could lose between $3942 and $10,512 under the compromise policy.

One can’t help but think that the real agenda of the conservatives is to shift wealth from the bottom 97% to the top 3%.

5 “It is vitally important, both as a matter of social justice and political reality, that structural changes are seen as being fair across the board”. “That means not only must tough decisions be justified, but that the burden of adjustment is not borne disproportionately by one part of the community.”

There was once a women who said ’please explain’.

‘There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.’

Crisis support service ‘lifeline’ recorded more than one million calls for help in 2015, the highest number in its 52-year history, and its busiest four months on record from September to December (peter shmigel ~ lifeline).

6 And so it seems that, after one week, I have finally managed to catch up on the Day to Day political musings of our politics. My reverie is now broken. Nothing has changed. We are still being subjected to everyday propaganda from our politicians and our media. We are being badly governed. Injustice abounds. Lies manifest. The powerful seek more of it. Capitalism wants more profit. Turnbull’s prescription is innovation but is led by others. My despair is sullen but my hope untouched.

My thought for the day.  

“Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it. Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact”.

 

Day to Day Politics. Abbott’s gone: ‘Lest we forget’

Tuesday December 8

1 All this silly talk about Abbott staying on with the view to regaining the leadership should stop.

He lost the leadership of the nation for one very good reason. He had not the ‘character’ that leadership requires.

Character is a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of politics, but unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven

Trying to convert a lifetime of negativity into motivating inspirational leadership was a bridge to far. To say the least he was totality uninspiring. In fact I can think of no other person in Australian public life who has made a greater contribution to the decline in public discourse, the lowering of parliamentary standards and the abuse of our democracy than Tony Abbott.

None of these events are in chronological order. They are just as they came to mind and are listed randomly in order to build a character profile.

1 When the President of the US visited he broke long-standing conventions by politicising his speech as opposition leader.

2 He did the same when the Indonesian president visited.

3 He did the same when the Queen visited.

4 He could not help but play politics with the death of an Australian icon in Margaret Whitlam.

5 He would not allow pairs (another long standing convention) so that the minister for the arts could attend the funeral of painter Margaret Olley. Another Australian icon. Malcolm Turnbull, a personnel friend was also prevented from attending. There have been other instances of not allowing pairs.

6 He refused a pair whilst the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on bereavement leave following the death of her father.

7 Then there were the callous and inappropriate remarks he made to Bernie Banton.

8 At university he kicked in a glass panel door when defeated in an election.

9 Referred to a woman Chairperson as “Chairthing”.

10 He was accused of assaulting a woman at University, and later acquitted. He was defended by a QC and the girl defended herself.

11 Another woman accuses him of throwing punches at her. And hitting either side of a wall she was standing against. He says it never happened but others corroborate her story.

12 He threatened to punch the head in of Lindsay Foyle who disagreed with him on a woman’s right to an abortion.

13 In 1978 a young teacher by the name of Peter Woof bought assault charges against Abbott. Abbott had punched him in the face. The charges never went anywhere. Abbott was represented by a legal team of six and the young man could not afford to defend himself.

14 And he did punch out Joe Hockey’s lights during a rugby match.

15 He established a slush fund to bring down Pauline Hansen and then lied about its existence.

16 He was ejected from the House of reps once in obscure circumstances. Hansard is unclear why, but it is alleged that he physically threatened Graham Edwards. Edwards lost both his legs in Vietnam.

17 In 2000 he was ejected from the House along with six others. Philip Coorey reports that he was headed toward the Labor back benches ready to thump a member who had heckled him.

18 Abused Nicola Roxon after turning up late for a debate.

19 Then there was the interview with Mark Riley where he had a brain fade that seemed like it would never end. I thought he was deciding between a right hook and a left cross. Something that I found mentally disturbing and worrying . After all, at the time this was the man who could be our next Prime Minister.

20 Together with Pyne he was seen running from the House of Reps to avoid embarrassment at being outwitted.

21 Being the first opposition leader to be ejected from the house in 26 years because he repeated an accusation of lying after withdrawing it.

22 The infamous “Sell my arse” statement verified by Tony Windsor. Will Windsor ever release the mobile phone transcript?

23 The interview with Kerry O’Brien where he admitted that unless it was in writing he didn’t always tell the truth.

24 And in another O’Brien interview he admitted lying about a meeting with the catholic Cardinal George Pell.

25 During the Republic referendum he told many outrageous untruths.

26 His famous “Climate change is crap” comment and later saying that he was speaking to an audience. This of course elicited the question; “Is that what you always do?”

27 His almost daily visits as opposition leader to businesses with messages of gloom and doom about the carbon tax. None of which have come to fruition. His blatant lying often repudiated by the management of the businesses. The most notable being the CEO of BHP and their decision not to proceed with the Olympic Dam mine. Whole towns being closed down. Industries being forced to sack thousands. The end of the coal industry etc.

28 And of course there is the now infamous Leigh Sales interview where beyond any doubt he lied three times and continued to do so the next day.

29 Then there was his statement that the Aboriginal tent embassy at Parliament House be closed. To call his statement an error in judgement is too kind. It almost sounded like an incitement to riot.

30 He is quoted as saying in the Parliament that Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Albanese had targets on their heads. He later apologised.

31 And of course there is also the lie about asylum seekers being illegal.

32 Added to that is his statement that the PM refused to lay down and die.

I think I have exhausted it all but I cannot be sure. Oh wait. Lest we forget.

33 We should not leave out his insensitive comments about the attempted suicide of John Brogden.

34 And the deliberate lie he told to the Australian Minerals Council that the Chinese intended increasing their emissions by 500 per cent.

35 His “dying of shame” comment.

36 His “lack of experience in raising children” comment.

37 His “make an honest women of herself” comment.

38 His “no doesn’t mean no” comment.

Then of course there were these Tonyisms. Similar ones have continued into his Prime Ministership.

Lest we forget.

39 ‘Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia’.

40 ‘These people aren’t so much seeking asylum, they’re seeking permanent residency. If they were happy with temporary protection visas, then they might be able to argue better that they were asylum seekers’.

On rights at work:

41 ‘If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband … you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss’.

On women:

42 ‘The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience’.

43 ‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’.

44 ‘I  think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak’.

45 ‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…’.

On Julia Gillard:

46 ‘Gillard won’t lie down and die’.

On climate change:

47 ‘Climate change is absolute crap’.

48 ‘If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax’.

On homosexuality:

49 ‘I’d probably … I feel a bit threatened’

50 ‘If you’d asked me for advice I would have said to have – adopt a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about all of these things…’.

On Indigenous Australia:

51 ‘Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’.

52 ‘Western civilisation came to this country in 1788 and I’m proud of that…’.

53 ‘There may not be a great job for them but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it’s picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done’.

On Nicola Roxon:

54 ‘That’s bullshit. You’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you?’

The list is by no means complete and I am sure readers could add many more to it. His ludicrous statement about our navy’s problems with navigation and blatantly lying about turning boats around as opposed to turning them back. Lest we forget.

2 The news that Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union organiser John Lomax and his right hand man are to be charged with blackmail will have a negative effect on Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. Whilst I generally support unionism, I cannot support rogue ones such as the CFMEU. Why Labor does is totality beyond me.

In an effort to offset the damage Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has unveiled his party’s policy on combating union corruption, a package of measures he says will improve governance and transparency.

3 The Prime Minister has released his innovation statement. In doing so he has reinstated science to its rightful position. One that Abbott had devalued for reasons of capitalistic advantage. It is to be hoped that the country might now see a new era where political parties see the value of thoughtful progressive thinking. One where innovation might also be applied to the new economy and renewable energy.

Labor had already announced much of Turnbull’s policy but incumbency gives government ten times the coverage.

4 Warren Truss has asserted the National party’s demand for a greater share of cabinet positions as the deputy prime minister pushed back at criticism of his secret talks with Liberal defector Ian Macfarlane.

The leader of the junior Coalition partner addressed the media alongside Macfarlane in Queensland on Monday and stressed the need for Turnbull to deal with the cabinet proportion issue “in due course”.

It seems they are determined to make their leader look weak. No love lost there.

An observation

‘The exchange and intellectual debate of ideas needs to be re energised and it is incumbent on the young to become involved’.

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”.

 

The State of Our Political Madness

How indecently fortuitous has the Coalition been? It has purged itself of an incompetent leader seen domestically and internationally as a belligerent confrontational fool. Its reward for disposing of him, even after governing so ineffectually, in all probability will be victory at the next election.

The emergence of the new leader has done three things. Firstly, it has gotten rid of a grossly unpopular leader. Secondly, it has enabled a popular, charming man with an engaging smile, on the surface at least, who preaches fairness, optimism and all things foreign to conservatism, to become Prime Minister and in doing so annulled two years of atrocious government as though it were some sort of political illusion and not reality at all. How ironic it is that a government that has performed so abysmally is now in the box seat to win another term. Thirdly, is has dramatically empathised the short comings of Labor and Bill Shorten.

Malcolm Turnbull, for ridding his party of the combatant pugilist Abbott has been rewarded for his efforts with election winning polls and a personal popularity rating the envy of any celebrity. To date, with charismatic personality, he has seduced and beguiled his way into the hearts of those who wanted nothing more than to see the back of Abbott and some who didn’t.

The oddity is that whilst the punters welcome, for the time being at least, his sense of reason, fairness, discretion and natural charm, these characteristics seem out of place in a party so demonstrably right wing. He has even managed to converse with world leaders without wanting to shirtfront anyone.

He is a Republican leading a party of Royalists. A Prime Minister of Australia in which all state Premiers and Opposition Leaders are Republicans makes it more absurd. He is, despite his current utterings, a believer in doing something about climate change but the leader of a party that has many influential climate deniers in its ranks who think more about capitalist greed than the future of our children.

He is a committed believer in marriage equality leading a coalition of homophobes. He also leads a government intent on imposing its own religious values on a society rapidly backing away from religiosity.

Malcolm Turnbull is in effect an enormous contradiction that raises the question: How can you lead a party that has views so diagonally opposed to your own? And how can you preach fairness and reason when those you lead aren’t?

When your voice speaks of these values, how are people expected to accept the unreasonable voices of Dutton, Morrison and others?

It can work if hypocrisy prevails and thus far Turnbull has used every ounce of it and is being given the benefit of the doubt by an electorate looking for the political stability of years past. All things being equal, voters will not be inclined to change leaders yet again. The slate has been wiped clean. All has been forgiven. Performance doesn’t matter. Or does it?

With soft eloquent dulcet voice and pleasing smile Turnbull has shown a capacity for enthusiasm, seeing possibilities, spruiking innovation, even being inspirational. He has a way of putting calm into discussion. People feel relaxed with him. The very opposite to Abbott’s pugilist “no, no, no” negativity.

By not ruling anything in or out, particularly in economics, he has managed to convince people that he genuinely believes things have been done wrong, unfairly wrong, but given the chance he can put matters right.

Is it all that simple? No, it isn’t.

After two unacceptable budgets, Turnbull will have to deliver a third while monetary measures from the previous two are still waiting to be passed by the Senate. In total it is a monumental task in light of promised tax revisions to be put to the people before the next election. In addition, all these decisions will be overshadowed by a mid-year economic statement before Christmas that is sure to show a monumental blowout in the deficit. The tax Green Paper was due out this year; now it has been pushed to next year, assuming the Government doesn’t decide to skip straight to the White Paper.

There seems to be a public debate about the merits of increasing the GST, superannuation, subsidies etc – nothing has been ruled out, but Morrison refuses to participate.

It is unclear whether there are differences between senior ministers over tax – for example about whether there is a revenue problem (denied by Morrison) as well as a spending problem and whether the states have a case for extra funding.

At some stage the Government will finally have to rule in and rule out measures. That’s when the winners and losers will be declared. Someone has to be worse off.

Who will it be?

Another hangover the Government faces is the fact that they have asked the states to consider their own tax bases (as part of a Federal Sate relations review) in looking for ways to fund their future spending needs. The fact that the two are interwoven makes the task somewhat harder.

Besides economics the Government has an abundance of policy matters hanging over it.
Everyone knows the Government’s Direct Action Plan is dreadful and is likely to be called out as such in Paris. Greg Hunt continues to lie about its benefits.

Then there is the plebiscite on marriage equality. The public are dubious about its real intentions. Is it just a blind to give the Cabinet homophobes free rein to mount a negative campaign? Otherwise at $150 million it is a very expensive way to ascertain what is already known.

The Defence White Paper was delayed under Abbott and is now in limbo under Turnbull who wants it given further attention. Defence Minister Marise Payne has to do a lot of preparation for the public and diplomatic discussion that will come after its release. And of course the university deregulation plan put aside by Turnbull needs an alternative proposal.

On the treatment of asylum seekers Turnbull, amid international human rights condemnation, vacillates between appeasing the hard right wing and what his Christian conscience tells him. Or ‘intellectual compassion’ as he puts it. On the field of war you cannot always expect people to act rationally. The same applies to incarcerated innocent people. They don’t, however, deserve life sentences when innocent of any crime.

And health policy has become a mess and both parties will need to address it in the near future.

Thus it is that Bill Shorten has gone from short odds to win the next election to rank outsider. He doesn’t have the charisma of Turnbull and although the Royal Commission has found him innocent of any wrongdoing, some mud has stuck. The recent revelation of branch stacking simply underscores the negative view people have of him.

On the brighter side, whatever tax package Turnbull takes to the election will be a hard sell and it will give Labor a decent campaign pitch. Notwithstanding the importance of economics, Shorten must come up with a narrative that grabs the attention of the community.

How should he go about it?

A starting point would be a narrative about the decline in our democracy and the conservative’s participation in it. He could take the moral high ground, even acknowledge the faults, the corruption on both sides together with the destruction of our parliamentary conventions and institutions. Shout the need for a new truly representative democracy as often as Abbott said; “Stop the Boats”.

In every utterance, good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it. Differentiate and deliver a campaign message that speaks to young and old alike by appealing to people to participate in this new democracy where all policy is centered on the common good. I can hear the first sentence of his first speech:

“I speak to all who have a common interest in renewing our democracy regardless of ideological association”.

Besides internal reform that engages its members, Labor needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways of doing politics: ways that engage those that are in a political malaise so that they feel part of the decision-making process again.

Some examples of this are fixed terms, and the genuine reform of Question Time with an independent Speaker. Mark Latham even advocates (among other things) its elimination in a new book. In fact, regardless of what you may think of him, he has many suggestions of considerable merit.

Among many other things Shorten needs to promote the principle of transparency by advocating things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign, and policies and costing submitted in the same time frame. You can add reform of the Senate into this mix, and perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum. Also things like implementing marriage equality and a form of a National ICAC. Perhaps even a 10 point common good caveat on all legalisation.

He needs to convince people of a collective democracy that involves the people. A creative and exciting one.

In a future world dependent on innovation it will be ideas that determine government, and not the pursuit of power for power’s sake.

His narrative must convince the lost voters who have left our democracy to return. (and I am assuming that most would be Labor). He has to turn Labor’s ideology on its head, re-examine it, and then reintroduce it as an enlightened opposite to the Tea Party politics that conservatism has descended into.

Uppermost in his mind should be the “say it like it is” rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

He must promote and vigorously argue the case for action against growing inequality in all its nefarious guises, cast off its socialist tag and replace it with a simple proposition of the common good versus elitism. The same fight must also be had for the future of the planet.
He must turn his attention to the young, and have the courage to ask of them that they should go beyond personal selfish desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial, but greatness. That they should not allow the morality they have inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality of right-wing political indoctrination.

He might even make it Labor policy to lower the voting age to sixteen (16 year olds are given that right in the Scottish referendum). An article I read recently suggested the teaching of politics from Year 8, with eligibility to vote being automatic if you were on the school roll. Debates would be part of the curriculum and voting would be supervised on the school grounds. With an aging population the young would then not feel disenfranchised.

Now that’s radical thinking; the sort of thing that commands respect. It might also ensure voters for life.

Perhaps the first thing he should do is employ a stylist. He always looks like he’s had a night on the town, worn the suit to bed and has never learnt to tie a knot. That aside Labor has its back to the wall.

The ALP’s chance of winning the election has likely evaporated with the fall of Abbott. It has no choice but to go with Shorten.

Whether he has the ideas to match Turnbull is unknown. What is known is that he certainly doesn’t have the charisma.

 

‘Day to Day Politics’ with John Lord

Saturday 21 November

1. Whether those of us on the left of politics like it or not it has to be recognised that as Marius Bensen puts it:

The Australian public has been watching Turnbull in different roles on the public stage for decades, but it looks like his performance as Prime Minister is the most acclaimed to date’”.

For years now Australians have been complaining about the quality of our leaders and the revolving door quality of it. In the absence of a Whitlam-like figure has Turnbull maintained the rotation?

2. A wooden boat has neared Christmas Island and been boarded by the navy, sparking speculation it could carry asylum-seekers. Will they really just tow it back to sea, wave goodbye and shout “safe journey”? Is that what they call saving lives at sea?

3. Clive Palmer is advocating that only the Church should have the right to marry people. Everyone else gets a civil union. Now that’s equality for you.

4. Yesterday I wrote that Scott Morisson said he was back on track to a surplus. But what is the importance of a surplus?

In the past 79 years we have had 12 of any significance. Once by Ben Chifley, three times by Bob Hawke, and eight times by John Howard, who shared another with Rudd, who was elected during the 2007-08 fiscal year. The surpluses by Howard came from an unprecedented, never to be repeated mining boom and the sale of public assets.

5. The Arts community was stunned when the Abbott Government announced earlier this year it would redirect $104.7 million from the Australia Council to a new fund administered by the Arts Ministry. New Communications and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield has come up with new guidelines for the distribution of funds but is it just a rebrand or a meaningful plan?

6. On a not so newsy day here is something to think about:

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile” (​Robert Kennedy 1968).

7. The weekly poll aggregate reading now has the Coalition well ahead of its position at the 2013 election, with Bill Shorten’s personal ratings continuing to sink. The latest is 54.4-45.6 to the Coalition

8. It says much about the decline in American society when an individual of dubious character like Donald Trump could even remotely be considered worthy of standing for the highest office. Suggesting that some citizens should wear something that identified them as somehow different from other citizens is obnoxiously outrageous in the worst possible way. American freedom?

9. In a week and a half the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will begin in Paris. Delegates from 195 countries, plus representatives from countless companies and NGOs, will come together with the avowed goal of reaching an agreement on climate and emissions. I dare to hope that I will never have to say this again:

“In terms of the environment. I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today”.

All up, there will be more than 40,000 attendees. That’s a lot of delegates, but what they’re trying to achieve is a colossal enterprise that will affect the billions now living and all those who will ever be born.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Free speech does not mean it should be free from ethics. Like truth for example”.

Democracy: The Genie is out of the bottle

Equality and freedom are two core component of democracy. Whether it’s me, you or Malcolm Turnbull walking into that polling booth on election day – everybody’s vote is equal and we are free to vote however we like.

But there’s a lot more to democracy than that. In the often quoted words of American President Abraham Lincoln:

Democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people.

The concept of democracy has been around for thousands of years, but the way it works in practice has started to change this century. And that change has seen the average person in the street unwittingly gain more power in the political process – here’s how…

The balance of power in a democracy

A democracy is arguably the only model of government that aims to distribute power equally – to give everyone an equal voice, an equal say. But history has shown that we – the people – are not particularly good at holding on to democracy.

Democracies have risen and fallen over the centuries.  And when they’ve fallen, it’s been pretty much the same story every time – the average punter has let the balance of power that exists between the rights of the individual and the rights of the government shift too far in favour of the government. While this sometimes happens as a violent coup, more commonly it happens as people give up freedoms – like their right to privacy – one at a time. In the words of the 20th century’s most famous enemy of democracy, Mr Adolf Hitler:

“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time. To erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf)

Historically, one of the reasons that people have let democracy slip away from them is that they have taken it for granted.

In Australia today, many people take democracy for granted because they misunderstand the crucial role that democracy plays in controlling so many key aspects of our daily lives. From what we learn in school, how we drive, how much pay we take home right through to which foods we are able to buy at the supermarket – there is scarcely an aspect of what we do that isn’t impacted by legislation which is created and managed by the government – and therefore ultimately controlled by the democratic process. And yet rather than embracing democracy – people are disillusioned by it.

Disillusionment with democracy

The main institution that most people associate with democracy is their right to vote for a Member of Parliament (an MP) to represent their area (or electorate). That MP – at least so the theory goes – takes their place in the House of Representatives and should be a voice for the people of their electorate. And through that MP – so the theory continues – we all have a say and a vote in how our country is run.

That’s how it’s supposed to be. But in practice, when we head to the polling booths these days – unless you vote for an independent – your vote is normally for one of two political parties rather than for someone to specifically represent your electorate.

When you combine this with the fact that elected MPs often act like they are voted in to rule over us rather than to serve us – the result has been many that many Australians have lost faith in the very concept of democracy, feeling both that their vote doesn’t actually represent their views and that those entrusted with political power through their vote are not using that power particularly well.

In the last federal election, despite it being compulsory to vote, the Australian Electoral commission estimate that one in five eligible voters didn’t vote! And one in four young voters didn’t even bother to enroll.

In fact, in a Lowy Institute poll earlier this year, only 65% of Australians felt that a democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. And among 18 to 29 year olds, it was under 50%. When the Lowy Institute delved into the reasons for this – it turned out that it wasn’t that people thought we should become a fascist state. In fact, the most common reason cited for not believing in democracy was:

“democracy only serves the interests of a few and not the majority of society”

Since democracy as an institution was intended to achieve the exact opposite of this – then the most important thing that this poll tells us is that there is something very wrong with the way we are ‘doing’ democracy today in Australia, and that if we don’t lift our game, we are at risk of losing it.

The good news is that although many don’t realise it, the face of democracy has been changing this century – and strangely enough, as a result, the balance of power has been shifting back in the people’s favour.

The changing face of democracy in the 21st century

The forgotten pillars of democracy

Despite the fact that the role of the average punter in the political process is often associated almost solely with our right to vote, the reality is that there are a number of other core principles of democracy that we often forget about – including our right to freedom of information and freedom of speech.

Our ability to take advantage of these freedoms has changed drastically this century – and that change has brought about what is arguably one of the biggest shifts in the way democracy works since Aristotle first said “Let’s have a show of hands” back in Ancient Greece. This shift has happened not through our antiquated parliamentary houses and the parliamentarians who sit in them – but through the information revolution brought about by the internet. Thanks to the internet, we now have far greater:

  • Freedom of Information through ready access to unfiltered primary sources of information around the Globe; and
  • Freedom of speech through an ability to both voice our opinion and connect with others in a way that we never have before.

And many politicians don’t like it.

Politicians are quite happy to talk philosophically about the importance of ‘Freedom of information’ and ‘Freedom of speech’ – because in days gone past, these were principals which in practice would cost an individual a tremendous amount of time, effort and money to use. This dissuaded most from doing so – and instead we all had to rely on the ‘fourth estate’ – the media – to check out and validate politicians’ claims and press releases.

This meant that the average punter had very little – if any – opportunity to personally check out whether what politicians were telling us was true. And we had very little opportunity to have a say about what was going on – other than through an organised protest march or perhaps a letter to the editor or your local MP. The media acted very much as an information filter – and on the whole , we had no option but to believe them and hope that they were doing their job to validate facts, identify discrepancies and tell us what need to know to make an informed judgment about who is running the country.

(Given the quality – or lack thereof – that comes out of some of the mainstream media outlets today, a number of whom seem to act more like extensions of the government’s press office than newspapers –  this is somewhat disturbing.)

This century however, with so much information readily available on the internet, we don’t have to rely on the media to do our fact-checking for us. Each of us can download an individual politician’s expenses from the Department of Finance and see for ourselves exactly how many chopper rides they’ve taken. And once accessed, we can readily share this information with people around the globe – both known to us and unknown to us – in a matter of seconds.

The boundaries have shifted

Greater freedom of information and freedom of speech has brought about a shift in the boundaries of the democratic power-base. We – the people – have unwittingly claimed back some of the power that has been stripped away from us over the years. Politicians don’t have to wait for a poll now to hear what people think – they can go online and read all about it – in online comments on mainstream media news site, on independent news site like the AIMN, on social media, on blogs – the list goes on.

Where previously politicians could cultivate a relationship with key people in the media, and to some extent manage and control what was presented to the general populace and what was amplified – this has now become a lot more difficult. We now have a far greater say in what we think is important than we did before.

This shift in the balance of power has literally brought governments down. You need look no further than the recent Arab Spring democracy uprisings in the Middle East, which many argue would not have happened without social media.

Of course anything powerful can be used both for good and for bad – and we have also seen examples of how the internet and social media has been used to harm. But even taking that into account, the power to have a say in the destiny of our nation is now at least partially back where the founders of democracy intended it to be – in the people’s hands.

We now have REAL freedom of information and REAL freedom of speech – where previously we just had it in theory. Ok, maybe ‘real’ is a bit strong – we are living in the age of ‘on-water matters’ after all. So let’s just say that our ability to exercise freedom of information and freedom of speech is much greater now than it ever has been.

The Genie is out of the bottle

The internet – or information Genie –  is out of the bottle, and governments around the world are feeling the pinch, and rushing to do what they can to get that Genie back under control again.

This change is upsetting the political apple-cart – and there are those in power who don’t like that they can no longer control the narrative quite as well as they used to be able to. Our recently dethroned ex-prime minister Tony Abbott was well known for criticising twitter – calling it ‘electronic graffiti‘ and Australia ‘at its worst’. And the government of Nauru recently shut down social media primarily to silence opposition.

The challenge that we now face is to understand and take advantage of this power shift, to use this Genie to correct the boundaries around our government’s power and restore the balance.

With these newly accessible freedoms, we can more actively participate in democracy – we can drive change from the bottom up instead of waiting for our politicians to get out of their hermetically sealed bubbles steeped in outdated political traditions. Without these freedoms, we risk going back to a nation fed on what the media tells us, blithely oblivious to key aspects of what our government is doing on our behalf and in our name.

There’s more to this …

Politics is not something many people talk about often. Democracy even less so. There’s a lot more to cover on this topic, so I’ve split the discussion on this into four articles – this one plus a further three – coming soon – which will cover:

  • Voting: it’s all about the money
  • Information: it’s all about control
  • Democracy: it’s all about you.

And finally – remember curiosity didn’t kill the cat, complacency did

One of the things our disengagement with democracy has done is to make many feel disempowered – like the things that are happening in the world today, or even just in our nation, are somebody else’s problem, that there is nothing that we can do to fix them. They aren’t somebody else’s problem. They are our problem.  And there is plenty that each of us can do. Many pollies want us to stay out of it, to stay disengaged – a public that doesn’t ask questions doesn’t create problems. 

But heed this warning from a previous president of the United States – John Adams:

“Remember, democracy never lasts long……There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

The way to stop this from happening is to get and stay engaged with what is going on politically. To have your say. To engage with others about real issues.

Public opinion matters big-time now – arguably more than it ever did. And you play a role in forming that opinion every time you have a conversation with someone about national and global issues. It turns out we really are all only separated by six degrees – even less so within an individual country. This means that the conversations you have with your friends, family, colleagues and even online connections matter. Whether those conversations are in person, on Facebook, on a news site, a blog or on Twitter –  it’s those conversations that change public opinion. And changing public opinion impacts the way our government acts.

That’s true democracy in action.   

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation

 

Day to Day with John Lord: the GST

Wednesday 4 November

1 Debate on an increase or expansion to the GST continues.

An observation:

The GST burdens those with the least capacity to pay. It discriminates against the poor and the pensioners who are living a hand-to-mouth existence and spending the bulk of their income on the necessities of life—food, clothing, rent, heating, power etc”.

They talk about compensation for pensioners if an increase to the GST goes ahead. For example, when they recently changed the method of calculating periodic rises resulting in the average pensioner losing $3000 dollars over the next few years. Seriously, pensioners would be just catching up, not compensated. You don’t have to have a university degree to see that pensioners will be hurt with a GST rise.

2 It was only a matter of time before the permanent and in-disposable Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop effectively endorsed same-sex marriage. She falls in behind every leader.

Or as one Facebook user said.

The brazen bare-faced hypocrisy of this self-aggrandizing old piece of mutton dressed up as lamb is just breath taking … does she seriously think we really don’t notice her blatant bullshit?

… really???

vote3 Fairfax is reporting that Tony Abbott was intending a double dissolution election early in 2016 before he was replaced. It’s probably correct because another budget might have seen any hope he had of winning completely hit for six.

4 But if the PM announces an election date he will have to produce a budget in May shaped around an election in September/October next year. A difficult task given the state of the economy. There won’t be room for any good news. However there is still the issue of the present to attend to. Those on the extremities of his party, the nutter fringes, still have their eyes wide open looking for signs of the Malcolm who wanted to do something about climate change.

Republican Malcolm with the wider world view. The one who doesn’t fit the narrow minded Liberal/National heartland of the Joyce’s, Bernardy’s and the Abbott Christian fundamentalists. Since taking over as leader he has been more talk than action, mostly atmospherics, but one has to concede that he has made progress including dumping the hardline university deregulation package (although Labor says it is only parked); scrapping the lid-doffing folly of knights and dames; proposing federal money for mass urban transit rather than for roads exclusively; inviting a genuine tax debate, including an increase to the GST in exchange for other employment-creating cuts; supporting a debate about an expanded ground-to-ground nuclear industry; preparing a more extensive and centrally influential innovation statement; and generally fostering an atmosphere of sensible argument. His approach so far has been to try to please everyone, put everything on the table.

The problem with that is that you can leave a lot to clean up afterwards. That’s when the rubber gloves hit the hot water and there’s a fight about who wants to dry. Or the dish washer can’t cope with an over full load. So far he has eliminated from the menu the university reforms, and compromised on proposed welfare cuts and of course the knights and dames were always disposable napkins. There’s a lot to serve up to an electorate starved of good policy from Government that has made a meal of governance for over two years.

 MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:

 “What is the difference between the purpose of life and the reason for it?”

 Read some views here.

 

The relevance of Tony Abbott

By Paul G. Dellit

Now That The Lunatic Is No Longer In Charge Of The Asylum . . .

That’s unfair. Tony Abbott neither is nor was a lunatic. In the view of this writer, he was, at least as far as his Prime Ministerial persona was concerned, a brawling, misogynistic, serial-lying, duplicitous, incompetent, inarticulate, graceless buffoon. And he sought to mask all of these character traits with slogans and repetitions of slogans, and repetitions of repetitions of slogans said with animus as if to imbue them with the gravity they lacked . . . but he was not a lunatic.

We could go on, well into the night, reciting the many failings of this man in the role of Prime Minister and in the role of sensitised human being – but it would avail us nothing. It is not often wise to quote Senator Eric Abetz – in fact it is frequently impossible to quote the good Senator accurately, given the number of extra syl-lie-bles he finds for each word – but he said it all, ruby cheeked and trembling of hand, when asked about his prospects of a Ministerial position post Abbott. “The king is dead . . .”, he said. He didn’t add, “bur-i-ed, and cre-may-ted”. He didn’t need to. Former Prime Minister Abbott is now relevant to the current political scene in Australia only insofar as he is the exemplar of how not to do it.

However, it seems that life’s reversals are not learning experiences for Anthony John Abbott. He has already broken a post-Prime Ministerial promise to go gently into the night. He was, as he would have it, the victim of external forces, not personal failings, just as was Peta, she said, victimised because her name wasn’t Peter, even though she was responsible for the LNP winning the 2013 election.

But the purpose if this article is not to indulge in necrocide. Nor is it, in Shakespearean terms, to bury Tony Abbott without praise. And here I must crave your indulgence. The purpose of this article is to praise our most recently deposed Prime Minister.

It is easy to consider that man as little more than political carrion, but he did render a service to us for which we must be eternally grateful. It was for the fact that he was true to himself. From beginning to end, he was a shining beacon for right wing extremists in Australia (and Canadia). He gave them the status of having one of their own occupying the highest political office in the land. He gave the timorous within their ranks the courage to openly express their inner voices. He gave them licence to propose the policies and schemes, hitherto concealed, by which they would seek to transform Australia. And he gave them the belief that he had within his power the means to pursue those ends on their behalf. In short, the praiseworthy service Tony Abbott rendered to Australia was to expose the agenda of our extreme right wing while at the same time unwittingly laying IEDs along the road to their ultimate defeat.

Some of you may remember my article in May of this year, ‘Australian Democracy at a Tipping Point‘ which argued that Prime Minister Abbott was setting about the abolition of the rule of law and, given his way, would replace it, step by step, with rule by unchallengeable Ministerial fiat. The ratio decidendi of Ministerial decisions and the evidence upon which they were based would be kept secret, with any disclosure without Ministerial permission punishable by law. This attempt by the Abbott Government has largely been stymied by the effects upon the Senate of the outcries of respected lawyers and large sections of the public. While the rump of this Abbott initiative remains in play, a preponderance of legal opinion has it that these remnants to the original bill, if passed, would be struck down by the High Court. We seem to be out of danger on this score for now.

However, there are many precedents for democratic governments being overthrown by right wing movements. Their first item of business after gaining power is to restructure government in ways that would fit comfortably alongside the challenges to democracy proposed in the original Abbott bill. Had circumstances been different, had those with ultimate power in Australia decided they wanted that bill passed into law, its passing would have set a precedent for other such laws to follow. A clever strategist could then have set about introducing small changes, none of which would seem so egregious as to warrant a revolution, but by accretion would, like boiling frogs by raising the water temperature slowly so that they become inured to change, kill our Westminster system of government.

Minister Dutton and others attempted to promote the original Abbott bill by assuring the public that the LNP would never abuse the power it gave them. Yet there is evidence that even without the power of that bill passed into law, the extreme right wing abuse what power they do have.

A recent FOI request revealed a case in point: A man of some power and influence within business and politics in Australia, Maurice Newman, used that power and influence to arrange for The Australian newspaper to launch an attack upon the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). The willingly complicit Murdoch press manufactured evidence to claim that that the BoM had manipulated and falsified data to suit a left wing climate change conspiracy. With this campaign of misinformation successfully launched, Maurice Newman had provided the excuse for his close friend, Tony Abbott, to launch a Prime Ministerial foray into the data gathering and analysis functions of the BoM. The nature and tone of his intervention was manifestly designed to intimidate the BoM into toeing the Abbott/Newman climate change denial line – clear evidence of an attempt to smother science with extreme right wing ideology.

More importantly, the attempt to manipulate the work of the BoM demonstrated Prime Minister Abbott’s propensity for using the power of the Executive to covertly exert anti-democratic influence upon role of the Public Service to provide “frank and fearless advice”. How many other attempts, successful or otherwise, might he have made to pervert the fundamental principles upon which our system of democracy is based? We may never know, but, on balance, we don’t have to care. If there are further examples to be unearthed, they will be because, by his own actions, he has ensured that he will not be around to covertly carry them through. His interference with the BoM was undertaken before he had rendered the FOI legislation impotent. And all of his other assaults upon democracy in the prosecution of his extreme right wing agenda were committed before he had shored up his defences against the democratic backlash that was ultimately his undoing:

  • The appointment of his benefactor, Dyson Heydon to run the TURC (This is not to say that a TURC was not justified, whatever Abbott’s motives for creating it, but Dyson Heydon’s appointment ensured that the partiality of the Commissioner and his commitment to causing as much mud as possible to stick to the ALP was never in doubt).
  • The appointment Bronwyn Bishop (nee Setright) as a highly politicised Speaker.
  • Reposing in his unelected Chief of Staff the extraordinary executive power to control the actions of elected representatives, including Ministers, culminating in the directions issued from her Office which resulted in Border Force officers roaming the streets of Melbourne with the stated intention of randomly stopping and questioning members of the public under pain of arrest.
  • And of course, the law, passed with the supine collaboration of the ALP, that threatens whistleblowers with imprisonment for following their own professional standards and obligations – a law that allows the most egregious abuses of the human rights of people under the Government’s control without any legal means of exposure.

So I for one am grateful to Tony Abbott for dragging the extreme right agenda into full public view and epitomising, Pauline Hanson-like, the kind of irrational, ideologically driven, callous people who would prosecute it if they had the chance.

 

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