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In the words of Julie Bishop, “You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative.”

In 2007, Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop accused Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard of behaving like a “fashion model or TV star” rather than a politician.

You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

Ms Bishop said posing for magazine covers was “not my style”.

“Of course, people want to know more about you, but I don’t think you should be courting that celebrity status as if you’re a fashion model or a TV star, because you’re not,” she said.

Move along a few years to when Julie is “living the dream”, as she put it in an interview with Who magazine in December 2014.

“I can’t imagine a better job than the one I have,” she said as she posed for the magazine featuring an article where she “talks fashion, running, and style”, having also done a cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar the previous month.  In 2015, it was Vogue.

It seems Ms Bishop now considers herself very much a celebrity.

“Ms Bishop and her partner David Panton mingled with celebrities and business figures in exclusive marquees on Derby Day and Melbourne Cup Day as guests of an airline company and an alcohol company.”

A statement from her office said “The Minister was invited and attended in her official capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.”

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has argued the case for politicians to attend sporting events on the taxpayer dime.

“I can certainly say as an Australian, I would love to see Australia’s prime minister — I don’t care whether it’s Liberal or Labor — at a key game … between the Wallabies and All Blacks.”

Mr Ciobo seems to have forgotten the deafening booing received by Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the 2014 NRL Grand Final.

Ciobo also defended using his taxpayer-funded car to attend local sport events in his Queensland electorate of Moncrieff, saying: “I think people expect that“.

Would it be too much to ask that you drive yourself to the local footy match?

Defending charging taxpayers for going to the AFL Grand Final, the Trade Minister said, “Ministers or parliamentary secretaries or others are invited to go along to these events specifically by businesses and organisations who are taking the opportunity to showcase themselves there, to take the time to have a conversation in relation to important matters.”

I am not sure how the National Bank “showcases” itself at a football Grand Final and, if there are important matters to be discussed, there are far better places to do it than in the midst of 100,000 screaming football fans.

I beg to differ Mr Ciobo.  You are not celebrities and having a beer with someone does not constitute work.  If you want to take your family to an event, pay for it yourself.  If you want a family holiday, pay for it yourself.

Get over yourselves.

A “Polite Letter” To Malcolm Turnbull!

Dear Mr Turnbull

We have received information from the Australian Tax Office about your employment income. Apparently you have been paid as Prime Minister when it is clear that you have been paying no attention to the mess your government is creating.

What You Need To Do
1. Please check what ridiculous things your MPs have been saying lately
2. Confirm that we are correct in that your only interest in being PM is to swan around saying, “I’m Prime Minister, what are you?”

You can do this by going to a Centrelink office and waiting in line as apparently there’s only a ten minute wait before someone will tell you that you need to go online because they don’t deal with actual people at Centrelink. You can login at the myGov.au website, which takes no time at all because it’s now 2017 and thanks to the Liberals all premises have access to high speed Internet.

What You Need To Know
If you do not respond, you will be charged with fraud where the court case should go something like this:

Prosecution: We think that this man has defrauded us and claimed money that he’s not entitled to.
Judge: Do you have any proof?
Prosecution: No, but he can’t prove that he didn’t!
Judge: What does the defence have to say?
Defence: I thought the obligation was on the prosecution to prove guilt, not the other way around.
Judge: Yes, I thought so too, but not when we enter the political world.
Defence: Oh, in that case, the defence – like the PM – rests.

More Information

If you are found to be merely pretending to be PM you may be subject to a 10% penalty as well as being required to pay back all your salary. However, this may be preferable to actually admitting you had any part in this shambles of a government. Certainly, history will judge you less harshly if you can just pay us to remove all references to you as Coalition leader.

Should you not receive this letter, it’s your fault for not reading the AIMN. However, that is no excuse and you can expect to be visited by a debt collector any day now. Apparently a guy called Tony isn’t doing much and he said he’d be happy to pay you a visit.

Yours sincerely,

Director, Earned Income
Customer Compliance

Compare and contrast: Sussan Ley and Centrelink punters

Such is politics in these interesting times that it’s impossible when alerted to one scandal, to refrain from speculating if it has been confected to distract your attention from another.

So it is with Health Minister Sussan Ley’s current imbroglio which seems, at first blush, a nice little “look over here not there” moment arriving right on top of the Centrelink scandal.

In the former, federal Health Minister Ley appears to have spent an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars travelling to the Gold Coast, including for two New Year’s Eve celebrations (what ministerial duties could she possibly be fulfilling on New Year’s Eve at the Gold Coast?) and, conveniently, at the time of the auction purchase by herself and her partner, a Gold Coast businessman, of an $800,ooo apartment close to his office.

Noice.

Here is an analysis by the ABC of Ms Ley’s spending.

Ley has agreed to in part pay back some of these taxpayer dollars, acknowledging her fraudulent misappropriation of the money was “an error of judgement.” Many of us think of these behaviours as criminal activities that ought to be investigated by the AFP, but it all swings on the narrative.

In stark contrast, the AFP has joined forces with Centrelink to distribute intimidating letters threatening punters with jail if they might possibly have at some time in the last six years fraudulently claimed welfare benefits. People are advised to pay back the amounts Centrelink determined they owed, prior to any evidence that they actually owed anything. Three debt collection agencies have been contracted by Centrelink to pursue debtors, whether the validity of their debt has been established or not. This is an action Australian Lawyers for Human Rights describe as an abuse of legal process.

It does make sense that calling in debt collectors to pursue an alleged debtor before the debt has even been validated might well be an abuse of legal process. Somehow this fact escaped the notice of the Centrelink overlords, or perhaps they simply don’t care. It’s the government’s intention to continue this extortion for the next four years, making a total of ten years illegally hunting down welfare recipients in order to raise $4.6 billion to fix the budget.

In any case, the contrast between the treatment of Centrelink punters and the treatment of Health Minister Sussan Ley could not be more stark. If it was hoped the Ley affair might distract from the Centrelink debacle, well, no. But I do understand that the LNP would think it might, as they are largely brain-dead.

And then yesterday the Australian’s star turn and renowned dog lover Chris Kenny hove into view, with a tweet on the Ley affair to the effect that “there’s a very experienced health minister waiting in the wings.” Ahahaha! the thlot pickens!

Of course that very experienced health minister must be Tony Abbott, and of course Ley was first outed by the Murdoch hacks.

And so, Turnbull is wedged. If he doesn’t demote Ley: trouble from the voters. If he demotes Ley and doesn’t replace her with Abbott, who has long been agitating for a return to the front bench, he’s in serious trouble with the far right-wing.  Ley is also one of Turnbull’s few allies, and he won’t want to lose her from his cabinet.

However this plays out, the contrast between the manner in which Sussan Ley is treated and the treatment of Centrelink punters could not be a more outstanding example of what the Turnbull government thinks of its citizens. Ley, who ought to be investigated for fraud, is permitted to apologise and pay back the money. Centrelink punters are threatened with jail and repayment of monies, whether they’ve committed fraud or not.

Some humans really are more equal than others.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Update: Sussan Ley has since stood down as Health Minister pending travel expenses investigation.

 

A simplified guide to work entitlements and cutting costs

In order to avoid “errors of judgement” and “flights inadvertently booked for official travel rather than private”, and to help with budget repair and reducing carbon footprint, here are a few tips for politicians.

Stop flying to places outside your electorate to make announcements.

The Federal government is located in Canberra.  That is where announcements should be made.  If there is an area specific component, then the local member can elaborate to their electorate.

Stop charging the taxpayer for your attendance at sporting and cultural events.

If you have been lucky enough to be given free tickets to an event, be grateful, but pay for your own travel and accommodation.  Barnaby Joyce’s excuse that you have to hire limos or use comcars because you are obliged to drink doesn’t pass the wine bar test.

Weddings are not official business unless a foreign head of state is getting married and you are representing the government.

Claims of “networking” are not acceptable.  You should not expect to be paid for having a chat or being at the same function as someone you may have future official dealings with.  Attending a colleague’s wedding, or your own in the case of WA MP Steve Irons, is not government business.

Stop taking your spouse to work.

In 2016 the House of Representatives sat on 51 days.  That leaves 315 days when they didn’t have to be in Canberra.  There may be certain occasions where it is appropriate for your family to join you – first and final speeches for example – but to suggest that you need family reunions means you have chosen not to see your family during the 45 weeks you are not in Canberra.

Do not organise meetings around visits to your investment properties or parties you want to attend

It is a very bad look to have a contrived meeting and then go on to your investment property or hobby farm.  And last minute photos just before you fly out after attending parties do not entitle you to claim for travel and accommodation.

Stop the narcissistic need to have your photo taken.

It is not necessary to fly thousands of kilometres to have your photo taken with a shovel to announce investment in building infrastructure.  It is not necessary to shut down a workplace so you can be filmed on the factory floor.

Use skype and teleconferencing

Flying dozens of bureaucrats business class from Canberra and all over Europe to get together in Paris to discuss how they can cut costs is not productive or cost-effective, or even vaguely justifiable.  Use Skype and tele-conferencing and emails.

Use the internet instead of study tours

Going to a golf tournament on the other side of the country, Steve Irons again, or having a between flight layover in Kuala Lumpar, Barnaby Joyce, do not constitute “study”.  You can save time and money by researching on the internet or asking the many experts specifically employed to do research for the government.

Stop using accommodation allowances to pay off your mortgages.

I know you all do it, and it is “within the rules”, but that doesn’t make it right.  Change the rules.  And while you are at it, build an accommodation wing on Parliament House and we could save a fortune on accommodation allowances, comcars and security whilst reducing wasted travelling time and increasing politicians’ productivity.

Reduce your number of offices

There is absolutely no need for MPs to have multiple offices.  It’s not like they are sitting there at the counter waiting to have a chat with you.  Use communication technology to engage with your constituents.  Answer their emails or their questions on facebook.  Return phone calls where necessary.  Shopfronts do not equate to availability.

 

There are countless examples of enormous waste in government spending – welfare is not one of them.

Get your own house in order.

How Turnbull plans to raise $4.6 billion from the unemployed

The Turnbull government plans to raise a windfall of $4.6 billion over the next four years, and this is how they intend to do it.

Centrelink is averaging annual earnings over every fortnightly reporting period. This means that you are determined by them to have earned income at the same time as you received unemployment benefits. Therefore, you must pay those benefits back.

First you receive a letter advising of discrepancies between ATO and Centrelink records. You are asked to provide pay slips etc, and declare your income for the year/s in question. When you declare income, your problems can begin in earnest. Declared income is averaged out, Centrelink claims you’ve earned in every fortnightly reporting period, a debt is raised against you, you are threatened with debt collectors and ultimately jail, if you don’t comply.

In fact, you may have been unemployed for six months during which time you were entitled to benefits, then in work for six months. The government intends for you to repay the benefits to which you were absolutely entitled, by averaging out the income you received for six months work as fortnightly income over the entire twelve months.

More and more people are revealing this is exactly what has happened to them. It is the government’s intention to continue this practice for the next four years in order to achieve its $4.6 billion goal.

It beggars belief that this is a systems error. If this is the case, those responsible for the design and implementation of the system are unbelievably, inconceivably incompetent. Centrelink’s Hank Jongen claims the methodology hasn’t changed, but no one has explained why, if nothing has changed, the system has begun averaging annual earnings over every reporting fortnight, and raising debts as a result.

At the same time, Centrelink and the AFP announced the implementation of “Taskforce Integrity” to pursue fraudulent claims. As well, the government declared on the Tuesday before the election that they’d discovered a brand new, unspecified way, to raise $4.6 billion.

The government is falsely accusing people of fraud, by falsely declaring legitimate welfare benefits to be illegitimate. They are threatening people with debt collectors and jail, if the legitimately claimed welfare benefits are not repaid. In other words, unemployment benefits have become repayable loans. I don’t recall that new legislation, or that amendment. Does anyone?

They are doing all this in partnership with the Australian Federal Police.

This is a situation out of a dystopian novel. Kafka comes to mind.

This is no systems error. This is deliberate policy. I hope there are lawyers out there all over this. Because we have to establish exactly who is obtaining financial advantage by deception. Increasingly, it sounds very much as if it is our government, by exploiting people at their most vulnerable.

If this mess is indeed an error and not deliberate policy, Centrelink and the relevant ministers have now been made thoroughly aware of it as such. So why do they continue to insist that nothing is amiss, and why do they not halt the distribution of letters until the error is fixed?

Of course, fixing the error may affect their $4.6 billion dollar goal.

Centrelink has now begun using its Twitter account to refer people to Lifeline if they are experiencing distress. Lifeline is a voluntary organisation given little or no support by the federal government. The government has also ripped millions from frontline services for domestic violence victims, community legal aid centres, and over a billion from aged services. You can bet that these outrageously underfunded services will be stretched to their limits by Turnbull’s latest attack on vulnerable citizens.

I cannot remember anytime in this country when a government department has referred citizens to an emergency service because they are experiencing suicidal levels of distress as a consequence of that government’s policies.

Does anyone?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

On politicians and the age of cruelty

Last night for bedtime reading I was flicking through the philosopher Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

Seneca was born in Roman Spain about the same time as Christ fetched up in a stable, and for balance, on the back of the book cover there’s this:

Seneca may well be history’s most notable example of a man who failed to live up to his principles.

Be that as it may, Letter XC in part considers the character or lack thereof of politicians. It’s striking that Seneca refers to a “Golden Age” in which politicians were chosen for their character, and in which government was in the hands of the wise:

They kept the peace, protected the weaker from the stronger, urged and dissuaded, pointed out what was advantageous and what was not. Their ability to look ahead ensured their peoples never went short of anything…To govern was to serve, not to rule. No one used to try out the extent of his power over those to whom he owed that power in the first place.

But with the gradual infiltration of the vices and the resultant transformation of kingships into tyrannies, the need arose for laws…

Reading this gives me some perspective on our current political plight: we are by no means in a unique political situation, though its manner of expression is peculiar to its context. Seneca didn’t have social media, for example from which platform heads of state threaten one another and life on earth with extinction. But the same moral dilemmas are in play. Abuse of power, tyranny, self-interest, contempt, greed, arrogance, stupidity, cruelty and all the vices. Was it ever thus? Is Seneca’s description of a Golden Age nothing more than a doomed attempt at wish fulfilment? It does read like a fairly tale, or a child’s dream of fairness and justice.

It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to single out one dominant characteristic of the Turnbull government, I think it would be cruelty. I was going to write intentional cruelty, then I realised that cruelty is by its very nature intentional, whether that intention is acknowledged or not. I think we have had governments of which this could not be said, and perhaps that was a relatively Golden Age.

Governments such as ours are not only cruel to individuals and groups, they are cruel to the earth in their exploitation of her resources, and their indifference to the catastrophic consequences of this exploitation.

Each new cruelty is justified by the government as an economic necessity, necessary, that is, for the furtherance of the interests of the already comfortable.

For the Turnbull government, power is cruelty. Its members have no other understanding of power, such as that favoured by Seneca and likely regarded by most of us as, after decades of desensitization, as a laughably unattainable ideal. Cruelty has largely become normalised. There are scattered groups who continue to hold out for kindness, but obviously not enough to ensure a government that performs according to those ideals.

I have no idea how we get out of this most ungolden age, this age of cruelty, but I do think the first step is calling it what it is, consistently and unflinchingly. The cruel rarely enjoy being named as such. As Malcolm Turnbull once complained, it hurts when mean things are said about them.

Cruelty isn’t strength, and it is born of weakness. The Turnbull government is synonymous with cruelty. Let’s not call it, or the politicians in it, anything less than weak and cruel.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Seriously, why would you vote for Pauline Hanson?

“The problem with Hanson is that she moans about what she doesn’t like but never says much about anything else”, wrote Zathras.

Could she be summed up any better than that?

She certainly has history.

When she burst back into the political scene at the last election – as it was in the late 1990s – she won ‘acclaim’ because “she’s not afraid to speak her mind” (or ‘moan’ as Zathras would say), or because “she speaks for me”, or this one: she “stirs things up“. I’ve heard those remarks on countless occasions.

Basically, it would seem, people like her because she speaks. Nothing else. Thousands of Australians voted for her for nothing else than she speaks. Wow, how good’s that? A person who practically holds the balance of power in the Senate is there because she talks. But that’s all she’s good at. She chatters away and sends the fact-checkers off into a frenzy (to ultimately discover that not only does she talk a lot, but she talks a lot of rubbish).

It’s not much of a credential.

Think about it. What solutions has she offered on the range of social or economic woes that recent governments have been incapable of addressing? The answer is simple: nothing. ‘Things’ social or economic are beyond her. Her response to any issue contains the same xenophobic rant, which might as well be “let these people in the country and they’ll take our jobs, get public housing, get the dole, wear clothing that offends me or pee in a hole in the ground”. Oh what a deep reservoir of knowledge she is.

She gets the privilege of having her regular moan to the fawning media and then sits snugly and smugly in the Senate voting with the government more often than any other non-Coalition Senator. So much for speaking her mind, speaking for me, or stirring things up.

At the end of her political career we can look back and ask, “What did she achieve?” Outside of Parliament she will be remembered, primarily, as a loud-mouth who through her intolerance of cultural differences fostered fear and hate towards minority groups. And those people who were inspired to elect her into Parliament – hopeful that fear and hate could somehow be codified into our legislation – will have been disappointed as her only ‘achievements’ were to side with a government who had taken the baton to the nation’s underprivileged.

How can she be speaking for you when all she does is rubber stamp whatever the government proposes? How can she be stirring things up while she’s continually siding with the government? How can she be speaking her mind when inside the Senate she just nods in agreement to whatever the Government says?

Seriously, why would you want to vote for a person like that? Why would you want to vote for someone who says everything and does nothing?

Here’s something else to consider:

The Turnbull Government is confident of securing Pauline Hanson’s vote on key ­pieces of legislation after she indicated to senior ministers that she sees Labor as her “enemy”.

Isn’t the Coalition the “enemy” of Labor? What’s the point of an independent politician or a party who is simply going to put the wants of government ahead of his/her/their electorate or the people who voted for them because the opposition is the enemy? Surely as an independent, Pauline Hanson should be voting on legislation and amendments based on merit rather than on her hatred of Labor

So again I ask, “Why would you want to vote for Pauline Hanson?”

“Because she speaks for me”, you might say.

Fine. But here’s the truth of the matter … she’s certainly not speaking for you where it counts.

She has history on that too.

 

2017: Day 1

 

We never know what a new year holds, but 2017 might be a bit different. If it continues the way 2016 ended – in the world of politics, that is – we may be wishing that 2018 comes quickly.

But we’ll worry about that the other 364 days. Not today. It’s Day 1. The first day of a new year should be one of hope and optimism, not despair.

Day 1 is when we come together and make our plans on how we are going to fix all the wrongs in the world; how we are going to make it a better place than it was only yesterday; how our footprints through the new year will be etched in the sands we travel; and how we will go one step further than the year we just left.

And we will do all this together.

But first, we begin by offering our best wishes for good health and good fortune for the New Year. To everyone who is part of The AIMN, we extend these to you. Thank you too for your support and friendship during 2016.

2017 … it’s time!

 

Why we need more corporate tax cuts

 

ATO data shows that 36 per cent of large companies paid no tax in the 2014-15 financial year. 679 companies including McDonalds Asia Pacific, Chevron Australia, Vodafone Hutchison and News Corp made $462 billion in revenue in Australia last year without contributing a single cent to the nation’s health, education, defense or welfare.

Of the large companies who did pay tax, the effective tax rate on profits was 25 per cent – 5 per cent below the statutory rate of 30 per cent.

Of the 200 largest corporate taxpayers in Australia, companies in the health care, energy and financial sectors paid the lowest effective tax rates of 19 to 24 per cent on a combined income of over $330 billion.

Investors in Australia assume taxpayers will bail out Australia’s big four banks in the event of any of them becoming insolvent. As a result, investors lending to such large banks are prepared to accept lower returns for risk, which lowers how much banks pay for funding. The Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that Australia’s major banks receive an implicit subsidy worth between $1.9 billion and $3.7 billion due to this assumption.

An international report on G20 subsidies found that the Turnbull government is continuing to subsidise fossil fuel production to the tune of $5.6 billion a year. Nearly $6 billion a year is paid to Australian corporations though the Fuel Tax Credit scheme. In 2014 it was estimated that State Governments alone had paid $17.6 billion in subsidies to mining companies over the previous 6 years.

Oxfam Australia estimates that the Australian economy is losing up to $6 billion a year in tax revenue due to Australian-based multinationals shifting money to international tax havens.

The federal government remains committed to doing bugger all about this problem, but they are pushing ahead with their plans to cut corporate tax rates. This means that while we’ll still be up to $6 billion a year down on revenue, corporate tax avoidance will be a lot less of a problem in Australia, because the less tax you’re meant to pay, the less tax you can avoid paying.

So the government would like to wish big business a happy and prosperous 2017. For the rest of us, they’ve had to made make some cut backs.

 

Turnbull jumps the shark

Millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked, as he and his Kaminski-millinered wife Lucy served a few Xmas lunches to people doing it tough, about the death on Xmas eve of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 26, a refugee held illegally on Manus Island by the Turnbull government.

Mr Ahmed had been ill for some time. According to his friend, Abdul Aziz Adam, he was repeatedly turned away from the IHMS clinic on Manus by nurses who accused him of “pretending” to be ill. After collapsing, Mr Ahmed was flown to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, where he subsequently died of his imaginary illnesses.

“The system is designed to kill us one by one,” Mr Adam said on learning of his friend’s death. This is an observation with which I entirely concur.

It is remarkable enough that the Turnbulls’ chose to exploit underprivileged citizens by using their Xmas day as a photo opportunity. It’s not as if the PM is particularly concerned about their fate, having slashed the very funding that holds at least the possibility of relief to homeless people, those whose lives are in chaos as a consequence of domestic violence, disabled people, pensioners, the unemployed and those of us unfortunate enough to struggle with illness. Actually, the only demographic the PM does look upon with tender concern is bankers, mine owners and the otherwise wealthy.

However, when the PM was asked at this occasion about the death of Mr Ahmed, an innocent man who had been declared by the UN to be a refugee, he defiantly replied that he stood by his government’s policy to protect our borders and stop deaths at sea.

Quite why refugees have to live miserable lives and die in their twenties in order to protect Australia’s borders remains a dark mystery to me.

Quite why it is entirely immoral to let people die at sea, but entirely moral to let them rot and die on land also remains one of life’s even darker mysteries.

The lie (let us not sugar-coat by using the term ‘post-truth’) the lie that asylum seekers and refugees who arrive here by boat have committed a crime, continues to be the foundation of and justification for successive Australian governments’ murderous policies. This lie is invoked at every turn to justify denial of medical treatment, detention in inhumane conditions, denial of human rights, and destruction of all hope. We do not do these things to convicted murderers and rapists. We strongly disapprove of those who do these things to animals, and when anyone is caught ill-treating animals there is an outcry, sometimes even by Liberals.

What Turnbull accomplished on Xmas day was a staggering performance of hypocrisy that I doubt he will be able to trump in the coming year. In one half hour, from the lofty heights of political position and personal wealth, Turnbull acted out a ghastly and perverted imitation of Christ’s publicly washing the feet of the poor as a lesson in humility to the arrogant.

Turnbull “humbly” served lunch to the very people he victimises. He then instructed the rest of us to “hug” them.

At the same time, he refused to acknowledge that his government’s policies have murdered yet another refugee, who came to us seeking sanctuary from murderers in his homeland.

I think Turnbull’s jumped the shark. Anything that follows can only be pale imitation and dull repetition.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Steve Price: that poor, hard done by old white man

By Dave Chadwick

It has been a pretty busy couple of weeks leading up to Christmas and I was going to leave off the overt political commentary for a while, but since Peter Dutton and Steve Price aren’t going to, it would be remiss of me to stop correcting their ignorance.

The odious Peter Dutton’s disingenuous call for Australians to rise up and fight for a Christmas that was never under threat was disgustingly cynical, even for a man as morally decrepit as he. Unfortunately for our reptilian Minister for Immigration, his attempt to politicise a major holiday celebration came across as pretty transparent and was widely criticised, so I won’t repeat what others have written.

But my attention was caught by the headline that Steve Price felt that “Old white men need to be heard too”. Now ignoring my disappointment that this was even considered worthy of being a headline – as I have said elsewhere there are far better spokesmen for conservative politics than Price – I just couldn’t let these comments go without a response.

But let’s consider these words as if they didn’t come from a belligerent alt-right cheerleader like Price. What if someone I respected said the same thing? First of all, there is a point that Price almost misses in his delivery, and one that could largely be ignored by progressive responses to his latest idiocy. There are many in our society who justifiably feel increasingly marginalised and disempowered as a result of the ongoing process of globalisation. And you don’t need to be part of a disadvantaged minority to find life difficult or to feel that society’s odds are stacked against you. White males and their families are a segment of this group of battlers who are struggling with increasing unemployment and underemployment (anyone still want to tell me the Coalition is better at handling the economy?), rising house prices, the predatory gambling industry and continued cuts to services and welfare.

Quite fairly, many people in these circumstances feel their concerns are not important to a political class that seems far more concerned about pleasing its political donors. Many will also feel that their struggle is not given the same status or sympathy as that of recognised minority groups and that their immediate problems are a greater concern than climate change or the ASX. The resentment of feeling like an ‘invisible minority’ is dangerous because it can be channelled by nativist politicians as evidenced by Brexit and Donald Trump (and Adolph Hitler for that matter). So in amidst Price’s bristling self-entitlement there is a kernel of truth. The disenfranchisement of the poor needs to be addressed and if were to be addressed through engagement and inclusive policies without the cynical scaremongering our politicians lazily resort to, we would probably have less idiots like Malcolm Roberts elected and a better functioning democracy.

But Price isn’t actually concerned about that, since appealing to people’s resentment seems to be part of his business model. Sounding a bit like George Brandis defending people’s right to be bigots, the shock jock argued that the views of older white men deserved greater prominence in Australian society, suggesting that thanks to ‘lefties’ you had to be a feminist or member of the LGBTI community to be taken seriously.

Is he for real? The only time LBTI advocates are heard from is on LGBTI issues such as marriage equality (and then the old white men in government still ignore them), whereas old white men are heard all the time. They hold the majority of positions of power in government, the public service, the media and major corporations. You see them interviewed in positions of assumed expertise and status every day. Even more than they are heard, their actions are felt for it is they that hold the positions of power and whose decisions affect thousands of less fortunate Australians.

Sadly for the disenfranchised Anglo Saxon, the old white men whose words and actions take such precedence in our world do little to help them. The cost-cutting, tax evasion, property speculation and use of offshore labour that our elite make regular use of are part of the reason there is such inequality and resentment within Australian society.

Old white men are heard alright. The fact that Price’s statement was newsworthy makes it pretty much self-contradictory to begin with. And I can’t go a day without hearing complaints on social media that being a white man isn’t quite as advantageous as it used to be. Being heard isn’t your problem Steve, nor is being taken seriously. Your problem is that when you are taken seriously, people think about what you are saying and you are being heard for what you are, so many of us react with appropriate disdain.

This isn’t to say we can’t be tolerant of conflicting opinions in public debate (although if Price is calling for this, that is a level of extreme hypocrisy few people even attempt), so I agree with the premise that people shouldn’t be judged and condemned for holding outdated conservative views. For some people it takes time and, as I said earlier, constructive engagement, for those views to shift. We don’t change their mind by ostracising them from the conversation or ridiculing them. However, when their views lead to behaviour that affects others unfairly, then people are open to justifiable criticism.

Steve, when you start presenting evidence that old white men are disproportionately represented in mortality statistics, incarceration rates or unemployment statistics, then I will be every bit as sympathetic as I am to the plight of other disadvantaged groups; but if you just complain that your conservative throwback opinions are not being given the same uncritical respect they once enjoyed in the good old days when you were more free to racially and sexually vilify minorities, you will continue to be heard and mocked for your bigotry. You won’t get the respect you crave from those of us who take you seriously enough to consider your claims through a critical lens.

This article was originally published as ‘Steve Price‘ on Quietblog.

 

A depressing story about rorting

Once upon a time Bronwyn Bishop was appointed Speaker of the House of Representatives and given a taxpayer-funded salary of $341,477. During that time she ignored the long standing convention of a bipartisan Speaker by continuing to attend government meetings and party fundraisers.

In addition to her salary, between July 2013 and June 2016, Bishop claimed $1,900,201.65 in expenses. In 2014 alone she claimed over $800,000. In the second half of that year Bishop spent $130,889.80 on travel expenses. These included $42,805.51 on an 11-day trip to South East Asia in September 2014, $88,084 on a 15-day official visit to Europe while she was running for the presidency of the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union in October, and $5,227.27 for a charted helicopter flight to a Liberal Party fundraiser from Melbourne to Geelong (a 90 minute drive) in November.

Following an announcement that the Department of Finance would be investigating Bishop’s expense claims over the previous 16 years, Bishop resigned as Speaker in August 2015.

Bishop now works for Sky News as a political commentator. This week in response to Tony Abbott’s claim that governments have been far too ready to put people with bad backs and ‘a bit of depression’ on the disability support pension, Bishop said:

‘There are a large number of people who were rorting it and there are a large number of people who are drug addicts and they think they meet the criteria.”

According to Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute and the Australian Government:

45 per cent of Australian will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime;

Around 1 million Australian adults currently have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety;

One in 16 Australians aged 16 to 24 is currently experiencing depression;

One in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition;

One in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition;

Suicide is the biggest killer of Australians aged 16 to 24 accounting for 10.5 per cent of deaths, more than car accidents (6.4 per cent);

Every day, at least six Australians die from suicide and a further thirty people will attempt to take their own life;

Australians are more likely to die by suicide than skin cancer;

This year the Department of Health announced it would strip over $140 million in funding from the Early Psychosis Youth Services (EPYS) program;

Since 2013 the Federal Government has cut nearly $1 billion in funding for community services.

The Disability Support Pension is $797.90 per fortnight.

Bronwyn Bishop receives a taxpayer-funded pension of $255,000 plus 10 free domestic return flights a year.

And she lived happily ever after.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

Lose an election?  Not to worry.  Have we got a job for you!

Remember Jamie Briggs, the Minister sacked from his position for “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague and then summarily ousted in the election, losing the safe Liberal seat of Mayo with a swing against him of 17.5%?

He has just been appointed to the board of a government enterprise, the Moorebank Intermodal Company Limited.  MIC was established to develop a freight terminal in Sydney’s southwest.

And then there is Andrew Nikolic (above) who also lost his seat with a 10.1% swing against him.

In September last year he had this to say about environmental activism

“…as we know, the intent of this legal activism is not to help but to hinder … These are groups, by the way, that often receive considerable taxpayer-funded charitable status and taxpayer funding. Think about that for a moment – taxpayer funds being used to make Australia a much riskier place to invest. It just beggars belief. Groups involved include Greenpeace, the New South Wales and Queensland Environmental Defenders Offices, Lock the Gate, Beyond Zero Emissions, GetUp and a range of other organisations, including the Australia Institute … It is little wonder that, in the correspondence that I have received on this issue, many people use words like ‘disgusting’, ‘sabotage,’ ‘treason’ and ‘un-Australian’ to describe what it is going on.”

Nikolic has said that the threat of terrorism makes civil liberties “redundant” and objections to new counter-terrorism powers amount to “impractical nonsense”.

Nikolic has no legal experience whatsoever so who better to appoint to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal as a “senior member” with a total remuneration package of between $304,790 and $362,070, with a base salary of at least $222,500 who will now judge appeals on immigration and welfare decisions.

Nikolic is also in receipt of a very generous army pension, not that he’s a double-dipper or anything.

The president of the AAT must be a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, but the tribunal’s other members, who ­review government administrative decisions, may be judges of the Federal Court or Family Court of Australia, lawyers of at least five years’ standing, or persons with “relevant knowledge or skills”.

How Nikolic qualifies as a “senior member” only George Brandis could explain.

And in case you were concerned for Sophie Mirabella who selflessly quit her sinecure at Australian Submarine Corporation to run for public office, worry no more.  Sophie has been employed by Gina Rinehart to be “GM of government and media relations”.  Because we all know how well Sophie gets on with people.

Speaking of which, I wonder how our failed ex-Treasurer now Ambassador to the US is getting on with the President-elect (presuming he now has his number).

Politics is one of the few careers where spectacular failure is no impediment to promotion.

Day to Day Politics: Monday 19 December. A date with destiny.

Wednesday 14 December

1 On Monday 19 December the Treasurer will present the MYEFO midyear report on the state of the economy. Coincidently, or deliberately, on the Saturday prior, The Prime Minister will deliver a speech at the 25th anniversary dinner of the Australian Republican Movement.

What could he possibly say that is any different than his view already expressed, that it’s better to wait until the Queen is no longer with us before taking the next step. Maybe because he is accused of reneging on all that he stands for he will try to regain some lost credibility. If the speech is ”Republic lite” it might be interpreted as just an indulgence.

On Monday the blame game was on in earnest with some fair dinkun conservative dole bludger bashing. It’s all Labor’s fault has been a constant theme for some time now. Morrison had also briefed two newspapers about some analysis that suggested the Rudd government’s big-spending stimulus during the Global Financial Crisis was the cause of the current economic problems. It has since been discredited.

Then at the COAG meeting Turnbull knocks back a perfectly logical means of addressing our energy needs and climate change presented by the chief scientist. Then he tells them to fix the crisis on their own. It doesn’t make any sense.

Might I suggest the Treasurer is frightened of losing Australia’s triple-A credit rating?

More likely, the Prime Minister’s speech, it is an attempt to confuse and bewilder. A distraction from an economic nightmare. The MYEFO report is predicted to show the fiscal outlook could be much worse than what was conveyed in May’s federal budget, potentially increasing the risk of an imminent ratings downgrade.

If that’s the case it will have all sorts of repercussions for Australian banks, business’s and the public in general.

According to the “Roy Morgan” daily news summary. Tuesday  December 13 ratings agency Moody’s has forecast that the combined debt of Australia’s federal and state governments will rise to about $A690bn by mid-2017, compared with $A642bn in June 2016.

But Marie Diron of Moody’s says the Government is likely to reduce the deficit but at a slower pace than forecast in the May 2016 Budget. Moody’s is not expecting to downgrade Australia’s triple-A credit rating, although rival S&P Global Ratings put it on “negative watch” earlier in 2016. So is Morrison not letting on to something.

Let’s harken back to those times when Labor was in office: the press had its balls in a knot, the shock jocks were apoplectic about the debt, and the then opposition led by the lying Abbott were so enraged by it that they were calling for blood. Well it makes one wonder why Labor at least, aren’t doing the same now.

Well here is an exception.

Judith Sloan, prominent conservative economist had this to say:

”The reality is the government’s reform program is thin, with or without Senate co-operation. Mucking around with superannuation, implementing a toothless construction industry watchdog and allowing energy costs to surge: none of these policies will lead to higher economic growth.”

An observation.

“Instead of searching within when we are at fault the first human reaction is to apportion blame elsewhere. Why is that so?”

2 Readers should note that when I quote from Roy Morgan I am in fact quoting from The Australian because they simply reproduce short excerpts from it.

Like this one:

”The Institute of Public Affairs believes that freedom of speech is potentially threatened by section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The institute argues in a submission to the legal and constitutional parliamentary committee that section 18C should be removed in its entirety.”

Doesn’t that make one’s blood boil?

3 The likes of Bernardi, Dutton, Abbott and Hanson won’t read this but I sincerely wish they would.

He appeared on News 24. A teenage boy who when he was on the program with his brother six months ago struggled with his English. This time he was assertive, confident and like most teens said ‘’ya know’’ too much. He had every reason to feel proud and confident. His name is Saad Al-Kassab. Saad had missed two years of school as mortars flew over his home in war-torn Syria.

When he arrived with his family in Australia he was offered a shovel to help with the gardening at Australia’s largest senior Catholic school – Catholic Regional College Sydenham. A scholarship followed and as a result of his determination this year with an ATAR of 96.65, he was dux of his school.

On his family’s arduous journey to this country, through the checkpoints that many go through he studied anywhere he could, sitting exams in cinemas and sports grounds. After experiencing the worst of life he now wants to become a doctor and give back to his adopted country.

During the interview when asked what hope he had for his former country, he said. I hope that one day my country will become a democratic one where people would be able to express their opinions freely.

The hairs on my arms tingle when I’m able to write of these experiences. Saad has been awarded a scholarship at Monash University in Melbourne. His father, a former sales manager for a pharmaceutical company, also works as a labourer at the Catholic school.

Others of course see it differently.

“For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that. For many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it so there would be huge cost and there’s no sense in sugar-coating that, that’s the scenario.”

Peter Dutton. May 2016.

4 Which all rather reminds me of Senator Cormann’s comments that the Federal Government was already investing in domestic violence and a paid leave program would be expensive. Remember they took $300 million out and put back $100million.

“We just believe it’s another cost on our economy that will have an impact on our international competitiveness.”

Why is it conservatives have such little empathy?

My thought for the day.

”If you are not willing to learn then no one can help you but if you are willing too, then no one can stop you.”

 

 

The world is changing…and not in a good way

It seems unnecessary even to say it, but that’s the truth of the matter. The world is changing and not in a good way. It’s the story of the frog in the saucepan.

The water heats up but it’s so comfortable that the poor frog doesn’t realise, until it’s too late, that the ever increasing temperature of the water is slowly boiling him alive.

We are like the poor frogs and the changes in our lives have been, and are, so subtle we don’t catch on until it’s too late. What we have failed to notice is that our so-called democracy has been ripped out from underneath us and replaced with an obscene form of plutocracy.

The truth is, democracy in Australia began to die some thirty years ago. We didn’t cause it. That honour goes to the United States. Richard Nixon set the virus loose when he took America off the gold standard in 1971.

It was Ronald Reagan who lay the groundwork for the virus to spread and spread it did. Western economies followed suit adopting fiat currencies and suddenly the greedy race to the bottom was on.

Fiat currencies are not evil in themselves. They can and should be employed for great good. They can provide full employment, raise living standards; they can eliminate hunger and poverty.

But in Ronald Reagan’s world there was a different agenda. The result is that we now live in a world dominated and controlled by corporate greed.

We don’t know if Nixon or Reagan intended the virus to spread across the globe the way it has, but neither introduced any regulatory barriers to stop what actually happened.

So, those two presidents were at best incredibly naïve or at worst, criminal.

The introduction of fiat currencies opened the way for a paradigm change in the distribution of wealth and power. Then, when Bill Clinton repealed the Glass-Steagall Act he made it so much easier for the crooks to flourish. It has resulted in a measure of inequality not previously experienced by any former civilisation.

Today, democratically elected governments are no more than agents, one might even call them servants, of the super-rich. They do the bidding of those that pay them to keep the masses in check.

In Australia, we only need to look at the list of political donors from the 2013 election to see where the big money came from and where the control lies. And this is only what was declared. How much more and from whom, that went undeclared, we may never know.

And why do they donate? Just take a look at the economic policies of the two major parties, both of whom skew their preferences toward their funding base.

There was a time when economic policies were built within a framework that put people first, that cared for the social consequences. Not anymore. Today, it’s all about serving the interests of the financiers and industrialists to the detriment of communities, of social cohesion.

Today, more than ever, factories are shutting down, car manufacturing plants are closing, engineering plants, that once employed successive generations of the same family are sitting idle, while governments across the country call for even more labour reform.

There are devastating signs all around us of Ronald Reagan’s neo-liberal train wreck and yet, while we feel the water in the saucepan getting a little warmer, the comfort levels are still reading ‘cosy’, blinding us to what is coming.

Three major events this year, Brexit, Trump and Renzi’s failed referendum would have us believe the people are finally saying they have had enough. We might even include Hansonism in that revolt but that would be foolish.

That right-wing conservative shift is little more than a bump in the road. Conservative rebels will soon see how wrong they were, how their protest voice will in fact empower the forces of neo-liberalism even further.

Have we learned anything from the GFC? Watch and listen to these pathetic, opportunistic, mongrel, neo-liberal apologists as they scramble their way out of the ditch they have built.

In the long term, nothing will change except the rhetoric and everything will go back to the way it was beforehand.

The world has changed and not for the better. The inequality gap grows wider and wider. Control of our future is contracting to fewer and fewer.

While we listen to politicians telling us about the debt burden we will hoist upon our grandchildren, little do we realise that the super-rich are already planning our grandchildrens’ future.

The trend is toward longer working hours and lower wages.

The sweat-shops of Asia, the child labour in India and the meagre trickle-down offerings western society has been blinded by today, will pale in comparison to a late 21st century world of total subservience.

Unless those duped by neo-liberalism’s trickle-down fraud, can rise from their present artificially constructed comfort zone and claim their rights beyond a simple Brexit or Trump, western living standards, for other than the super-rich, will continue to decline. The frogs will have left it too late to escape.