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Day to Day Politics: What’s happening in the bear pit?

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Author’s note: I have updated and re-posted this because it is of great public importance.

Has Question Time in the Australian Parliament improved? Well just slightly since Tony Smith took over from Bronwyn Bishop. Bishop was an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest and 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 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 demeanor 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 dispatch 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 Bishop 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. In so far as relevance is concerned it has not improved under Smith.

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. Never the less, 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 Oakshot and Tony Winsor 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. They 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 Speaker’s 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 Speakers Office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speakers 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 from Ministers, 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 misdemeanor 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.”

 

Bearing the brunt of state-sanctioned thuggery: the Centrelink debt debacle

In a classic operation, most commonly perpetrated by telephone conmen and door-knocking scammers, the Turnbull Government has hit the jackpot. Boasting of returns of over $300 million after hitting up only 169,000 Australians, someone deep in the murky depths of Government has clearly been taking lessons from the lowest of predatory scumbags.

The operation, fondly promoted by the Government as a fair way to claw back taxpayer funds from those who were overpaid social security benefits, has reportedly caused significant angst among the most vulnerable in the community.

The debacle was first reported a couple of weeks before Christmas. In July 2016, the Government introduced an automatic debt identification and recovery system which compares annual income reported to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), with self-reports that welfare recipients provide to Centrelink on a fortnightly basis.

The results have been absurd.

Instead of providing people with a chance to address any identified discrepancy, the ‘system’ simply asks recipients to confirm their total income for the year on the MyGov website. If it accords with the ATO assessment (which it will, for any person who has correctly filled out their tax return and honestly reported their income to Centrelink), an automatic debt notification letter is sent where the system has calculated an overpayment.

Now this sounds fair enough – if a debt is owed.

But the process by which the system calculates the debt is scandalous. By averaging out annual earnings over 26 fortnights, it immediately assumes the person has earned income in every fortnight, was not entitled to benefits during the time claimed, and has therefore committed a fraud against the Commonwealth.

If a person disputes the debt, the Government still insists a payment arrangement is made to clear the debt.

If a person doesn’t pay the debt, it is quickly sent on to the debt collectors.

Those who allegedly owe a debt are threatened with jail if they do not pay.

Centrelink itself (the faceless Government organisation tasked with demanding money with menaces), has recommended distraught residents call the suicide prevention hotline, Lifeline, if they are concerned about receiving a debt notice.

Yet despite this blatantly clear admission of the trauma the system is causing innocent people, the Government is steadfastly proud of its money-making mission.

“From what we’ve seen in a high-volume system, it’s actually working incredibly well,” said Social Services Minister Christian Porter.

Here is some news for Mr Porter. Threatening people with unpalatable outcomes if they do not pay money (whether or not they owe it) is a tactic which has been used by unscrupulously vile and hideous individuals and criminal gangs for centuries to generate cash.

Why? Because it works.

If a person is terrified enough, they will pay up.

And when it is the Government making the demands and threatening to bring in the police for non-payment, there is little wonder so much money has already been collected.

The poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged have no chance against the state-sanctioned thuggery of the Turnbull Government.

The Government, in its attempt to save money and create efficiencies, has resorted to the lowest tactic possible: extortion.

Extortion is the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats. It is a criminal offence when practiced by any other individual. It is applauded as an efficiency when practiced by the Government.

While Porter continues to defend the unconscionable system, which violates every ethical principle and is an abuse of legal process, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce attempts to distract from the shitfest by focusing on those who may have been genuinely overpaid.

“I make no apology for making sure that those who didn’t need it, who got it, pay the money back,” Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said.

Little thought seems to have gone into the many innocent people who are caught up in the mess. The Government has admitted itself that around 20% of debt notices are falsely sent and those people owe nothing at all. Of course, the number of those falsely accused of owing money may well be higher if you consider some recipients have been accused of owing thousands of dollars, but may have been overpaid a mere ten or twenty dollars.

The outcry from the general public has been huge. The media, normally keen to stick the boot into the poor, has jumped on it, but the Government is holding its ground.

Just like the criminal underclass of old, who threaten, coerce and menace innocent people into handing over their life-savings, those responsible for the ‘Robo-Debt’ debacle stand firm. Instead of a baseball bat and balaclava, the Government uses the full force of the law and faceless institutions to muscle the vulnerable into submission.

The tactics used by the Government are nothing short of criminal. Those who are traumatized along the way, and who are pushed to the brink of suicide, are simply collateral damage in the Government’s quest to ‘balance the budget’. It has shunned due process and standard principles for debt identification and recovery. It is exploiting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community for monetary gain.

Terrifying innocent people into paying money they do not owe is nothing to boast about. It represents a new low for the Turnbull Government.

But like all conmen and scammers, the only way to make the Government back down, is to show it Australians are not weak and will not put up with thuggery.

Every person who receives a debt notice must ask for a review, lodge a formal complaint if the debt is wrong, and contact the Ombudsman. Contact the media. Contact each and every politician involved, including the Opposition and local MPs.

This is a war on the poor that Turnbull cannot and must not be allowed to win.

Slave trade capitalism and the new Republican Party

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Image courtesy of littlegreenfootballs.com

Time is a funny thing, especially how the same things seem to happen again and again.

In the early nineteenth century, the young United States of America was heading toward civil war.  The practice of slavery had been accepted, but restrained from spreading further, by the Founding Fathers and the new American constitution. However, with the annexing of the new territories in Kansas and Nebraska, slavery was becoming a major fissure in the cultural landscape of the new nation. During the 1850s one of the presidential hopefuls, Henry Seward made a speech addressing the growing disparity between the wealthy slave owners in the South, and the emerging industrialized society in the north;

“There are two antagonistical elements of Society in America”, Seward proclaimed, “freedom and slavery.  Freedom is in harmony with our system of government and with the spirit of the age, and is therefore passive and quiescent.  Slavery is in conflict with that system, with justice and with humanity and is therefore organized, defensive, active, and perpetually aggressive.  “Free labour” he said, “demands universal suffrage and widespread diffusion of knowledge.  The slave based system, by contrast, ‘cherishes ignorance’ because it is the only security for oppression.”

The freedom that Seward referred to was the free, or non-slave, workers that toiled in the increasingly industrialized northern cities. What is striking about this passage is just how much the sentiments that Seward expressed resonate today.

Today we appear to be facing a parallel scenario to Seward’s, with a push from wealthy multi-national corporations and northern foreign-owned miners who want to spread their low-wage, low skill, high-profit form of business to every state on the planet.

This aggressive and well-funded movement born in American Capitalism now threatens Australian shores; Maurice Newman, chair of the Commission of Audit, attacks the Australian minimum wage, Tony Abbott dismisses of the importance of penalty rates, education reform is defunded and a ‘review’ is announced into the newly minted national curriculum, all nicely framed by ongoing disinformation from government ministers on the reasons for recent collapses in manufacturing in the southern states, all the while encouraging us to drink the trickle-down Kool Aid.

While these attacks on the backbone of a progressive society continue, it seems that there is little fight from either of the standing opposition parties, the ALP or the Greens.

Can we learn anything from the history of slavery and American capitalism?  And in those lessons is there a blueprint for action that we can take now?

Suggesting that American Capitalism is rooted in the slave plantations of the past is not a new thing.  Slave-grown and picked cotton was America’s most valuable export. Without which silver and gold from England and Europe would not have flowed so readily into U.S. Treasury coffers and the pockets of Northern factory owners, providing the much needed ‘capital’ for the growing nation.  Modern management practices also can be traced back to slavers.  Including time and motion studies, and calculating an employee’s worth against ‘unit labour costs’ to calculate productivity.

From this comes one of the central pillars of American capitalism; the practice of paying as little as possible for labour. With many corporations in America, most visibly WalMart and McDonalds, basing their entire business model on hiring unskilled workers that can be paid the absolute minimum.

The difficulty for the workers is that it is not enough.  Recent debate in the USA has revealed that these corporations access billions of dollars in government welfare through their employees.  Because they do not pay their workers a living wage, employees are forced onto welfare programs like food stamps.  The fast-food industry alone rakes in a government subsidy of roughly $7 Billion per year, with McDonalds even having an employee advice line helping employees sign up to government welfare.  These revelations have gone straight to the core of the argument over a living wage, workers rights and the real corporate welfare queens.

In light of this it can be seen that the only difference between Seward’s “two antagonistical elements” and our own is the deep hypocrisy in the arguments of wealthy ‘job creators’.

American, and Australian, elites insist on their quasi-religious, Ayn Rand infused utopian delusion that, instead of inheriting their wealth and profiting from the intelligence and work of generations of workers, they actually built their entire empires by themselves.  This was perhaps best refuted by Bill Clinton when he responded to attacks on President Obama for his out of context “You didn’t build that”:

“The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made . . . Bob Straus, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself. As Straus then admitted, it ain’t so.”

The economy and all the technological advances we enjoy today have been built by the skilled working and middle class that grew from the Industrial revolution in 19th century.  The claim that higher wages hurt business is simply false. It was the massive movement of consumer funds from well paid industrial workers that created the base wealth upon which the post-WW2 industrialized economies have been built.

Without the capital drawn from taxes paid by thousands of workers the ports, rail, and roads built in the 1950s and 60s that transported goods would never have happened. Those same taxes paid for schools that trained up the next generations of skilled employees that businesses could then leverage into creating products and delivering services.

The profits that companies made in the last hundred years were not driven by a select elite purchasing high price items, but by millions of consumers and businesses buying and selling, working and living, increasing demand and driving growth and trade.

When a portion of the population cannot afford to live, then they cannot participate.  When participation in the economy drops so does demand, with employment, trade and profits following soon after.

The rich will always maintain a degree of wealth and privilege.  In many ways the elite still exist in a semi-feudal world where those on ‘their’ lands should be grateful for the opportunity to eke out a subsistence living.   Thanks to their lofty position the wealthy are able enjoy their life regardless of economic conditions, as the businesses that service the wealthy operate in a very different space to the rest of the economy.  They are often able to ride out recessions, and can simply transfer their wealth to another market or country if trade or economies collapse.

The working and middle class, on the other hand, are reliant on trade and education.  The various accountants, tradesmen, managers, shop keepers, artisans, teachers, and lawyers require commerce and constant self-improvement to maintain their standard of living.  Without trade the rich can still enjoy their lands and property without much impact on their life.  However if trade declines or collapses, as seen in the Great Depression and recent Financial Crisis, the middle class and working classes are devastated.

One of the side effects of trade is exposure to new ideas.  Trade also drives innovation and social progress, as both serve to create new markets and new consumers.  All of this is a threat to any established elite, as social progress and greater knowledge builds further demand for equality. Not simply for equal rights for non-whites or non-heterosexuals, but for more equal representation in government, more equal access to opportunity, in short for a more democratic society.  This evolution of more equality in representation is one of the things that the wealthy and political elite fear most.  The American War of Independence and Civil War were fought over just these things.

The feudal world is a remnant that still hangs from our representative democracy.  In many ways representative democracy is the half-way hybrid of feudalism and true democracy.  We rely on a patrician class of political operators to work in our best interests, when in reality they are mainly working in their own self-interest and the special interests of their patrons.  A more direct democracy would see be form of republicanism akin to ancient Athens where all citizens voted directly on bills or the young USA where the voice of the citizenry was a direction for action by their elected representatives.  The attack on workers and education is an attempt to stave off this next logical step in social and political evolution to a more direct and effective democracy.

This is why religious conservatives and economic libertarians attack the means of sustaining a viable middle class.  Poor education dramatically reduces opportunities for employment and advancement, and hamstrings innovations that may threaten the status quo.  Cutting health care forces families to spend more of their income and time on caring for sick or elderly family members.  Failing to invest in effective public transport creates a class divide between those who can afford a vehicle to access job opportunities and those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to lack of mobility.

Even now the decision not to build a national, equal-access broadband infrastructure is picking winners and losers.  Those with fibre connections are already enjoying higher house valuations. Once again the inner cities will have the advantages, while the suburbs and regional cities – the tradition heartland of the working and middle classes – are relegated to second class citizens.  How long until cuts to education, health, penalty rates and minimum wage see further collapse of employment options and standards of living in Australia?

For Seward and his contemporary Abraham Lincoln, the principal opposition party of the time was too weak to respond to the pro slavery Democratic Party and the loud threats and aggression from the southern states that demanded they be allowed to establish slave estates in the new territories ‘for the sake of the nation’.

Eventually there was a split, and many from the opposition Whig party joined with other more progressive groups to form the new Republican Party.  Under this banner the nation set about a new path toward the equality promised in the American constitution.  Civil war followed, but the USA emerged stronger and more vigorous than ever.  What followed was over a hundred years of progress and growth that led the 20th century to be named the American Century.

In Australia the Liberal-National governments federally and in the states are filled with a similar aggression to their pro-slavery forebears, and are in a hurry to force their changes on our society before the sleepy masses awaken.  A vocal opposition would do much to quicken this awakening and stifle the fuming vigour of the neo-libertarians.

Unfortunately, the Greens party seem too much interested in attacking the ALP to increase their market share.  Meanwhile the corruption in the ALP Right and the union movement is currently hamstringing the pragmatic and progressive reform elements in the party, and the ALP is nowhere to be found except in lockstep with the right-wing unionists, vague statements on social media and irrelevant emails.

Now more than ever Australia needs a progressive political force that is unafraid to tackle the destructive policies and practices that are currently arrayed against Australia.

The ALP has split in the past; usually with right-wing elements peeling off to create new conservative parties, such as the United Australia Party; forerunner to the modern Liberal Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

Perhaps now it is up to the progressive and Left in the ALP party to make a stand and plant a new banner that can be a rally point for the dozens of progressive micro-parties that sprang up at the last federal election, for environmentalists, for small businesses, for workers, for entrepreneurs. For everyone who wants better representation, not just in a leadership ballot but in building policy.  For everyone who sees the threat arrayed against our nation and its future, and wants to do something about it.

Perhaps, once again, It’s Time.

Day to Day Politics: As governments go, they are the worst ever.

Thursday 14 September

It only seems like yesterday that I wrote what follows. Indeed, It was Tuesday 13 September in the year 2016, one year ago. Tony Abbott had started the defence of his legacy and a bit of shit stirring.

As I read what I had written twelve months ago It occurred to me just how truly hopeless this government has been. I was writing about the plebiscite, or survey, as it turns out. What a bloody mess Turnbull had inherited from Abbott. Still, is I think to myself! Just like his energy policy. I get my wife her breakfast, make a cup of tea and open my iPad to read the morning news.

“Turnbull government is working on a major redesign of the clean energy target that will likely fall short of the plan for almost half of Australia’s electricity to be generated by renewables by 2030.”

Good Lord, I thought to myself they are going to do a makeover, change its name and use money from the renewable energy fund for coal.

I scratch whats left of the hair on my head and wonder if I’m going nuts.

I recover in time to watch the bear pit only to see our Prime Minister raving and ranting like a madman trying to prove that electricity was more expensive under Labor than the Coalition. I need a pill of some sort. Just do something, you idiot, my inner voice screams.

Tuesday 13 2016, in a speech Tony Abbott said of his own governance:

1 “There was a good two years followed by a good 12 months, an election win, and now we have got three years to get on with governing.”

When former Prime Minister Tony Abbott chooses words such as these to describe three years of prodigious failure you know they must be suffering from a mental illness.

I’m not qualified to diagnose so I will move on. Well, except to say that delusion might be a possibility.

Do you recall his government was that bad that there was a move to replace him? That’s when he said “good government starts tomorrow.”

2 Yesterday I turned the radio on and caught the last part of an interview with a right-wing politician talking about the Plebiscite. “We took it to the people we won the election with a majority and we have a mandate to go ahead.” More delusion.

There are a number of problems with that statement but let me make these points. It has been demonstrated that the majority is flimsy at best, it was hardly a resounding victory and talk of a mandate is somewhat ridiculous.

Now let me make this clear. I think as does the Prime Minister that a Plebiscite is just an opportunity to delay, obstruct and implement a negative campaign for the conservative extremists in the coalition.

So bad has the implementation for the Plebiscite been that little thought has been given to drawing up legislation for it.

After promising it for 2016 the government doesn’t even have a date. The question hasn’t been announced and worse still the funding is up in the air.

There are contradicting views on whether both sides of the debate will be funded or not.

Who is the no side and who are they led by. Is it the Australian Christian Lobby who only represents the Charismatic Churches that take a literal view of the Bible? Are they going to seriously fund a group of believers outside the mainstream?
Why do the Churches need to be funded?

The Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, said on Sunday that Turnbull promised him in February taxpayer money would be forthcoming.

Lyle Shelton, head of the ACL, tweeted that he was at the February meeting and the archbishop’s recollection was correct.

Malcolm Turnbull says that’s not true. Take your pick on that.

Why is the ACL the self-appointed leader of the NO vote? Is there a YES vote group? If so, who is it? The Coalition is pulling itself apart on the issue of funding which further demonstrates the absurdity of their organisation skills.

The Government has made a complete mess of this and the cost seems to be of little consequence. Spending $200 million to find out something that is already conclusively known seems to me to be the pinnacle of stupidity. Unsurprising however, for this mob.

An observation

“People often argue from within the limitations of their understanding and when their factual evidence is scant, they revert to an expression of their feelings.”

3 I caught part of the Barnaby Joyce interview on Insiders on Sunday and to say the least I was angered by his demeanour. No, not the skin cancers that are being treated, but the flippant way he disposed with some of the questions.

His arrogance when asked about moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale, in northern New South Wales, in the middle of his New England electorate was pitiful. His smug manner just came across as boorish in the true sense of the word. Turnbull promised transparency but Joyce acts on a need to know basis.

“I don’t think I will [release it] at this stage, because the decision’s been made by the Australian people.”

Last week on Skye News he said:

“If you’re going to premise it on the cost-benefit analysis, we wouldn’t’ do it.”

Really, someone needs to remind them that they just got in by the skin of their teeth and that the people were sending a loud and clear message.

Suggesting that because they won by a seat, that the people gave their blessing to every coalition policy is tantamount to looking with your ears and listening with one’s eyes. His appearance was that of a man with a bad headache and a sever hangover. Certainly not a deputy pm.

An observation

“At some time in the human narrative…in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you.”

4 The Senate turns up for work on Monday and is told there is nothing to do. Really, this government couldn’t organise a chook raffle at the local pub.

Even their own MPs are joking about the Coalitions lack of a second term agenda. They have plans for the restoration of the construction watchdog and the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission in the coming months – both of which are not guaranteed passage. That’s not going to keep them gainfully employed for the next three years at $200,000 PA plus perks.

As it stands the Abbott/Turnbull Governments don’t come within a bull’s roar of the legislative achievements of Gillard.

On top of last week’s debacle in the Lower House this is a major embarrassment.

Penny Wong summed it up rather well when she accused the government of having “no plans and no ideas…they’ve got literally nothing to talk about”.

5 Abbott is treating the media as though he is the leader, they acquiesce, and he is on the front foot with an opinion on anything and everything. It will have to come to a head at some time. The party cannot have two leaders.

Howard too seems to be hyping everything up, wanting changes to 18c and industrial relations.

My thought for the day

“We have so much to learn from people we disagree with that it’s a wonder we don’t do it more often.”

PS: Vote YES.

And some said this … “We might have accepted all of Finkel except the politics didn’t look right.”

Day to Day Politics: Please just go, Barnaby

Thursday 17 August 2017

When The Australian publishes headlines like those listed below (all behind a paywall, sadly), you know you are in deep trouble. We are being governed by clowns but it’s no laughing matter. The Government has found itself in an agonizing muddle over Joyce’s actual citizenship status and sought to ensnare Australia’s trusted security Five Eyes partner, New Zealand.

“Was there a cover-up on Joyce?” (Greg Brown)

Cory Bernardi asks if government knew about Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship and tried to cover it up.

“Mad mad days in Canberra” (Paul Kelly)

Labor outsmarts the government at almost every step — and it’s not just good luck.

“Barnaby only has self to blame” (Simon Benson)

Barnaby Joyce — and others — have only themselves to blame for the predicament they are in. It is no fault of the law.

“Coalition Response a Disaster” (Dennis Shanahan)

Julie Bishop has thrown petrol on the flames and damaged our closest relationship.

“Jokes on Turnbull in this mess” (David Crow)

The Prime Minister not only strolled toward a trap set by the Opposition, he leapt the final steps.

“Payback as Labor senses blood” (Dennis Shanahan)

Barnaby Joyce will have to step aside at least as a cabinet minister or have the government face ongoing chaos.

Making a fool of Australia

Julie Bishop is well remembered for her remark when representing a mining company “why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

She is also known for overreach.

Her actions on Tuesday when she decided that New Zealand and Bill Shorten had colluded to bring down the Australian Government bordered on being unhinged. As Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she might not be able to trust a New Zealand Labor government.

When you boil it all down and rid all the talk of its conspiracy nonsense it would seem that Penny Wong’s Chief of Staff who happened to be a New Zealander made some enquiries about citizenship and found that indeed Joyce was a dual citizen. It’s politics. The Coalition would do the same and as I write is probably trying to unearth anything they can on those Labor MPs alleged to be doubtful.

The problem for Turnbull and Bishop and others is that a superior opponent is politically outplaying them.

For example, Turnbull is being played like a puppet on a string. He is threatening to name up to 9 Labor MPs as having dual citizenship. He is only threatening because he knows that he would be condemned by all and sundry if they were found to be squeaky clean.

And it would amaze everyone if Labor had not done due diligence on the matter from day one.

Bishop has once again made a fool of herself. The government’s near hysterical campaign about traitors has not gone down well.

Tuesday 15 August might well go down in Australian political history as the day a conservative party accused our close neighbor, friend and sporting foe as treacherous. Christopher (the fixer) Pyne gets the gong for using the ‘T’ word. Mind you have used the ‘C’ to describe Bill Shorten previously I suppose the ‘T’ word was a little less offensive to New Zealand.

Then in keeping with the dastardly conduct of the Government (if you can call it that) the Prime Minister motivated his party room by repeating that Bill Shorten wanted to steal government by entering into a conspiracy with a foreign power, Turnbull told colleagues.

Everyone had treated the matter with a bit of good old Australia V New Zealand competitiveness to this point but when Julie Bishop high heeled her way into the mural hall to suggest she would struggle to trust a Labor government in New Zealand the mood changed.

It was a Trumpish press conference from Australia’s normally highly professional foreign minister. She looked uncertain and nervous and as soon as she cottoned onto the fact that she was making a fool of herself she walked out.

When the clowns of the circus moved to Question Time the acrobatics were in full swing. Those responsible for the questions, required backbenchers, with forlorn looks on their faces, to ask questions about foreign state interference in Australian political matters. And with a straight face. Was war about to break out between two friends?

The Dorothy Dixers would have you believe a cold war had erupted across the Tasman and New Zealand was now some axis of evil.

And all this time Barnaby Joyce sat dejected like a man accused of a great wrong but was really innocent. As I watched I was reminded of how he wasted millions of taxpayer’s dollars moving a department into his own electorate and his pub confession of stealing water from the Murray to give to farmers.

He breaks the law with gay abandonment but pleads ignorance when confronted by his own ignorance. I have no sympathy for his dejection. He plays the game hard and what goes around comes around.

The bear pit known as Question Time descended into a government fiasco, excruciating in its capacity for reducing otherwise intelligent people into moronic imbeciles.

The government spent Question TIme painting pictures of New Zealand as an enemy of Australia conspiring with the Labor Party to bring down the Government. How ridiculous, how ludicrous, how silly, how absurd, how preposterous and how typical of this government and its leader.

Labor had outsmarted them and used ridicule to embarrass the Government.

Other than just being downright offensive this government is worthless. It is not fit to hold office. It’s desperation, panic and recklessness is there for all to see.

My thought for the day

“Current experience would suggest that the Australian people need to take more care when electing its leaders.”

Day to Day Politics: Taking credit when none’s due.

Sunday 2 April 2017

1 For all his bluff and bluster, a perpetual smile, together with the occasional stunt, it seems to me that Nick Xenophon really doesn’t achieve much. Such is the case with the Government’s Tax Cuts for business. And I might add that when he does it generally favours a rightish ideology.

Ostensibly all he has negotiated is a one off ‘insult’ payment to pensions of a piddling $75 for a single person and $125 for a couple for those on the aged pension, the disability support pension or the parenting payment.

It’s supposed to cover rising energy prices.

The smiling faces of Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gave a press conference on Friday to hail the changes as a ”great day for Australian workers and Australian businesses”.

”This is a great result for 6.5 million Australians working for businesses that will get the benefit of this tax cut,” Turnbull said.

My God, you would think they were going to walk into work on Monday to be told their would be an extra 100 bucks in their pay packets next week.

Xenophon additionally negotiated some energy measures including fast-tracking a solar-thermal plant in South Australia. It is already underway and a new National Energy Policy which the chief scientist had already been commissioned to come up with by mid-year. There was also a non-binding promise for a study into the viability of a gas pipeline connecting the state with the Northern Territory.

The Government also promised to enforce a ”Public interest” order on the big three liquefied natural gas exporters in Queensland to force them to pump more gas to the domestic market. Again this was something Turnbull had done when he met gas executives early last month.

It seems to me that Xenophon does this frequently walking away with the credit for doing little other that giving the government it way. He is a PR freak. At the end of the day all he got for tax cuts to the rich and privileged was a one off $153 payment for pensioners.

There is no evidence that these cuts are about ”Jobs and Growth,” no modelling. No statement from the ATO that they will create ”Jobs and Growth.”

As Sally McManus told the Press Club last Wednesday:

”Wage theft is a new business model for far too many employers. Inequality in our country is now at a 70-year high. And 679 of our biggest corporations pay not one cent in tax.”

So the new tax rate will reduce from 30 to 25 per cent over 10 years for companies earning up to $50 million.

With a large number of companies paying no tax at all together with numerous concessions and tax imputation most companies already only pay about 24%.

It is one of the reasons why a report from the Australian Tax Office found that Business Council of Australia members actually paid an effective tax rate of 24 per cent as a group in 2014-2015.

With the lack of evidence regarding any connection to ‘’Jobs and Growth” it is easy to see that this is just old trickledown economics of the sort that modern economists say is past its used by date.

Jacqui Lambie argued that companies – including multinationals – did not need any more help with tax cuts and said the big four banks would receive $7.4bn in revenue if the Coalition’s package went through.

At midday on Saturday while enjoying a cuppa the Prime Minister graced our television screen espousing how we are all going to enjoy the benefits of giving tax cuts to businesses with turnovers of $50 million.

Having already doubled Labor’s debt one wonders where the money is coming from to pay for this. Remember the uproar from the Coalition and the Murdoch press just a few years back.

I can only conclude that the word “lying” in political terms has been replaced with the more subtle reference of “overstatement”. Maybe bullshit would be a better word. One thing is for sure. He is no longer the calm reasoned man of thoughtful disposition we thought we were going to get when he got the job.

While I’m on the subject of energy it’s interesting that a $1 billion battery and solar farm will be built at Morgan in South Australia’s Riverland by year’s end in a project the proponents describe as “the world’s biggest.

An observation.

”Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability”

2 Germany is set to introduce the world’s first zero-emission passenger train to be powered by hydrogen. It only emits steam.

3 For the time being the fight against changes to 18c has been won. I will now be able to continue writing freely as I have been doing without feeling the need to think up new ways to criticise people.

Against changing 18C – ALP, Greens political party, Nick Xenophon Team, Jacqui Lambie

For changing 18C – Government, One Nation, Derryn Hinch, David Leyonhjelm.

4 From the Labor Party email Newslette:

You’ll remember in Week Two of the election campaign there were raids on Labor in relation to the National Broadband Network. The raids happened after Labor had exposed the Turnbull Government’s incompetent handling of the NBN. This week the Senate inquiry into these raids and the materials which were seized found it was an “improper interference” with the functions of the Parliament. I’ve asked the Speaker how this will now be handled to prevent these issues coming up again in the future. He’ll be reporting back to the Reps when we return for the Budget.

5 Following on from my recent piece ”what’s happening in the bear pit?” I have to report that it’s getting worse. Take a look at this.

6 The Australian made a complete fool of itself when it tried to discredit new ACTU leader Sally Mc Manus.

The story was promoted by the Australian’s associate editor, Caroline Overington, on Twitter before an address by McManus at the National Press Club.

Reporters will asking @sallymcmanus tough questions about her resume when she appears at Press Club today:

Gutter reporting from the Murdoch press.

The Guardian has the story.

On this day in 2016 I wrote:

A Just when we thought Donald Trump couldn’t go any lower, he does.

Trump was asked by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to define his “pro-life” stance and assertions that abortion should be banned.

”Do you believe in punishment for abortion – yes or no – as a principle?” asked Matthews, during the taping of a town hall event.

”The answer is there has to be some form of punishment,” said Trump.

”For the woman?” Matthews said.

”Yeah, there has to be some form,” Trump replied.

‘Ten cents, 10 years, what?’ Matthews asked again, pressing.

”That I don’t know,” said Trump.

B Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey, the man who views the world through the prism of his own cash registers, reckons we need a two tier wage system where cheap labour is plentiful.

”Australia doesn’t have cheap labour. Many overseas workers would be prepared to move here for a much better life and half the money Australians earn … I’ve got horse studs and it’s difficult to get staff” he said.

C Conversely, I was reading the daily Morgan Report and would you believe the Fair Work Ombudsman did a nationwide investigation into the fast-food sector and found that nearly half (47 per cent) of 565 spot-checked employers have not been paying their staff correctly, with workers being paid as low as $6 per hour compared to the statutory minimum of $17.25 per hour.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation found that in nearly one-third of cases, the flat hourly rate paid by the employer to its workers was not enough to cover hours attracting penalty rates and loadings, resulting in underpayments for which an employer could be ordered to compensate the underpaid worker, and fined for breach of the applicable Industrial Award.

Royal Commission, anyone?

My thought for the day.

“We are given the gift of foresight however, we choose to be reactive rather than proactive. Why is it so?”

PS: I think the only thing I have missed is Mark Latham’s manners, but I will give it a miss.

 

Day to Day Politics: They call it “Question Time” but you’re not compelled to answer.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Parliament starts again in a week or so and without doubt, given the Government’s slender majority, and a defiant Senate, it will be a torrid time. Central to how the public view the Government’s performance are the snippets they glean from Question Time.

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 and 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 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 demanded.

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 has a hearing difficulty.

All in all she so corrupted Question Time that it became totally dysfunctional.

While a lot of this 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. After Bronwyn Bishop was removed for gross indulgences of her parliamentary allowances, the new Speaker Tony Smith has reignited a modem of decorum.

However every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard Rob Oakshot and Tony Windsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the 2013 election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as the mouth that roared, 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 at the height of the next example of Question Time’s irrelevance should walk out of the parliament together with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so.

They being that Question Time has become untenable, so biased that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After citing 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. He should take the political moral high ground.

“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 Speaker’s office adjudicated on answers and published on its internet site, a relevance scale. 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 Speakers 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.

At this point in time nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

My thought for the day.

“To those who think they can win a debate by being loud and crass. I say be quiet. To those who think they can win with a perceived superior intellect I say be humble. Discourse requires civility in order to produce reasoned outcomes”.

 

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: “IT’S TIME” – Marriage Equality my final contribution.

Sunday 24 September 2017

At the time of writing the following countries supported marriage equality. This is my final lengthy contribution on the subject.

Argentina (2010)

Denmark (2012)

Greenland (2015)

The Netherlands (2000)

South Africa (2006)

Belgium (2003)

England / Wales (2013)

Iceland (2010)

New Zealand (2013)

Spain (2005)

Brazil (2013)

Finland (2015)

Ireland (2015)

Norway (2008)

Sweden (2009)

Canada (2005)

France (2013)

Luxembourg (2014)

Portugal (2010)

United States (2015)

Colombia (2016)

Germany (2017)

Malta (2017)

Scotland (2014)

Uruguay (2013)

IT’S TIME FOR THE PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA TO REFLECT THE PUBLIC’S WILL.

Marriage Equality and Why I Support It

This is my last post on this subject prior to the survey. Some of the aforementioned countries have had same-sex marriage legalised from one to ten years. The fabrics of their societies have not unraveled; they haven’t been struck by lightning. They have not been tormented by natural disasters, or the wrath of God. They have not fallen off the face of the Earth and they have not tumbled into any sort of moral abyss.

On the contrary, the experience seems to have been a positive one, social harmony is constructive and the emotional, physical and sexual health of gay people has improved. Some of these countries even feature high in the” happiest countries” surveys and the divorce rate for gay couples is better than that of heterosexuals. I have read the after legislative experience of many of these nations and there is no evidence that same-sex marriage will have catastrophic consequences for society. This is despite the antidotal cases the NO side throws up at the YES side.

Traditional Marriage

I recall some time ago reading a book titled “The History of Sex” and was surprised to find that the early church debated for around 100 years what was the most natural position for a women during intercourse. Therefore, I was not at all surprised to find that when you research the history of marriage it is littered with ongoing fundamental change. It is rooted in several different ancient cultures including Roman, Hebrew, Germanic and the medieval practices of the early church. It took the Protestant reformation to transform it from church ownership to the realm of government.

Early marriage had nothing to do with love but was more to do with inheritance and ownership than anything was and, marriages were arranged without the consent of the girl involved and more often when they reached the age shortly after menstruation began. In addition, we must keep in mind that females in early society were treated with pro creation in mind and not much more.
For a short history of marriage in western society, I recommend you Google

“The Sex Atlas” Erwin J. Haeberle, Ph.D., (Ed.D.)

It is important for both those who oppose gay marriage (and any re structure of the construct of the family) and those who support it to understand that marriage in western civilisation has constantly been subject to change, both by the church and by secular authorities. If you take the time to research the history of marriage, you will find this to be the case.

State of current marriage.

The institution of marriage has changed dramatically over the past several decades. In 1997, the average age a male married was 24 and by 2003 had increased to 31. For females, it was 21 and 29. This is partly attributable to a rise in people who chose to cohabit prior to marriage or as a substitute to marriage. In 1971, around 16% of people chose to cohabit prior to marriage and this rose to 76% in 2007. Note: You can find all relevant data on this subject on the ABS webb site.

On the one hand, Australia has an enormous marriage industry but on the other 50% of marriages break down. Marriage is becoming increasingly unpopular and some would argue in terminal decline. In Australia, there are many reasons for this but the decreasing interest and membership of churches is an important factor.
In the USA the number of married adults has dropped to about 52 percent in 2008 from 72 percent in 1960 and 39 percent of Americans consider marriage obsolete.

Traditional marriage or marriage in its current state is a failed institution (some believe it will become extinct) and becoming less and less popular. Therefore one has to ask exactly what is it that needs protection. On the other hand, we might ask do we need a new concept of what marriage and the family should be.

Challenging the Christian Objection

Religion in Australia seems to have influence that outweighs its relevancy. Once the church led the way in social morality but society has overtaken it. Only 8% or less of the population attends church on any given Sunday. In the previous census, 64% of the population nominated themselves as Christian and a recent survey suggests that it will be around 40% in the one currently being analysed.( note this may be disputed because they are two different things) And of the 40%, only 20% practice their faith. The same survey said that a major turn off for people was the church’s inability to accept gay people. If fact the churches refusal to recognise homosexuality generally contributes, further to its demise.

Therefore, Christianity has an influence that is disproportionate to its participation in a secular society.

The Christian faith teaches that all people are equal before God. However, does the church actually participate in this affirmation? The short answer is no.

Often you will hear Christians say; “Oh we don’t dislike homosexuals we just hate the sin.”
I have always found this to be infuriatingly condescending.

In a discussion with a Christian friend recently, it was said that there were no homosexuals because God did not make any. It was also stated that gay people chose to be that way and not because the were made that way. This is indicative of the absurdity of the Christian argument. It is a fact that some men and women for whatever reason choose a gay lifestyle however the fact is that men and women are born homosexual the same as heterosexuals are.

During the last three decades, for example, organisations representing 1.5 million U.S. health professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and educators) have stated definitively that homosexual orientation is as natural as heterosexual orientation, that sexual orientation is determined by a combination of yet unknown pre- and post-natal influences, and that it is dangerous and inappropriate to tell a homosexual that he or she could or should attempt to change his or her sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice; it is primarily something that takes place at birth. People do not decide to be gay just as in the same way as one does not decide to become heterosexual.

Homosexuality can be observed and is common in the animal kingdom. Birds do it, bees probably do it and fleas may do it, too. Among the many examples are penguins, who have been known to form lifelong same-sex bonds, dolphins and bonobos, which are bisexual apes. Various explanations have been advanced for the evolutionary advantage that such relationships might confer. For example, female Laysan albatrosses form same-sex pairs, which are more successful at rearing chicks than single females. But they may help preserve those of the group to which they belong.

Animals unlike humans do not have moral free will, so it is difficult to argue that they choose to be the way they are. So one could argue that the existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom demonstrates that it is not a sin against nature.

The crux of the Christian quarrel with homosexuality stems from the interpretation of Biblical scripture. Alternatively, more precisely selective interpretation mainly from Christians who see the Bible as literally true. That the word of God is infallible.
If that were so, we would be practicing the following. DEUTERONOMY 22:13-21
If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately.

DEUTERONOMY 22:22
If a married person has sex with someone.

e else’s husband or wife, the Bible commands that both adulterers be stoned to death.
MARK 10:1-12

Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced.

LEVITICUS 18:19

The Bible forbids a married couple from having sexual intercourse during a woman’s period. If they disobey, both shall be executed.

MARK 12:18-27

If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir.

DEUTERONOMY 25:11-12

If a man gets into a fight with another man and his wife seeks to rescue her husband by grabbing the enemy’s genitals, her hand shall be cut off and no pity shall be shown her.
The list goes on: The Bible says clearly that sex with a prostitute is acceptable for the husband but not for the wife. Polygamy (more than one wife) is acceptable, as is a king is having many concubines. (Solomon, the wisest king of all, had 1,000 concubines.) Slavery and sex with slaves, marriage of girls aged 11-13, and treatment of women as property are all accepted practices in the Scriptures. On the other hand, there are strict prohibitions against interracial marriage, birth control, discussing or even naming a sexual organ, and seeing one’s parents nude.   In fact, the Bible accepts sexual practices that we condemn and condemns sexual practices that we accept

Personally, I have never understood the fundamental clash between free will and literalism. Christians will argue on the one hand that God gave us free will but on the other insist that we interpret the Bible literally. Surely, the two are incompatible.
The way certain Bible verses are used to condemn homosexuality and homosexuals is born out of ignorance. Jesus says nothing about same-sex behaviour. The Jewish prophets are silent about homosexuality. Only six or seven of the Bible’s one million verses refer to same-sex behaviour in any way — and none of these verses refers to homosexual orientation, as it is understood today.

Most people who are certain they know what the Bible says about homosexuality do not know where the verses that reference same-sex behaviour can be found. They have not read them, let alone studied them carefully. They don’t know the original meaning of the words in Hebrew or Greek. In addition, they haven’t tried to understand the historical context in which those words were written.

Yet the assumption that the Bible condemns the practice has led to Christian homophobia. Moreover, it must be remembered that that word homosexuality is a recent addition to the English language and is not used in the bible.

Now lets look at the most quoted verses used in support of the anti gay argument.
GENESIS 2:21-25

 THE CREATION STORY
This creation story is primarily about God, a story written to show the power of God who created the world and everything in it. It teaches that ultimately God is the Creator, that God shaped the world.

What does the creation story say about homosexuality? Nothing actually just like many other things. It does say that it is “natural” that a man and a woman come together to create a new life. Some people take this to mean that gay or lesbian couples are “unnatural.” They read this interpretation into the text, even though the text is silent about all kinds of relationships that don’t lead to having children:

couples who are unable to have children
couples who are too old to have children
couples who choose not to have children
people who are single

Are these relationships (or lack of relationships) “unnatural”? There’s nothing said here that condemns or approves the love that people of the same sex have for each other So I believe the creation story says a lot about God’s power and presence in the universe — but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today.

Having said that I should point out that one would be hard pressed to find many Christians in Australian mainstream churches who take the creation story literally. Most are more inclined toward evolution. Although in the USA 80% of people still believe in the creation story.

LEVITICUS 18:22 AND 20:13

THE HOLINESS CODE

Leviticus 18:6 reads.” You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination.” A similar verse occurs two chapters later, in Leviticus 20:13: “A man who sleeps with another man is an abomination and should be executed.” On the surface, these words could leave you feeling rather uneasy, especially if you are gay. But just below the surface is the deeper truth — and it has nothing to do with sex.

Leviticus is a holiness code written 3,000 years ago. This code includes many outdated sexual laws. It also includes prohibitions against round haircuts, tattoos, working on the Sabbath, wearing garments of mixed fabrics, eating pork or shellfish, getting your fortune told, and even playing with the skin of a pig. So what is a holiness code? It’s a list of behaviours that people of faith find offensive in a certain place and time. In this case, the code was written for priests only,

What about this word abomination that comes up in both passages? In Hebrew, “abominations” (TO’EBAH) are behaviours that people in a certain time and place consider tasteless or offensive. To the Jews an abomination was not a law, not something evil like rape or murder forbidden by the Ten Commandments. It was a common behaviour by non-Jews that Jews thought was displeasing to God.

Jesus and Paul both said the holiness code in Leviticus does not pertain to Christian believers. Nevertheless, there are still people who pull the two verses about men sleeping together from this ancient holiness code to say that the Bible seems to condemn homosexuality.

It’s important to remember that in every age, people of faith are responsible for setting moral and ethical standards. Nevertheless, people of faith must be very careful not to allow prejudices to determine what those standards should be.

There are other Bible verses readily quoted from the Book of Romans and of course the story of Sodom both of which can be shown to be misinterpreted and not necessarily in a homosexual context. I think an often-overlooked scripture that supports the existence of homosexuality is Mathew 19 Verse 11 Jesus is talking about marriage and say’s ‘For there are different reasons why men cannot marry. Some because they were born that way.’
That to me is very compelling.

Historically, people’s misinterpretation of the Bible has left a trail of suffering, bloodshed, and death.

Misinterpreted the Bible has done terrible things. The Bible has been misused to defend bloody crusades and tragic inquisitions; to support slavery, apartheid, and segregation; to persecute Jews and other non-Christian people of faith; to support Hitler’s Third Reich and the Holocaust; to oppose medical science; to condemn interracial marriage; to execute women as witches; and to support the Ku Klux Klan. Shakespeare said it this way: “Even the devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

It’s time we re-defined the concept of family and allowed same sex marriage.

It is difficult in 2013 to believe that any sensible government would not be swimming with the tide of public opinion. Over 60% of Australians support same sex marriage. If the ALP is looking to resurrect its popular base then surely they must return to their ideological roots and support a change to the marriage act at its next national conference.

Gay people like heterosexual people fall in love with each other but in this country are denied legal recognition within the institution of marriage. Society say’s that it’s all right for gays to pay taxes, vote or even die for their country but legal marriage is out of the question.

Yes, gay folk are real people with real hearts and their love for their partners is just as precious as the love between a man and a woman. Moreover, they want to get married for exactly the same reasons as everyone else does. They’re in love. They want to make a commitment to each other.

This is a matter of gender, equality, natural justice and human rights. I do not see how allowing same-sex couples to get married hurts anyone else. Marriage brings so much joy, not to mention for families and friends. Every mum wants to see her son or daughter get married. It should not make any difference if her kid is gay.

Research has shown that gay people make loving parents. Sexual orientation makes no difference to one’s ability to parent. Hence gay and lesbian couples can be just as good as parents as heterosexual couples. Kids deserve the stability that comes with marriage. The whole of society benefits with more love in the world. It is nonsense for people to say that marriage will be devalued if consent is given to homosexuals. Heterosexuals have already considerably damaged the institution. It seems to me that if more people get married the more relevant marriage will become.

Straight people don’t have to believe in God or go to church to get married, so why is religion suddenly a big issue when we’re talking about gays getting married? And most importantly, we’re talking about civil marriage here, so it’s a civil rights issue. If the church does not want to marry, gay people then so be it. They need not be compelled to do so. Gay’s I am sure would be happy at the registry office. I do concede though that Christian gays would prefer a religious church ceremony.

Even if Christians believe the homosexual union of marriage is wrong does it follow that they have the right to impose that view on an Australian secular society.
The bottom line is that marriage is about love and commitment, a big commitment. If someone is willing to make that kind of commitment, we should not be stopping him or her. We should be saying “go for it”, and “we’ll be there to support you every step of the way”.

“It’s really simple. If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of the same sex.”

In other words, why not allow gay marriage?

“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”

Resources
The Bible.
Ending Sexual Apartheid Michael Kirby
The Gay Christian Network
Yahoo answers
Australian Labor Party
Psychology Today
A History of Marriage   Magnus Hirschfeld
The Age
Punch
Wikipedia
The Bible and Gays – The Rev Mel White

Turnbull government marks two years of inertia, paralysis and failure.

“It’s been two years of great achievement … But above all it’s two years since I became prime minister building on the outstanding work of the Member for Warringah. And what that has done is delivered strong jobs growth.”

Malcolm Turnbull marks two years in office with a tribute to his nemesis Tony Abbott; a falsehood set in a farrago of lies.

Great achievement? Don’t mention the NBN. The ABCC was adulterated to buggery. The Gonski 2.0 con a $22 billion cut for education. Media reform? A path for Rupert The Sun-King to gain even more power. Strong jobs growth? The unemployment rate is stuck stubbornly on 5.6%. Over 730,000 people are out of work for more than a year. Every one of us is working fewer hours.  Most Australians are steadily getting poorer while the rich and the very rich prosper.

But in our Orwellian political arena, up is down. Back is forward; black is white. Our PM, the most over-promoted, least-attractive, poseur in our political history, leads his underwhelming, overweening parliamentary jeer-squad over the top.

Embracing their inner lout again this week, MPs set about bullying AGL, defaming “shifty” Bill Shorten and throwing such a hissy fit of denunciation, eye-rolling, finger-pointing, mocking, crowing and hectoring of demon Labor, as they can muster to divert from their imminent mugging by a host of scandals, self-inflicted crises and policy failures.

Gavin Hanlon, our most senior NSW water wallah resigns two months after it is revealed that he offered to share confidential government documents with irrigation lobbyists. Of course it’s nothing to do with our Water Minister, Kiwi, Barnaby Joyce. Not even a federal matter. And, Oh my, just look over there. Shorten’s telling lies again.

“We have seen this all before, because the Leader of the Opposition has a pathological pattern of behaviour to deceive, to falsify and to mislead the Australian people …” crows Josh Frydenberg rightly disputing Labor’s claim that NSW power prices would rise by $1000. Yet Liberals warned of $100 lamb roasts and Whyalla disappearing off the map, if carbon emissions were to be priced, in a carbon tax scare which Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott now freely admit to inventing.

Team Turnbull’s plan is a back-to-the-future attack on Labor as the party of high electricity prices in a re-run of Abbott’s astonishing success, yet it’s unlikely that NSW consumers whose bills Frydenberg claims increase by only $300 will feel upbeat – especially given that the privatisation of electricity was sold to them as a way to lower power tariffs.

Its ABCC scandal, on the other hand, is electrifying. Nigel Hadgkiss, their “tough new cop on the construction beat” confesses he published false information about site entry. He did not bother to read it, he says. Restoring law and order to building sites by appointing an industrial cop who breaks those laws himself would cause most ministers to reflect.

Not so Employment Minister, lip-readers’ friend Michaelia Cash despite being hoist by her own petard appears entirely unrepentant. Ms Hard Cash wins this week’s Government own goal of the week award. And Stand by Your Man award.

Ms Ready Cash tapped Liberal pal Hadgkiss to head the ABCC when she knew that he had broken the Fair Work Act himself.  There was no cabinet appointment process just a lousy $426,160 a year  She tells the senate that she first learned about Nigel’s behaviour in October last year but her office quickly modifies that to “learning of the allegations”.

“Merely because behaviour is alleged in a court process does not make it a finding of fact,” she shrieks on Thursday.

It’s a sobering thought, given forty-one, thirty year old unsubstantiated allegations about Lionel Murphy are released by Federal Parliament to help divert from pressing scandals and to help assuage the Coalition’s insatiable fetish for bashing Labor activists even after they’ve shuffled off stage left.

Never to be outdone, indignant that there is no posthumous Royal Commission into Murph, Merry Gerry Henderson eagerly puts his boot in also just to put aside for a moment The Australian’s sterling contribution to the respectful and mature hatred so consuming the national mood in what the government so fondly calls the same sex marriage debate.

Gerry finds 41 serious allegations to salivate over but allegations they remain. It’s a point The Oz, oddly, seems to lose sight of.

Perhaps Coalition MPs, too could bear Ms Cash’s distinction in mind when next they rise to repeat the Chiquita mushroom allegation or any other from two years of unproven allegations against Bill Shorten in the TURC.

Undeterred and in the spirit of a post-truth week, Cash proceeds to paints Hadgkiss as some kind of martyr,

“Mr Hadgkiss has played a pivotal role in restoring the rule of law to Australia’s building and construction industry, despite relentless opposition and appalling intimidation from lawless construction unions and their political supporters.”

Cash admits to knowing for almost a year, then, that Australian Building and Construction (ABCC) chief had broken the laws he was supposedly enforcing.

He says he thought the laws would be repealed and didn’t bother checking. Why would he? She says she had no proof and besides, he only admitted to the breaches this week.  Why would she check?

In like Flynn, Hadgkiss was immediately appointed, in 2013, by then Employment Minister, Eric Abetz, to head the Fair Work Building Inspectorate. Shortly after his appointment he told inspectorate staff not to correct misinformation to employers that they could direct unions where they could hold their on-site meetings, advice which was left uncorrected for two years, despite warnings from CFMEU and Commission staff.

Hadgkiss admits in a 25 page agreed statement of facts tendered to the Federal Court Tuesday that, in December 2013, he directed his agency to not publish changes to right-of-entry laws that were of benefit to unions. Above all to workers.

The coalition has always claimed that Howard’s ABCC brought a 20% increase in productivity, a lie refuted in Productivity Commission reports. Not only did construction activity decrease, it became more dangerous. Now it’s even worse.

Deaths in construction soared to 19 in the first six months of 2017, equivalent to 38 per year, the worst rate on record. Under Abbott, deaths became more frequent but under Turnbull, the rate at which workers are killed has accelerated.

The fatality rate is even more worrying given the industry’s unprecedented three consecutive years of investment decline under the Abbott-Turnbull government with a corresponding slump in output. The ABCC was supposed to revitalise the industry. Construction would boom once government relaxed the red tape in a new era of deregulation.

Malcolm Turnbull even gave it his best Neoliberal benediction,

“Deregulation, enabling businesses and individuals to pursue their own dreams, their own freedom, is the way to deliver the prosperity upon which all depends.”

Pressed by Leigh Sales, recently to list his achievements, the PM was quick to instance the ABCC. No hint from Sales that construction industry activity or its safety record since Turnbull’s ABCC revival is an indictment of his government.

So, too, is the slump in residential building which headed for a 31 per cent decline according to BIS economics. Jobs? Tens of thousands of construction workers could find themselves unemployed in 2018.

The Australian Construction Industry Forum predicts construction industry could shed as many as 166,000 jobs over the next three years as a deterioration in engineering construction dovetails with the slump in residential building,

It’s a big cloud gathering but Pollyanna Scott Morrison is still inanely braying “better times ahead”. Perhaps he has to. The alternative is unthinkable.

The Cash scandal, together with Stuart Robert’s sensational revelations, would bring any other government to its knees.

Robert is alleged to have made his eighty-year-old father, Alan, a director in his IT service business, Robert International, which he ran with his wife, Dorothy, so his son’s business could continue to receive tens of millions in government contracts.  It also links Robert to GMT Services, an IT business with which Robert says he has “ceased involvement”.

Any normal government would be rocked to its foundations but the Coalition has the answer. More loud shouting. Slurs.

You can’t let Shorten “slither in”. Malcolm Turnbull’s morphing into Tony Abbott with a bigger vocabulary and a better postcode is almost totally complete two years after he hauled the mangy junkyard dog before his own kangaroo court.

Turnbull 1:0  still in his suavely debonair Q&A leather jacket stage, couldn’t tell Tony that, as PM, he was a hopeless joke.

Worse. It was the savage god, the economy, that ravenous beast that made him do it. He had to knife his PM, he said, in his languid, lofty, hollow, vowels primarily, because Abbott was hopeless with budgets and spending. Simply no idea of how to act like an economic leader, or what tie to wear, let alone how to keep a Cayman Island company or trust afloat.

How Turnbull’s Abbott hatchet-job has come back to mock him. The 2017 budget is big-spending and high taxing. Yet the economy is going backwards. Hours worked, to take the single most reliable indicator of jobs created, have been below 85.10 in the 22 months since Morrison became Treasurer and Cash became Employment Minister.

The lowest under Labor was 85.7.

Despite the nonsense about total jobs created – meaningless without population growth, jobs wound up and above all attention to the steady decline in total hours worked, unemployment is stuck at 5.6%.

While profits are at record levels, wages growth hasn’t budged from 1.9%, for the last four quarters is a record low. It helps to put the lie to trickle-down if not the entire corpus of laissez-faire Neoliberal economic theory.  Wages as a proportion of GDP are at their lowest since records began in 1959.

Today, economic leadership amounts only to repeating “our economic plan.” And “strong jobs growth.” Yet, in keeping with all true contrarian experience, every claim the Turnbull team makes about the economy, employment or their goals is refuted by the experts.

Similarly, Abbott’s leadership style was held to be deficient. How, for example, Tony spoke down to the nation. Talk about superficial slogans. “Jobs and growth.” The tosser sounded like a talking bumper sticker. Sloganeering was no substitute for advocacy and didn’t respect people’s intelligence. It was mutual. Witness 30 straight Newspoll fails.

Despite solid progress, Turnbull is still working towards the Newspoll goal but most of the other key non-performance indicators are there. Especially the slogans, arrogance and the autocratic tendencies. This week, in the bullying of AGL, there have been flashes of the Ayatollah, as the imperious Turnbull was known in his banking career.

The power play of the week has been to wheedle cajole and bully Andy Vesey, the CEO of  AGL into an undertaking to keep Liddell, the nation’s oldest, dirtiest and least reliable power station open beyond its 2022 use by date. Or sell the plant to a competitor, a proposal which has curiously been spurned by the company’s board.

No-one would buy a station which AEMO itself says is most likely to cause power blackout and which could consume a billion dollars just to get it back into commission – despite Barnaby Joyce’s claim that he knows of at least two. But he’s not telling.

The Turnbull government, however, has chosen the contrarian path issuing press releases suggesting the AGL board will take 90 days to consider keeping the station open.

In reality, the undertaking allows AGL a number of options including honouring its generation commitment by means of renewables – which was its intention in the first place.

Alarmingly, this week Morrison is not up to speed on AGL. And who knows where Joyce has got his Liddell tyre-kickers from. His place as a National party climate denier is to insist repeatedly that coal is affordable and reliable, neither of which is true but it all helps the Coalition strategy of ditching Finkel’s Clean Energy Target for something that would allow coal-burning power stations to be part of the “energy plan” a novelty in Coalition policy to date.

Expect a CET 2.0 which will have to be appropriately renamed as an ‘affordable energy target”. Whatever the government comes up with it deserves to be known as the dirty or unclean energy target. It will be billed as a product of the cabinet and party room “consultation process”. In other words what Tony Abbott’s mob tell Turnbull he must do.

An environmental, energy and economic disaster, it promises to end Turnbull’s political career.

Yet Abbott’s consultation style was hopeless, too. Nor was he big on “proper cabinet government”. Mostly he got Peta Credlin to tell ministers what they were up to – or how far they were off the pace.  And he made up policy on the hop.

Turnbull two years out is vulnerable on all these counts just as he is hamstrung by his secret Faustian pact with the Nationals. Captured by the right of his party with its climate denial and its opposition to marriage equality he is unable to exert his authority, let alone lead. Further, as Bernard Keane points out, the PM is wedged between the sudden death of neoliberalism, largely occasioned by its inability to sustain wages growth and the rise of populist resentment.

This week a conga-line of ministers turns itself inside out in a series of back-flips on everything including the Paris Climate Accord as the Turnbull circus marks the beginning of its third, surreal, year with an Orwellian tour de force.

“This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”  promised Turnbull at first. Now he’s intervening in the energy market, lecturing the banks, re-jigging the gas market, even bullying AGL to keep open a costly, inefficient, unreliable, uneconomic coal-fired plant and proposing to build and run state power plants and even a railway to a coal mine or two in the best Soviet command-economy style. He styles himself as a pragmatist but his record is more one of agonising confusion.

In common with Abbott, Turnbull falls back instead upon a political style which is permanently stuck in opposition mode.

“We know that this Leader of the Opposition is shifty and he can’t be trusted,” Coalition junkyard top dog Dutton says.

“The Labor left will not allow a policy which sees boats stopped, deaths at sea stopped, children out of detention.”

Kill Bill is the now the only game the whole bitterly divided government can safely play. No wonder they do it to death. Luckily, our leaders can still rally the nation if not the party’s esprit de corps by making war on the poor, the less fortunate and those who throw themselves on our mercy.

Peter Dutton has just cut financial assistance for up to 400 asylum-seekers across Australia. Over seventy refugees are evicted in Melbourne. Fortunately, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government will provide financial support, food and shelter, “so they don’t starve on the streets” to those now facing homelessness on top of the trauma they have already endured.

The state’s support package follows Andrews’ letter to the prime minister last year offering to take “full responsibility” for asylum seekers who faced being sent back to Nauru. He received no reply.

In another surprise announcement, it is revealed that construction is well-advanced on Manus 2.0 in Port Moresby, of a duplicate detention centre to incarcerate refugees displaced by PNG’s decision to close the Manus gulag.  Details are sparse. Doubtless all has to be kept secret to spoil the demon people smugglers’ business model.

The $20 m building will house men who have been given “negative” refugee status, a category which includes those who have withdrawn from submitting to the cruel torture of “processing” their claims out of fear, trauma or a lack of trust.

“Those people, who total about 200, who have been found not to be refugees are to be moved into an alternative place of detention away from the regional processing centre, given that they have no lawful claim to be in PNG,” Peter Dutton tells parliament.

Sadly, it is always “those people” whenever the government speaks of refugees. Not “our people” as our common humanity would tell us or as international law would confirm. And we have only Dutton’s notoriously untrustworthy word for the adequacy or the legitimacy of the processing to say nothing of its legality under our human rights obligations.

The only possible humane solution is to bring those on Nauru and on Manus home to Australia immediately. Four years of suffering is enough. Apart from petty political point-scoring the government has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Yet such a move does not suit its increasingly narrow, right-wing agenda.

Nurturing Islamophobia and the persecution of minorities is now a mainstay of Coalition politics but in a new low, even for the fathomless enigma that is Turnbull, the week is darkened by the PM’s inaugural anti-Muslim dog-whistle.

“I notice they’re all making a sign of solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood with the Rabia sign there,” he bellows. “They might want to think about that.

Labor MPs are displaying four fingers to indicate his government has taken four years to do nothing on energy policy. It could just as easily indicate it has nothing to show in ending the illegal indefinite offshore detention of men, women and children whose only mistake was to throw themselves on our mercy.

Four years out, the Abbott-Turnbull experiment has so little to show for itself in the economy, the environment, education or any other area of policy, that it may as well take the opportunity of the closure of the Manus detention centre to rediscover its humanity and reverse its opposition to resettlement in Australia of those in off-shore detention.

Time for the PM to give his precious innovation agenda mob a real project. Nothing much else seems to be working.

Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse?

By Ad astra

Just when we thought Trump couldn’t possibly get worse, he has. Almost every day he exhibits more grotesque behaviour. It astonishes his colleagues, the media, the US electorate, world leaders, and indeed the entire world.

Back in May The Political Sword published America – what have you done?, which described the contemporary chaotic scene in the White House: That was at the time of Trump’s discussion with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, during which he foolishly exchanged vital intelligence with him. Trump subsequently denied this but later admitted that it had occurred, excusing his mistake on the grounds that he was entitled to do so!

America – what have you done? was published around the time that Trump fired FBI chief James Comey. The story behind this changed by the day. It emerged that Trump had tried to get Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had resigned after being confronted with the fact that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. Trump maligned Comey viciously, calling him incompetent, a ‘grandstander’ and a ‘showboat’. He said he was ‘crazy, a real nut job’, extraordinary language from the President of the United States.

Next, gaffe-prone White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was fired and replaced with the sycophantic Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Spicer was fired because he had objected strongly to the appointment of ex-hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to whom Spicer was to be subservient.

Then Trump fired Reince Priebus, White House Chief-of-Staff, and replaced him with homeland security secretary, General John Kelly. Priebus had been Trump’s campaign advisor and loyal supporter, but he still got the chop – loyalty runs in only one direction in Trumpland.

Shortly afterwards, Trump fired the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci who had made a profane outburst against Priebus. Scaramucci lasted just ten days.

Steve Bannon, previously executive chair of Brietbart News (a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website), who became Trump’s chief White House strategist, was already on thin ice with Chief-of-Staff John Kelly who was unhappy with the influence he wielded in the White House. Asked about Bannon’s future, Trump was initially equivocal with: ‘We’ll see’, but within days Bannon had been fired. Trump said this ‘was a great day at the White House’. Bannon though had the last say as he returned to his old position at Breitbart News. He told The Washington Post: ‘No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go.’

Take a look at Trump’s firings/replacements/resignations/departures/job changes in his first six months, up to 1 August. There have been more since:

By the end of August Trump had also sacked White House adviser Sebastian Gorka. Gorka, a close associate of Steve Bannon, had generated controversy with his combative interviews and anti-Muslim views. No doubt Gorka will not be the last to exit.

In the same press release, on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey was headed for Texas, Trump announced that he had signed a directive to reinstate the ban on transgender troops in the military.

The riots in Charlottesville marked another low point in Trump’s presidency. They were initiated by far-right, white supremacist, Nazi sympathizers with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, who objected violently to the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, an American general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee had married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia and took over the estate. He was cruel. He encouraged his staff to severely beat slaves who were recaptured. One slave described Lee as one of the meanest men she had ever met.

The extreme right clearly supported Lee’s behaviour and actions and resisted removal of this symbol of him. Anti-racist groups staged a peaceful counter protest, but the extremists, spoiling for a fight, began a violent pitched battle that left many injured and one dead.

It was Trump’s reaction though that landed him in deep trouble. At first, instead of roundly condemning the extremists for initiating the riot, he condemned both sides. Then, realizing that he had upset many of his colleagues and much of the electorate, he reversed his stand in a hastily-arranged press conference, where through gritted teeth he read a carefully scripted statement condemning the extremists and their bigotry, naming them all: ‘Racism is evil. Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’

 

Image from The Atlantic

It was obvious this ran contrary to his real feelings, so much so that he soon reversed this balanced statement with a now-typical Trump rant, this time about both sides being to blame. He defended the far-right protesters at the Charlottesville rally, saying they were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laid the blame for the violence equally on what he called the ‘alt-left’: ‘You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.’ Trump’s attempts to claim ‘moral equivalence’ enraged not just Democrats and those opposing the provocateurs, but also his Republican colleagues, who came out in numbers to condemn him in strident terms.

 

Image from The Daily Dot

Not satisfied to leave the Charlottesville episode to fade out of conversation, he stirred the pot again at a rally in Phoenix where he ‘sought to portray himself as the real victim, and launched an all-out assault on the media, branding journalists who “do not like our country” as the true source of division in America….The crowd – some scowling, some laughing – turned and jeered at journalists in the media enclosure and chanted: “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” Even as he spoke protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center had gathered to voice anger at his presence.’

Since then Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated his region. They will cost his nation billions of dollars in restitution. Trump’s initial reaction showed little regard for the victims, whom he met only on his second visit to Texas; he seemed more concerned with the size of the crowd that attended his rally. He promised lots of money and praised emergency workers.

Recently, he created controversy by his move to end President Obama’s DACA program that protected 800,000 ‘dreamers’ who had entered the US as children of illegal immigrants, who now live and work there. Trump gave Congress six months to ‘legalise’ the program, then did a deal with the Democrats to address this issue, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. The White House then gave contradictory accounts of what had transpired, confirming then denying the deal – typical Trump somersaults.

This man, who conducts international diplomacy via early morning tweets, managed to annoy PM Theresa May after the recent bomb event on London’s underground, with his tweet: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” May angrily retorted: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

Trump is incorrigible. His inner feelings always burst out. He generates discord whereever he goes. Commonsense and diplomacy are anathema to him. In business he called the shots and said whatever he liked. Now he cannot abide the constraints that the most powerful man in the world ought to accept. The only time he showed any constraint was when he was mugged by the reality of Afghanistan, and although it broke a pre-election promise, he took the advice of his generals and decided not to withdraw from that hell-hole.

Reflect on these events, which have occurred in the few months since America – what have you done? was published. Ask yourself if Trump’s behaviour has made the analysis offered at that time more or less valid. Let me quickly remind you of my thesis about Trump:

The following were held to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
Paranoia
Delusions of grandeur
Narcissistic personality disorder
Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Willful ignorance

Each was elucidated.

It was this analysis of the personality and behaviour of Trump that evoked the piece: America – what have you done?

Do you think his subsequent behaviour has made this assessment more or less valid?

Take another look at: America – what have you done?, and tell us what you think.

What is your opinion?

What do you feel about President Donald Trump seven months in?

How do you expect him to extract himself from the mess he has created?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Beggars for War: The US, North Korea and Bankruptcy

The statement before members of the United Nations Security Council was both brash and high strung. The US ambassador had clearly decided that firm words were needed to understand the continuing military advances of North Korea. To do so, Nikki Haley, far from the sharpest tool in the US diplomatic toolbox, hit upon what Kim Jong-un was doing: “begging for war.”

“Enough is enough,” she warned those gathered in the emergency session. “War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now.  But our country’s patience is not unlimited.” Troubling then, that the United States should be encouraging the circumstances for that war to take place.

Haley’s points suggest the exhaustion of options. They also cast a light on continuing failings. “Despite our efforts the North Korea nuclear program is more advanced and more dangerous than ever.” Suggesting, in fact, that US foreign policy has failed to reassure and counter; to contain and hem in.

But to hem in, to contain, to asphyxiate – the conditions, in short that will make Kim beg for conflict – is exactly what is being proposed. The upstart’s wings will be clipped, goes this attitude, and Kim will be potted.

To aid this, the Trump administration is renewing its efforts to enlist China to do its dirty work: bankrupt Pyongyang. A form of forced economic encirclement is proposed. The South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also suggested cutting off North Korea’s access to crude oil and foreign currency sources.

Beijing is hardly thrilled to shrink trade with a state that actually grew last year. “A temporary or partial ban is possible,” suggested Shi Yinhong, an adviser to the Chinese cabinet, “but the Chinese government will definitely refuse to cut off oil exports completely or permanently to North Korea.”

The method of forcibly starving a country of its oil and other necessaries has a good precedent for encouraging, rather than discouraging war. The United States was very much in the position of provoking conflict when it came to dealing with Japan in 1941. The rhyme of history is a strong one.

In the summer of 1941, prior to his departure for Placentia Bay, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave an executive order to freeze all Japanese assets in the United States. This was another measure to add to various embargoes on such items as scrap metals that were already implemented in 1940. Imperial Japan, went the reasoning behind these orders, might duly compose itself, desisting from aggressive measures in China, Indochina and Southeast Asia.

This approach did have its panic-inducing effect suggesting, to such historians as Charles Beard and Charles C. Tansill, the necessary opening of a back door to war. Given Japan’s hunger for US crude and refined petroleum products, the need to seek and obtain licenses to export and pay for each shipment of goods from the United States seemed steep. But supply would still flow.

What Roosevelt had not anticipated was the mischievous ferret under the cocktail cabinet. The agency responsible for granting such licenses fell that summer to Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

The disruptive Acheson, against state department advice, withheld approval for licenses to Japan to pay for goods in dollars. This was made more onerous by the fact that the US dollar was Japan’s only medium of international exchange after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The supply effectively dried up, targeting key Japanese vulnerabilities outlined by various studies done by the Economic Control Administration.

A cocksure, hardline Acheson was certain that his actions would not provoke in quite the way it did. “No rational Japanese,” he confidently surmised, “could believe that an attack on us could result in anything but disaster.”

This amounted to, in the words of financial historian Edward S. Miller, a conscious and dangerous strategy to bankrupt Japan, a change from an initial “patchwork of export restrictions to full-blooded financial warfare”. It was the sort of economic belligerence that had its ultimate realisation in the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7 that year.

There are natural differences between the context of 1941, which saw Japan snaking relentlessly through Asia, and 2017, which sees a contained nuclear armed midget facing a bellicose superpower. What remain are the ingredients of desperation, and the assumption that reason shall prevail between the players.

Historical analogies do offer useful illustrations, even if superficial. The one that stands out here is not only that threats of war can lose their edge of pantomime. (Will you really fire the first shot?) To forcibly cut off a state from its lifelines, to render it an economic invalid, can also be tantamount to a declaration of conflict, a form of begging, in fact, for war.

Dr Binoy Kampmark is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He is a contributing editor to CounterPunch and can be followed on Twitter at @bkampmark.

 

Super Mal of Monaro about to crash and burn.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No it’s super-Mal soaring high above the Monaro Plains! Up, up and away!

Faster than a speeding ballot or a same-sex marriage postal survey. More powerful than a speeding locomotive loan fast-tracked for approval in Adani’s boondoggle. Able to leap tall infrastructure building in a single bound.  Or soar above the heap of mounting crises from Abbott’s sniping to impending High Court hearings that could derail his government.

Parliament is about to resume. A new News Poll looms and two challenges to the Coalition’s postal thingy thought bubble could be decided next week. The dual citizen juggernaut thunders on while four years on, the Coalition has forgotten to get an energy or environment policy. And the government is tearing itself apart over marriage equality.

As it continues to do over climate. Helpfully, our resident international expert on climate change denial, Dr Tony Abbott announces he will be the star speaker  delivering a paper entitled “Daring to Doubt” at The Global Warming Policy Foundation which holds an annual gabfest in London. His selfless gesture is certain to help his party agree on a CET.

When the going gets tough, the tough get airborne. Super-Mal, son of Ming, scion of “the sensible centre”, hurtles across the political firmament, all fizz and spin; a sky-rocket without a stick; a whirlwind of technological agnosticism and base load bull dust. Up? Turnbull even tells Leigh Sales he’ll win the next election. Attacks her “cynicism”.

It’s impossible to keep up with him. Two days after he says the government has no plans to build a coal power station, Turnbull pledges federal support to Queenslanders hoodwinked into thinking this could fix their tripling power bills.

Why? The PM must appease his masters, of course. South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis  writes:

“ … the only thing standing in the way of lower prices, improved grid security and meeting our carbon reduction commitments is a divided Federal Liberal Party that is completely beholden to the coal lobby.”

Then there are MPs who have to be obeyed. Kiwi-Barnaby Joyce and his former chief of staff, Signor Canavani our Italian Senator are both noisy advocates for a mine whose only value is the profit in it to investors up for a boondoggle.

Super Mal would be easier to follow, however, if he satisfied Joel Fitzgibbon’s FOI request that he release his secret squirrel deal with the Nats, the Coalition agreement.

Turnbull refuses because it is private and not an “official document of the minister”. The case, currently before the Federal Court, promises to be a protracted legal stoush.

Yet it’s a lose-lose for the PM. A new coal power plant would not offer consumers lower prices, despite coal lobby spin.

AIG (Australian Industry Group) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance say electricity prices could double if new coal-fired power stations are built. Experts also say more coal-fired power generation is not needed. 680 MW of privately funded renewable energy projects are pending with $1.5 billion of new investment and more than 1200 direct jobs.

Yet, with an election announcement in the wings, QLD Opposition Leader, former Newman government treasurer, Tim Nicholls will fast-track a project using the latest high-energy, low-emissions (HELE) technology, to be built and run by the private sector if he wins. The QLD LNP has already proposed that Australia quit the Paris Climate Agreement.

Queensland Energy Minister, Mark Bailey, says another coal power plant is one of the most irresponsible policy propositions, ” he’s ever heard.  With eight huge generators Queensland is already the powerhouse of the nation. It does not need a ninth. Nor is it persuaded by coal lobby propaganda that new power stations are somehow clean.

The state already has four HELE plants, all burning black coal and using you-beaut “super-critical” steam technology. They emit only 10% less than stations burning the same fuel with regular technology. Queensland’s proposed new coal-fired power station is a litmus test in the Turnbull government’s complete and utter failure to get real about energy.

But why listen to cynicism? (Turnbull-speak for scepticism.) Innovation reigns. Up, up and away. Turnbull’s Coalition 2.0 upgrade replaces government with an eternal loop of announceables. Cameras show a PM doing stuff and looking tough. Fuddy-duddy consultation and collaboration are as yesterday as facts in a post truth, Trumpian universe.

Our new anti-terror partner, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, doesn’t let any of that consulting stuff hold him back.

Just to help duelling Duterte uphold the rule of law, Australia pledges help to the Philippines’ President in his battle in Marawi, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announces. Eyes in the skies, not boots on the ground she adds hastily.

Bishop’s caught on the hop with her own state becoming a foreign country.  WA Liberal Party delegates vote to:

“examine the option of Western Australia becoming a financially independent state”, late Sunday afternoon in a motion which manages to combine Liberal revolutionary ardour with its legendary commitment to fiscal prudence.

Yet her drift is clear.  In no way does sending the odd RAAF Orion to spy on his people mean we condone Duterte’s war on drugs which has caused the death of up to 13,000 Filipinos in “extrajudicial killings”, double-speak  for murder.

But the Pres is on to it. “There is a possibility that in some of police incidents there could be abuses. I admit that,” Duterte tells reporters in Manila. “These abusive police officers are destroying the credibility of the government.”

Duterte nails it. Doubtless our nation has much to gain from supporting the regime of such an enlightened ‘strong-man.’

Our PM is inspired. Junking the commonwealth’s clunky federalism for a united states of xenophobia, homophobia and atychiphobia (fear of failure) Super-Mal, soars effortlessly above the High Court, the constitution and the rule of law.

Beware you cynical 7:30 reporters, Stalinist revisionists, defacers of public monuments; all other evil-doers in our midst.

And bankers. Just look how we’ve put the wind up the banks, boasts ScoMo. No Royal Commission is required. ASIC and APRA are doing it all anyway, the wordsmith  and former tourist-tout now Federal Treasurer gloats. Then there’s my Banking Executive Accountability Regime (BEAR) which I will be introducing into the Parliament before the end of the year.

It’s “the take action now approach which the Turnbull Government continues to drive right across government”.

Like any “take action now” hero, Mal knows how to look the part. Tough? Does all his own image consultancy. Stylish to the core, our death-defying PM breaks out his emergency leather bomber jacket, Monday and ‘copters to Cooma. Time for a spin recycle.  Renewable? Bernard Keane notes, clean green Turnbull pumps Snowy Hydro PR back uphill, reuses it.

Carpe diem. Let’s do another showy, Snowy Hydro 2.0 whopper in a chopper. Spear-head this week’s instalment of “Malcolm malgré lui,” another ritual tussle with his brothers, the power barons, part of Mal’s epic struggle with himself, his party and anyone who answers back. He’s keeping the lid on power prices, he says in the whopper of the week.

The lid is part of “a comprehensive package” to put “downward pressure” on energy prices.

“Operation lid-on” is Wednesday’s well-staged show-of-farce in which Turnbull and side-kick Futz Frydenberg eye-ball energy executives. Cameras roll. A break-through is announced on ABC. Companies will mail consumers on how to get a discount on prices which on average have doubled in the last year thanks to our hugely defective price-setting system.

Turnbull’s embarrassing stunt will apply the same downward pressure that we’ve long exerted on petrol prices by driving to a cheaper outlet. None. The ACCC this week reports that Australian petrol prices at the bowser are at their lowest for 14 years. Gross retail margins, however are at record highs. Companies are not “passing on their savings”.

Yet it’s not trickle-down – it’s the consumer at fault. Taking a leaf out of the neoliberal playbook, the ACCC exhorts motorists to shop around. Oil companies could write letters to tell motorists which servo has the best prices each day.

Back at the showdown with Mal, Josh and the power CEOs, sparks fly. A quid pro quo situation arises. In return for writing a million letters, energy executives request the government set a Clean Energy Target.

A CET is all that remains of a sensible carbon emissions policy. Like the Cheshire Cat’s smile it is all that remains to a Coalition whose grasp on carbon pricing was destroyed for narrow political gain by Tony Abbott and his anti-climate science followers including Craig Kelly who recently claimed that renewable energy would kill people this winter.

The claim is helpfully repeated by Andrew Bolt.

Our electricity cartel’s request for certainly over a CET doesn’t make the news. It won’t pass the party room either. Given the entrenched opposition from the Coalition’s right, the key component to Alan Finkel’s government-friendly report will be ignored as Turnbull desperately tries to find a way to build uneconomic, toxic coal-fired power stations while feigning concern for the environment, public health, industrial health and safety or a commitment to renewable energy.

“Technology agnostic” rivals” innovative” in the battle of the buzz-words but nothing can disguise the dismal fact that the Coalition has fails comprehensively to devise either an energy or a real environment policy in four years of government. Nor did it ever really intend to. The Murdoch press helps by wilfully misrepresenting the shift to renewables as a false dichotomy  – a choice between jobs or clean energy. It’s standard coal lobby propaganda.

Luckily, our innovative PM has super powers. He can contain price rises with a re-visit to a project which gets no new funds and which is only a feasibility study on a scheme which relies on burning coal to pump water back up to the dam. It will take twenty years to build and its design guarantees it can only ever produce expensive electricity.

In a script straight out of ABC’s Utopia, Turnbull re-announces $8 million in funding towards a $29 million feasibility study on the project. The Snowy Hydro 2.0 idea was first explored in 1980 – and rejected because of the prohibitive cost.  Mal’s signature NBN fiasco has more chance of living up to expectations and promises than his Snowy Hydro 2.0 stunt.

Some state infrastructure projects could be just the ticket to help us out of what seems to be an approaching recession. In the nation-building afterglow of the Snowy 2.0 presser, no-one brings up the construction slump. That’s heresy.

Everyone knows the Coalition has completely reformed by stopping “union thuggery” and with its hugely diluted ABCC laws. Yet, as Alan Austin reports, the nation has seen three consecutive years of decline. It’s a unique achievement.

Turnbull blamed construction workers and their union for the high cost of housing, when he re-introduced the ABCC bill in Parliament a year ago, claiming the bill would help “young Australian couples that can’t afford to buy a house because their costs are being pushed up by union thuggery.”

Yet research from the Centre for Future Work reveals it’s a lie. There is no statistical correlation between construction unionization or construction wages and the soaring cost of housing. Construction wages are in fact below average for the last five years. Construction labour amounts to only ten per cent of new housing prices.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released Wednesday show building and construction investment has now declined for three financial years in a row. It’s an alarming result especially to a Coalition which vowed to make construction its signature achievement.

Tony Abbott fantasized about becoming, “ … a prime minister who revels in seeing cranes over our cities, who revels in seeing bulldozers at work and who revels in seeing water coming from where it flows to where it’s needed. That is the kind of prime minister that I would like to be if I get the chance.”  Instead he helped achieve the reverse.

Pleading global headwinds won’t cut it. Global trade is booming and company profits are at record highs. Explanations include the decline of real wages, low business confidence.

Yet there is also, Austin notes, a slow-down in investment from overseas which coincides with a shortage of public funds for infrastructure due to an acute loss of tax revenue caused largely by widespread tax avoidance.

Disaster dogs our super-hero at every turn.  His enemies are legion. Arrayed against Mal are eighteen straight News Poll falls, his nemesis, the mad monk Abbott, and a perfidious, shape-stealing “slithering-Bill” Shorten, a Stalinist-Trotskyite-Castro-ite opposition leader so keen to rebuild East Germany he carries his own Berlin Wall brickworks in a knapsack.

Mathias Cormann continues his surreal attack on Shorten begun last week at Gerard and Anne Henderson’s Sydney home dining club otherwise known as The Sydney Institute, a tax-deductible charity which is handsomely supported by Telstra and QANTAS although the names of its backers or “contributors” are closely guarded.

Cormann ought to do more stand-up comedy. He could clearly use a live audience. His dire warnings that the Labor leader is “getting increasingly cocky” a novel theme which Paul Kelly in The Oz re-badges as a ” Battle of Ideas” which, somehow, Cormann is “rebooting” include the tired assertion that Shorten is consumed by the politics of envy.

It’s a stock response to Labor’s pursuit of inequality a topic which the Coalition, with the help of the ABC, has relegated to a ‘contested area’ despite damning evidence of wealth inequality across generations.

It’s no easier to move from rags to riches in Australia than it used to be, and no easier than anywhere else concludes Dr Andrew Leigh whose recently published research creates Australia’s first very long run estimates of social mobility, using data on rare surnames among doctors and university graduates from 1870 to the present.

Dangerous Dan Tehan  believes “what we are seeing from Labor and from Shorten is a desire to go back to that type of governing where government knows best, government will impose its will”. Labor is trying to turn us into Cuba. Wags on social media look forward to a decent education and health system. The Cuban heel is a tricky pivot.

Tehan’s Cuba is meant to invoke a socialist state which saps individual initiative and wastes resources. This is totally unlike a Turnbull government which can ignore its UNHCR obligations and the rule of law to turn refugees out into the street when it wants them to hurry up and return to persecution either at home or in offshore detention.

Declaring war on the unfortunate and demonising bludgers are two of this government’s specialities but Supremo Dutton ups the ante with his attack on those refugees whom illness or a family member’s illness has caused to fetch up on the mainland, thereby circumventing the death-in-life of indefinite offshore detention so lovingly prepared for them.

In one of the most shameful chapters in the Turnbull government’s history and in the history of our nation, Dutton decides to cut off all assistance and accommodation; turn out into the street seventy poor and suffering refugees whose offence is to be sent to Australia because they were too ill to withstand the torture of onshore detention.

They can’t return to Manus. Many would be in danger back on Nauru. The government’s tactic is to force them to return to their country of origin where they are almost certain to encounter persecution. It is an act of despicable inhumanity. And it’s illegal.

What makes it worse is the clear sense that it is a stunt – a distractor to take pressure off the government’s myriad other problems with complete unconcern for the personal suffering of the men, women and children involved.

Dutton complains to his 2GB host Ray Hadley about the cost. He forgets that it costs $500,000 to house each refugee in offshore detention. Or hopes we forget. The case he makes continues the demonising of those whose only mistake is to seek our refuge.

The least we can do is to allow those here to settle; bring the remaining detainees suffering on Manus and Nauru to the mainland immediately. It is a political stunt which demeans us all. It is never about the money.

No money available? News comes Saturday that the Coalition will allow a $100 million dollar government subsidy to WA mining companies to help them with the cost of their prospecting, despite such costs being tax deductions. The Australia Institute publishes a report showing 83% of Australian mining companies are overseas-owned.

Tony Abbott gets subsidised. The former Opposition junkyard dog, who was a total disaster when his News Corp fear campaign made him PM, reveals he’s racked up $120,000 plus in travel expenses just last year, a matter which Paul Bongiorno sees as a tax-payer funded anti-Turnbull campaign. “Former Prime Ministerial duties”, Abbott puts it down as.

Abbott’s out to destroy Turnbull at any price, certainly. But let’s not discount how well Abbott’s destroyed every last shred of his own political credibility in the process. His legacy of division lives on in the current postal survey compromise.

According to some experts, The High Court is poised to disallow emergency funding to a postal poll in a challenge it will hear next week. How the government will react is not clear. On Sunday’s ABC Insiders Christopher Pyne was full of breezy mindless optimism and chose not to share any contingency plan.

The postal vote or survey is Super minister Dutton’s cunning compromise. An unfunded optional survey, it is a non-binding shonky sequel to Abbott’s dodgy plebiscite stunt  – itself a desperate delaying tactic to extricate the accidental PM from a push for by some Liberal MPs for a conscience vote on marriage equality.

“Good captain” Abbott could block democratic process in his party room while pretending to consult the people.   Genius.

Despite a ripper of an argument in response to a challenge- the postal thingy is “urgent and unforeseen” and thus the government’s entitled to $122 million straight out of the kitty – no dreary legislation required, experts are not upbeat.

Professor George Williams, Dean of Law at the University of New South Wales, puts a live cat amongst the pigeons when he declares Monday, that he would be surprised if the government emerges with a victory in funding the survey.

Given the long-running debate on same-sex marriage, it is far from obvious that it fits into these categories,” Professor Williams says at the National Press Club.

“How could this expenditure be said to be unforeseen at the relevant date of 5 May 2017 when the government had a longstanding policy of holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage? And what about this survey is urgent, except for the fact that it is necessary because of the government’s own political imperatives?

Nor does Williams fancy the chances of the seven MPs who will appear before the High Court. He also admonishes Turnbull for his abuse of parliamentary privilege in prejudging a matter before the High Court when it comes to the wretched case of Barnaby Joyce, whom the PM roundly declared will have no case to answer. “And the court will so find.” It may not.

Super Mal’s week is frenetic. It is successful, however, only as absurdist entertainment or distraction. In the end it is totally counterproductive. With every stunt, or stalling, a decision is avoided, a policy is not developed. Events scheduled  in the High Court and in energy and around marriage equality and in the near total breakdown in the government’s asylum seeker management are rapidly conspiring against it.

The government’s attack on Bill Shorten won’t save it. Instead its cheap cries of socialism, of Cuban and Eastern German and of class traitor only serve to signal its utter desperation. Lacking coherent policy or the capacity to plan, forever reacting to events it can’t control, the Turnbull government heads further into chaos and dysfunction.

The Dromenom Labyrinth and other curios

(A weekend reflection)

Jeesus I’ve been roped into some bizarre things by some very strange ladies God bless their souls and tantric postures! But a bloke gets swept away by that feminine mystique and enthusiasm for the strange, spiritual and bizarre … and crikey! … I ask you other chaps; who are we to deny them, hmm?

Take the time I was “encouraged” to be a part of this “Dromenom Labyrinth Circle” gathering. Just what is a Dromenom anyway?

“One set comes from the Gnostic tradition of the Chartres School, and the other from Sufi beliefs.” (Wikipedia). Well, there you go! And I had in mind ‘Greeks bearing gifts’.

Many years ago I was “involved” with a lady who was deeply immersed in the psychic (hey! I don’t make these things up, you know)! And so I was taken on the trip with the Full Monty (what’s that Groucho Marx ‘aside’: “I was in love once and I got the “business!”). I still have a couple of pics stashed somewhere with myself and a couple of the faithful holding sticks with some loosely tied chook or crow feathers on them as a kind of symbolic “connection” to “our” spiritual ancestors. And why not? My grandfather did breed chooks after all, and granny had her turkeys! But it was at one of those weekend workshops where people go back into their past lives and discover their tribal roots (marvelous how many Native American Indian princes there are in the Anglo-Saxon gene pool). Of course, one wouldn’t like to discover a spiritual ancestor who was, say, an Outer Mongolian prince … the image of “horde”, “massacre” and Genghis Khan springs to mind. The same with those Germanic types: Attila and all that! No … no … safer to wander the ancient forests of Seattle with, and pardon my ignorance in these matters, Pocahontas or Running Bear on ‘the shores of Gichigoomie’ (spelling ?). After all, all they did was hunt buffalo and make jokes about two dogs!

But I had to give that relationship away when it got to joining in spontaneous public performances of full-moon circle-dancing on the suburban beaches. I mean, fair go eh? There’s only so far a young bloke can be expected travel for some things. (sometimes the journeying ISN’T better, etc, etc). And don’t get me wrong. I’m a great believer in the spiritual myself. Why, I’m almost a Buddhist, y’ know?

There was this moment at one of the monthly meetings of “The Dromenom Circle”, where we were all expected to bring some example from our day-jobs that would show the spiritual connection between our everyday working life and our inner soul. As you know, I was in the building trade – heavy then, full on! I thought of Ron th’ brickie … my mind went blank on spiritual connection somewhere between sweating and swearing. After all, the “thing” in building for the tradie, is the finishing of the product. Or as James Joyce said to his portrait painter (wtte); “Don’t worry about the spirit of the thing, just get the tie right!”

So then I made models of three different wooden joints as an example of the advance of human vanity from the ancient Egyptians with a heavy-beam “scarf-joint” for spanning the rooves of temples, to an early concealed “fox-joint mortise and tenon” used in high-class chair manufacturing, to the creme-della-creme; “three way concealed dovetail” joint for use in the corners of display cabinets. I thought they were symbolic of the innate desire in humans to conceal the structure of a thing, yet contain the strength of construction of a thing … that sort of stuff. I know, I know … getting a tad philosophical for a chippy, but that’s the kind of bloke I was. Jeez! … they took some time and effort to make, especially the three-way-dovetail. But then, in spite of the work slaving over them, you see they were a little too “industrial” to be given much more than a curious glance, a wrinkled nose. Nothing spiritual in the actual working structure of things (isn’t it ironic how a lack of understanding of a thing swiftly precedes a lack of further interest in a thing?), so much more in the facile facade. The evil grin of the gargoyle gets more attention than the corbel supporting it.

So that was my experience with labyrinths. I walked them, I talked them, I did a lot of listening about them … them and Joseph Campbell on mythology. Jeez, he put out a lot of books and tapes. Cheerful bugger … that’s it; Cosmology. There’s a science there somewhere, I’m sure of it, though I’m buggered if I know. One can only travel so far down someone else’s road and then it seems that while they are spiritually walking a “field of wild-flowers and buttercups”, all  you are seeing is brambles and thorns. There comes a time to walk another path. Perhaps a road less traveled.

But I do recall that “parting moment” that severed the relationship – preceded by my unstoppable, lip-pinched, spittle-flecked guffaw.

I was “encouraged” to take part in that “circle-dance” in the first moon cycle on the beach at Henley Beach. We were sitting on the sand there at the bottom of the steps of the jetty, waiting for “Marcie” who at that moment appeared at the top of the steps.

“Oh look!” one person whispered, “She isn’t wearing her glasses. You know, she’s been taking that potion to strengthen her vision and she has been seeing “Joyce” about ‘overcoming with her mind’ so she can stop using her glasses”.

Indeed, there she was, head poised staring straight ahead, hand on the rail stepping elegantly with pointed toe straight toward us measured step by step with all the grace of a queen. We sat there staring in silence, in awe. Then at the foot of the steps, while staring dead straight at us, she suddenly threw a leftie and started to walk away up the beach. Yes … yes … blind as a bat!

”Marcie, Marcie” we called.

And that was about when I got “The Look”.

‘Phuck Fair’ – Advocating for the NO vote

By Kyran O’Dwyer

There was a story on the ABC which, on first reading, made little sense, other than some good craic. It was about the ‘Puck Fair’, a festival in Ireland, where a goat is King and a 12 year old lass is Queen for the three days of the festival.

But, wait a minute. Is this festival the harbinger of the new world order we are told to fear? It is, surely, a very specific example of what will happen if we don’t vote no. Whilst I have no affiliation whatsoever with either Mr Bernardi or Mr Shelton, I felt compelled to help their cause.

Is the goat the vision Bernardi saw in his 2012 premonition, that marriage equality is somehow a precursor to bestiality?

“There are even some creepy people out there… [who] say it is OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals.”

OK, it was 2012, when Bernardi was only a Liberal. Now that he has shirked off the shackles of liberalism, it is unlikely his views have softened in his ‘jump to the right’. It may be interesting to consider how an animal consents, but that can be pondered another day.

Is the child the epitome of Shelton’s dire warning?

The national advert is from the Coalition for Marriage group, led by the Australian Christian Lobby — one of the main opponents to same-sex marriage.

It features four women opposed to same-sex marriage and focuses on concerns around the impact of same-sex marriage on children.

“School taught my son he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it,” one said.

Don’t laugh, this is very serious stuff. It has already happened in England:

“A parent of one of the boys who participated said she supported her son’s protest.

“My son personally is coming home very, very hot … and he’s struggling at school and he’s quite irritable and stuff like that,” Julia said.

“It’s brilliant to protest and say, ‘OK then, if we are not allowed to wear that, then we will wear skirts’. Good on ’em.””

In the interests of saving the lads (Shelton, Bernardi and their ilk) the likely incandescent, apoplectic outrage at such barbaric practice (and the ensuing glee of circulating it with gay abandon), I thought I should check it out for them.

It’s Ireland, after all. What was once the centre of the conservative, religious world, the second largest Catholic state outside Vatican City, the land of Papal Bull, has degenerated in modern times. It has not only abandoned the Papal Bull by voting for marriage equality, but has openly appointed a gay man as its Taoiseach. Can it be any wonder that the moral decline was so swift, so precipitous?

Is this festival some sort of debauched bacchanalian fest, with undertones of beastiality and child abuse, only possible in a country that has abandoned its moral compass?

Is the 12 year old lass the example Shelton and his ACL warriors have waited for to embody their claim that children will suffer if marriage equality is to proceed? Is she the portrait of a ‘stolen generation’ he has yet to paint?

By way of background, Ireland was ruled (as much as the Irish have ever been ruled) by Irish monarchs from about 900 BC to 1100 AD. In typical Irish style, a population of some 500,000 people had up to 150 kings. Whilst the monarchies continued long after 1100, they were no longer genuinely Irish monarchies as the Anglo/Norman invaders assumed control. If inter-marriage didn’t work, slaughter was a viable option.

Prior to the Norman invasion, the Irish laws, known as Brehon Law, allowed divorce rather than slaughter. The Anglo/Norman culture preferred slaughter. Ironically, divorce wasn’t re-introduced until that Henry VIII bloke brought it back. Mind you, he was clearly conflicted. He would both divorce and slaughter his wives.

That sort of explains the validity of an Irish King or Queen. The divorce bit was just my wandering mind, in the off chance Bernardi/Shelton want a hand with the NO DIVORCE campaign.

Now for the word ‘Puck’. Regrettably, there is nothing sinister. It’s not even a euphemism. Puck is the anglicised word for ‘poc’, being the Irish for a male goat. Hence ‘Puck Fair’ is nothing other than “Fair of the He-Goat”.

The town of Killorglin, with its 2,000 occupants, is on the south west coast of Ireland, in County Kerry.

The festival is billed as one of Ireland’s oldest festivals, dating back to the early 17th century. Typical of Irish folklore, its origins are unclear. This is something that has never stopped the Irish. After all, they have never let facts get in the way of a good yarn. There are many local theories, ranging from a harvest festival, to tales of a lone goat fleeing Oliver Cromwell’s troops.

Given that context (and bearing in mind we are talking about Ireland), it is both reasonable and plausible that locals would pluck a wild mountain goat from its habitat and crown him king.

To be fair, the ABC report includes a condition report on the goat.

The goat appeared relaxed, if occasionally bemused, during his coronation.  This is, presumably, a cultural acknowledgement for that peculiar Australian sensibility, or sensitivity, about animals. There is a proud Australian tradition of outrage in the event that any cruelty is visited upon an animal. I say ‘peculiar’ because there is no such outrage when the most egregious cruelty is visited upon humans.

Anyway, back to Killorglin. Due to the foregoing, the rest of the story takes on its own reality.

You see, the King, a goat, was paraded through town before being crowned by the Queen, an honour bestowed upon a local schoolgirl.

So we have the King (a goat) and Queen (a 12 year old lass) presiding over a three day festival featuring music, street performers and a horse fair that sees the town welcome up to 100,000 visitors.

Sorry, lads. I tried my very best to find a story to validate your ambitious claims. I guess it just wasn’t to be. The festival, the monarchy, the goat King and the girl Queen all predate the appointment of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach. If it helps future campaigns, he was also the youngest Taoiseach, therefore we should not encourage the young. If it helps future campaigns, he is also of Indian descent (Ok, that may be a sore point in Australia at the moment), but it should discourage any ‘foreigners’ ever thinking they can contribute to their ‘new’ country, in anything other than a tokenistic sense.

They all predate the enshrining of marriage equality. To be fair, the Irish inquiry into sexual abuse by the clergy not only assisted the ‘Yes’ vote, but brought in a new guarantee for children across the country. Whilst the prospect of being interfered with by a member of the clergy will always be present, the chances of it not being investigated and prosecuted by the relevant authorities has been removed.

Don’t despair, lads. Maybe, we can use this as a template for our very own Fair.

Bearing in mind that the most significant import from Ireland to Australia is people, it’s only natural to assume that there would be an appetite for such a fair here. After all, more than 25% of Australians claim Irish heritage of some sort. That this swells to 100% on St Pat’s Day is right up there with climate change – a freak of nature. Apparently.

OK, the church isn’t as well entrenched as it used to be. But we can work with what we’ve got. We don’t have the same regard for Papal Bull down here, so we can work with Turn Bull. He is the only bull with a track record of turning on the mere glimmer of a red rag. We can dress up the Bishop’s’ and Abbott for clerical legitimacy. They all like to dress up anyway. There’s even a Cardinal down here for something. We can use him between his gigs at Court.

Bearing in mind you are trying to conflate all sorts of issues, our problem is that you haven’t gone far enough. The public don’t seem to be buying that equality is the same as freedom of speech or freedom of religion. We need to put more issues in to the mix.

Now, first we’ll need a name. “Puck Fair” is likely to be a problem. You know, proprietary interest and all that sort of thing. Whilst Australia has been fair phucked for a while now, “Phuck Fair” may be worth a try. It will certainly have appeal for the IPA/ACL mob. They have, after all, been phucking any notion of fairness for so long now, they would likely give it some historical recognition. Ah well, it’ll do for now.

Then there’s the King. We’ll need a King, don’t you think? Hmm, the Irish have done the goat. Aha, got it. We can use an Ass. Naturally, he will be referred to as King Phuck, not Phuck Ass. That would just be silly.

This works on so many levels. It validates Canberra as the venue, being the only suitable place to seat a monarchy. It ticks all the boxes. It is the recognised capital of Australia. And it’s full of asses. Also, there is no prospect of the animals being hurt. Between the politicians and the journalists, there is a well established tradition of kissing each other’s asses. A veritable love fest.

We can even have an Irish blessing for it. Póg mo thóin (Kiss my Ass).

This next bit may offend some of the more genteel readers, but we may need to tether a few politicians for the duration of the festival. It’s for their own good. The usual suspects may become a tad unsettled. They bray enough already. No point upsetting them further.

They may become spooked at the sight of so many asses, let alone develop identity issues. You know, “Am I a politician or an ass?”

The Queen can be decided through a ballot, a survey. By the end of this year we may have the perfect model for useless surveys. Naturally, the child will be kept well away from the asses. The braying would be intolerable. We may have to consider calling her “Princess Phuck”. For some reason, “Queen” has unacceptable overtones.

For economic reasons, we can only consider a two day festival over a weekend. Workers shouldn’t be encouraged to take a day off for the “Phuck Fair”. Naturally, those working at the “Phuck Fair” shouldn’t expect any extra wages. They are, after all, enjoying the “Phuck Fair” without having to pay entry. Any decent employer will forever chant “Phuck Fair” when any employee makes any request for such outlandish consideration.

Can’t you just imagine Canberra coming alive for a fun filled weekend of street performers, musicians and kissable asses? Even the politicians and journalists may hang around.

I have taken the liberty of looking over the ‘Puck Fair’ web site and it is like they have done the work for us. We don’t so much need the horse fair, there will be asses aplenty.

Perhaps a ‘Fair Ass’ pageant. We can have the music stuff. Instead of an Irish dance workshop, we can have our First People do something. Heck, get a few shandy’s into Joyce and he’ll do his own. Whether he would prefer to dance with a sheep rather than an ass is up to the High Court. The ‘Wobbly Circus Street Show’ can be the cross bencher’s parade. The ‘Captain Chaos Show’ is a shoe-in for Abbott. ‘Squawkabout’, well that’s got Pyne written all over it. As for the ‘Free Circus Workshop’, we can have a weekend sitting of Question Time.

So, lads, what do you think?

“Phuck Fair” will become the very essence of Australia, the very definition of Australian values. We can have a King Phuck and a Queen Phuck. Australians will be so busy celebrating Phuck all, they can forget, for a while, that that is all their politicians will give them.

Now, lads, I hope you take this with the sincerity in which it is offered.

With the benefit of so many distractions, it may be helpful to try once, just once, to add your voice to those decrying what our Christian government is doing to people.

Right now.

You profess to care for men, women and children.

Right now, our Christian government says that the lives of men, women and children are worth nought. If you could possibly lend the voice of your Christian values to those seeking no more than a fair go for those that need our help, it may add credence to your campaign.

Just trying to help.

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