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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.”

 

The capitalism beast beneath the bed

One of my daughter’s favourite bedtime stories is The Beast Beneath the Bed. The little boy in the book is scared of the beast beneath his bed – his scratchy snarls and little growls echo in the dark. These are the sounds of the beast messing up his room at night while he’s asleep. The boy loses his temper when the beast crosses a line by gobbling up his teddy bear; he yells: ‘stop it now, you fiend, you’ve messed up all my precious things and I like to keep them neat’. He then realises the beast is just as scared of him as he is of the beast. Once the boy gets to know the beast, they agree to compromise and get along, and end up wishing each other good night as they live happily ever after. The moral is, they each had different priorities in life – the beast likes mess, the boy likes order – and if they could just both compromise and find a common ground, they could get along fine.

I thought of this book as I watched the delicious live telecast of the Banking Royal Commission on Friday. For many years, left-wingers like me have been worrying and fearful about the capitalism beast beneath the bed. We have been watching the messy damage the beast has left in our communities, but we’ve been finding it difficult to articulate what to do about it. We’ve been too scared to address the idea of a beast so big, and struggled to give it a name. But, now that we’ve finally had our chance to meet this beast, to put it on the stand and interrogate its intentions, we find it is just a tanned celebrity Financial Planner by the name of Sam Henderson who lives on the Northern Beaches, loves surfing, skiing and crossfit. Once we meet this Sam, and we look at the damage he has done, and why he has done it, we, as a community, can see how things must change if we are to safely live with this beast, side by side. Now that we understand what led this beast to eat our teddy bear, we can finally understand what it will take for us all the get along with capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong, the Sam Henderson capitalism beast is a messy little shit. And, he is representative of a lot of other messy little beasts throughout not just the banking industry, but no doubt any industry with the profit motive. So, basically all of them. What we learned from our little delve into the world of Sam is that, if a capitalist can make money out of something, they will do it, and they will make whatever mess it takes to do it, as long as there is nothing standing in their way.

I thought of the beast beneath the bed swinging across the room on the boy’s lampshade, and falling bump onto the floor, as I watched Sam be probed, in excruciating detail, about how he came to almost lose $500,000 of Donna McKenna’s super balance. The only reason Sam failed in this planned-financial-ruin is because Donna, who is a Fair Work Commissioner, was savvy enough to check the recommendations of this financial planning ‘Practice of the Year’ before signing on the dotted line and picked up the ‘error’ the messy Sam had made while racing to charge her big bucks for financial advice.

Sam’s mess included him having to admit he knew one of his employees impersonated Donna between 6 and 8 times to get her super account details from the fund she was in, while simultaneously claiming he didn’t know why his employee would do this. The mess included Sam admitting he advertised himself as having a Masters of Finance degree he had never actually graduated from. The mess also included Sam referring to the complaint Donna made about him to his professional body – Financial Planning Australia (FPA) – as ‘knit picking’. We saw evidence of Sam threatening the FPA that if they didn’t treat him well throughout the complaint process, he would make life hard for them with fellow-FPA-member colleagues.

Here lies the problem. Since when has it ever been a good idea for beasts to join together in a beastly fashion and investigate their own beastly mess? Taking a wider view, as I’ve said, Sam is just one of many beasts, in just one of many beastly capitalist industries. Now that we see the mess these beasts are making, and the failure of their bullied-self-funded-so-called-professional-beastly-bodies to clean up this mess, the little boys – the community – the society in which we live – must take back control of this capitalist beast. If they won’t behave, we need to set down some rules for us to live happily side by side. If they don’t follow these rules, they should be banished from our bedrooms.

The little boy compromises with the beast by making a special deal: he would ‘let him play with all his toys, if he promised not to steal’, and the beast agreed not to eat the boys shoes if he left him out some bread. So, as a community, represented by our government, we should agree with the beasts that we will let them keep making money by giving financial advice, let them keep eating their bread, if they agree to adhere to strict, legislated regulations which protect the community from their wilful disregard for our needs. Our needs include not being ripped off. Not having our teddy bears gobbled up. Not being screwed over in the role of consumer, and worker. Not having our lives made a mess by unconstrained-greed-from-messy-capitalist-beasts.

I’m so glad we’ve now met this beast, and we can urgently begin the process of legislating regulations to keep it in check. The only way the community can sleep well at night with a beast beneath the bed, is if that beast is forced to behave correctly. We live in a capitalist society, and whether people like it or not, this system is not about to change. The point is, we don’t have to be fearful of capitalism, and in fact we can get along with capitalism, once we name the beast, and rein in its mess. Now we understand how this mess is made, we’re in a much stronger position to do this. Bring on the regulations, properly and independently enforced. Let’s change the rules.

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: 15 Things you may easily have missed.

Monday 12 February 2018

I spent the weekend driving my grandchildren back and forth to a basketball tournament and as a consequence I couldn’t write my usual weekend piece. It did however give me the opportunity to cleanup my “To Read FIle.” Even with the best of intentions I never seem to get around to digesting it all. So here are a few comments, in no particular order.

The mainstream media are still in a frenzy over the Deputy Prime Minister’s personal morality, or lack of it. His appearance on 7.30 last week did nothing for those of us who believe that people in positions of leadership should be of good character, although these days it doesn’t seem to matter much. Ask Trump. For me, character does matter.

‘’In the recipe of what makes a good leader there are many ingredients. Self-awareness is one. The innate ability to know who you are and what your capabilities and limitations are. The need to have the aptitude to motivate people with your vision. Often the art of leadership is the ability to bring those otherwise opposed to your view, to accept it. It is also about delegation, empathy and understanding. It can also require from time to time the making of unpopular decisions. Decisions like going to war. However when they consistently imply the leaders own morality and spiritual beliefs they are more akin to autocracy.’’ (John Lord).

I think there is a lot more to be milked from this story yet. For starters, why was Campion moved to a higher paying position? When did the Prime Minister first Learn of the problem? Is Joyce claiming expenses on the gift of a rent free apartment from a friend? And many more.

This must be the best example of double standards I have ever witnessed, especially when you consider the unwarranted abuse consistently thrown at Julia Gillard by the Murdoch gutter press and the Sydney shock jocks. Barnaby included. Barnaby Joyce should feel blessed.

If we accept a leader’s low standards of morality then all we are doing is demeaning the position they hold. In this case the Deputy Prime Ministership.

Anyway it will only need the slightest infringement and Barnaby will be finished. He only looks a shell of his former self.

PS: My rumour expert tells me that two Labor MPs are to be outed soon.

2 So with the Senate looking as though they will reject the proposed $65 billion in tax cuts, Turnbull says he will leave the money in the budget and fight it out at the next election. I know what side of that debate I would rather be on. He will argue that by giving the big end of town a massive cut they will reinvest it in their businesses and in turn create thousands of jobs and raise wages. It well maybe that whoever wins the debate over wages might turn out to be the winner of the next election.

It’s called the “drip down theory”, originating from Margaret Thatcher. I don’t think the big banks are into employing more people. Over time when they do hit the headlines it’s for shedding them.

Sounds very simple, doesn’t it? Except that nobody seem to be in a rush to provide any evidence. With companies showing a 20% rise in profits, and wages stagnant, I would simply ask, where is the investment, where are the jobs? On top of that around 700 companies don’t pay any tax and with dividend imputation (a system by which the company pays tax at the same rate as the shareholders personal rate) only pay 10% anyway. It’s a bloody hard sell.)

3 Apparently, or so I hear, the irrepressible Miranda Divine has described those wanting Tony Abbott back as leader are called Abbott Restorationists and delusional conservatives are called Del-Cons. Apparently the Abbott Restorationists believe that Tony is the only one capable of giving the party the leadership it needs. I think that means marrying his nutters with the more rational members. Mission impossible?

On top of that I’m reliably informed that Andrew Bolt has created a formidable group of Turnbull haters, led by him of course.

4 I hope you can all get a copy of the latest GetUp! newsletter. GetUp! is now so powerful it warrants special legislation from the conservatives to stop its influence. It’s an influence, hard-won, by lawful means in a democracy. If you believe in free speech, you should support them.

5 A lot was made about last week’s Newspoll. The Prime Minister’s figures showed some improvement but The Australian said he “surged ahead” of Shorten. Ah, language. It’s a wonderful thing. It seems to me that Australians in their annual revery wake from it in a benevolent mood but cometh the month of February they are back with the baseball bats.

6 Some of us see with absolute clarity why political parties have been losing their appeal and no one wants to join them. Others would see losing their own little piece of power as anathema to them. Oh dear, the problems you have when people come together.

7 My congratulations to the Government in their attempt to create more asylum seekers by becoming one of the world’s biggest exporters of arms. It has two advantages. Firstly, the profits are substantial, and secondly, with more arms more innocent people will become seekers of asylum and our Government will be able to feed their propaganda machine. Remarkable how they can remove subsidies to the car industry but subsidise weapons of war.

8 The fight between the right and left of the Coalition continues with Dutton firing back at George Brandis over his remarks that the ultra right were trying to take over the Liberal Party. What a bloody mess they are in! I agree with a certain journalist on Insiders on Sunday who said that he was a goose. Whatever that means.

9 Question Time continues to be the bear pit it has always been. 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.

10 It looks like the Government won’t refer Susan Lamb to the High Court. They have resurrected that table they used for all the economic debates and dear Susan is off it.

11 Malcolm Turnbull has much in common with John Howard. Howard has admitted in the past that he never truly understood Indigenous problems. In walking out of a meeting 15 minutes early Turnbull has shown the same attitude. In my lifetime of following politics I would hate to guess at how many billions of dollars have been spent on Indigenous affairs, including the Closing the Gap strategy. It was supposed to achieve health parity by 2030. It won’t happen. Together with the perception that he turned his back on the
Uluru Statement from the Heart, it is not a good look. His early writing as a journalist for the Bulletin also suggests an unsympathetic view of our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

12 The Banking Royal Commission commences today and is expected to report in 12 months, which is ridiculous but it’s what this Government does?

13 The December quarter retail sales figures turned out to be very unhealthy and had it not been for the release of the new Apple iPhone in November they might have been a disaster. It’s retail sales that makes the economic wheel go around.

14 Jim Molan’s stupidity in posting ISIS videos on his Facebook page was about as stupid as The Greens’ response.

15 Labor’s announcement of an ICAC policy hasn’t had the response I thought it might get. This week’s polls might prove otherwise.

My thought for the day

“Life is about doing things. Not having things.”

Day to Day Politics: Bloody hell, did I say that?

Saturday 27 January 2018.

These are extracts from my writing in 2016:

1 I was writing about truth in politics and quoted this as the greatest lie ever told by an Australian politician.

One of most important moments in the life of Menzies must have been when, on 28 April 1965, he lied to the Australian Parliament and people over an alleged call for assistance from the Saigon Regime of General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu as official head of state and Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ as prime minister. The first battalion arrived in Vietnam the following month. After March 1966 National Servicemen were sent to Vietnam to fight in units of the Australian Regular Army. Some 19,000 conscripts were sent in the following four years. 521 lost their life. The number of Australian invalid and otherwise victims of the war is still uncertain.

The document carrying the alleged call was never found.

An observation

“Long term government secrecy it doomed to evaporate into long-term lying.”

“Have we reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians have convinced us to believe rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence, arguments and assertions?”

2  It was November and I was writing about Turnbull’s progress with the NBN.

“Building an NBN for yesterday was never going to be as good as building one for tomorrow.”

“The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

3  In 2016 inequality was really beginning to be noticed.

“Inequality in all its forms is the greatest moral challenge of our time. Particularly economic 
Inequality.”

“Never have the rich been so openly brazen.”

4 Talking about my favourite topic.

“In a democracy people are entitled to express their views on any subject. And people like Cory Bernardi should be encouraged and provided with free soap boxes so their thoughts can be heard by the world. That way people will understand the characteristics of an extreme neo-conservative ideology. Then we are entitled to ask why it is that the right of politics attracts these sort of people with such elitist values.”

Eighty-five people control the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population.
 That is 85 people compared with 3.5 billion.”

“The wealth of the 1 per cent richest people in the world is worth about $US110 trillion, 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.”

“In the US, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population grabbed 95 per cent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 per cent became poorer.”

“The world’s richest 85 people control about $US1.7 trillion in wealth, equivalent to the bottom half of the world’s population.”

“Seven out of 10 people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in 30 years.”

5 Thoughts on Australia Day at the time!

“We celebrate Australia Day with a foreigner as our head of state and a flag that features the symbolism of another nation that speaks of our past and says nothing of our future. It is my hope that the younger generation that follows my passing might correct this.”

“To my friends who keep insisting that we are guaranteed free speech please listen. The Australian constitution does not guarantee it. It only implies it.”

“Could someone please explain to me the difference between a National Party politician and a Liberal one? The NP don’t seem to have any policies of their own let alone implement any. And they vote against things like the NBN that would advantage their constituents.”

6 Sadly this came to pass and you know the result.

“With Barnaby Joyce now an elected member of the House of Representatives this means that when Warren Truss retires, Barnaby will become deputy Prime Minister of Australia. Given the LNP wins a second term of course. God help us.” You know the outcome.

7  I wrote a piece about the affordability of pensions.

“To say that Australia in the future will be unable to afford pensions at the current rate is to also assume that there will be no growth in the economy. And to raise the age to 70 would only create a cohort of unemployed elderly.”

“Who in the construction industry (or any employer of physicality) would employ a 65-year-old when there are plenty of 30-year-old fit men looking for work? The oddity is that the elderly seem to vote for conservative parties whilst it is only the left who have done anything for them. Strange that”

8  At the time Gerry Harvey was voicing his opinion on all manner of things.

“When asked for a generalised opinion retailer Gerry Harvey can only ever give it as he views it through the prism of his cash registers.”

9 A comment on Julie Bishop’s point of view on the judges priorities in a certain court case:

“We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial. I recall sitting in the WA Supreme Court in an interlocutory hearing for the test cases involving Wittenoom miners Mr Peter Heys and Mr Tim Barrow. CSR was represented by Ms Julie Bishop (then Julie Gillon). (She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

10 Thinking about the environment!

“We pay a high price for the upkeep of our personal health but at the same time think the cost of the upkeep of the planet should be next to nothing.”

11 Abbott was doing his first overseas tour as PM. Here are some international observations:

The Guardian (England) judged him as “politically incorrect to the point of dementia”
New Statesman said Abbott represents “politics at its most crass, exploitative and disturbing”

UK Labour MP Paul Flynn called him “a bigoted airhead.”

The LA Times said he was “scandalised by his prejudices.”

The Sydney Morning Herald said; “Tony Abbott had plumbed new lows in government decency.”

Le Monde thinks he was “sexist and vulgar.”

The influential Huffington Post said “he is simply an idiot.”

12 Writing about the bear pit.

“Question Time is devoid of wit, humor, 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.”

My thought for the day

“The young are so busy discovering themselves, the world they live in and their place in it that they are apt to neglect the fact that it is they who are the custodians of tomorrow.”

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.

Connecting the dots

By Leonie Saunders

Recently I was asked by a friend and much-respected comrade what my thoughts were on the involvement of Western powers in the Middle East: from the sale of arms to ISIS, to our grubby alliance with the barbarous Saudis, to the use of chemical agents by the West in theatres of war (i.e Napalm and Agent Orange), and to the recent bombing raids by the U.S. Britain and France in Syria – with Trump arrogantly proclaiming it as necessary to teach Bashar al-Assad a lesson.

While giving the necessary thought that the subject deserved prevented me from responding immediately, nevertheless I finally began writing my thoughts a few days ago and despite Robert Fisk’s edifying revelations in the meantime; my analysis stands.

I stated when I wrote on (my Facebook group) Connecting the Dots at the time the Russians were accused by the British Prime Minister of using a nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate a former double dealing spook in the U.K., and that I can only surmise who was responsible for the crime. Likewise, I have to say if there was a chemical attack in Douma, I do not know who was behind it any more than I know for sure who poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Nevertheless, for my two bobs worth, as a keen observer of patterns in human behaviour and as a person who knows sophistry when I hear it, there is no doubt in my mind that the political application of chaos theory is at play.

There is nothing, nada, zilch taking place in the machinations of geopolitics today that is free of a capitalist agenda. From Russia’s self-interested oligarchs, and Putin’s strategic cunning that underpins Russia’s alliances with Syria and Iran, to the travesty of the West’s actions in the Middle East and elsewhere at the hands of supercilious freeloading hustlers, posing as leaders. That leaders without scruples have the temerity to insult us by placing hands on hearts as if they are the arbiters of morality, causes me anger but it is a positive anger as it works to concentrate my focus.

We should all be wary of those who show a visceral distrust of humanity. This manifest dislike lurks in the private character of all right-wing mercenaries is writ large in politics. The attitude of today’s mercenary class when in government is on display in how hostile they are to intellectuals. In truth there is no exaggeration in saying that the right-wing elite have an innately negative predisposition. It revealed in many ways not least of all as hard-hearted indifference to the suffering of the ‘other’. History shows that when those in power are devoid of compassion, the safety of freedom-loving innocent citizens everywhere is under threat. This is as true today as it was with the rise of fascism pre-WW2.

The right-wing establishments unending warmongering and their capacity for hubris and hypocrisy quite literally turns my stomach. While in public, the likes of Trump, May, and Turnbull dare to claim the moral high ground as they sermonise about rights and freedom, arguing that it is imperative that all nation states adhere to the rule of law. Yet behind closed doors they surreptitiously green light the activities of their filthy rich arms trader mates, and sanction their covert operatives on the ground to supply all manner of weaponry to listed terrorist organisations. Leaving innocent women and children exposed to even greater dangers from all sides.

The West’s unrelenting involvement in the Middle East highlights the prescience of Eisenhower when in his seminal farewell speech in 1961. He warned Americans to be on guard to the pernicious influence of the burgeoning Military Industrial Complex. Sadly, I suspect that by the time Eisenhower gave his retirement speech, corruption in the U.S. had already began to make its way to becoming systemic.

Fast forward to today and there is certainly enough evidence that the checks and balances that British, U.S. and Australian citizens rely on have been irreparably compromised, thus proving none of us are safe from the machinations of self-interested, cold-hearted elites. They are especially dangerous when elected to government. It is then that they become hell bent on doing whatever it takes to succeed in their quest for more and more power and profit. This is why nothing that any of them do to innocent civilians comes as a surprise to me.

Looking at the exploits of the power elite in the oil and gas rich Middle East and a pattern of behaviour becomes quite evident. To put it in a nut shell, they lie. They lied about Saddam Hussein’s hidden stockpile of chemical weapons to justify invading Iraq. Iraq being the first of the dominoes to fall made targeting Gaddafi in Libya all the more easier. They are, if nothing else, predictable. Take for example the big bad wolf using chemical weapons on the innocent scenario. It worked for them before, so it was only natural for them to use it again. It is reasonable that they would have anticipated a level of public doubt. But of course, with the media’s support, it’s manageable. And with no independent Western journalist on the ground like there was in Vietnam. There is little likelihood of nonpartisan reporters telling us how many casualties there were as a consequence of U.S. bombs being dropped on strategic targets somewhere in Syria.

‘Bombing for peace is like fucking for virginity’ may very well be the only truth behind the chaos these wretched warmongers manufacture. They will stop at nothing to overthrow the Syrian Government. Their idea is to do just as they’ve done in Iraq. If it all pans out, they will install a puppet president who will open the way for the 1% to exploit Syria’s oil and gas resources. Then it’s on to Iran! Argh, but wait … maybe not. Not if Putin has any say in it; and he does!

‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ strategy that forms part of the U.S.A’s strategic policy agenda in the Middle East was obviously developed without any input of experts in Middle Eastern history and culture. That their actions suggest knowledge was superfluous to their needs is symptomatic of the smugness that undermines the capacity for logic in those with power. Then again, why bother with knowledge when superior military power is what they rely upon to keep the wheels of the Military Industrial Complex well-oiled.

A wise leader would know to successfully make allies in the Middle East. Learning the history of religious and cultural complexities in each region would be prerequisite. Making friends of one’s enemy’s enemy is always tenuous, so wisdom and logic combined would suggest this ought be factored in long before banging the drums of war and sounding the charge. Odds on, if Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq and Afghanistan were asked’ “Do Western technocrats, and military commanders have the wisdom, knowledge and the skills required to navigate sensitive cultural landscapes where hostility exists between divergent religious sects?”, I reckon belly laughs would ensue.

Ultimately what matters is the blood dripping from the hands of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ that gave rise to Al-Qaeda and ISIS has meant that the enemy of my enemy is my friend strategy has no benefit to civilians in worn torn regions. Nor for us in the West. Innocent civilians will continue to be terrorised whether it is by religious zealots, alt-right fascist or at the hands of the 1% with shares in the Military Industrial Complex.

The merry-go-round of Western intervention guarantees bombs and other instruments of war will take lives in Syria today and elsewhere tomorrow. And as per normal, well normal for them. The war machine driven for economic advantage can make for strange bedfellows. Trying to guess who Donald and Teresa will seek to cuddle up to next is analogous of a soap opera. But even in soap operas, some things don’t change. The storyline will remain the same so long as Assad stands between them and the energy resources they covet. They will stop at nothing to topple their nemesis.

There is little doubt that every rapidly escalating act of aggression in this region invariably involves the Saudis, the Americans, the British, and the Israelis. Albeit for different reasons they are united in working together to exact revenge and destabilise the region. They do so by way of direct involvement of their covert agencies supplying weapons or indirectly by way of third parties.

Take for instance the latest deceit. With British, U.S. and French spooks in the region, it is reasonable to suggest that the residence of #10 Downing Street, the White House and Palais de l’Élysée knew only too well that as the highly respected correspondent Robert Fisk exposed this week; there was no chemical attack in Douma. I also suspect the absolute arrogance of May, Trump, Macron et al, led them to believe they would not be exposed for the lie that underpinned their justification for last week’s retaliatory attack.

Much is said about the dictatorial character of Assad. Which is a tad ironic given that by bombing Syria without consulting their respective Parliaments Trump, May and Macron are in effect autocrats thumbing their noses at democracy. As well as ignoring the United Nations Security Council mandate and the internationally agreed upon rules governing war and conflicts between member States. One can only hope their imperious arrogance will be their downfall.

We know that when it comes to the U.S. exercising aggression, under the 1973 War Powers Act, power is vested in the President. Thus as Commander and Chief POTUS can act as a quasi-dictator as he or she can initiate an attack on another sovereign nation without first consulting the United States Congress. So too can British Prime Ministers; they are also not bound by law to consult with the Parliament prior to making such decisions. Nevertheless, out of respect for the Parliament, British Prime Ministers have traditionally done so.

Therefore, it is quite telling that a tradition loving conservative Prime Minister did not consult the Parliament, and when challenged after the fact she used trite excuses for not doing so. Obviously, Teresa May knew she would have to face questions from Labour Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, and knowing it is political suicide to be caught lying to the Parliament, she deemed it preferable to disrespect tradition. The reasons she gave for doing so were as suspected by we lefties – and now confirmed by Robert Fisk – totally unjustified. That being the case, the monsters are prime ministers and presidents who totally devoid of conscience, can mount an attack on another country simply to divert attention from domestic troubles in the hope of improving their stocks as leaders.

Think about this in context to the amorphous war on terror. Every thinking person knows, the ill-defined war on terror is a by-product of the lengths the West’s sanctimonious leaders will go to serve their particular political agenda; whatever that may be. Aside from Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn, there was no stern voices coming from Opposition quarters in the US, France, or for that matter here in Australia. Certainly, in the lead up to the attacks there were no voices in the mainstream media that challenged the proposed actions of this deplorable alliance. Surely, we as civilised people should be demanding a balance of voices! Why weren’t voices against the proposed attacks given a readily accessible public platform prior to the U.S. unleashing the dogs of war to wreak havoc on the people of Syria?

From my perspective the things that ought to send shivers down the spine of all freedom-loving people around the world is how May, Trump and Macron et al can act as they have without any evidence of an actual chemical attack on the citizens of Douma. They can do this and get away with it simply because unlike the brave journalists who in accordance with their professional integrity to report the facts accurately without fear or favour, lived up to their public obligation by revealing the truth behind the Vietnam War. Whereas today in Britain, the USA and even more so here in Australia, the general population remains ill-informed because right-wing shock jokes and overly ambitious, typically vacuous news journalists hostile to unions dominate our TV screens and airwaves. Ergo, one of the very essential checks on power is diminished. Thus the overall decline in quality journalism over the past two or more decades is a direct consequence of the filthy rich fat cats at the big end waging union busting class warfare.

The reasons that today’s journalists are unquestioningly compliant to the implicit demands of their bosses involve union busting. But that is a topic for another day. Nevertheless, in light of that – and the fact that media owners and their affiliates have vested interest in the oil and gas business and that Syria is rich in these resources – it is not happenstance that right across the mainstream media, journalist willingly depict Assad with a scripted big bad wolf narrative.

Again, I reiterate there is nothing, nada, zilch taking place in geopolitics today, including the use of chemical warfare that is free of a capitalist agenda. All things considered, it doesn’t take a degree in forensic research to recognise the big bad wolf narrative promulgated via Western media news outlets is driven by greed and self-interest.

No-one – not even his enemies – would describe Bashar al-Assad as being unintelligent. Therefore, it made no sense to me at all that an intelligent leader who has been fighting to save his country from the religious tyranny of ISIS, and assorted fundamentally disparate groups of rebels, would decide to attack the citizens of Douma when his army was on the verge of winning the war. It is absolutely nonsensical.

That Teresa May, Trump, and Macron et al, including our Prime Minister think it acceptable to bomb and kill innocent civilians in Syria or elsewhere in the world demonstrates the characteristic wickedness that is common in the upper echelons of power. With Pine Gap making us a target, it is indeed worrisome that regardless of which political party is in office, Australian governments without question will wear a leash, euphemistically called an alliance and continue to behave as loyal lap dogs. This country’s political class will follow along looking to their American masters for scraps of information and be satisfied with the occasional pat on the head during official visits.

The idea that they can justify bombing Syria to teach Assad a lesson on the basis of what amounts to pure supposition flies in the face of reason. While it is axiomatic that rational people of good conscious smell the lie in the actions of these unworthy leaders. It is nevertheless the preparedness of the mainstream media to propagate the lie makes a mockery of democracy.

Bearing motives in mind, given war and the relentless pursuit of more power and profit by the world’s capitalist elite facilitated by fellow elites in right wing governments go hand in glove, it is inconceivable that Western military intervention on foreign shores will ever come to an end.

So unless civilised peoples across the globe utterly reject the innately predatory behaviour of the world’s mercenary-minded capitalist elites and their pernicious profit making schemes, the constant threat of war will inevitably take its toll it on humanity and the predetermined path of imploding Capitalism will take the best of civilisation down with it.

Ok ok, if you’ve gotten this far you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom; but it’s not. Aphorisms such as ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ stand the test of time for a reason. For me as a Democratic Socialist Newton’s third law, that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction is where hope resides. The demise of capitalism can’t come soon enough for my liking. Time has to be on the side of the world’s best and brightest Socialists. ‘Cause only the best and brightest Socialists acting in solidarity across the world will end wars and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. And in so doing our children and our children’s children will be free to live without fear.

Time is running out, folks.

 

Trump reaches for the Tomahawk while Turnbull’s rivals sharpen their knives.

Mafia Don, as former FBI Director, James Comey designates Donald Trump in his best-seller, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership is ever more desperate, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation closes its net on the nepotist-in-chief and his comic Corleone family’s alleged criminal collusion with the Russian government.

Two weeks ago, in Richfield Ohio, the US will exit Syria, he tells a crowd.

 “Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump promises, in a riff which echoes The Beatles’ classic, Get Back “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be…”

But that was then. This is now. Now Trump has as his National Security Adviser, John “mad-bomber” Bolton the stark raving bonkers neo-con, “architect” of the Iraq War WMD disaster, a hawk’s hawk who lusts for war on Iran, North Korea, Syria and regime change in Libya, Syria, and Venezuela.

Apply the emergency brake. In another high-speed Trumpian highway chase U-turn, which evokes our own helmsman, hydrogen gas-bag Mal, another untethered[1] barrage balloon, of whom Essential’s Peter Lewis, writes, “(Turnbull) didn’t walk away from his beliefs, he never had any “, Trump tweets about “our beautiful, smart” missiles a reference to the slow, low-flying, long-range Tomahawk missile first deployed in 1991.

Will he also countermand his instructions to his military commanders to quickly end American involvement in Syria? Who knows what he’ll do when the diversion fails to halt Mueller’s inexorable advance. For now, in the eternal present of the president’s goldfish consciousness, it’s time for a token show of force.  And perfect for chicken-hawk Trump.

A Tomahawk may be large and slow, but it has a long-range and flies below enemy radar.

Unlike James Comey, who is “an untruthful slime ball”, – (at least it’s an area in which Trump can claim some special expertise) – Mafioso Don reveals in 280 characters or fewer why the fading ex-star of The Apprentice is still world’s best reality TV president.

He provokes Russia into threatening to shoot down any US missiles and to respond to any strike on Syria “at the source”, the first threat of direct military action since 1945.

Then it’s on for young and old – especially the old white males of Trumpdom.

“A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad,” Trump says on a special Saturday night White House broadcast, Friday our time.

Associated with? No proof is provided that Syria is behind the alleged chemical attack last weekend in Duma, where up to 70 people may have been killed.

The gas allegedly used in the Duma attack is chlorine which is not on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) list of banned chemicals and is not classified as a chemical weapon. Any country, including Syria, is allowed to possess it, but cannot use it as a weapon.

If chemical weapons were used, the US is being highly selective. A string of such attacks in Syria has been reported in the last five years. The UNHCR’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (even the title is a worry) claims to have confirmed at least 34 chemical attacks since 2013, many of which it says used chlorine or sarin, a nerve agent, and were conducted by the Syrian government.

Syria, Russia and Iran all deny that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

“The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible,” our local Great Helmsman reads from his US kit of talking points, Saturday, despite his government’s support of Saudi Arabia which, The Washington Post, reports uses US-supplied white phosphorous, a chemical weapon, against Yemen. But relax, it’s OK if it’s used carefully. It’s a nice little burner.

Last June, Human Rights Watch warned, “US-led forces should take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm when using white phosphorus in Iraq and Syria.”

In early 2017, US Marine artillery deploys to Syria in support of the operation to retake Raqqa, an operation in which “Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)” are also participating.

The Washington Post publishes photographs of the deployed Marine unit equipped with white phosphorus projectiles, as well as similar pictures showing white phosphorus projectiles with US Army units outside Mosul.

A Raqqa resident living in Beirut tells The New York Times in June of an internet cafe in Raqqa hit by white phosphorus, killing around 20 people.

White phosphorus, the US claims, it sells for signalling only. What could possibly go wrong? When used against soldiers and civilians as reports attest, it can kill or maim by burning to the bone. It was used in the Battle of Fallujah November 2004 where Jim Molan helped direct operations in a hopeless attempt to “flush out” Sunni insurgents.

Depleted uranium was also used against civilians. Coordinates revealing where US jets and tanks fired nearly 10,000 DU rounds in Iraq during the war in 2003 have been obtained by the Dutch peace group Pax.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published an epidemiological study in 2010, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009,” found that “Fallujah is experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia and infant mortality than Hiroshima and Nagasaki did in 1945.”  But that was then and this is now. That was them and this is about Trump’s political survival. Bigly.

Turnbull, so pro-USA, he says, we’re “joined at the hip” (and lip?) parrots Trump’s hypocrisy.

“The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity.  The attacks are “a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response.”

There’s always a first time. But Turnbull needs a calibrated, proportionate diversion when his 30th Newspoll Abbott petard blows up in his own face this week.

There’s blood in the water. A hapless Turnbull staggers across his own Rubicon of “30 losing Newspolls”, as The Australian’s latest landline phone survey, published last Sunday, reveals Labor leads 52-48 on first-party preferences based on 2016 voting intentions. Blood, too, in news of mass deaths in the live sheep trade, a business essentially, as a senate committee found in 1985, “inimical to animal welfare”.

While refugees can rot in squalor offshore, animal lives really matter to this government, given the power of images of animal cruelty to move television viewers to demand that the Coalition do something. Cue shock and horror; David Littleproud’s debut.

“I’ve seen that footage and I was absolutely shocked and gutted,” neophyte federal Agriculture Minister and Barnaby Joyce protégé, David Littleproud says in an extraordinary outburst of visceral imagery. Talk about going butcher’s hook.

Littleproud’s responding to 60 Minutes’ fourth story since 2003 on the live sheep trade showing WA ship, The Awassi Express, on a three-week voyage from Fremantle to the Persian Gulf with 65,000 sheep. 2400 sheep, it is said, die from heat stress and overcrowding. Lambs are born and crushed underfoot.

There’s no money to invest in a humane live sheep fleet but the federal government announces this week that it will match Victoria in plunging $50 million each into a half- billion dollar pilot plant that will operate for just 12 months to produce “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen from brown coal over a whole year.

Three days after Tony Abbott’s coal-fired power and Lycra revival bicycle tour through the Latrobe Valley, Turnbull is desperate to compete with anything that Abbott may have to offer. Even if it is another, utter con-job. At least he goes for a noble gas.

The PM’s hydrogen mania appears highly selective; contrived. Where was Turnbull when wind and solar-fuelled hydrogen projects – which will create significantly more hydrogen at a fraction of the cost from wind and solar – were unveiled by the ACT and South Australian governments (before Labor’s SA election loss)?

SA’s  50MW wind and solar-fuelled electrolyser at the new Hydrogen Hub would be built by Neoen near Crystal Brook, could provide 20 tonnes of hydrogen a day, at a fraction of Turnbull’s brown coal thought bubble. Giles Parkinson reports the entire complex, including 150MW of solar, about 150MW of wind, a 50MW hydrogen plant along with up to 400MWh of battery storage, would cost around $600 million.

The brown coal hydrogen experiment is located at the Loy Yang brown coal mine complex, where AGL will keep its huge brown coal generator operating until 2048, despite our hopelessly conflicted energy minister Josh Stalin Frydenberg insisting, like a true state socialist, that Loy Yang A and B plants must run until 2070.

For the pilot to succeed, however, depends on carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that is still a pipe dream. Like the perpetual motion machine. Not that Andy Vesey AGL boss needs to worry about the pollution created during the experiment. Like the government’s energy policy itself, it’s exempt from any real-world constraints.

Our CCS industry is a metaphor for the Turnbull government’s track record of over-promising and totally under-delivering. Last year’s Auditor General’s report, reveals a total of $450 million wasted so far. All up, over $1.5 billion has been squandered.

There is nothing to show for government funds punted on CCS. Snowy Hydro 2.0 is also likely to be an expensive dud. Think NBN with coal-fired uploads.

$6 billion just disappeared into buying out NSW and Victoria’s interests – (provided the 2018 Budget passes)-  to help the Turnbull government proceed with its untried, unproven Snowy Hydro 2.0 pipe dream – now estimated to cost $4.5 billion – not including the $2 billion estimate it will cost to upgrade transmission lines from the mountains to Sydney and Melbourne.

The Turnbull government can find $12 billion plus if it means feeding its anti-solar and wind ideology, but it has no intention of putting any money where its mouth is on the live sheep trade, a business where farmers’ interest and animal welfare are ever at odds.

Yet the conflicted Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud is beside himself with outrage. It’s easier than admitting as Bernard Keane notes that the Department of Agriculture simply refuses to regulate animal welfare. Dave rushes to defend the farmers.

“This is the livelihoods of Australian farmers that are on that ship. That is their pride and joy and it’s just total bullshit that what I saw is taking place.”

The aptly named Littleproud proceeds to lash his own department, a mob lovingly fashioned in his own image by former party leader in exile, New England’s pride and joy, Barnaby bullshit Joyce.

Minister Littleproud is making “a brave decision”, as Sir Humphrey would say, if not a “courageous” career move.

Agile, innovative and keen to staunch more bad PR, Littleproud says he’ll get the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, himself a paragon of compassion and justice who has endeared himself to all Centrelink pensioners via his robo-debt regime of terror to examine the “skills, capabilities and culture of the regulator”.  Perfect call.

The regulator is the federal Department of Agriculture. It’s will rather than skill that is their deficiency. Yet can they be blamed for just following orders? Ask Nuremberg.

“Staff have diligently reflected Barnaby Joyce’s indifference to animal welfare and preference for the industry to self-regulate. That is Joyce’s legacy on this matter,” writes The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray, a view echoed by Bernard Keane.

Joyce used live exports to harangue Labor, ceaselessly talking up how its “irresponsible policy plunged the northern Australian cattle industry into extreme hardship” despite a lack of any empirical evidence. The irony is that now Joyce’s indifference to animal welfare has created a real, live, problem for exporters. But he’s worse with people.

Cruelty to public servants is an Abbott-Turnbull signature theme. Agriculture ministry workers ought not to take it personally. Since Abbott, a Coalition committed to “smaller government” and to outsourcing to private contractors avidly slashes funds and culls its workforce, throwing government servants and their families into penury via Orwellian “efficiency dividends”, – if only to rehire some as contractors.

Last September The Australian Public Service (APS) Commission reports there were 152,095 APS staff at the end of June, after a decline of 2.3% over the previous financial year. It’s the lowest figure since 2006. Apart from understaffing and issues of morale and politicisation it’s a fair chunk of knowledge and experience to excise from a public service which increasingly must bear the wrath or the whim of the Minister.

Whim? A whole department may find itself “relocated” from Canberra to Armidale, decimating its workforce by decree as “Joe Stalin” Joyce is doing with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) which appears now largely crippled and utterly demoralised by a loss of qualified personnel.

Staff departures reached nearly 20 per cent in 2015-16, a national audit report found last year. APVMA was struggling to find regulatory scientists to replace those walking out the door since the Coalition government decision to move it in November 2016.

Yet there are even more disturbing signs. Australia now has a bureaucracy specifically engineered to deliver indifference and inflict suffering, warns Professor Stuart Rees in New Matilda, as “clients” of Centrelink would attest.

“Fear, engendered by cruelties has become central to the operations of an allegedly rational, efficient Australian government” he writes citing the now notorious example of Scott Morrison who as Immigration Minister, in 2013, instructed ASIO to delay security clearances for refugees until he’d changed the law to cruel their chances of citizenship.

Quibbling has broken out this week between Home Affairs Peter Pooh Bah Dutton and hapless Malcolm Turnbull, eternal puppet of the right-wing, over whether cabinet discussed Dutto’s brilliant idea to cut immigration. It’s a great way to seize the headlines and to dog-whistle racists which also allows Tony Abbott to gain some extra unwarranted attention, but it may be attention that the Coalition does not really need.

The Federal Ombudsman reported in December 2017 that on the handling of citizenship applications that required integrity and identity clearance, some people had waited over 18 months for an outcome. There was also an increase in the number of applications where a decision had not been made for over two years.

Bleeding profusely from some ugly self-inflicted injuries, such as making himself a hostage to Newspoll and to his party’s lunatic right-wing in his Faustian compact with Barnaby Joyce, an “unwritten”, secret agreement, whose details he stubbornly refuses to divulge, the underlying reality – despite its incessant crowing over jobs is that his government has clocked up 29 months of economic mismanagement.

To hear its front bench shills, the Turnbull government has created record numbers of jobs. Why 403,000 are  recorded by the Bureau of Statistics in December. But, as Alan Austin points out, with natural population increase and migration, Australia’s population has never been higher either.

“The strongest growth in jobs relative to the adult population in history was actually in calendar 1989 when Bob Hawke was PM. Hawke beat Turnbull’s achievement – relative to population – also in 1985 and 1988.”

The Coalition never mentions unemployment. By September 2015, unemployed numbers shot up to 776,300; a rate rise of 6.1%. After 29 months of Turnbull government, 734,100 are jobless a rate of 5.6%.

Whilst it’s a modest improvement on Abbott’s disaster, Australia’s world ranking has fallen as globally jobs have risen. In 2013, we ranked seventh on our jobless rate in the OECD. By 2015, we slipped to 14th. Now we are 17th.

Underutilised workers, or the sum of unemployed and underemployed, rose in February to 1,841,000, the third highest quarterly figure since this statistic was first recorded in 1978. The only two higher quarters were both since Turnbull became PM and Senator Michaelia Cash employment minister.

The PM comes under fire from his own front bench, Monday, as Julie Bishop, Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton each declare their very qualified support for their leader. They all have leadership ambitions. Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce kindly give Turnbull until Christmas to prove himself or quit. He may as well leave now.

The Newspoll gap narrows two points in two weeks, but since the 2016 election, Newspoll, Ipsos, Essential, ReachTel and YouGov have Labor leading the Coalition in 127 of 138 surveys. Six ties are recorded, but the government leads in five YouGov polls only, between June and October 2017, which allow respondents to nominate their own preferences. Yet there is no way the Coalition will concede its performance is at fault.

Team Turnbull will ignore all polls as it continues to deliver “good government”. This includes suppressing details of the deal whereby Turnbull gained the Nationals’ support to depose Tony Abbott, by promising to follow the suppository of all wisdom on climate, energy, no conscience vote on SSM, keeping the Northern Australia infrastructure slush fund for coal projects and supporting The Nationals’ outrageous $10 billion Inland Rail boondoggle. Above all, as he shows, Monday, Sally Cray will have her way.

The PM’s Principal Private Secretary, Field Marshal Sally Cray, the Peta Credlin of Turnbull’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (PM&C) and most powerful woman in Australian politics today, next to Lucy Turnbull, Gina Rinehart and her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, but more of a potty-mouth comes out fighting.

Cray orders her Turnbull to put on his best f***ing shit-eating grin and to parade his loyal troops in his courtyard in a special presser, Monday.

Mal’s ministers blink in the sun of an Indian summer; moles suddenly fetched up unnaturally from their nocturnal subterranean undermining; alternately preening and squinting in the flare of a scrum of mainstream media camera chums, a Canberra club which bears far too much wattage and sheds far too little light.

The runts of his government’s underwhelming front bench are a shallows of Widmerpools, “the most dogged and fearless solipsist in modern fiction”.

Obeying Cray’s directive, each goes out of his or her way to spread the gospel of loyalty on their favourite fawning TV or radio talkback shows not hesitating also to declare themselves candidates should the occasion present itself. It’s a total disaster.

But not to our “Malentariat”, a press claque whose livelihoods depend on servile flattery. Hacks gush that Turnbull is back in town; he’s not only “closing the gap” in opinion polls, he’s safe because, as everybody knows, disunity is death and the nation’s phobic about changing leaders, a myth MSM, themselves have helpfully engendered first to attack Labor’s internecine rivalry; now to defend the government from itself.

Above, all, runs the clincher, his front bench, if not his parliamentary party have less popular appeal and even less talent than Mal. It’s not totally implausible. Mal will remain leader, we are told breathlessly, because there is no alternative. Yet.

Seldom has Turnbull’s tactical dyslexia been so clearly exposed. Nothing confirms a vote of no-confidence in any leader quite so well as a fake display of solidarity.

It’s a formidable performance. Stung by Tony Abbott’s Monash Forum insurrection, a comical ginger-group of rear-guard reactionaries who want to bring back coal, topple Turnbull and install Morrison, the elephant in the courtyard is the Lycra Sniper’s gibe that Truffles must explain why he does not now depose himself.

Abbott, The Incredible Sulk, like any self-respecting narcissist, also demands to be told what he did wrong. Publicly. In detail. But look, hands are waving in the air.

The Mexican Wave his front bench performs Monday turns out to be Turnbull’s cabinet putting up their hands for job – if the opportunity should present itself.

In other words, expect a lot more bitching, back-stabbing and pointy-elbowing for position before a knifing around Christmas; our traditional festive and killing season.

=================

[1] “Unethical and untethered to truth” is James Comey’s character reference for Trump.

Day to Day Politics: The week that was.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Every Saturday from now on I plan to bring you something a little different. So this is a trial run and you will get the gist as you read through. Any thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.

Comment of the week

Russell Green on my Facebook comments on “30th Poll day.” If you look at the number of Newspolls since the election in 2013, there have been 99, including Turnbull’s 30th, in that time the coalition have “won” only 20 polls (of that 20, 7 were 50 – 50). So in 99 polls, the coalition has been ahead of Labor on a 2PP basis in only 13 Polls since they have been in government. 

Think about that for a moment, it is a time period that includes the honeymoon after 2 elections and the period after Turnbull was made leader. That equates to about 6 months where the coalition have been the preferred government. Whichever way you look at it and whatever means you measure it, the Coalition Governments of Abbott and Turnbull have been nothing short of a disaster. 

This is my point nobody is talking about how incompetent, corrupt and destructive they have been. This is the tragedy! If the coalition were being talked about in the same manner that Rudd/ Julia/Rudd were, the polls would be 60 – 40% Labor. While the Polls aren’t the story they do tell a story.

There has been a lot of speculation on how significant the 30 poll mark actually is and Turnbull’s use of that number. I believe that it comes down to HUBRIS pure and simple. When Turnbull spoke those words it was done with all the humility that comes from someone obsessed with his own infallibility. He simply couldn’t believe that he would be in the same position as Abbott. His ego wouldn’t allow for such a consequence. He is now and forever considered the SAME AS Abbott, an abject failure.”

The Polls from The Pollbludger

The Guardian, which joins the fun by spruiking the result as the “eightieth straight loss” for the Turnbull government, reports that Labor holds a lead of 53-47 in the latest Essential Research poll, out from 52-48 a fortnight ago. The poll also features Essential’s monthly leadership ratings, which find Malcolm Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister unchanged at 41-26.”

Bill Shorten has won: 30 Newspolls in a row against Tony Abbott; 30 Newspolls in a row against Malcolm Turnbull.

I think that would make him officially Australia’s most effective “Leader Of The Opposition.”

Overheard this week

Calling election before redistribution is complete would see Labor gain 2 seats and the Liberal Party lose 1 because both states and the ACT must elect the changed number of members. The AEC would have to do mini-redistributions before the election to match new numbers. Labor now looks like losing the seat of Hindmarsh in South Australia.

Peter Fitzsimons on the Republic

Have answered many times.

My preference: Current system: PM chooses GG, asks Q for blessing. New system. PM chooses GG, ask Parliament for blessing. All else same.GG still called GG. Oz still called Commonwealth of Australia.

But Oz, suddenly free-standing ‘neath Southern Cross!

Pollie Pedal and loss of energy

So Tony Abbott’s pollie pedal (where the MPs involved claim taxpayer-funded travel allowances) just happens to be riding through the La Trobe Valley – coal mining country – on the day the 30th Newspoll hits. You can only laugh at such a calculating use of a charity initiative…a blow out of sorts.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg doesn’t deny he called AGL directors to bag AGL CEO Andrew Vesey. PM Turnbull phoned AGL chairman Graeme Hunt. Liddell power station still in play. Intense pressure on this company.

Are we in a dictatorship? This rotten mob is interfering in the running of a company, putting pressure to bear on the CEO to reverse company decisions. What next? Send their pet attack dogs, the AFP, to raid his house?

If only the Coalition put as much pressure on multinationals to pay their fair share of tax as they’re putting on AGL to resurrect an unviable coal-fired power station #insiders #auspol

Scandal

This government clearly has an improper relationship with the AFP. It has protected many since September 2013. The Campion jobs conspiracy is just another example of politicians breaking the law then quashing justice. The only difference here is the Prime Minister is involved.#insiders

Drinking will shorten your life, according to a major new study that suggests every glass of wine or pint of beer over the daily recommended limit will cut half an hour from the expected lifespan of a 40 year old.

I’m sure it’s a conservative plot?

Australia’s coal-loving, climate sceptics avowed monarchists might want to note Her Majesty has just addressed climate change for the first time.

2030 is the year it is predicted the 1% will own 2 thirds of the world’s wealth. Serfdom folks.?

The week’s top tweets

Tanya Plibersek

Retweeted Michael KoziolExtraordinary. Malcolm Turnbull has done more than 100 special deals with some of Australia’s most elite private schools to give them money from a secret $7.1 million government slush fund. This at the same time as he’s ripping billions of dollars from needy public school

Paul Bongiorno

Also, polling experts dismiss respondent allocated preferences as unreliable, based on long experience. It is why Newspoll doesn’t do it. A try on just like the isolated question on company tax cuts. Partisanship gone mad at the Fin.

Tosh Frydenberg invents new lie about emissions – claiming to Press Clubbers that on a per capita basis we have a record low. Utter nonsense. Emissions have risen every year under Coalition. No hint of population increase over the period of his latest specious statistic.

Donna

Pointing out that an interviewer demonstrates bias is not being sexist or abusive. Nobody in this conversation was defending the putrid abuse Sales copped yesterday. My concern is that as an @abc730 presenter we expect her to behave fairly. She doesn’t. It’s disappointing #abc730

Simon Banks

The outcome of 4 and 1/2 years of the LNP’s plan to “reduce” debt:

Today, gross debt is $522.3 billion

(Source: http://www.aofm.gov.au )

Up $249.3 billion since the 2013 election

Rising faster and by more than it did under the ALP

Without a GFC to explain why

Simon Banks

“If we expect the private sector to invest in the $200 billion of energy infrastructure Australia needs to 2050, it needs to know the rules of the game”

And for 10 years the LNP have created that very uncertainty

Tim’s timely tips

Tim Leeder is a Facebook friend who messages me every day with all manner of comments.

A It does have some parallels to 1991. The view was Hawke should go but Keating was a risk.

B Who was the last non-Australian GG?

C  Saw a funny photo of Turnbull on a boat on Sydney Harbour without a paddle.  Symbolic?

D Gillard lost 33 Newspolls.  Hawke 8.  Nelson 16.

True.  This is what happens when a moderate leads a conservative party.

E  Turnbull will not walk, if no one challenges, he stays.

F I suspect the view is the election is lost.  Turnbull should take the hit.

G Joyce says if no improvement by Christmas then Turnbull should resign.

H Support for an undefined republic at 50 percent.  Opposition at 41 percent.  Undecided at 9 percent.  It’s not enough to carry a referendum

I Quite possibly.  This is the start of the end for Turnbull.  it will be a process of leaking and undermining for some months.  But will have an inevitable conclusion.

J Love thy neighbour means thy Muslim neighbour.  Thy gay neighbour etc.

K Apparently a secret ALP report said Albo as leader would have won the last election

L Nick Xenophon will effectively disappear from the parties he founded as state and federal parties rebrand themselves.

Something going on there.  Although probably a good idea.

M The war on drugs has been a failure, it is killing more people than it is helping. Prohibition leads to black markets which have led to more crime. 15 years ago in Portugal, drugs were decriminalised, this saw a reduction in crime, overdose and death. Recently, a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry made 50 recommendations on how drug reform could be tackled in the state. The question is who will act on them in an election year?

N I disagreed with Howard on heroin injecting rooms.  He said they won’t be happening whilst I am PM.

O Labor’s push to slap a minimum 30% tax on dividends has incensed the nation’s million-plus army of self-funded retirees.

The view is they vote Liberal anyway.

P In 2015 Turnbull had an approval rating of 54 percent.  About that.  Today it is 39 percent.

Q Abbott said Turnbull should know 6 months before the election if he can win it.

R Rudd said Gillard’s 2010 campaign was the worst labor campaign in history.  Well, leave it in the past l think.  Move on

S The Labor leader is considering switching from his Melbourne seat of Maribyrnong following a rewriting of electoral boundaries.

To Fraser.  Which is safer.  Beazley did the same thing.  Good luck to him.  But can’t see his current seat being in any danger.

T GST distribution.  SA gets $6.7 billion.  ACT $1.2 billion.  WA gets $3.2 billion. VIC gets $16.8 billion.  NSW gets $18 billion.  NT $2.7 billion.  TAS $2.4 billion.  QLD $14.4 billion.

U I am unsure why on earth the government puts up with public criticism of itself by Abbott

V Kevin Rudd has labelled Julia Gillard’s 2010 election campaign as the ‘worst-run in Labor history’.

Well ironic given he destroyed it.

W As Richo said in 2013 the Gillard supporters gave Rudd a free run at it.  And the result was as good as could have been expected in the circumstances.

X PM says he will pay half the $10 billion cost for the Melbourne airport to city rail link.  Wants the Victorian government to pay the rest.

Y Malcolm Turnbull is insisting the federal election will not be held until the first half of next year but he is creating the option of going earlier by requesting the state Liberal Party divisions to hurry up and finalise their preselections.

Z Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson: Many ordinary punters are telling Malcolm Turnbull to ‘lurch to the right a little’ in order to give the Coalition a chance of winning the next election.

Other argument is it does not matter.  As people on the right will preference the Libs anyway.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie has told Sky News he would like up to 10,000 white South African farmers be resettled in Australia.

My read for the week. Penny Modra. Book review.

“Grammar gripes: why do we love to complain about language?”

Clown of the week

It was a toss-up between Turnbull’s inability to recite Farnham’s classic lyrics, Dutton’s ongoing racist remarks or Barnaby’s stupidity. In the end, I had to give it to Dutton because of his amazing consistency.

My thought for the day

“One who understands others has knowledge; One who understands himself has wisdom.”

Going around in circles (Part 1)

Part Twenty-four of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Going around in circles

On 26 May 2017, the same day of the closing of Uluru gathering, a group composed of  five organisations, PricewaterhouseCoopers – PwC, PwC’s Indigenous Consulting – PIC, Change the Record, the Richmond Football Club and the Korin Gamadji Institute – KGI, published a report titled Indigenous incarceration: unlock the facts.

It was an old theme, but one played on more recent data. And it caused a feeling of déjà vu.

In March 1987 the Committee to Defend Black Rights began counting Indigenous deaths in custody as part of a national campaign. It found one Indigenous person died while incarcerated every 11 days.

The sixteenth person to die after that date – also the last death before the Royal Commission was announced – was Mr Lloyd James Boney, a 28-year-old man from Brewarrina in northwest New South Wales. The circumstances of Boney’s death and its aftermath were consistent with the pattern of Indigenous deaths in custody.

On 6 August 1987 Boney was violently arrested by three police officers for breach of bail. He was found dead 90 minutes later, hanging by a football sock in a police cell. The Police Internal Affairs Branch conducted the investigation into Boney’s death. No attempt was made to separate Boney’s arresting officers between interviews, providing them opportunities for ‘collusion and reconstruction.’

The local Indigenous community was suspicious of the police for their role in the death. They believed it to be physically impossible for Boney to have killed himself the way he died due to his intoxicated state.

But the coroner found Boney had committed suicide with “no suggestion at all of foul play.” This led to widespread protests by the community in Brewarrina, as well as Aboriginal organisations nationally. (Thalia Anthony, Death in custody: 25 years after the royal commission, we’ve gone backwards, The Conversation).

On 10 August 1987 Prime Minister Hawke announced the formation of a Royal Commission to investigate the causes of deaths of Indigenous People who were held in state and territory gaols. The Royal Commission was established in response to a growing public concern that deaths in custody of Indigenous People were too common and poorly explained. The Letters Patent formally establishing the Commission were issued by the Governor-General on 16 October 1987. Similar Letters Patent were issued by the states and the Northern Territory.

The Commission was asked to examine 99 deaths which took place between 1980 and 1989.

The total included 63 people who had died in police custody and 36 in prison, including three in juvenile detention; 88 males and 11 females; of an age range of 14 to 62 years. Half of these people had been removed in childhood from their families by child ‘protection’ agencies.

The Commission’s terms of reference enabled it to take account of social, cultural and legal factors which may have had a bearing on the deaths under investigation.

The Commission investigated each life and the circumstances of each death. It described previous police and coronial inquiries into the deaths as “perfunctory” and “narrow” in focus.

The Commission produced a number of reports, including individual reports for each death investigated. These were presented separately as they were completed. The Commission also produced an Interim Report, which was presented on 21 December 1988. The final report, signed on 15 April 1991, made 339 recommendations, mainly concerned with procedures for persons in custody, liaison with Indigenous groups, police education and improved accessibility to information.

The Commission’s final report found that Indigenous People were more likely to die in custody because they were more likely to be in custody. Their over-representation in police and prison custody was described as “grossly disproportionate.”

The Commission saw the issue as twofold: problems in the criminal justice system, and the reasons for Indigenous People coming into contact with that system. But its dichotomy is false.

The reason many Indigenous People come into contact with the criminal justice system – as identified by the Commission itself – was and remains due to how that system defines crime, polices Indigenous People and seeks ‘to protect’ them by placing them in custody – for intoxication, for instance.

Nonetheless, the Commission sought to explain Indigenous contact in terms of disadvantage and disempowerment. And many of its recommendations sought to promote Indigenous self-determination in order to strengthen communities and provide services more appropriate to the needs of Indigenous People.

In its first task, the Commission examined each stage of the criminal justice system. It found Indigenous disadvantage arose from:

1) prejudicial policing, especially for minor crimes relating to public order;

2) the police tendency to caution, charge and arrest Indigenous People, rather than issue warnings or court attendance notices;

3) police and courts not granting bail to Indigenous people; and

4) courts sentencing Indigenous people to prison rather than handing down non-prison sentences.

Accordingly, a series of the Commission’s recommendations sought to de-criminalise minor offences, uphold the right to bail and ensure arrest and imprisonment were sanctions of last resort.

The Commission also found incidents of a lack of care of Indigenous People in custody, as well as police mistreatment and abuse.

The Commission found sufficient evidence to instigate disciplinary or prosecutorial processes against officers for eight of the investigated deaths. It recommended these cases for referral to the police commissioner to determine appropriate action. But no prosecutions ensued.

The Commission collected about 200 shelf metres of records. These deal with the investigation of individual cases – the ‘case files’, which include exhibits and findings, underlying issues, submissions, research material, the records of counsel assisting the Commission and the administrative records of the Commission.

Some cases required more than one file for each of the 99 deaths investigated by the Commission. The amount of documentation varies from case to case. Some cases have only a few files, while other cases can have thousands of pages of transcripts of investigations by the Commission and thousands of additional pages from the original Coroner’s Report and from welfare files, Social Security files and medical records.

After investigating the individual deaths the Commission tried to find larger social and economic factors to explain Indigenous deaths in custody. The Commission noted that there were differences between Indigenous groups. For example, it noted a higher rate of alcoholism, gaoling, larger families and lower than average education in certain groups, but not in others. This led to an investigation into the wider underlying issues. The records of these investigations include public submissions and hearings, research papers of the Commission’s Criminology Research Unit and other specially commissioned historical, social and economic research papers. Many of the underlying issues papers have been published. (Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – Fact sheet 112).

The first prosecution of a police officer was for the one-hundred-and-forty-seventh death in custody after the Royal Commission. Sixteen years after the tabling of the Royal Commission report, in 2007, Queensland’ s Police Sergeant Chris Hurley was charged with causing the death of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island. Mulrunji Doomadgee died of massive internal injuries in a cell of the Palm Island police station.

Sergeant Hurley was controversially acquitted. Subsequently, allegations that Sergeant Hurley punched Mulrunji three times, lied about what happened in the watch-house and that he and two other officers colluded on evidence came under investigation. The state’s anti-corruption agency found that there was insufficient evidence to pursue allegations of assault, lying and collusion.

After two autopsies, three coroner’s inquests and a manslaughter trial, (now Senior) Sergeant Hurley would not be charged again. (No charges in Mulrunji Doomadgee case, SBS, 11 November 2010).

In the twenty-six years since the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in Parliament, the proportion of the prison population which is Indigenous has doubled.

In 1991 Indigenous People constituted 14 per cent of the prison population – 1,100 for every 100,000 persons in the national population. Today they make more than 27 per cent – 2,300 for every 100,000. There has been an equivalent increase in un-sentenced Indigenous prisoners in remand.

Despite the misconception among some criminologists that the Royal Commission’s recommendations were implemented – and failed, its suggestions regarding decriminalisation of minor offences and self-determination were never realised.

Minor public order offences, such as offensive language, continue to be punished. Police powers in relation to public drunkenness and arrest have been extended. The right to bail has been undermined with increasing exceptions – for property offences as an example. Maximum prison penalties and mandatory prison sentences have escalated.

In relation to self-determination, the tendency of the Australian government since the mid-1990s has been: increasingly to mainstream services for Indigenous People; to defund Indigenous-run organisations which have expertise in Indigenous safety and well-being; to impose top-down policies; and to penalise vulnerable Indigenous People – by removing children from their families, criminalising youth and women victims of family violence, and locking up the mentally ill.

The Commission’s lessons are more pertinent today than they were in 1991 because the majority of its recommendations remain unimplemented. Its Report called for a holistic and systemic approach, but there have only been ad hoc and provisional piecemeal changes. Unsurprisingly, they have had negligible overall effect on reducing deaths in custody.

Nothing less than a paradigm shift will ensure that there will be another significant anniversary with even more Indigenous deaths in custody. (Thalia Anthony, Deaths in custody: 25 years after the royal commission, we’ve gone backwards, The Conversation, 13 April 2016; Reema Rattan and Wes Mountain, Indigenous incarceration at a glance, The Conversation, 15 April 2016; Thalia Anthony, Infographics: Indigenous incarceration in Australia at a glance, SBS, 15 April 2016).

As the Report Indigenous incarceration: unlock the facts concluded, Indigenous People are dramatically over-represented in the criminal justice system, in each state and territory. While Indigenous People represent only 3 per cent of Australia’s total population, they make up more than 27 per cent of prison population and 55 per cent of the youth detention population. (ABS (2013). Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2011. Canberra: ABS; ABS (2016). Prisoners in Australia, 2016. Canberra: ABS; AIHW (2017). Youth justice in Australia 201516. Table S75a: Young people in detention on an average day by sex and Indigenous status, states and territories, 2015–16. AIHW Bulletin no. 139. Cat. No. AUS 211. Canberra: AIHW).

Purpose of the 26 May 2017 Report has been the subject of many thorough and well evidenced reports and reviews over the past three decades. The five partners’ Report contributes new economic modelling to the evidence base. It estimates the costs of Indigenous incarceration and the potential savings if Indigenous incarceration rates were no different from those of the non-Indigenous population. The high, and growing, rates of Indigenous incarceration has a heavy impact on individuals, families, communities and the Australian economy but it does not have to be this way. The five partners’ modelling suggests that implementing a holistic suite of initiatives would contribute significantly to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous rates of incarceration, but this alone would not be enough. Closing the gap requires systemic change, as well as smarter investment in programmatic solutions with Indigenous People having ownership and control over programme settings. (Closing the Gap is the Australian Government’s formal commitment to address  Indigenous disadvantage. The Government committed to Closing the Gap in 2008. By the year 2030, this commitment seeks to: 1) to reduce Indigenous infant mortality, 2) to improve Indigenous life expectancy, 3) improve Indigenous early childhood development, education, and employment outcomes. The Closing the Gap strategy emphasises intergovernmental cooperation and engagement and partnership with Indigenous communities).

The Report seeks to raise awareness of, and calls for action to address, the disproportionate rates of Indigenous incarceration across Australia.

This gap between the rates of Indigenous incarceration and non-Indigenous incarceration is fundamentally unfair. On any given day, there are around 10,000 Indigenous adults in prison – including roughly 1,000 women, 500 Indigenous youth in detention and many more Indigenous People in custody in police cells. (ABS (2016). Corrective Services, Australia, June Quarter 2016. Canberra: ABS; AIHW (2017). Youth justice in Australia 2015–16. Table S85a: Young people aged 10–17 in detention on an average day by Indigenous status, states and territories, 2006–07 to 2015–16 (rate). AIHW Bulletin no. 139. Cat. no. AUS 211. Canberra: AIHW).

Continued Friday with: Going around in circles (Part 2)

Previous instalment: The greener grass (somewhere) (Part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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