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The Coalition’s False Employment Boast

Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club on Tuesday and committed a future Labor government to a policy of full employment. When asked by Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30 Tuesday evening what he considered to be an acceptable unemployment level, he said 5%.

It was a safe answer, but not the right answer. Full employment should mean just that; he should have answered, 0%. Full employment means a full time job for everyone who wants one and a part time job for everyone who wants one.

Anything less is not full employment. Whether or not Bill Shorten understands this, is open to conjecture. But on the other side of the parliamentary chamber, they don’t even care. Full employment is anathema to conservative, neo-classical politics.

Their most recent mantra, ‘jobs and growth’ is a smokescreen to hide their conviction that a minimum level of unemployment (somewhere between 5-8%), is needed to maintain an orderly workforce and control wages growth.

The present level has been hovering around 6% for the last two years and is probably right on the mark for them, evidenced by their lack of interest in reducing it.

Unemployment dropped to 5.8% for February due to a steep fall in the participation rate, but the trend figures are not encouraging, even worse when we compare February 2016 results with September 2013, when the Coalition came to office.

The ambivalence demonstrated by the government on the issue of employment is breathtaking. That the MSM allows them to get away with it, is outrageous.

Michaelia-Cash-_-glamour_-21Mar14-rex_b_810x540Minister for Employment, Michaela Cash salivated recently over the claim that 300,000 new jobs had been created in 2015, but could not point to one convincing government initiative  that had contributed to it. Well, let’s take a closer look at those figures.

You may remember one of Tony Abbott’s core election promises in 2013 was the creation of one million jobs over the next five years and two million jobs in ten years.

What he didn’t tell us was that natural population growth plus immigration requires around 125,000 new jobs to be created each year just to maintain existing levels of employment. Boasting to create one million jobs in five years sounds impressive, but in reality, it barely covers the minimum required.

And, as it happens, they have Buckley’s chance of achieving that.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show the September 2013 unemployment rate was 5.7% in trend terms. At that time there were 706,400 unemployed. In February 2016, unemployment was trending at 5.8% with 736,600 people unemployed, meaning unemployment has increased by 30,200 over the past 2 years and 5 months.

The same ABS reports show that 11,646,800 persons were employed in Australia in September 2013, while in February 2016 that number was 11,903,100. This tells us that there were 256,000 new jobs created over the past 2 years and 5 months (a big drop from that short term 300,000 in one year boast).

However, it gets worse. From an available workforce in September 2013 of 12,353,200 we grew in numbers to 12,639,700 in February 2016, an increase of 286,500. Which means the 256,000 new jobs created have failed to keep pace with population growth, let alone reduce existing unemployment.

By any language or spin, this is a failure of government to sufficiently stimulate the economy.

tonyabbottTony Abbott’s 1,000,000 new jobs in 5 years was a pipe dream. He, or whoever came up with it, might as well have dreamt it.

No doubt Scott Morrison will put the usual optimistic spin on the latest figures but when proper comparisons are made, one can clearly see, that in trend terms, we are going in the wrong direction.

Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham.

In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into our lives that we have become desensitised to this incredible, radical significance of proposing to hurt humans as a pathway to helping them. What is happening here is simultaneously deadly and ludicrous. (Ketan Joshi Renew Economy).

In pristine white hard hat and air sea rescue orange Hi-Viz vest fluoro fancy dress, Scott Morrison is like some surreal, grotesquely upscaled, Lego minifigure in a budget horror movie as he bobs up like a turd in the surf off Nobby’s Beach to spruik his latest role as our national saviour in Santos and Origin’s Gas Chooses itself.

After spending a week singing an aria to himself and his government which gets things done – because “that’s what we do” as he tells Coalition toady, David Speers, on ABC Insiders, by Sunday, he’s changed his tune. His threat to build a massive new 1GW gas-fired power station to replace Liddell won’t be happening.

Yep. Scotty’s “can do” government can also undo. Why? Morrison bullshits about how private enterprise has saved us from yet another crisis. As if he’s talked them into it. Why, Energy Australia has a fabulous new gas-fired generator in the wings and – look over there – corporations have batteries and stuff just waiting to go.

No mention of Mike Cannon-Brookes who throws down the gauntlet, declaring he’ll bid for Liddell’s replacement if Scott Morrison can identify the rules of engagement. Calls Scotty’s bluff. Worse.

“Giant fossil fuel companies need subsidies to extract gas and export it? No they don’t, that is bullshit. So declare the rules of the game. That’s the way to get assets built.”

Bizarre? It’s what we’ve come to expect from a government which has no energy policy. Not a clue. But what a stunt! Trust Scotty to launch his gas-led recovery show in Tomago, home to another aluminium smelter, Coalition policy is helping to kill. It’s twenty-two minutes inland from coal terminal and post-industrial rust-bucket Newcastle. Described – along with winsome Wollongong – by John Quiggan as a “vibrant and diversified” regional centre, Newcastle has a ten per cent unemployment rate; a seventeen year low.

The Tomago smelter, one of the Hunter’s last big metal producers, is 51% owned by model corporate citizen, Rio Tinto. Drawing twelve per cent of NSW’s electricity, it’s the state’s biggest user. At mates’ rates, of course.

Our smelters typically rely on heavily subsidised coal-fired electricity with gas back-up plants. If they shut their doors, as Rio keeps threatening, power companies’ would have to shut a few generators down, too.

Tomago claims rising power prices will force it to close. But experts point to a glut of aluminium world-wide. China produces 62 per cent to our 3.3. In 2017, moreover, Tomago forged an eleven year baseload power supply contract deal with Macquarie Generation. AGL is plans to build a 250MW back up gas generator at Tomago but it costs three times as much to burn gas to make electricity than to burn coal.

Smelters account for sixteen per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector but there has been not a hint of any Coalition roadmap towards encouraging the industry to adopt renewables. Conspicuously lacking from Morrison’s roadmap is any acknowledgment that unless Australian industry invests in green energy then it will decline along with fossil fuels.

“Australia is one of the world’s most emissions-intensive aluminium producers. Deployment of renewable electricity is a path out of this quagmire, and the rapid fall in cost of renewables makes it more viable than ever before.”  Clark Butler reports for The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)

Simon Holmes à Court argues, Tomago’s crippled by Coalition incompetence; politicised mismanagement.

Australia’s four aluminium smelters are salvageable. They also offer stability to our national grid. Above all, they provide employment and support whole communities. They will be scrapped because Morrison’s government won’t admit that renewable energy is the key to their future. Will it clean up its act? Phase out fossil fuels as soon as possible? Pigs might fly. Instead the PM has a surreal cop-out, “Gas Chooses Itself”.

Sure it does. Despite being flogged as a transition fuel, gas is not good for the environment. Morrison’s messaging on gas originates in US industry bodies and think tanks. The fantasy that gas is a “transition fuel” or a “bridge” to renewables stems from the 1990s. The spin was fabricated by the American Gas Association as more evidence emerged on global warming.

Crikey’s David Hardaker refers to Marian Wilkinson’s The Carbon Club which traces the influence of US fossil fuel lobbyists to 1997 when the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation fossil lobbyists arrived in Canberra to work us over before we sent our representatives to cheat at Kyoto – “It’s not global and it won’t work.”

Wilkinson’s book begins by noting that when Tony Abbott became PM, a raft of legislation was introduced to shut down everything from the emissions trading scheme, the CEFC and the Climate Change Authority. Tim Flannery recalls being sacked from the Climate Commission. It was the first act of the Abbott government and Flannery doubts that cabinet had even met. Morrison’s leadership is still appeasing the same push.

As for (mainly methane) natural gas being any type of bridge to renewables, the notion is risible. If fully unleashed, Australia’s gas resources could be responsible for up to three times the annual carbon emissions of the entire world, reports The Australia Institute in a landmark new report, Weapons of Gas Destruction.

“Gas is a high-pollution industry that won’t create jobs while unleashing triple the world’s annual emissions into the atmosphere. To say it is ‘lose-lose’ is an understatement,” concludes Climate and Energy Program director, Richie Merzian.

Of course Gas Chooses Itself is a winner for the gas industry which is a huge user of gas, burning twice as much gas as Australian households and nearly as much as our manufacturing sector. But ScoMo’s no fool.

The plot reworks an old routine. Santos and Origin make a mozza from rigging the already extortionate price of gas. Laugh all the way to the bank. Demand booms, thanks to the Coalition’s, Gas-led Recovery Plan. Santos and Origin also rake in millions in subsidies for their Pythonesque carbon capture and storage (CCS) scam.

CCS is ludicrous. Capture, transport and bury millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from coal power plants? How good is Peabody Coal’s propaganda unit?  US Coal baron Robert Murray freely admits that CCS is baloney. A fantasy. Murray says CCS is a con. It ‘does not work’ and ‘is just cover for the politicians.’

Trust Scotty to promise a con that the UN Development program says would “arrive on the battlefield far too late to help the world avoid dangerous climate change”. Bush fire victims know all about his late arrivals.

CCS is expensive and impracticable. Not only is energy wasted burying carbon, retrofitting a 2100-megawatt brown coal-fired power station in Victoria would “conservatively” cost a whopping $2.45 billion per boiler.

Governments showered $1.3 billion on CCS from 2007-13 with not one commercial working model to show for the money, but “simp” Scotty from marketing believes in it; he’ll surely find a bit extra in the kitty for his mining pals. Cut back on social services, hospitals and widows’ pensions. Incentivise self-reliance.

Scotty’s chosen the right setting to announce his gas-fired delusion. Newcastle is spiritual godfather to our state of the art asylum-seeker gulags and our perverse delight in punishing the elderly, infirm and those out of work. Debit where debit is due, our PM himself, was quick to back our Robodebt extortion scam which led some pensioners to take their own lives. Over 2000 people died after receiving Centrelink debt notices.

Yet their debts outlived them. Anastasia McCardel received a call from a Centrelink in May. Told her son Bruce owed $6,744.52. When would she repay his debt? Bruce had died six months earlier, in November 2018, aged 49. He was born with Noonan syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the heart and other vital organs.

You can’t just blame Scott Morrison. Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan. As treasurer in 2016, former social services supremo, Morrison was supported by Christian Porter, Alan Tudge and Stuart Robert, who were high-fiving and jiving at the promise of automated welfare debt recovery. But not this week.

The Federal Court learns at a pre-trial hearing on Monday that Gordon Legal plans to argue that Big Al Tudge, who was Human Services minister in 2016-17, either knew or was “recklessly indifferent” to the fact the botched program was unlawful. Luckily Tudge, is tied up at the moment explaining how he had nothing at all to do with the taxpayer paying $30 million for a $3 million parcel land for a Sydney airport.

The Australian National Audit Office finds that the federal government bought land from dairy farmer and Liberal Party donor, Leppington Pastoral Company, at 10 times its market value while developing Western Sydney Airport. Urban Infrastructure Minister, Tudge has a stunning reverse Nuremberg alibi.

There “is no question of ministerial involvement”, he swears. The matter “goes to the administrative actions of the department, more than two years ago”. Doubtless Big Al will quickly get Robodebt to retrieve the overpayment from Leppington Pastoral. The letter threatening debt collection’s already in the mail.

Beyond the joy it gives our MPs to further impoverish men and women struggling to exist on forty dollars a day by imposing debt repayments, while fat cats in our gas industry cartel get massive handouts, double punishment is a tradition: like double standards, it is rooted deeply in our convict colony origins.

Newcastle, like Norfolk Island, was a penal settlement inside a penal colony – or a place of secondary punishment for convict re-offenders until 1813. For nearly 20 years, wayward convicts were flogged amidst idyllic natural beauty, a place where summers are warm and humid and winters are short and cool. Plants flourished in fertile, soft, absorbent carbon rich soils until cloven-hoofed sheep and cattle ruined them.

Punishment, however, is perennially problematic. Although it was easy to dispense, flogging was not foolproof. It often killed the convict or reduced his capacity to work. Furthermore, when convicts were unable to work because they had been flogged, they needed to be flogged again for not working.

Similarly, job-seekers cut off from all extra support on New Year’s Day 2021 will need to present themselves at job interviews they can’t afford to attend – having frittered away their recklessly generous work incentive-sapping allowances on op-shop clothing, fares, haircuts and the chore of having to feed themselves.

Or pay the gas bill.

Unemployed or underemployed workers are already punished by the humiliation of having to apply for jobs under the Job Active scam, a privatised “job-provider” service they may not be able to get to and double punished should they not attend. Their meagre payments can be suspended. Meanwhile, Rick Morton estimates that job-providers have banked $500 million of taxpayers money during the pandemic.

But Morrison’s got that covered. As he explains, gas will bring back jobs. At least for a few mates. Scotty’s role has a touch of the post-apocalyptic zombie as he helps the Liberal Party’s craven mining oligarchy mates prop up dying coal and gas industries as they collude to cook the planet and snuff out life as we know it.

Left-leaning, (as our national media love to dub any outfit not funded by our barons of industry) Grattan Institute calculates that ScoMo’s gas led recovery” would benefit fewer than 1% of Australian manufacturing jobs currently in gas-intensive industries. The report is leaked to the left-leaning The Guardian Australia.

15 facilities that together employ just 10,000 people consume two-thirds of gas used in manufacturing.

“There are almost no jobs in [gas] … If we were going to see a massive boom in gas-based manufacturing, we should be seeing it right now. And we’re not seeing it,” says The Grattan Institute’s Tony Wood.

Gas Chooses Itself features our elected representatives tipping buckets of public money into a failing private cartel. Origin and Santos. Scotty promises subsidies of $52.9m, support to “open up” five new gas basins and a beaut new National Gas infrastructure plan.

His announcement sounds eerily similar to a leaked paper from a working party of his gas-industry dominated cabal, the National Covid Coordination Commission (NCCC) which meets in secret under the stewardship of nifty Nev Power to further its own interests under the guise and confidentiality of a cabinet committee.

But there’s more. Santos and Origin will be subsidised under the carbon capture and storage boondoggle. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will be tweaked so it can fund CCS, a scam which has already cost us a fortune. He’ll also kill off innovation, undermine renewable energy and prop up costly failing fossil fuels, warns Christine Milne, global Greens ambassador and former leader of the Australian Greens.

The world’s largest coal port, Newcastle’s is also NSW’s post-industrial rust belt: 4000 manufacturing jobs vanished since 2015. Green steel made with hydrogen is the answer says The Grattan Institute. Not coal. Nor gas. Hydrogen is also proposed for aluminium smelting. But you can’t tell the PM anything. He’s out overacting again; hamming it up in his blokey construction costume; lying about gas and coal.

Talk about miracle Morrison. Gas will bring back Australian manufacturing (like Lazarus from the dead).

He’ll say anything. On ABC Insiders, he tells David Speers that “Gas has chosen itself” just in case you think his decision has anything to with his secret cabal of gas industry barons cunningly dubbed his Covid Commission. Coal is the key way to keep electricity prices cheap he bullshits.

“In Australia, you cannot talk about electricity generation and ignore coal,” he rants in his pants on fire plan.

Coal, Morrison says, will not only “continue to play an important role in our economy  for decades to come”, but “with new technologies such as carbon capture and storage continuing to improve, it will have an even longer life”. New? Continue to improve? CCS has never worked. KFC employs more of us than thermal coal.

The proportion of the total workforce employed in thermal coal is one quarter of one per cent of our total workforce of twelve million – or around 20-25,000. The ABS calculates, on the other hand, that 20,000 of us work in renewable energy activities.

Oddly Scotty doesn’t mention steel. While one in five local youngsters are seeking work, the steel town is in the Hunter whose iconic thermal-coal-mines employ at best five per cent of NSW’s workforce, whatever its MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources, Joel Fitzgibbon wants us to believe. Or Morrison or Matthew Canavan whose brother is big in coal mining for that matter. And thermal coal is plunging to an average price of $60-70 a metric tonne from $100 in January.

Peabody plans to sack half its workforce at Wambo, blaming Coronavirus but demand for coal is dropping in Europe and the US while China is using more domestic coal and less of the more expensive imported black rock, especially from Australia. Aping Trump’s poke a panda policy is costing us dearly.

Even so, why does, our Trumpista PM head to coal central to promise his preposterous gas-led recovery?

Could it be just bastardry? Fitzgibbon is Labor’s shadow minister for resources.  So entrenched is Labor bashing that already 9 News is crowing about a Labor split over gas. This is part of Morrison’s crafty plan.

So, too is the nobbling of any emissions target. The government’s position is not to have a position.

“The renewable energy target is going to wind down from 2020, it reaches its peak in 2020, and we won’t be replacing that with anything,” climate denialist Energy Minister Angus Taylor boasts.

But what’s this? Not even Simon Benson is in attendance, Tuesday – Scotty from marketing heroically risks anti-climax or exposing his signature, saponaceous, insincerity. Of course, his list of talking point slogans, boasts and empty promises is dropped to every media outlet in the land – and beyond – his government is gunner,

“… reset the east coast gas market … create a more competitive and transparent Australian Gas Hub by unlocking gas supply, deliver an efficient pipeline and transportation market, and empower gas customers.”

Perhaps it’s prudent that, he holds no “How good is gas?” presser afterwards.  Embracing Big Gas as our saviour, creating jobs and driving down prices, may trigger a repeat of his Cobargo bushfire reception where he was run out of town.

Of course, crocodile teary Scotty could still be smarting from his rebuke over bullying Annastacia Palaszczuk to secure a quarantine exemption for Sarah Caisip to attend her stepfather’s funeral in Queensland. Palaszczuk’s office reports Morrison shouting down the phone, “You will do this.” Then there’s his politicising private grief.

In an open letter to the PM, Caisip’s stepsister Alexandra Prendergast excoriates Morrison for using her grieving family “to try and advance your political agenda”. But Morrison will stop at nothing.

As Christine Milne opines in The Guardian Australia, as she calls out the government’s wilful sabotage of its renewable energy agency, there is one certainty you can rely on in Australia. “Namely the Morrison government’s championing of fossil fuels, relentless attacks on renewable energy, lies about its commitment to emission reductions, openness to fossil fuel donations and sabotaging any institutional framework that works in driving investment in the technologies desperately needed to get us to a zero emissions future.”

It’s a calculated snub. If Morrison intended to do anything about emissions or energy he would not have Angus Taylor as Energy and Emissions Minister. But how good is Gus at browning off greenies?

Whether it’s poisoning endangered grasses or trashing Clover Moore’s environmentalism by falsely accusing her of jet-setting based on a web document no-one’s been able to find, go-getter Gus is always on the go. Like his PM, he’s all for “moving on – I’ve dealt with that.”

Don’t even try to bring up the $79 million, Eastern Australia Irrigation, his Cayman Island registered company made in 2017 from selling overland flow water licences, on its Clyde and Kia Ora farms after the same sort of water at two southern Queensland cotton farms, nearby, was valued at zero.

OK, Barnaby Joyce signed off on the record closed tender deal. But he was only the Water Minister at the time. And, as he tells ABC’s Pats Karvelas, any claims of any wrongdoing are “an absolute load of horse poo.” Curiously, his puerile protest is repeated in every major daily and every online regional newspaper in the land.

This week, Taylor and Morrison send the whole country back to the future with a gas-led recovery plan boondoggle: a plan to have a plan to sell us methane – always spun as “natural gas” king – along with a vision of a West-East trans Australia pipeline. But, wait, there’s more. Before, seven days’ later, it’s revoked.

A state-run, gas-fired power plant will replace Liddell in Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon’s electorate. If need be. Only a week later, it’s not. Morrison’s “major speech” on energy policy is a tour de force of absurdist theatre. If it ain’t broke, don’t mean we won’t bullshit about fixing it. And if it’s broke, don’t mean we can’t make it worse. Gas powered electricity will only serve to push up prices and help cook an overheated globe.

“We are in the ludicrous situation of having a gas policy we don’t need, and none of the climate policy that we actually do,” warns The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe.

Yet Taylor’s on thin ice. Only two years ago, Gufee Pty Ltd (as Angus James Taylor calls himself in his personal private company) was colluding over sushi, tempura washed down with a frosty XXXX Gold at Kagawa in Dickson, to install Spud Dutton and topple Kermit Turnbull, the PM his deluded opponents see as a Green-Left Galaxy mole, according to Morrison stenographer at The Australian, Simon Benson.

Liberal renegade Mal’s NEG emissions target is the last straw. Benson claims a senior cabinet minister blabs,

“I have been wrong all along. I thought he should have joined the Labor Party. Turns out he should have joined the Greens.” Yet not one Liberal opposed Turnbull’s $1.75m donation to help buy it the 2016 election.

But the coup proves a fiasco. Numbers man, Matthias Cormann can’t add up. Dutton’s cabal is stooged by another player. Spud’s weights are put up by party race fixer, soapy ScoMo, whose followers first fake a plunge on Dutton, to force a spill only to change their votes to Morrison in a second ballot.

Disraeli called soapy Sam Wilberforce, unctuous, oleaginous, saponaceous, in the 1860 Oxford evolution debate. He could have been describing our current PM. But only if he overlooked the killer instinct.

No good deed goes unpunished in Scotty’s playbook. Duttonista Gus finds his mind greatly exercised now that Scotty’s just slipped Spud a political Novichok cocktail. Dutton will find his new dog’s breakfast of Defence and Border Force just as unworkable as Turnbull’s Home Affairs of federal police, ASIO, Australian Border Force, immigration, counterterrorism and emergency management.

Samuel Johnson knew a thing or two about Taylor’s likely frame of mind, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Morrison’s not going to push Gus under a bus tomorrow but pushing him out on stage and praising him as a deep thinker; the intellectual heavyweight of the Coalition energy team cannot bode well. The PM’s hyperbole is damning.

“He brings an enormous amount of intellect and experience to these tasks.”

“What we are speaking of today really is the extraordinary work that Angus has done in this portfolio as energy and emissions reduction.”

Some accuse Gus of being a lightweight. Or dilatory. But that would be to wilfully misread our political class. True, seven years down the track, the Coalition has no energy policy. But that’s its policy. Just as Morrison’s way of dealing with the pandemic and a collapsing economy is business as usual.

So calamity Taylor takes a gas axe to renewables this week. Bugger the planet. Gunner Morrison’s fossil fuel energy and noxious emissions minister can’t say when or how but he’s in the job to profit the Liberal Party’s mining industry mega-donors. Crony capitalism. Scott’s been promising we’re gunner have a gas-led recovery. Or snap-back as our ruling elastic band of Liberal toadies and big business and banking sycophants has it.

But Gus is not all gaseous catastrophe, however much the assonance appeals to Katharine Murphy. To Murpharoo, Scott Morrison’s power plan is nothing but a gas-fuelled calamity. A rump in the government even protests Morrison’s prioritising of gas over coal, as David Crowe reminds the rapidly declining readers of Nine newspapers Friday. Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon is cheering them on. Yet things could turn bad in November.

Perhaps Morrison’s been tipped off that Russian interference in the US Presidential election, will confer victory upon Trump, the useful idiot who has been putty in the hands of American fossil fuel barons.

The alternative is sobering. “The Biden administration will impose carbon adjustment fees or quotas on carbon-intensive goods from countries that are failing to meet their climate and environmental obligations.”

Or as Peter Brent writes, “Australian global warming politics is broken. If we’re too hopeless to price our carbon, someone else should price it for us.”

Pulling the pin on wind and solar? News this week confirms hard-nosed investors have taken flight; fled the electricity generating field by the gigajoule, which is how you measure the energy content in natural gas if you can afford any. Utility scale generation of green energy dropped by half during 2019 thanks to “Herbicide” Taylor’s climate-denialist sabotage of our children’s futures. But you can’t blame him for our gas cartel which fixes prices to suit itself and which is not even obliged to let the government know its reserves.

If you want affordable Australian gas, best emigrate to Japan. Customers in Japan buy Australian gas more cheaply than we can, reports Michael West. Some of this gas is drilled in the Bass Strait, piped to Queensland, turned into liquid and shipped 6,700 kilometres to Japan … but the Japanese still pay less than Victorians. It’s enough to drive a family back to burning dung. Two billion people worldwide swear by it.

But you’d be hard pressed to pick our venture capitalists’ mass stampede. All round business investment is plummeting. Bernard Keane reckons it’s at 2010 levels – propped up only because China is smiling on our mining exports. For the time being. Poking the Panda may look cute to our US overlords but China is poking back. Private investment in infrastructure has dipped to 2006 levels. Blind panic seizes our intrepid profiteers. After seven years of obstruction, obfuscation and chicanery – and Abbottising of our energy policy

It’s no mean feat. Renewables are hugely profitable compared to fossil. Yet ensuring the bottom falls out of investment in safe, clean power generation in the land at the arse-end of the world, as Keating fondly called his home, is the one enduring achievement of Scotty’s kakistocracy. Gus Taylor, take a bow.

True, Snowy 2.0 is still in the frame, despite a $10bn cost blowout, experts warn, but like Fizza Turnbull’s other dud, his high speed fibre to the node NBN, now fourth slowest in the OECD and one of the most expensive in the world, Snowy 2.0 is shaping to be another gigantic white elephant.

A Dear John letter from a group of no fewer than thirty-seven eminent Australian energy, engineering, economic and environmental experts, reaches Teddy Kunkel former Rio Tinto lobbyist and other former mining industry executives and coal lobbyists who dominate Scott John Morrison’s office Friday.

“It is now even more clear that there are numerous alternatives that are lower cost, more efficient, quicker to construct, and incur less emissions and environmental impacts,” the letter warns. AEMO forecasts that “inefficient, unnecessary and damaging Snowy 2.0” will never pay for itself; nor be needed until the 2030s, when emerging technologies like battery storage and demand response will have come into their own.

Unless you are a gas or coal baron, that is. Then you can count on gorgeous Gus, the Morrison government’s high-maintenance Energy and Emissions Minister to bring home the bacon; put a bit of pork on your fork.

Luckily, pumping water uphill will still require a shitload of fossil fuel so mining companies will still do well out of the twelve billion dollar pipe dream – especially big donors Santos, Origin and Woodside who funnel money into Liberal Party coffers. So what if Snowy 2.0’s pumped hydro will hike power prices and diminish supply?

Has Gus pulled the plug? Star of byzantine epic “Watergate”, featuring fellow silvertail and veteran game of mates grifter and Nats’ sideshow carnival barker, Barnaby Joyce, “Grassgate” a Tarantino homage to herbicide as an obliging Environment Minister, played by Josh Frydenberg helps Gus farewell some of the last remnants of all-but extinguished temperate grasslands and the whodunnit “Clovergate” fake document download scandal knows how to power down. In renewables, that is.

Less than two years after his PM set him up as muppet for our mining barons, aka Energy and Emissions Minister, silvertail Gussie’s buggered new wind and solar farm start-ups from near-record highs to near-record lows. Only three new projects reached completion in the last quarter – and 90 per cent of that capacity came from a single solar farm courtesy of the Queensland Labor government.

Morrison’s theatre of the absurd energy policy show is no roadmap to lower emissions, cheaper power or more jobs. It is just another calculated insult to those who have worked to honour our Paris agreement; to those who have worked tirelessly to decarbonise our economy. The rug has been pulled out unceremoniously because that’s what Scotty does best. And he’s been watching his mentor and enfant terrible Trump.

Scotty’s right wing coal warriors such as Matt Canavan may be appeased – for five minutes – Nats with interests or mates with interests in the gas industry may tolerate the sociopath and bully in him a little better, while his embrace of gas will appease key Liberal Party donors. Above all, Morrison will shrewdly have done the bidding of his cabal of mining industry executives under the guise of a coronavirus recovery plan while setting up Angus Taylor to take the blame when the inevitable repercussions are felt.

Best of all he will wedge Labor over their policy on gas.

Where it will all go pear-shaped is when gas becomes even less affordable and fails to provide jobs, let alone fulfil his rash and glib promise of bringing back a manufacturing sector – now around ten per cent of the economy – that neoliberal ideology is helping to banish forever. Emissions will continue to climb. The need for “new technology” he preaches will be exposed as a sound-bite sham. There are no new technologies that need to be developed to be decarbonised. There are, however, sports rorts yet to be accounted for.

Worse, Morrison may be exposed as a bare-faced liar as CCS is seen to be a coal industry fiction and an expensive indulgence of powerful party mates as the economy further contracts in 2021 with his ill-advised and inhumane cutting back on pensions for those out of work and those unable to work given their disabilities. The Panda factor can only exacerbate a downturn in our trade in a Coronavirus recession world

Trade with China is suffering because of Morrison’s witless desire not only to align with Trump’s trade war with Beijing but to enlist as an active belligerent. China will do us slowly write Crikey’s Michael Sainsbury. Unemployment and underemployment will soar in the New Year. Morrison has already alienated thousands of university teachers. His promised IR reforms threaten to make a bad system worse. As Dennis Atkins warns,

The all too apparent human toll of this insecurity is not enough to deter the Morrison Government from its determination to further deregulate the labour market.

The “energy roadmap” in all its intellectual and moral poverty is studded with disinformation. Despite what he claims, for example, renewables can’t “stand on their own two feet”. The Prime Minister’s gaslighting merely underlines his abdication of responsibility; his failure to provide real leadership when it was most needed.

Morrison may already have neutralised rivals, Dutton and Taylor but he will rapidly lose the confidence of MPs in marginal seats and despite his daggy dad routines; his carefully orchestrated relentless curry and cubby home-loving hubby PR campaign, voters are not mugs. They know when they’re being taken for a ride.

It may take a while given our Murdoch orchestrated cheer squad that is the mainstream media but truth will out. Especially when you can’t get work or the hours you need to put food on the table and pay the rapidly rising power bills the Prime Minister falsely promised his gas-led recovery would reduce.

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Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?

“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, diplomatic and policy norms.” (Mary Jo Murphy The Washington Post).

Donald Trump, a silver-spoon buffoon who got away with the biggest con job in modern history, a type of Gordon Gekko, the character who had a moral bypass at birth, was set to play himself in the 2010 sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall St: Money Never Sleeps but his outrageous demands – most of which were to do with his hair – were so over the top that his scene – in which Trump bumps into Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in a barber shop – ended up on the cutting room floor.

Mega-diva Donald’s bizarre list of demands include forcing a contract upon everyone in the scene not to touch his topknot. Hair today, gone tomorrow, Donald, just read Samson and Delilah, Judges 16.

Today, Trump’s hair is causing more grief. Again, it may cause him to fail to make the final cut; cost him re-election in November. His fear that his combover would come unstuck in the rain caused him to abort his 2018 chopper ride to honour American soldiers slain in battle. Now it threatens his re-election.

Trump pulled the pin on a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018. Rain forced his last-minute cancellation, he lies “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Another lie. The truth is more prosaic. Trump feared that rain would mess with his hair and makeup; undermine the pompadour he teases over his bald pate, to say nothing of his waterproof foundation which Washington Post pundits believe to be Bronx Color – a fourteen euro Swiss cosmetic.

Fear of cosmetic or wardrobe malfunction can paralyse public figures. Doubtless, after his “I shall return”, uttered not in The Philippines but in fact back at Terowie Train Station Alice Springs, Douglas McArthur added “but only if it’s not raining and I still look good in a bomber jacket with slacks”.

Trump’s re-wind is contradicted by four first-hand witnesses’ evidence, painstakingly recorded by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, who pursues the president’s total incomprehension of patriotism, service and sacrifice since Trump attacked the late senator John McCain’s war record.

“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump rages, despite being not invited, report witnesses. Washington’s navel-orange-in-chief, President Trump sees White House flags at half-mast.

“What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” Trump tells his claque; the bitching, backstabbing, festering, toadying grovel of sycophants, formerly White House aides who him prop up. The White House flag is back at full mast Monday morning – before being lowered again Monday afternoon – up and down like the zipper on JFK’s chinos; or a media whore’s drawers.

Time wounds all heels, however. In an age of pivot and spin, what’s certain is that by 20 January 2025, Trump’s enablers will be exposed. And even his most powerful collaborators have bound their fate to his.

As to the lies Trump told when cancelling his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, they won’t fly.

First, Marine One, the Presidential helicopter can’t fly in the rain? It’s almost plausible. Yet the weather has to be extremely cold, with risk of icing up or risk of thunderstorms. Neither was the case. Moreover, former aides confirm there’s always a back-up plan. Luckily The Secret Service won’t blab. For now.

Crippling vanity aside, Trump’s larger concern is his own toxic turpitude. Let his deluded following ignore the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no escape from the pox of Trumpism itself, now endemic in so many bodies politic including our own federal government – brought into being by the same forces which helped to take us from greed is good to greed is God, the Hillsong heresy. Trump is an enabler.

For Hungary’s neo-fascist PM, Viktor Orban who, like his US mentor, favours rule by decree, Donald Trump represents “permission” from “the highest position in the worldTyrants all over the globe from Brazil’s “strongman”, Jair Bolsonaro, to Cambodia’s fascist Hun Sen, or Scott Morrison, Trump’s mini-me down under, are vastly encouraged by the US President’s increasing disdain for the rule of law.

“I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead … and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.” Hun Sen boasts 2011 on suggestion he should be worried about the overthrow of a Tunisian dictator in the “Arab Spring”.

Whilst his captain’s-picked cabal of gas company executives and mining industry shills, the oxymoronic Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission, led by former Fortescue top dog, deputy chair of Strike Energy, nifty Nev Power meets in secret to plot pipe-dreams in pursuit of the chimera of a gas-led recovery and the stranded assets of new, uneconomic pipelines, Morrison steps on the gas.

Oxymoronic? There is no federal co-ordination. Morrison’s tactic is to politicise the pandemic. Relentlessly he bags Daniel Andrews for ruining the national economy with his frivolous lockdowns.

MSM continues the assault, taking its lead as always from Liberal propaganda organ The Australian. Show us your road map, he chants. Shrewdly he writes a threatening letter to the Victorian Premier attaching Frydenberg and Hunt’s names to his own. It will help him with a talking point evading responsibility; shifting the blame. Scotty, you are a born leader. Not only that you are our nation’s saviour, reminding us that we are all in this together.

In fact, Morrison is using the pandemic to divide and conquer. He ridicules Victoria’s effort because Dan’s health workers are just crap at contact tracing. Just look at Australia’s gold standard, New South Wales.

Overlooking the federal government’s Ruby Princes debacle is not easy but Morrison is brazen. It will be his undoing. Cases may well rise in NSW. The state’s contact tracing may be more thorough because it has fewer cases. If the number spikes it could all change. The Kirby Institute’s Infectious diseases expert, Raina McIntyre, points out that Victoria’s health system has been cut to the bone.

“When it comes to public health infrastructure and resources per head of population, Victoria is much worse off than any other state in Australia,” she says.

“Victoria is just a shell of a system, it’s just been decimated, and that’s fine in the good times, you can get by on a minimal model, but when there’s a pandemic all those weaknesses are exposed.”

McIntyre stops short of tracing the neoliberal origins of the state’s poor health system. “Economic rationalisation” under Jeff Kennett’s Liberal Coalition government during the 1990s devastated the Victoria’s health care system. Of course, Kennett claimed it was all Labor’s fault.

In microcosm, Kennett’s attack parallels the Morrison government’s upcoming austerity budgeting federal solution. Labor governments plunge the state into deficit, therefore “reforms” must be made. Kennett pursued a radical privatisation. Public services were contracted out to private operators, an approach which has helped cripple the state’s health care system, today.

Labor is to blame? Scapegoating is in full swing. Ben Fordham appears on ABC The Drum to spread the rumour that Andrews will resign. “People are saying that Dan Andrews is contemplating his future.” 

The PM presses the pedal to the metal. It’s total war on every front – Labor, international student farming, The Arts, arts and humanities, which the federal government sees as hotbeds of sedition, Super, especially industry super. But as Crikey’s Guy Rundle observes, nothing it does leads “to any conclusion other than that everything can be trashed to get a political edge.” Pure Trumpism in other words.

Trump’s war on Democrats and the media gives dictators like Hun Sun an alibi for their own attacks on the opposition, protest and freedom of the press. When, in 2014, Morrison devised his Cambodian solution, to handball 1000 refugees from our care, blithely outsourcing our obligation to provide asylum under international law, Australia told the south-east Asian nation it needed to stop its military from killing street protesters, violently crushing political opposition and detaining people without trial.

But it didn’t stop the deal – one of Morrison’s follies, abandoned, out of sight and out of mind. Another thing “we are not here today to talk about” if reporters dare raise the issue at a presser. After Australia’s caution, Cambodia’s government has continued to crush dissent. And the Opposition.

“Videos of police dragging peaceful protesters on the street and forcibly jamming them into vehicles should raise global concern for police abuse in Cambodia,” says Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director. “The authorities should immediately end violent tactics against peaceful protesters and respect the rights to free expression and assembly.”  Yet Trump undermines all that.

When the US embassy in Phnom Penh joins condemnation, Hun Sen calls on Trump to overrule his staff, “Your policy has been changed, but the embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed it yet,” he says.

Dictators feel affirmed by Trump’s trashing of the media; his fake news. His contempt for such basic democratic principles as the right of US Democrats to vote. Or how he urges supporters to vote twice. Or how he’s preparing to demand that all postal votes be scrapped because they shouldn’t count.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland notes, Trump’s seen data that predicts postal voters are more likely to support Biden. On 4 November, he’ll demand that tens of millions of postal votes be disallowed – leaving only votes cast on election day, from which Trump reckons he could achieve a narrow victory.

Poster-boy for petty despots and crazed crackpots world-wide, a monster man-baby whose name now surfaces as a rallying cry or potential “liberator” to Germany’s neo-Nazis and other far right extremists, America’s paranoid conspiracy theorist in chief; malignant narcissist and pathological liar, Trump is not, of course, responsible for the decline in freedom around the world. Yet he is an accelerant.

Now he “pivots” into damage control. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, he denies he ever called US troops who died in war “losers and suckers”. But will denial work? And what does his insult reveal about Trump and his many fans including our own Trumpista Scott Morrison?

First, denigrating the military could prove a fatal error in Trump’s campaign for re-election. With fewer than two months until America votes, his minders fear he may have alienated a key component of his base at a critical time. Support amongst active service men and women is now down from 46 per cent at his inauguration to 38 per cent approval in a recent Military Times poll.

Trump’s supporters comprise a disproportionately high percentage of veterans. Aides panic. SBS reports a video is concocted in which four veteran stooges testify to their undying love of all things Trump.

In the meantime, Australia, which fancies itself as a US deputy sheriff, but which is closer to a servile lackey or “US imperialist running dog” is up shit creek without a paddle. In a barbed wire canoe.

We poked the Panda, as The Donald wanted but the Panda poked us back threatening our trade, expelling our journalists and detaining our citizens. Team Trump won’t help. They’re too busy in damage control – dispute, deny and discredit.

“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office. Why, he respects all troops. “To me, they’re heroes,” he says. “It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that, the level of bravery, and to me, they’re absolute heroes.”

Deny, dispute and discredit. It’s Trump’s signature strategy, aped by admirers world-wide including Scott Morrison, who continues to deny his key role in defrauding amateur clubs to help Clive Palmer business buy the election victory his business needed – a steal at only $67 million, in Scotty’s sports rorts scandal.

Yet much as Trump may protest, “I never called John a loser”, his bluster is also contradicted by video and Twitter which both show him doing just that in 2015.

 

 

Fifteen hours later, his aides are in full flight and panic mode. VoteVets, a progressive veterans’ organization and never a fan of Trump, releases an online ad featuring the parents of troops slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each parent declares that their son or stepson was neither a “loser” nor a “sucker.”

Why such contempt? Why does it appeal? Papa Trump is popular in “the shit-hole countries” as he fondly refers to sub-Saharan African nations such as Nigeria and Kenya, who rank number one on the US Security and Assistance Monitor; continue to thrive on US economic aid.

Why does it appeal to our local faux-populists such Morrison and Pauline Hanson? Trump and his acolytes in our pick-a-winner wide brown land cannot see the point of doing anything without monetary reward. Sacrifice? Dying for a cause? None of this makes any sense when your one true love is yourself; your only cause is your own self-promotion.

Lying’s hard work but The Donald’s protestations don’t deter him from his mission: beating Biden in November. Trump’s gone postal. Mega donor Louis DeJoy, whose name makes him sound as if he belongs in a fly-spray commercial, is President’s pick for PMG. Louie is joyfully ripping out mail boxes and scrapping sorting machines in any electorate where a hapless Democrat might try to cast a postal vote.

Since May, DeJoy has brought in reforms, which he claims cut costs. These reduced overtime and limited deliveries that postal carriers say created backlogs across the country.

Trump’s 2020 appointee, Post Master General DeJoy (the cheque’s in the mail) is now accused of paying former workers bonuses to reimburse them for donating to the Republican Party. The Washington Post speaks to seven former employees of his former business New Breed Logistics whom DeJoy forced to donate to GOP candidates. An unconcerned Trump says he’ll act if DeJoy has done anything bad.

Such a practice violates both North Carolina state and federal law. Yet it’s an insight into how the party enabled the rise of a Donald Trump. DeJoy’s rapid rise in Republican politics was helped greatly by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company; increasing his influence in the GOP.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” says David Young, DeJoy’s veteran director of human resources, with access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

The Washington Post reports that between 2000 and 2014, 124 workers together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, and have not made any since leaving the company, public records show. During the same period, nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democrats.

While Mail voting sabotage is an irresistibly “authoritarian power grab”, team Trump, is supported by states’ refining ID requirements while it rigs every other aspect of the US vote it can get away with. This includes gerrymandering of electorates and removal of places of voting.

Since 2010, twenty-five states have enacted new voting restrictions, such as strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions. The land of the free is busy making it even harder to vote. Especially if you are poor, a person of colour or you live in a remote area.

Our own father of lies, Donald’s disciple the besotted Scott Morrison is on the tools again. Mugging for the Scott Cam camera he reprises his role as daggy Dad with Ryobi saw. Perhaps Cam does the building off-camera. It would be a fair return for his $300,000 salary. Achieve more than his former role as Careers Ambassador, another Morrison debacle.

But why is Scotty building the same Bunnings kit cubby house, his press agents gushed about in June? So high is staff turnover everywhere in our commonwealth public service, so savage are the cuts, there’s barely anyone around to turn the lights off. It’s systemic dementia, a loss of institutional memory.

Collective amnesia may create stuff-ups – promote the discovery learning that hapless Tassie battler Dick Colbeck whimpers about. Aged care is not perfect but that’s OK because it’s learning to be better.

Yet it’s also perfect for the evading of responsibility and accountability which fuels the duck and weave of our modern political Quotidien. Senators at estimates hearings have  been told that there is no-one left at the department to answer questions about all sorts of rorts and activities that have occurred within even the previous few years.

Churn and the rise of the PA mean an even chance we’ll see the same promo with bells on at Christmas.

But we may have to be careful with our Christmas carols. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis notes after years of allowing neo-Nazisvarious terrorist groupsconspiracy theorists and democracy warping fake news to flourish, Facebook has finally cut down on the scourge of blog posts featuring Spotify playlists.

Will Trump’s “losers and suckers” undo him? Lose him votes among the veterans he counts on to vote for him? It certainly will do him some damage. Add in the cost of his coronavirus debacle and its economic consequences. But it must not be forgotten that the Republican Party that stands behind Trump, the party apparatus and the massive network of donors which enables him is hopelessly corrupted as the curious case of Trump’s Postmaster General, DeJoy suggests.

Whatever happens, the end of Trump will not be the end of Trumpism. Nine out of ten Republicans are fans of the job he is doing as president, David Smith notes in The Guardian. And who would replace him?

Smith points to an alarming paucity of alternatives: in SurveyMonkey poll for Axios last December, Republican voters’ favourites for 2024 were Mike Pence, with Donald Trump Jr in second place, followed by Nikki Haley, Ivanka Trump, Marco Rubio and Mike Pompeo.

If “losers and suckers” does help Trump lose, however, the gaffe illustrates a mentality which Trumpism has nurtured – a complete incomprehension of service, sacrifice or dedication to principle. It’s a perspective which Gordon Gekko, a fictional caricature, would instantly recognise – as would anyone attending a recent Senate Estimates committee. Or who follows the current attack on Dan Andrews.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” The embodiment of the false creed of neoliberalism, Trump cannot fathom any human action that cannot be reduced to a transaction. He cannot comprehend volunteers because that involves altruism and empathy.

The narcissistic materialist is equally confounded; discomfited to discover that over 1,800 US Marines lost their lives at Belleau Wood. He sees them as “suckers” for getting killed.

In brief, as Goldberg sees, Donald Trump suffers the delusion that “nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.”

It’s not hard to hear the same delusion at work in the News Corp journalists who endlessly, every day twit Dan Andrews with the same questions. Why should the state pursue public health and safety instead of profits for business at any costs?

Similarly, in his tedious repetition of his vacuous slogan “open the nation for business”, Trumpista Scott Morrison exhibits the same pathological indifference to others; the same failure to imagine another’s pain, along with an alarming poverty of mind and spirit which simply make him unfit to lead. He should resign over the sports rorts alone.

In their own ways, the rise of Trumpism and the coronavirus pandemic have helped create an environment where Morrison and Murdoch’s minions’ claims that we must endlessly pursue selfish competition – that greed is good and might is right – are so vividly exposed as toxic aberrations and hopelessly, grotesquely inadequate to the times’ need for compassion, co-operation, community and humanity.

We must expose their lies; continue to hold them to account.

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COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (At the school of Doctor Rasputin: part 4)

Continued from: COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (At the school of Doctor Rasputin: part 3)

By Outsider

On 30 March 2020 The Nation published a study of Gates’ modus operandi and concluded that Bill Gates gives to the rich (including himself).

In the fall of 2019 Netflix premiered a three-part documentary which promises viewers a rare look at the inner life of one of history’s most controversial businessmen. Over three hours, Inside Bill’s brain showed the viewers a rare emotional side to Bill Gates as he processed the loss of his mother and the death of his estranged best friend and Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen.

Mostly, though, the film reinforced the image many of the viewers already had of the ambitious technologist, insatiable brainiac, and heroic philanthropist.

While the efforts of fellow billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg to use his wealth to win the presidency foundered amid intense media criticism, Gates has proved that there is a far easier path to political power, one which allows unelected billionaires to shape public policy in ways that almost always generate favorable headlines: charity.

When Gates announced in 2008 that he would step away from Microsoft to focus his efforts on philanthropy, he described his intention to work with and through the private sector to deliver public-goods products and technologies, in the same way that Microsoft’s computer software expanded horizons and created economic opportunities. Describing his approach by turns as “creative capitalism” and “catalytic philanthropy,” Gates oversaw a shift at his foundation to leverage “all the tools of capitalism” to “connect the promise of philanthropy with the power of private enterprise.”

The result has been a new model of charity in which the most direct beneficiaries are sometimes not the world’s poor but the world’s wealthiest, in which the goal is not to help the needy but to help the rich help the needy.

Through an investigation of more than 19,000 charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made over the last two decades, The Nation uncovered close to $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations to private companies – including some of the largest businesses in the world, such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever, I.B.M., and N.B.C. Universal Media – which are engaged in developing new drugs, improving sanitation in the developing world, developing financial products for Muslim consumers, and spreading the good news about this work.

“It’s been a quite unprecedented development, the amount that the Gates Foundation is gifting to corporations. … I find that flabbergasting, frankly,” says Linsey McGoey, a professor of sociology at the University of Essex and author of the book No Such Thing as a Free Gift. (L. McGoey, No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy, Verso, London, 2016). “They’ve created one of the most problematic precedents in the history of foundation giving by essentially opening the door for corporations to see themselves as deserving charity claimants at a time when corporate profits are at an all-time high.”

McGoey’s research anecdotally highlighted charitable grants the Gates Foundation has made to private companies, such as a $19 million donation to a Mastercard affiliate in 2014 to “increase usage of digital financial products by poor adults” in Kenya. The credit card giant had already articulated its keen business interest in cultivating new clients from the developing world’s 2.5 billion unbanked people, McGoey said, so why did it need a wealthy philanthropist to subsidize its work? And why are Bill and Melinda Gates getting a tax break for this donation?

The Nation found close to $250 million in charitable grants from the Gates Foundation to companies in which the foundation holds corporate stocks and bonds: Merck, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Vodafone, Sanofi, Ericsson, LG, Medtronic, Teva, and numerous start-ups – with the grants directed at projects like developing new drugs and health monitoring systems and creating mobile banking services.

Here are some data concerning such generosity.

The Nation commented: “A foundation giving a charitable grant to a company that it partly owns – and stands to benefit from financially – would seem like an obvious conflict of interest, but judging from the sparse rules that [the United States] Congress has written governing private foundations and the Internal Revenue Service’s light enforcement of them, many in the federal government do not appear to see it that way.

The Gates Foundation did not respond to specific questions about its work with the private sector, nor would it provide its own accounting of how much money it has given to for-profit companies, saying that “many grants are implemented through a mixture of non-profit and for-profit partners, making it difficult to evaluate exact spending.”

At business-friendly events, however, Bill Gates openly promotes his foundation’s work with companies. In speeches delivered at the American Enterprise Institute and Microsoft in 2013 and 2014, he trumpeted the lives his foundation was saving – in one speech he said 10 million, in another 6 million – through “partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.”

Yet the Foundation is doing more than simply partnering with companies: It is subsidising their research costs, opening up markets for their products, and bankrolling their bottom lines in ways which, by and large, have never been publicly examined – even as the taxpayer is subsidising this work.

Bill Gates frequently boasts about having paid more taxes – $10 billion – than anyone else. That may or may not be true; the Gates Foundation would not release his tax forms or provide any substantiating information. But he may also end up avoiding more taxes than anyone else, through charitable giving.

Ray Madoff, a law professor at Boston College, indicated that multibillionaires see ‘tax savings’ of at least 40 per cent – which, for Bill Gates, would amount to $14 billion – when one factors in the tax benefits that charity offers to the superrich: avoidance of capital gains taxes – normally 15 per cent – and estate taxes – 40 per cent on everything over $11.58 million, which in Gates’ case is a lot.

Madoff, like many tax experts, stresses that these billions of dollars in tax savings have to be seen as a public subsidy – money that otherwise would have gone to the U.S. Treasury to help build bridges, do medical research, or close the funding gap at the I.R.S. – which has resulted in fewer audits of billionaires. If Bill and Melinda Gates do not pay their full freight in taxes, the public has to make up the difference or simply live in a world where governments do less and less: educating, vaccinating, and researching and super-rich philanthropists do more and more.

“I think people often confuse what wealthy people are doing on their own dime and what [they’re] doing on our dime, and that’s one of the big problems about this debate,” professor Madoff noted. “People say, ‘It’s the rich person’s money [to spend as they wish].’ But when they get significant tax benefits, it’s also our money. And so that’s why we need to have rules about how they spend our money.”

Naturally, Big Philanthropy has special interest groups pushing back on the creation of such rules. The Philanthropy Roundtable defends the wealthiest Americans’ “freedom to give,” describing itself as fighting the “increasing pressures from some public officials and advocacy groups to subject private philanthropies to more uniform standards and stricter government regulation.”

At a certain point, however, the Philanthropy Roundtable seems primarily to serve the private interests of billionaires like the Gates and Charles Koch who use charity to influence public policy, with limited oversight and substantial public subsidies. It is unclear how the Philanthropy Roundtable’s work contributes to the Gates Foundation’s charitable missions “to help all people live healthy, productive lives” and “to empower the poorest in society so they can transform their lives.”

While there is no credible argument that Bill and Melinda Gates use charity primarily as a vehicle to enrich themselves or their foundation, it is difficult to ignore the occasions where their charitable activities seem to serve mainly private interests, including theirs – supporting the schools their children attend, the companies their Foundation partly controls, and the special interest groups which defend wealthy Americans, while generating billions of dollars in tax savings.

Gates was already one of the richest humans on earth in 2008, but he was also an embattled billionaire, still licking his wounds from a series of legal battles around the monopolistic business practices that made him so extravagantly wealthy – and that compelled Microsoft to pay billions of dollars in fines and settlements.

Gates is notoriously secretive about his personal investments, however, making it difficult to understand if he stands to gain financially from his foundation’s activities or the extent to which he does if this happens.

“It’s hard to draw the line between a) Microsoft; b) his own personal wealth and investment; and c) the foundation,” says consumer advocate Ralph Nader, one of Microsoft’s fiercest critics in the 1990s. “There’s been very inadequate media scrutiny of all that.”

Gates’ “strategic investment fund,” which the foundation says is designed to advance its philanthropic goals, not to generate investment income, includes a $7 million equity stake in the start-up company AgBiome, whose other investors include the agrochemical companies Monsanto and Syngenta. The Foundation also gave the company $20 million in charitable grants to develop pesticides for African farmers. Similarly, the foundation has a $50 million stake in Intarcia and an $8 million investment in Just Biotherapeutics, to which it gave $25 million and $32 million in charitable grants, respectively, for work related to H.I.V. and malaria. At one point, the foundation held a 48 percent stake in an H.I.V. diagnostic company called Zyomyx, to which it previously awarded millions of dollars in charitable grants.

Asked about these apparent conflicts of interest, a spokesperson for the Foundation said that grants and investments “are simply two tools the foundation uses as appropriate to further its charitable objectives.”

When Gates began his Foundation in 1994, he put his father, Bill Gates Sr., in charge. A prominent lawyer in Seattle, Gates Sr. was also a civic leader and, later, a public advocate on issues related to income inequality.

Working with Chuck Collins, an heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune who gave away much of his inheritance during his 20s, Gates Sr. helped organise a successful national campaign in the late 1990s and early 2000s to build political power around preserving the estate tax, the taxes levied against the assets of the wealthy after they die.

In interviews Gates Sr. gave at the time, his advocacy work seemed designed not to generate tax revenues but to inspire philanthropy.

“A wealthy person has an absolute choice as to whether they pay the [estate] tax or whether they give their wealth to their university or their church or their foundation,” he told journalist Bill Moyers.

That is because when the rich give away their wealth, they reduce the assets that the estate tax targets. But such an arrangement, whereby the wealthiest Americans get to decide for themselves whether they want to pay taxes or donate their money to charity – including two groups which influence government policy – sounds like a peak example of tone-deaf privilege. In many respects, that is how the tax system works for the super-rich. So, the richer you are, the more choice you have between those two groups.

Around the time that Gates Sr. was putting pressure on Congress to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, the younger Gates was running a multinational company aggressively looking for tax breaks. According to the assessor’s office for King County, which includes Seattle, Microsoft has filed 402 appeals on its property taxes. Similarly, a 2012 Senate investigation examined Microsoft’s aggressive use of offshore subsidiaries to save the company billions of dollars in taxes. And The Seattle Times reported that Microsoft spent decades creating lucrative, tax-reducing barriers around corporate profits.

When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has faced criticism in regard to its endowment – including investments in prisons, fast food, the arms industry, pharmaceutical companies, and fossil fuels – conflicting with its charitable mission to improve health and well-being, Gates has pushed back in black-and-white terms, calling divestment a “false solution” that will have “zero” impact. A Foundation spokesperson said it “does not comment on specific investment decisions or holdings,” but did note that the “sole purpose” of its endowment is “to provide income to support the Foundation’s mission and to be capable to do so over the long term.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s endowment currently has an $11.5 billion stake in Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn has $32 million invested in the chocolate company Mondelez, which has been criticised in relation to the use of child labour. The Foundation made $32.5 million in charitable donations to the World Cocoa Foundation, an industry group the members of which include Mondelez, for a project to improve farmer livelihoods. The project does not appear to address child labour.

Because the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation views market-based solutions and private-sector innovation as public goods, the line between charity and business can be indistinguishable. Sociologist Linsey McGoey says: “They’ve defined their charitable mission so broadly and loosely that literally any for-profit company could be said to be meeting the Gates Foundation’s general goal of improving social and global well-being.”

According to I.R.S. statistics, there are around 100,000 private foundations in the United States, housing close to $1 trillion in assets. However, foundations generally pay a tax rate of only 1 or 2 per cent, and the I.R.S. reports auditing, at most, 263 foundations in 2018.

In the absence of outside scrutiny, the Gates Foundation has had far-reaching effects on public policy, pushing privately run charter schools into states where courts and voters have rejected them, using earmarked funds to direct the World Health Organization to work on the Foundation’s global health agenda, and subsidising Merck’s and Bayer’s entry into developing countries. Gates, who routinely appears on the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people, has proved that philanthropy can buy political influence.

Gates’ personal wealth is greater today than ever before, around $100 billion, and at only 65 years of age, he may have decades left to donate this money, picking up a Nobel Prize along the way or – who knows? – a presidential nomination. The same could be said of Melinda Gates, who, at 55, not long ago took a big step into public life with a highly publicised book tour.

But it is also possible that a day of reckoning is coming for Big Philanthropy, Bill Gates, and the growing number of billionaires following his footsteps into charity.

Economists, politicians, and journalists continue to put a spotlight on billionaires who are not paying their fair share of taxes but who shape politics through campaign contributions and lobbying. Charity is seldom regarded as a tax-avoiding tool of influence, but if income inequality continues to gain attention, there is simply no way to avoid asking tough questions of Big Philanthropy. Do billionaire philanthropists have too much power, with too little public accountability or transparency? Should the wealthiest Americans have carte blanche to spend their wealth any way they want?

It may seem like a radical proposition to challenge the ability or desire of multibillionaires to give away their fortunes, but such scrutiny has a historical precedent in mainstream politics. One hundred years ago, when oil baron John D. Rockefeller asked Congress to provide him with a charter to start a private foundation, his ambitions were soundly rejected as an anti-democratic power grab. As Theodore Roosevelt said at the time: “No amount of charities in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them.” (T. Schwab, Bill Gates Gives to the Rich (Including Himself), Bill Gates charity paradox, The Nation, 30.03.2020).

Gates does not respond to multiple requests for interviews, but in a rather recent Q&A with The Wall Street Journal, he revisited his legal face-off with antitrust regulators, saying, “I can still explain to you why the government was completely wrong, but that’s really old news at this point. For me personally, it did accelerate my move into that next phase, two to five years sooner, of shifting my focus over to the foundation.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates reflected on his shifting public image (J. Jurgensen, In Bill Gates’s Mind, a Life of Processing – A new documentary profiles the tech-titan-turned-philanthropist, WSJ, 10.09.2019).

Gates’ view of Microsoft as the victim of overzealous antitrust regulations may help explain the laissez-faire ethos driving his charitable giving. His Foundation has given money to groups which push for industry-friendly government policies and regulation, including the Drug Information Association – directed by Big Pharma – and the International Life Sciences Institute – funded by Big Ag. He has also funded nonprofit think tanks and advocacy groups which want to limit the role of government or direct its resources toward helping business interests, like the American Enterprise Institute: $6.8 million, the American Farm Bureau Foundation: $300,000, the American Legislative Exchange Council: $220,000, and organisations associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $15.5 million.

Between 2011 and 2014 the Gates Foundation gave roughly $100 million to InBloom, an educational technology initiative which dissolved in controversy around privacy issues and its collection of personal data and information about students. To Diane Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, InBloom illustrates the way Gates is “working to push technology in classrooms, to replace teachers with computers.”  “That affects Microsoft’s bottom line,” Ravitch observed. “However, I’ve never made that argument. … [The Foundation] is not looking to make money from this business. They have an ideological interest in free markets.”

Education is not the only area where Gates’ ideological interests overlap with his financial interests. Microsoft’s bottom line is heavily dependent on patent protections for its software, and the Gates Foundation has been a strong and consistent supporter of intellectual property rights, including for the pharmaceutical companies with which it works closely. These patent protections are widely criticised for making lifesaving drugs prohibitively expensive, particularly in the developing world.

“He uses his philanthropy to advance a pro-patent agenda on pharmaceutical drugs, even in countries that are really poor,” says longtime Gates critic James Packard ‘Jamie’ Love, the director of the nonprofit Knowledge Ecology International. “Gates is sort of the right wing of the public-health movement. He’s always trying to push things in a pro-​corporate direction. He’s a big defender of the big drug companies. He’s undermining a lot of things that are really necessary to make drugs affordable to people that are really poor. It’s weird because he gives so much money to [fight] poverty, and yet he’s the biggest obstacle on a lot of reforms.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s sprawling work with for-profit companies has created a welter of conflicts of interest, in which the Foundation, its three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Edward Buffett or their companies could be seen as financially benefiting from the group’s charitable activities.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has billions of dollars in investments in companies that the Foundation has helped over the years, including Mastercard and Coca-Cola. Bill Gates long sat on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway, announcing his departure just recently, and he and his Foundation together hold billions of dollars of equity stake in the investment firm.

The Foundation’s work also appears to overlap with Microsoft’s, to which Gates, in recent years, has devoted one-third of his workweek. Gates announced recently that he would be stepping down from the company’s board, but remain involved with the company as a technology advisor. The Gates Foundation’s $200 million programme to improve public libraries partnered with Microsoft to donate the company’s software, prompting criticism that the donations were aimed at “seeding the market” for Microsoft products and “lubricating future sales.” Elsewhere, Microsoft is investing money studying mosquitoes to help predict disease outbreaks, working with the same researchers as the Foundation. Both projects involve creating sophisticated robots and traps to collect and analyse mosquitoes.

“The Foundation and Microsoft are separate entities, and our work is wholly unrelated to Microsoft,” a Gates Foundation spokesperson said.

In 2002 The Wall Street Journal reported that Gates and the Gates Foundation’s endowment made new investments in Cox Communications at the same time that Microsoft was in discussion with Cox about a variety of business deals. Tax experts raised questions about self-dealing, noting that foundations can lose their tax-exempt status if they are found to be using charity for personal gain. The I.R.S. would not comment on whether it investigated, saying, “Federal law prohibits us from discussing specific taxpayers or organizations.”

The Foundation’s clearest conflicts of interest may be the grants it gives to for-profit companies in which it holds investments – large corporations like Merck and Unilever. A Foundation spokesperson said that it tries to avoid this kind of financial conflict but that doing so is difficult because its investment and charitable arms are firewalled from one another to keep their activities strictly separate. Bill and Melinda Gates are trustees of both entities, however, making it difficult to draw a sharp line between the two.

And in some places, the Gates Foundation explicitly marries its investing and charitable activities.  

For some billionaire philanthropists, it may be less of a choice than an entitlement. Buffett and Gates have recruited hundreds of millionaires and billionaires to sign the Giving pledge, a promise to donate most of their wealth to charity, that some signatories explicitly cite as an alternative to paying taxes.

Bill Gates Sr. had a nuanced view which included limiting billionaires’ tax benefits. Gates Sr. said to a journalist: “It is a problem that my son is going to give – at the time, it was like $80 billion – to the Foundation and never have to pay taxes on any of that wealth.” His view was that there should be a cap on the lifetime amount of wealth which could be given to charity where one would get a deduction.

Bill Gates, nevertheless, has managed to become a leading – and seemingly progressive – public voice on tax policy. Every year around tax time, he and Buffett make media appearances decrying how little they pay in taxes, calling on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy. At times, however, they advocate policies which may not actually touch their wealth, such as promoting the estate tax, that they will likely avoid through charitable donations.

Gates, along with a growing chorus of billionaires, has also used his public platform to push back on a proposed wealth tax. A wealth tax would take a percentage of a billionaire’s assets every year, limiting the accumulation of wealth – and possibly the amount of money spent on philanthropy. Gates counters that charity work reduces income inequality. “Philanthropy done well not only produces direct benefits for society, it also reduces dynastic wealth,” he wrote on his blog, GatesNotes.

Continued Saturday …

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COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (From Her Majesty’s bottomless purse: part 3)

Continued from: COVID-19: Where was it born: China, the United States or Ukania? (From Her Majesty’s bottomless purse: part 2)

By Outsider

In such a climate of secrecy all wild hypotheses are possible. Imagine a coronavirus specially constructed to lie dormant in a person’s body until it is triggered by right radio frequency. Imagine nano technical devices which can hide inside a vaccine and be triggered by wireless transmissions passing through one’s body. Imagine 5G technology which, on command from Cobbett Hill Earth Station, can trigger nono technical devices in all the bodies of the inhabitants of an entire city.

Is this farfetched? Not at all. Consider the use of directed-energy weapons. They are ranged weapons which damage their target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves and particle beams. Potential applications of this technology include weapons which target personnel, missiles, vehicles and optical devices. Directed energy weapons are being openly disclosed by the military. While their propagandists are quick to say the technique is non-lethal, the assertions are not believable given the history of governments lying over ‘defence’ matters. Their own descriptions indicate the ability to dazzle, deafen, blind, stun, scream at ‘or even kill’ people. It is possible, for all that one knows, that 5G technology disperses these capabilities to deliver signals to all people in a target area or group at the same time.

What is almost certain is that The Pirbright Institute appears to be using the Cobbett Hill Earth Station satellite teleport facilities to communicate with the Pilgrim Society minions worldwide.

For sure, American and British Pilgrims Society, newspapers, intelligence, technical experts and banks are not likely to acknowledge that they are using Crown-controlled QinetiQ and Serco to get over $18 billion in U.S. defence contracts to build bio-weapons at The Pirbright Institute.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Pilgrims Society – often called ‘the Deep State’, Senior Executive Service, Crown Agents, shadow government – is manipulating the public to achieve its ‘new world order’ objectives. There is hardly anything mysterious about such organisation, at least as far as its membership and its declared activities. (Coronavirus, QinetiQ, and the Rothschild Bombshell, 12/04/2020).

The Pilgrims Society was founded on 16 July 1902 by Sir Harry Ernest Brittain, K.B.E., C.M.G., a British journalist and Conservative politician. It is a British-American society established, in the words of American diplomat Joseph Hodges Choate “to promote good-will, good-fellowship, and everlasting peace between the United States and Great Britain.” Choate was an American lawyer and diplomat, the scion of one of Massachusetts’s Puritan-era families. The Society is not to be confused with the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is, actually, a secretive group of self-styled U.K.-U.S. elitist, Anglophile, white supremacists. Prominent members of the 118-year old Society are listed in convicted paedophile, the late Jeffrey Epstein’s ‘little black book.’

Over the years the Society has boasted an elite membership of politicians, diplomats, businessmen, actors and writers who have included Lord Carrington, Walter Cronkite, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Alexander Haig, Thomas Kean, Henry Kissinger, Henry Luce, George Shultz, Margaret Thatcher, Paul Volcker, and Caspar Weinberger, among many others. Members of the immediate Royal Family, United States secretaries of state and United States ambassadors to the Court of St. James’s are customarily admitted ex officio to membership in the Society. The patron of the society is Queen Elizabeth II.

The Society is notable for holding dinners to welcome into office each successive U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The first informal meeting of the Pilgrims of Great Britain included General Joseph Wheeler, a cavalry general in the Confederate States Army in the 1860s during the American civil war, and then as a general in the United States Army during both the Spanish–American war and Philippine–American war. Between the civil war and the Spanish–American war, Wheeler served multiple terms as a United States Representative from the state of Alabama; Colonel (later General Sir) Bryan Thomas Mahon, K.C.B., K.C.V.O, P.C., D.S.O., an Irish born general of the British Army and senator of the short-lived Senate of Southern Ireland. He served in Sudan in the Dongola Expedition in 1896 as Staff officer to Sir Herbert Kitchener, and was present at the Battle of Ferkeh and the operations at Hafir; the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, a Welsh motoring and aviation pioneer, who with Henry Royce, co-founded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm; and the founder Sir Harry Ernest Brittain.

The first meeting of the Pilgrims of the United States was at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York on 13 January 1903.

The Pilgrims of Great Britain and the Pilgrims of the United States have reciprocal membership. (A. Pimlott Baker, The Pilgrims of Great Britain, A centennial history, Profile Books, London, 2003; A. Pimlott Baker, The Pilgrims of the United States, A centennial history, Profile Books, London, 2003).

According to the latest available information (in early 2019), members of the Executive Committee were:

A long list of noteworthy members may express ‘the colour’ of the Society. They are:

Those are some of the women and men who during the past 118 years – incidentally almost the life of Australia – transformed a decrepit, feudal, old fashioned primitive, golden-carriage-moving ‘English’ society into a trans-Atlantic contemporary ‘Anglo-American’ union. In that way, a structurally un-democratic Westminster System slowly turned into a reactionary Washminster System, the expression of a society in the thrall of wealth and ‘neo-liberal’ capitalism. And why un-democratic? Consider: there is a House of Commons, made up of 650 members, elected to represent constituencies by the first-past-the-post system. The system is essentially the antithesis of the principle one head, one vote, one weight – which is what democracy demands. Next to it sits the House of Lords – 784 of them, all un-elected, all life-appointed, 90 of them being there by heredity or because of ‘official function’, with the remainder appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister, or of the House of Lords itself, or by other ‘arrangement.’ Those are the so-called Lords Temporal. There are also 26 Lords Spiritual, bishops who represent the ‘established’ Church of England, in which the Queen is the “Defender of the Faith.”

It is hardly unsurprising that members of such ‘parliament’ find themselves somewhat ‘at home’ when meeting representatives of what is ordinarily regarded Casino Wall Street. Empty talk goes a long way. What is intolerable is that Australians are said to draw the source of their power, their image and practice of Parliament, and above all their tradition of governing conventions from that kind of bastardised system of government. A contrary opinion would sound as anathema, met with a degree of indignation by most Australian politicians. The resulting practice by both government and opposition is sub-tropical falseness – what would be referred out in un-parliamentary language as pretence, deceit, humbug, cant.

Continued next Saturday …

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“Life wasn’t meant to be easy” – but does it need to be so bloody unfair?

Mr Morrison – you are the current leader of a party with a philosophy for life which grabs every opportunity and cares not one tiny jot for those unable to do so.

Over a long period now, the goal of your party has been to ensure that those who support you are really well looked after, while those who disagree with your policies are derided and denied a real chance in life.

The rot, both in reality and metaphorically, began under John Howard. He scored a lot of contempt and criticism and paid back his critics in spades when he got the chance.

Undermining the rights of the poor and disadvantaged has been carried out in ways which have massively increased the gap between the seriously wealthy and the undeservedly poor. Unions have been castrated, many lower paid employees are defrauded by employers, a strong resistance to establish a meaningful Commission Against Corruption at Commonwealth level has allowed corruption in government to flourish, and Scottie from Marketing has ignored any requirements for integrity, transparency and reasonably unbiassed policy-making which should be expected of democratic governments.

The reason the Coalition could proudly boast of a massive surplus when they lost government to Labor, was because they had privatised so many services – and, in the process, increased the cost to the user.

Just think a moment. Income tax rates mean that those on lower incomes pay lower tax rates, and services provided by government are provided by public servants whose salaries are paid by the government.

When that service is privatised, the new management has to cover all costs, usually reduces them by employing fewer staff, make a profit to meet the requirements of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) – AND keep shareholders happy. Few of these services offer a means tested system, so the contribution paid by users is effectively more for those in the population on lower incomes – if they can afford the service at all!

Another example of the way that income distribution ensures that the poor may be denied a service or, if they use it, pay a higher proportion of their income than do the well-to-do!

The current crisis affecting Victoria, and possibly NSW, so seriously has been the creation of Coalition policies.

Federally ‘regulated’ Aged Care Homes have not so much been starved of funds, but provided for in ways which allows fund increases to flow on to shareholders, while failing to ensure that regulations require minimum standards of training for and numbers of staff.

A majority of staff are poorly paid, and the nature of their contracts guarantees that they will need to have second, and even third jobs in order to make ends meet.

Most developed countries which run a democracy, recognise the need for reliable child-minding facilities, which also offer early childhood education. Consequently the well-qualified staff offer an important service, allowing adults to be able to work in the knowledge that their children are being well looked after and educated – at government expense.

Australia has increasingly gone down the American path, regarding government assistance as a first step to Communism, and the recent, brief, willingness to provide the service for free has been abruptly, prematurely and disastrously terminated.

Women, and families on lower incomes have, of course, been most affected.

People have three choices about where they live: they might be able to buy a house, which usually involves taking out a mortgage; they might be renting, probably privately because the country has been starved of social housing; or they couch-surf, between living on the streets.

In partial recognition that there would be severe financial implications for the first two groups if job loss hit the household, the government did introduce some temporary policies, without really thinking them through.

Victoria has established that Australia, as a whole, is far from out of the woods in relation to COVID-19.

Morrison, lacking any real understanding of the likely consequences of the long-term effects of the pandemic, has it firmly fixed in his mind that we can ‘snap-back’, with minimum side effects.

He has shown no understanding that, quite apart from the not insubstantial number of people requiring serious help following their bush fire losses, those who lose their jobs during the shut-down are living with the high stress levels associated with uncertainty.

He falsely raised hopes by introducing short-term plans concerning payment of rent, and mortgages, being safe from eviction or foreclosure, without thinking through whether there was any certainty that landlords and mortgagors would respond favourably, or that states and territories would enact legislation to ensure tenants and mortgagees were, in fact, protected. Or for how long this could continue.

Banks have demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that they are entrepreneurs, not philanthropists. What motivation has the Coalition offered to encourage them to defer mortgage payments and not charge interest on late payments?

Both households where the house is mortgaged, and landlords who are leasing properties on which they have a mortgage, are at the mercy of the banks on this one, while those who are tenants have no certainty that they will not be evicted and/or charged interest on overdue rent.

And how long will this situation last?

How long is a piece of string?

We do not know – and neither does the government.

And for how long will our borders be closed to non-Australians?

And, incidentally – what does it say for the morality of the airline business that they are charging exorbitant fares for returning Australians, or those moving within Australia, because of government-imposed restrictions on passenger numbers?

MR MORRISON – YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE CREATED THE CURRENT SITUATION, THROUGH YOUR IDEOLOGY AND THROUGH YOUR REACTION TO THE PANDEMIC.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF TRYING TO SAVE PEOPLE FROM INFECTION IF THEY ARE GOING TO LOSE THE ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS AND HAVE TO FORGO VITAL HEALTH CARE BECAUSE HOSPITALS ARE OVER-STRETCHED WITH COVID-19 PATIENTS.?

THE WORST FAILING OF AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS IS THEIR REFUSAL TO LOOK TO OTHER COUNTRIES WHO MORE SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE SIMILAR PROBLEMS.

AND THE WORST FAILING OF THE CURRENT PRIME MINISTER IS REFUSING TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS MISTAKES AND INCOMPETENCE.

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

PS – Have the Robo-debt victims been reimbursed – with interest – and have those promised help after the bush fires received it yet???

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The Conviction of Maria Ressa: Press Freedom in the Philippines

It has long been said that countries in Southeast Asia take a dim view of the fourth estate. Various legal measures have been deployed against those irritable scribblers over the years: old, colonial-era security legislation; defamation suits; traditional forms of lengthy detention without charge. Such states have mastered the supreme sensibility of their colonial forebears: Maintain the appearance of propriety; inflict the harm under the cover of law.

The Philippines has become something of an exemplar in this regard. According to Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country is particularly dangerous, boasting “one of the highest numbers of journalists killed of any country in the world,” with the International Federation of Journalists putting it ahead of, say, Cambodia, “whose overall media climate is more constrained.”

President Rodrigo Duterte’s blustery coming to power in 2016 ushered in a feast of killing, but even prior to this, journalists had good reason to fear for their safety. One particularly sanguinary episode stood out: the November 2009 massacre of 32 journalists in Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines. In total, 58 were butchered, including relatives and supporters of the town mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu. Mangudadatu had expressed his interest in running for the post of governor against then governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., whose son, Andal Ampatuan Jr., also had ambitions for office. Mangudadatu tasked his pregnant wife, Genalyn to file the relevant papers for his candidacy. At Ampatuan, the entire crew was ambushed by a hundred armed men in what has been touted as the worst single-day murder of journalists in the country’s history. Andal Ampatuan Jr. already had the culprits in mind: the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A decade later, a judge in Manila found him guilty, along with several other members of the Ampatuan family, on multiple murder counts.

This might all make the treatment of Ressa seem mild by comparison. On Monday, she was found guilty of cyber libel in connection with a story published on the news site she edits, Rappler. The story had been penned by Rappler journalist Reynaldo Santos Jr, alleging links between businessman Wilfredo Keng and impeached chief justice Renato Corona. Keng had supposedly lent his sports utility vehicle to Corona. The property developer was also said to be under surveillance by the National Security Council for alleged involvement in drug smuggling and human trafficking. Santos was also convicted and, along with Ressa, faces up to six years in prison.

The beastly little instrument used in securing the convictions was the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, though this outcome was achieved in rather laborious fashion. For one thing, it came into force some months after the original story was filed, though another version of it corrected of typographical error was reposted in 2014.

In 2017, Keng filed a cyber libel complaint over the article in question. The National Bureau of Investigation cybercrime division had little time for it: the complaint had been filed out of time, given the date of the article’s publication. But in 2018, the Department of Justice added a distinct, sharp twist to the saga, extending the life of cyber libel for up to 12 years and filing charges under two statutes, including the Cyber Crime Prevention Act.

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch found that Rappler had not verified the information on Keng, nor did it publish his side of the story. “The court finds that the subject [article] was republished with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. This clearly shows actual malice.” While the site was not deemed liable, both Ressa and Santos were ordered to pay 200,000 Philippine pesos in moral damages and another 200,000 pesos in exemplary damages. Keng felt vindicated, citing the standard argument that laws, whatever their content, needed to be obeyed. “Ressa portrays herself as an alleged defender of press freedom and as a purported target of the Philippine government, but this in no way exempts her from respecting and following Philippine laws.”

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, urged the reversal of the verdicts, claiming that “the law used to convict Ms Ressa, and the journalist who authored the article which led to their prosecution, is plainly inconsistent with the Philippines’ obligations under international law.” He also took issue with the Cybercrime Prevention Act, a distinctly harsh instrument designed to chill expression.

The authorities have been getting tetchy with journalists of late. Ressa could already see the warning signs with the closure of television station ABS-CBN. Both have been keen to run copy on Duterte’s particularly vicious war on drugs and his less than competent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ressa already had an inkling of how grim things would become, managing, in 2015, to obtain a confession from Duterte, then Mayor of Davao City, that he had killed three people. “When I said I’ll stop criminality, I’ll stop criminality,” he boasted. “If I have to kill you, I’ll kill you. Personally.”

Philippine authorities are particularly preoccupied with prosecuting cases for the charge of “spreading fake news” in connection with the COVID-19 response, the effect of which is to malign any constructive critique of such efforts. In April, the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group revealed that 24 suspects had been arrested on that charge, ostensibly for using social media portals. Eight were also arrested for spreading false information.

The hope for Ressa and Santos, slim as it might be, lies in the appeals process. Ressa was stoic and reflective at the press conference after the hearing. “Are we going to lose freedom of the press? Will it be death by a thousand cuts, or are we going to hold the line so that we protect the rights that are enshrined in our constitution?” Undeniably, those cuts run deep, a few cuts run deeper to freedom of expression that the laws of libel.

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Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.

We have to think that we have to work together as a human species to be organized to care for one another, to realize that the health of the most vulnerable people among us is a determining factor for the health of all of us, and, if we aren’t prepared to do that, we’ll never, ever be prepared to confront these devastating challenges to our humanity. Canadian Bruce Aylward, leader of independent WHO mission to study the spread of the virus in China).

In the dark night of the soul, the pall cast over us all by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, a pandemic virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, a respiratory illness, which also triggers fear and despair, there is more than a glimmer of hope.

While the toll is shocking, COVID-19 infects almost 2.5 million and causes over 170,000 to die, (2:00 pm) Tuesday 21 AEST and puts our global economic and social interactions into deep freeze – and while WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns “the worst is yet ahead” countless acts of kindness, courage, decency and humanity, shine through.

A Sydney local fills a wooden mailbox with books and pantry supplies, urging passers-by: “take what you need.” In the UK, over four thousand doctors and nurses come out of retirement; risking their lives to help in understaffed hospitals.  Dr Alfa Saadu, 68, dies of coronavirus caught while volunteering at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. He is one of four – all minority ethnic doctors -to lose his life so far.

Rethink Food, a New York local non-profit organisation, launches a pop-up soup kitchen outside Salem Methodist church, forced to close its own kitchen because its volunteers are elderly and at too high a risk from infection, serves 600 to 1,000 meals a day, five days a week.

“We could easily do 5,000 meals a day,” Rethink founder Matt Jozwiak says. And lines would be even longer were it not for fear of infection. Endless numbers of other acts of compassion, altruism and self-sacrifice are taking place around the world as people follow their hearts.

“Tireless healthcare workers and researchers seek medical breakthroughs to prevent and cure this new disease. Countless healthcare providers care for the sick, often putting themselves at risk, particularly before the nature of the disease was known. Even the heartache of families who wait helplessly as a beloved family member dies alone quarantined in a nursing home reminds us of the deep bonds that hold us together,” writes Search Institute’s Eugene C. Roehlkepartain.

But Donald Trump’s Operation Re-open America is only about following the cash nexus.

LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.” He tweets. Crowds of protestors magically appear for news cameras in the streets of centres in key states. Give me Liberty or Give Me COVID-19 reads a sign held by a young man in a red cap in Austin Texas. He seems to have utilised a torn-up cardboard carton to add credibility to his improvised sign.

It’s certainly no improvised protest. The demonstrations are orchestrated by a group of far-right, pro-gun Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests throughout the US, reports The Washington Post’s Isaac Stanley-Becker and Tony Romm. The images help skew viewers’ impression away from the reality that most Americans want the shutdown to continue.

Nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they support a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats back such a measure in the survey.

The work of the work of Ben Dorr, “political director” of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his brothers, Christopher and Aaron, the groups attract 200,000 members combined. They continue to expand rapidly in the days after Trump endorses such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states. Expect to see more images.

“Jesus is my vaccine,” reads a message on a tractor, driven past the crowded statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Monday. “Shutdown the Shutdown” says a Maryland sign.

Like Scott Morrison’s Pro-Growth Agenda, Trump’s campaign to shut down the shutdown implies a false choice mimicked in Australia and elsewhere; we need to get back to work; back out into social circulation, rather than remain at home for everyone’s safety or we blow up the economy. Trump has his devotees here. Our Prime Minister is a big fan. So, what is going on?

Health crisis or economic crisis? An open letter published Monday is signed by 157 economists who call it a “false distinction”. While the economists, who include RBA board member Ian Harper and former member Warwick McKibbin, back the government’s $200 billion-plus spending measures they oppose prematurely loosening social distancing restrictions.

They also warn of the consequences of a second wave of infections: “We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis.”

Is the President of the United States actively promoting insurrection? A second Civil War? Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, accuses Trump of encouraging “illegal and dangerous acts”.

Or is Trump merely campaigning in his typically gonzo fashion? Each state has a Democrat Governor; Michigan could be crucial to Trump’s re-election campaign in November’s General Election. As a rule, it’s all about Trump. And as another rule you can’t trust a word he says.

“It’s not about me,” Trump says during Sunday’s briefing. Yet he just has to be at the microphone for all but 13 of its 90 minutes. “Nothing’s about me.”

If the Donald doth protest too much, his toxic tirades are over the top.  “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before,” Democrat, Inslee tweets.

 The reality TV star has completely politicised this pandemic, writes Charles M Blow for The New York Times. Blow argues Trump’s “briefings” are his political tool to achieve this. “He is standing on top of … 40,000 dead bodies and using the media to distract attention away from them and instead brag about what a great job he’s done.”

Trump’s call to citizens to rise up against state governors does little to comfort those friends and family mourning over 42 thousand deceased. Nor does it inspire hope in the 792,913 victims of COVID-19 (Tuesday 21, 3:30 pm AEST) yet another scourge of globalisation, the destroyer of space and distance which surged in 2001.

Why? China joined the WTO and modern India forsook its nationalist economic and social ideals to embrace neoliberalism, an ideology which puts the market above the state and which commodifies human relationships. By 2001, global travel and globalisation had ceased to be the privilege of an elite and began to reach deep into the hinterland of these vast populations, as Guy Rundle reminds us. Coronavirus coincides with this new level of globalisation.

The coronavirus is now setting off a cascade of health, economic and social effects that may lead to a collapse of economic globalization, writes Anthea Roberts. This may play out better for Trump than his bungling of America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He knows his re-election depends on voters’ perceptions of his handling of the crisis. So he has a cure.

The golf-cheat-in-chief, himself, unable to play in lockdown is quick to exploit a snake oil sales opportunity. Trump promotes the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19. It’s untested – clinical trials are too small and inconclusive. Experts warn against it.

Some of the twenty-two million Americans, who are now out of work, doubtless, will rush to be guinea-pigs. In Australia, we’ve fast-tracked it so that it can be used in hospitals. After all, anything Trump is spruiking has to be good. Our Chief Medical Officers appear impotent.

Clive Palmer has invested a lazy million dollars of his own money to a “coronavirus action fund” to develop the anti-malaria drug which has toxic side effects when used inappropriately.

It’s OK when treating malaria or lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but perpetrating the myth that it is a cure for COVID-19 is reckless endangerment. It also has led to stockpiling of the drug with the result that those who genuinely need the treatment cannot obtain it.

“Liberate” is more than a bizarre word for men, women and children who are merely obeying the advice of their public health officials and their state government; citizens who are not being repressed or incarcerated but merely complying with advice to self-isolate for their own sake, their community and the nation.

It is pitched to resonate with the alt-right, a dog whistle to all gun nuts, psychopaths and others who mistakenly believe the Second Amendment was written to enable the citizenry to violently resist the government of the United States.

“Liberate” is an abdication of responsibility, by a malignant narcissist who cannot feel for others but who is acutely attuned to the stock market. Trump is gambling that a return to work will somehow restore the nation’s prosperity. He never ceases to fret about his own.

The Trump Organisation needs to service its debt. With some Trump golf courses and hotels closed in the coronavirus lockdown, the family firm, trading since 1923, is seeking to defer payments on some loans and dues such as its lease payments to Palm Beach County to run its golf course on county land. But it’s all cool. Trump calls himself “the king of debt”.

To safely reopen businesses, shops, schools, more COVID-19 tests need to be done. Because tests are scarce, largely due to Trump’s bungling administration, they are rationed to America’s sickest people. In order to liberate; re-open closed businesses and revive social life, those tested must include all those likely to spread the disease – not just the sickest.

Trump’s option is a type of roulette, a gamble on herd immunity, a phenomenon which first requires a vaccine to be invented, a breakthrough which may never come. Even then, experts warn, herd immunity may not even exist for COVID-19. If the four coronaviruses in the common cold are a clue, immunity may be ephemeral, lasting only a few months to a year.

Too little is known about the novel coronavirus and too much is known about other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS to make it safe to assume that exposure will confer lasting immunity.  Too little credence is given to the fundamental truth that a healthy population is the key to a prosperous economy. Much time and money are spent in media worldwide prompting us to choose jobs crisis from the false dichotomy jobs or health.

In Canberra, Trump’s satellite of love and public health pioneer, our PM aka “steam me up Scotty”, star of “The Love Rub”, a 1970s Vicks Vaporub commercial, now re-appears as Our Nation’s Saviour, a miracle play from Pandemic Promotions. Scotty’s just busting to follow Trump’s lead. Saviour is a show with two flags, medical experts and regular egging-on from Health Minister, the unctuous Duttonista, Greg Hunt, who patronises us for our obedience; praising our curve-flattening, as if we’re all on some bizarre weight-loss contest.

Saviour makes a beaut distraction from reports of shortages; stories of doctors and nurses who are forced to re-use single-use masks or who are told to wear plastic aprons because there are no gowns. Psychiatrist Karen Williams’ survey of 245 Australian frontline medical workers finds sixty-one per cent of doctors feel pressure from other staff not to wear a mask, and more than half feel guilt or shame for wearing one.

“The chickens have come home to roost” for Tasmania’s healthcare system and a “decade of austerity” explains Tim Jacobsen, Tasmanian state secretary of the Health and Community Services Union, who reports to The Saturday Paper’s Rick Morton of such dire shortages that staff are forced to rob Peter to pay Paul; “strip” supplies from some parts of hospitals in order to plug gaps in more exposed areas.

“No one has said this overtly, but we clearly have national shortages of personal protective equipment,” Jacobson says. “Masks, gloves, the protective jumpsuits: they have all been very, very difficult to source. It is all being rationed. We have seen mixed messages going out to staff over the last three weeks. Reuse your masks, you need to keep your masks, that sort of thing…”

Yet, however much Hunt pats us on the head, for the “sustained and genuine” way we self-isolate, his PM quickly queers his pitch. Morrison shrinks his six-month lockdown into “a four-week minimum”. Saving jobs outweighs saving lives. Besides if Trump’s America is open for business, how can its client-state stay closed?

Helping the Health Minister succeed, former PM, Malcolm “Fizza” Turnbull’s memoir, “A Bigger Picture” doesn’t flatter Hunt; painting him as a potty-mouthed prat whose abusive, vulgar language and overweening ambition helped everyone to hate him, while Morrison is merely untrustworthy. Scotty damaged his government with leaks that put the government on the back foot, Turnbull reports. Yet Morrison was offside with some major players.

“Mathias regarded Scott as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy and told me so regularly,” Turnbull writes. Dutton was also hostile to Morrison. “Of course, if Mathias had a poor opinion of Scott, Dutton’s dislike of him was even stronger,” he says. It’s evident in the strained working relationship between the pair in drought and pandemic.

Yet Greg Hunt seems to have made himself universally detested. Turnbull recalls the day his successor, the Machiavellian Morrison, won the Liberal leadership ballot over his challenger Peter Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister.

“If looks could have killed, Hunt would have fallen over dead. He’d been Dutton’s wannabe deputy and had been working towards this day for months. Never liked, he’d never been more despised than he was at that moment.”

“None of us are perfect, I absolutely acknowledge that,” Hunt says archly. Tellingly, no Liberal MP contests Turnbull’s verdict on Scotty. Or Dutto. Or Hunt. Marise Payne, fails to persuade ABC Insiders’ host, David Speers, or any of his viewers, with her lame claim that she “received and deleted” her pirate copy of A Bigger Picture. When she declares she did not receive her emailed copy from the PM’s office, she reveals that other Liberals were emailing, too.

It seems to have been a bit of a hoot. Take the Toff down a peg. But nothing Turnbull says, now, will dent the commanding fictional narrative the Morrison junta has established; how it acted quickly and, in the nation’s, best interests and how citizens have been so compliant that we’ve stopped the toxic pathogen in its tracks. Besides, Hunt rises to the occasion; takes any high road he can salvage by saying he won’t be reading Turnbull’s The Bigger Picture.

A blizzard of electronic copies of Turnbull’s book is pirated by a staff member in the Prime Minister’s Office, publisher, Hardie Grant alleges, Saturday. Recipients obligingly forward them on. For Hardie Grant, it’s malicious conduct and a massive breach of copyright.  Not only were unauthorised copies freely distributed, recipients were urged to forward them to others. Some MPs report receiving five or six copies reports Malcolm Farr for The Guardian Australia.

A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Louw admits to forwarding 56 copies. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book” in digital form.

While the publisher threatens to refer potential criminal breaches of the law to the AFP, copyright lawyers advise a civil lawsuit may be more productive. Hilarious. The AFP has never, since its inception in 1979, brought a case that would embarrass a sitting government.

A journalist receives half a dozen. It’s a rip-off on  “a massive scale”, say Turnbull and his publisher’s lawyers, a state of affairs that would trouble legitimate purchasers seeking Turnbull’s explanation of his National Broadband Network (NBN) debacle, a $51 billion catastrophe which has spectacularly failed to deliver.

Readers pay good money expecting to learn Turnbull explain why for at least twenty years, Snowy 2.0 will store coal-fired electricity. Not renewable. Snowy 2.0 will also create additional demand for coal-fired generation; increase greenhouse gas emissions. Why? ABC 7:30 Report’s Leigh Sales fails to put these posers to Tuesday night.

A letter of complaint is sent on Saturday to senior Morrison adviser Nico Louw by Nicholas Pullen of lawyers HWL Ebsworth, on behalf of Turnbull and his publishers. Pullen writes that he has been instructed Louw was “responsible for unauthorised distribution of my client’s book in digital form.

But amidst Turnbullian threats by the publisher to refer potential criminal breaches to the Australian federal police, copyright law specialists say the company and the former PM might have a better chance of bringing a civil lawsuit. But look over here!

When all else fails, cue the spin-machine. Or the dead cat on the table. Forget quarantine, or social isolation, Scotty’s fellow evangelical, prosperity gospeller and prayer-mate, walking disaster area, Stuart Robert has knocked off a fabulous app from Singapore we can all put on our blue-tooth-enabled phones. Download. If we want to.

It’ll be an opt-in thing, Scotty says, airily, back-flipping only one day after threatening to make it compulsory. He’s working hard at what he does best, stirring up a diversion.

Apart from the ten per cent of us who don’t own a mobile phone. It’s “a big Team Australia moment” says the Services Minister, wowing us with his oratory and his capacity to reference notorious Liberal Party Luddite, a keenly contested title, tiny Tony Abbott.

“There is no geolocation, there is no surveillance, there is no tracking,” Robert promises. Besides, a lot of that stuff can be got from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) which has been spying on citizens for years. As Sally McManus says, you expect your phone to be tapped.

Various other intelligence agencies pitch in. Federal and state police, can also request access to your telephone and internet records. These can reveal information about your whereabouts and whom you talked to, emailed or messaged. As Turnbull boasts in A Bigger Picture, as he takes credit for creating the Office of National Intelligence (ONI), PM had access to the collective wisdom and insights of our 7000-person-strong intelligence community.

Yet as Singapore’s increasing rate of infection shows, either contact tracing is too slow, or SARS-CoV-2 is too fast to enable intervention to slow community transmission.

At least the app will help keep more tabs on us. What could possibly go wrong? Above all, Morrison loves the war-talk his mentor, America’s most revered Vietnam bone-spur deferment veteran, uses to inspire states to rebel.

It’s no less than an … “historic battle against the invisible enemy” that amounts to the “greatest national mobilisation since world war two”, says Trump’s autocue.

It’s rhetorical nonsense, probably penned by slumlord millionaire, and “tier-one predator”, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s fixer on Middle East peace, or Opioid crisis which may have killed 450,000 Americans since 1999, or winning hearts and minds by dithering with COVID-19.

Six weeks are lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. His administration’s initial response is “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times” says Jeremy Konyndyk, a central figure in the US battle against Ebola. The Morrison government dithered, too, before the secretary of the Treasury, aided by Labor and the Unions pressed for a stimulus package.

Trump’s number one fan Downunder, Aloha Morrison is keen to match his mentor’s rhetoric while basic governance and leadership have eluded him from the start. He’ll never recover from his Hawaiian holiday nor his plan to go to a Rugby League game.

Now he’s channelling Trump in his bullshit that we must put the economic crisis ahead of the pandemic; rush back to the workplace just in time to catch or infect workmates with the ‘rona.

The next few weeks will severely tax the PM. Lacking his party’s trust, unable to delegate, let alone work with others, Morrison’s done well recently out of letting the real leaders, particularly Labor Premiers tell him what to do, especially over schooling.

Now he’ll have to do some work himself; something he can’t abide. Being awarded Turnbull’s Plumber’s mate award for his leaks, is unlikely to deter Scotty from his “front-running” – media leaks that weaken the government during high-stakes cabinet debates. After all, his office leaked advance freebies of Malco’s new e-book.

Being “emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” won’t bother Morrison, either. Since when did he give a fig? Besides, he’s already got his revenge. The bootleg preview of A Bigger Picture came from a senior staffer – before being forwarded so eagerly to a cast of thousands – copyright given such a thorough thrashing that the memoir, its author and his entire political career became some sort of electronic piñata.

But pushing Trump’s rush-back-to-work barrow is going to be hard yakka. Especially when there isn’t any work for millions of workers to return to, in an economy bled dry after six years’ Coalition mismanagement – before the virus helps tip it into recession.

Above all, his “pro-growth agenda” which is austerity budgeting under an Orwellian name is nothing but a desperate attempt to walk two sides of the fence. Granted it’s Morrrison’s speciality but no good can ever come of it. The Keynesian stimulus giver cannot reveal himself “on the other side” as a monetarist with a closed fist.

“On the other side of this virus and leading on the way out we are going to have to have economic policy measures that are going to have to be very pro-growth, that is going to enable businesses to employ people, that is going to enable businesses to invest and businesses to move forward”. Scott Morrison

It’s going to take a lot more than stale rhetoric. Or platitudes about growth. Lies about the “other side” don’t cut it either. Australians expect the truth, harsh as it may be, not some pie in the sky. There can be no snap back. The world has changed forever.

Morrison’s hollow words reveal that he has no idea what to do to get Australia open for business again. He knows only how to close things down. The nation deserves better; real leadership – for starters – of the sort we’ve seen from some state premiers.

Humanity is a big part of the leadership required. We see it everyday from extraordinary “ordinary” people just doing their best; doing their jobs. Taking care of one another. That’s where true hope lies. Not in sucking up even more to the business class.

Keep the National Cabinet going until 2022, Scotty; you just keep low in the back seat.

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Resume democratic government, Morrison; recall parliament

The ritual killing of a water buffalo, by Ifugao villagers of northern Luzon, Philippines, the bloody, brutal slaughter of an innocent, sentient creature, a shocking intrusion of cinéma vérité (filmed by his Francis’ Ford’s wife Eleanor) spliced into the last, dark scenes of Coppola’s self-indulgent masterpiece Apocalypse Now presages the savaging of our body politic to keep us safe from COVID-19.

Premiers hack away at our civil liberties. Our pass-the-parcel federal government hands over its job to a congeries of police proto-states where democracy is hollowed out. Unlike their counterparts overseas, our Federal MPs take a break while the pandemic wreaks its havoc. Genius. Much as it suits Morrison’s secretive style to run a closed shop, someone has to turn up to work, along with teachers and healthcare workers.

To be fair to Scotty, being mugged by reality is a relief. His government has always lacked any agenda. Its dearth of policy ideas, programmes, principles is embarrassing. Forlornly, it kicks a busted legislative can or two down the road. Where is that Morrison priority, his tits-on-a-bull religious discrimination bill? All that seems still in play are its stage two and three tax cuts – cuts it can’t afford and can’t afford to give up on.

Bernie Fraser tells The Sydney Morning Herald that Team Morrison’s policies plus tax cuts face a “reckoning” as public sector debt reaches $1.5 trillion. Plus a potential budget deficit of $200 billion this year, reports The Saturday Paper‘s Max Opray. New company tax cuts for sprats – firms earning under $50 million start next in 2020-21. Personal income tax cuts further bleed the budget by $132 billion over ten years begin the following financial year. None of this will help our economy over-reliant on mining in deep recession.

As Frank Bongiorno puts it, Morrison has governed like a political billionaire yet without a hint of a policy agenda thanks to his vacuous, platform-free election campaign. The rest of his team are back-slapping and high-fiving on the close of parliament’s token day back, Wednesday – as if they had something to celebrate.

Other democracies aren’t shutting down. Peoples’ representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand will all return to parliament, later this April. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t cut its schedule at all.

It’s not easy being Antony Albanese, you get bad press, cut off mid-sentence or mostly no press at all. Jokes about your combover? Yet Albo has it sussed. Parliament “wasn’t suspended during the Spanish flu, or World War I or World War II”.

Barry Jones argues cogently that it is precisely in times of crisis that we need our parliament the most. Without transparency and scrutiny, there is no democracy. He quotes lawyer and journo, David Allen Green.

“If it were not for this public health emergency, this situation would be the legal dream of the worst modern tyrant. Everybody under control, every social movement or association prohibited, every electronic communication subject to surveillance. This would be an unthinkable legal situation for any free society. Of course, the public health emergency takes absolute priority. But we also should not be blind to the costs.”

Who’s to help our Kangaroo National Cabinet and NCCC run the show? SA and WA adjourn their parliaments, mothball democracy, but for other states, it’s see you later (on the other side) and may the fuzz be with you.

“Don’t be surprised, this Easter, if you are stopped by the police and asked what you’re doing” warns Tasmanian Premier, party-pooper, Peter Gutwein who, at least, concedes that if “this were a game of football, we’re not yet halfway through the first quarter”. Apple Isle Peelers will be out in force over Easter. Anyone holing up in the shack; hunting eggs in holiday homes can expect a knock on the door. Or a boot.

Never one to be outdone, Victorian Premier, despotic Dan Andrews, in bed with Big Gas, suspends parliament indefinitely and  – unlike Gutwein – seriously contemplates a bonking ban on couples living apart. Andrews warns Victorians high-tailgating it out of Melbourne to caravan parks or already at it like rabbits in their holiday homes to expect an Easter visit from a flop-eared friend in uniform; “…it’s not an Airbnb weekend.”

You can holiday with your family only in a property you own, says Dan. Own? That’s around five per cent of the state’s population. But there’s always been a better set of rules for the ruling elite. Get used to it. Inequality’s only going to increase.

For SA Easter hot cross bunnies, first the good news. Steve Marshall who like climate giant, Craig Kelly, ran a family furniture business before getting into politics and middle-class welfare is giving $10,000 to 19000 gyms, hairdressers, beauty and nail salons, restaurants, cafes and cellar doors, who’ve had to close their doors or who’ve lost income because of the CoVID-19 lockdown. It’s a handout to help you through a crisis which News Corp’s flat-curvers tells us will be done and dusted soon. It’ll buy a lot of chocolate at least. But does trickle-down really work?

Trickle-down is a delusion conservative economist Arthur Laffer sketched on a napkin at a free lunch in 1974 to bullshit Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, two giants of US Republicanism, a once-proud party which now panders to demented despot, aspiring-president-for-life, Pussy-Grabber in Chief, Donald Trump.

A senile Ronald Reagan fell in love with trickle-down. If governments cut business taxes and ease up on the rich, (or, give hand-outs like Scotty’s (Keep my own) JobKeeper or Marshall’s cash splash,) they’ll invest that extra money in productive enterprise, which, in turn, creates more jobs and growth, which will ultimately maximise both the return on endeavour and government revenue. Fantastic? Literally. It hasn’t happened yet.

For Ron Reagan Sr, revenues fell, the deficit doubled and government debt tripled. The US turned from the world’s largest creditor to its biggest debtor. But the theory thrives.

A huge body of evidence exposing the trickle-down myth is probably all fake news. At least if you’ve shut up your SA nail salon, you can buy a few Easter eggs. The bad news? Going away is “completely and utterly off”.

As it is for those in Queensland or NSW. But cheer up Crow-eaters. If at home in SA, the two person rule is just a recommendation – you can have up to ten attending your Easter rave parade and you won’t be busted. But don’t be surprised when your local coppers drop by just to count heads. Human, that is. There’s a rogue virus to patrol.

Every day, we become a less democratic nation, warns lawyer Michael Bradley. The PM and Premiers lecture us with a heavy-handed paternalism. Leaders don’t make sense?  No. It’s the people who can’t be trusted to do the right thing.  A novel coronavirus brings a brave new world, Bradley writes in Crikey. It’s a world with,

” … police cars circling inside public parks, lights flashing, ordering stationary people to either get on with their exercise regime or go straight home. A tense debate on social media about whether visiting your boyfriend who lives in a different house qualifies as a “reasonable excuse” to leave yours.”

Follow our leaders’ authoritative, timely advice? Listen as they clearly explain restrictions to us? Impossible. They’re experts in equivocating, spin and bullshit.

Eagerly, NSW, Victoria, SA and other tinpot dictatorships reach for the big stick; vying with each other to impose the strictest lockdown. NSW and SA put their top cops in charge. And they look the part. Overpower-dressing. Flaunt the braid; flash the badges, patches, epaulettes and the rest of their quasi-military rig. Inspire trust.

It’s not just the uniform. Our cops are increasingly militarised. Front-line officers in Queensland and Victoria, and specialist units across the country, are being trained in military-style tactics and thinking. Lawyer and former ADF officer, John Sutton warns of a slow and disturbing “convergence”. But is it a good fit?

“Typically, a close ideological and operational alliance between the police force and the military has always been associated with repressive regimes,” he says. Despite John Howard and Tony Abbott and other uniform-fetishists, “Australia has a very strong democracy and a very robust civic mindedness among its population.

Erik Jensen agrees. The Saturday Paper’s editor in chief, agrees that restrictive public health measures are vital. There’s just no evidence to justify any lurch to the right; any special powers of enforcement. “Australia is an exceptionally law-abiding country with a national character based on the false belief we are not.”

Nor is there any sign police have been trained to deal with the health measures detailed in the public health order. Worse, Bradley and others note, the “lockdown state” reverses the onus of proof fundamental to our legal system. In coronavirus times you need to prove you’re doing the right thing by others at all times.

To protect against wrongful convictions, the criminal law, ordinarily, requires proof “beyond reasonable doubt” and the onus of proof lies with the accuser. If there is no case to answer for, a defendant’s silence should be sufficient to render them innocent. Only after proof is brought, should the defendant need to present some defence to their supposed actions.

Old as the law itself, the presumption of innocence lies trampled underfoot. States vie on TV to signal their virtue as guardians of public health, a task neatly handballed, along with such responsibilities as the criminal investigation of the Ruby Princess by a Morrison government always happy to hand-ball trouble.

Are we flattening the curve or flattening freedom? Of course we need to self-isolate and observe other social distancing and health precautions. Self-quarantine is imperative in halting contagious disease. Surviving the coronavirus pandemic means following expert advice, but do we need to be coerced?

Michael Bradley  makes a case for a less arbitrary more workable system of policing lockdown.

“I wouldn’t object to a regime under which I was required by law to remain home, with the proviso that I was able to lawfully leave home and go outside if I had a legitimate reason for doing so, subject to all the rules of physical distancing. I also wouldn’t object if that regime gave the police power to reasonably determine that my reason was not legitimate and to order me to go home; or to fine or arrest me if I refused and they reasonably believed that I may be presenting a danger to public health by my actions.

No-one disputes the need for a lockdown. It is a reasonable and proportionate response to the threat of community infection but are we really that complacent or recalcitrant? Or is our allegedly wilful disobedience simply the result of our leaders’ mixed messaging? Confusion abounds. Just look at Victoria.

Not every couple lives together. Can you visit your partner at his or her home? No says Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton. State Police Minister, Lisa Neville also says it’s not on. Well mostly. Sort of. That’s a definite maybe, then.

“You cannot visit your partner for social reasons. There are select reasons you can go to the home of your partner.” Daniel Andrews, on the other hand, who knows a bit about public speaking goes off into a riff:

“That’s not work, that’s not caregiving, that’s not medical care, that’s not shopping for the things that you need when you need them. And you know, it does not comply with the rules. So people should not do that.”

Newsflash. The rules have been relaxed. It’s now OK. But there’s no guarantee things won’t change as the number of Victorians infected with COVID-19 continues to climb. And climb as they do when community transmission is under-reported thanks to a limited testing regime – (expanded since Monday).

Our leaders fail to communicate clearly; consistently. In part, they, themselves, are confused. Or prefer evasion. At the start, in his self-styled role as Bronte bogan, Ocker Morrison urged us to continue with our normal lives. He was off to watch his Cronulla Sharks, or so he planned. It’s vital to his self-marketing.

Being a macho Sharkies fan is vital to Morrison’s everyman branding – as Van Badham says, although he fools no-one, he’s a “fauxgan not a bogan” – a Sydney eastern suburbs spiv who needs the westie blue collar vote. Yet in February, there were echoes of his mentor Donald Trump in his message of business as usual.

“There is no need for us to be moving towards not having mass gatherings of people. You can still go to the football, you can still go to the cricket … You can go off to the concert, and you can go out for a Chinese meal. You can do all of these things because Australia has acted quickly.”

Yet there was a need. Morrison gave dud advice based on a lie. Australia did not act quickly, argues Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at The Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of New South Wales and architect of Australia’s world-leading response to the AIDS epidemic several decades ago.

The federal Government knew about the severity of Coronavirus three months before it did anything. It should have accumulated testing kits, brought in necessary emergency equipment and medical supplies, provided money for science and vaccine research and immediately begun a public educational campaign.

Confusion from the top helps create a broader, underlying problem of vagueness at law. In the US a law can be unconstitutionally void for vagueness as former convenor of criminology, Deakin University’s Darren Palmer writes in The Conversation; a law becomes invalid because it is insufficiently clear.

People must have trust in any new powers given to authorities, he continues. New powers must be clear to all; applied consistently and transparently. Pandemic powers currently meet none of these criteria.

Pandemic powers are vague, inconsistent and opaque. A Victorian teenager is fined $1600 (later withdrawn by Victorian Police) for a driving lesson that is deemed non-essential travel yet NSW Police say the lesson would have been OK in NSW. Mick Fuller tells Fran Kelly that travel to a holiday home at Easter is not essential travel whereas in Victoria, it’s OK if quarantine is observed on arrival. And you own the home.

Do we really need to see soldiers in the street? Fine a man for eating a kebab? A homeless person is fined washing windscreens in south-west Sydney. Another man is pinged for drinking outside a closed pub. Exercise is OK but not elbow-raising.

But,sit on a park bench to catch your breath and you risk a fine in Victoria or NSW.

In SA, as in NSW, top cop, Police Commissioner, Grant Stevens, is the designated emergency co-ordinator. Accordingly, Stevens is practically licensed to kill.

He may use “such force as is reasonably necessary in the exercise or discharge of a power or function under this section or in ensuring compliance with a direction or requirement under this section.” 

Not only are you are expected to quietly obey the new laws in SA, you forfeit your right to remain silent. “No obligation to maintain secrecy or other restriction on the disclosure of information” when you are “ … required to disclose information by a direction or requirement” issued under the new powers. Experts in civil liberties warn that we’re on a bit of a slippery slope – and we’ve been on it for about twenty years.

“Australia is now the only democratic nation in the world without a national human rights law such as a human rights act or bill of rights,” warned UNSW Professor George Williams in 2011.

Williams calculates that between the September 11 terrorist attacks and Howard’s end in 2007, a new anti-terror law was enacted every 6.7 weeks. Since then, increasingly draconian – and often unworkable – legislation has ballooned out well beyond any sane or reasonable response to its original worthy aim. Coronavirus extends the trend.

“There’s been a massive amount of legislation passed that prior to [September 2001] would have been unthinkable”, Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties says. “There have been incursions into freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of movement, right to protest, all basic legal rights that underpin our democracy”.

Luckily, we have a PM who is alert to creeping crypto-fascism. Scotty from marketing makes it clear he is sensitive to the term “lockdown”. He fears it may prompt panic buying of toilet rolls and hand sanitizer.

“I would actually caution the media against using the word ‘lockdown’ because I think it does create unnecessary anxiety because that is not an arrangement that is actually being considered in the way that term might suggest,” he says with typical laconic brevity. Yet Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller, who once took Morrison’s wheelie bin in for him, and is now the most powerful man in the state, begs to differ.

“You’re in a lockdown wherever you live,” Mick says last Tuesday after NSW announces its strict rules.

The latest lockdown laws in all states are rushed, unnecessary; “overzealous” writes ANU’s Peter Collignon, a professor of infectious disease. Not only do they seem a tad arbitrary and excessive, however, they are based on guesswork, extrapolation from extractions; cherry-picked, overseas data as Our Nation’s, Flat-Curve Saviour, Morrison confirms in his over-hyped, long-awaited, Release the Modelling show, Tuesday.

Asked whether the exotic modelling “indicated anything about the relative effectiveness of different measures” deployed in Australia. Chief Medical Officer Murphy replies: “It doesn’t, unfortunately.”

In brief, we’ve set up petty despots to protect us from spreading infection who don’t really know what they’re doing or why they are doing it. There is broad agreement on restricting movement but without any clear rationale to inform their arbitrary and inconsistent decrees to restrict the spread of the virus.

Duck-shoving responsibility to the states but taking all the credit for a flattening of the coronavirus pandemic curve, the federal government suspends parliament –

Even Jacqui Lambie’s not happy.

“This idea the government has of calling us in on a whim, whenever they feel they need, it’s not the most functional. They’re spending billions of dollars, so it’s time to apply a bit of scrutiny. We’ve been very nice to the government, we’ve played very nice. But with no parliament – is that a sustainable way for a democracy to go? No, it’s not.”  The Independent Tassie Senator,makes the right call this time.

The Morrison government continues to hack away at the practice of representative democracy. Adding insult to injury, Federal Parliament is recalled, Wednesday, to rubber-stamp Job-Keeper. Labor is asked endlessly if it’s going to block the legislation  – as if it has the numbers -when it’s already promised its support. The subtext in ABC news reports is that it would be heresy to challenge the Morrison government’s plan.

In fact, there’s a lot that needs challenging. Over a million Australians are ineligible. The Very Christian Porter doesn’t care. There has to be a line drawn somewhere he says. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report only 47% of businesses in the arts and recreation sector are still operating at the end of March.

But because short-term contract work is rampant in theatre, television, film, live shows and the wider arts sector of the economy, many of the 50,000 artists and 600,000 workers in the sector miss out on JobKeeper.

JobKeeper is touted as a $130 billion stimulus package, vital to Snap-Back, Morrison’s six-month miracle cure for our Coronavirus economic recession – which, amazingly, is yet another subsidy of the Liberal Party’s business pals. No-one asks where’s the money coming from; ask which spending will be cut or what additional revenue will pay for it. Few bother with the lack of any “mutual obligation” to bosses attached to it.

Yet the package will help Scotty counter toxic images of queues outside Centrelink offices, snaking along pavements and around the block. Not only will JobKeeper workers be kept out of unemployment queues, moreover, they won’t appear in statistics. Best of all, employers get to choose which workers to keep and which to lose. Workers’ gratitude will be lavished on big-hearted bosses, not endorse Big Government.

JobKeeper is yet another “package” – Morrison jargon to help evade accountability. Many drought relief packages, for example, are yet to materialise. JobKeeper subsidises six million workers’ wages to keep one million in work, as Richard Denniss observes, in a cunning transfer of wealth to prosperous business owners.

Expect little debate. The News-Corp-led media Hallelujah Chorus hails the PM as the Messiah. David Speers on ABC Insiders is full of applause. Others ask: how good is our socialist government? But both are lies. By pumping hundreds of billions into existing businesses, there’s little capital for investing in projects that actually create employment. And Morrison expects things to snap back, once we’re on the other side.

It cannot last. The PM is very keen to impress this on us. “There is a snap-back there, a snap-back to the previous existing arrangements on the other side of this,” Morrison warns Thursday. “There is an intensity of expenditure during this period. And then we have to get back to what it was like before.”

Except, he has no idea how to do this. Or when. Turning off the economic stimulus tap too soon, however badly it’s targeted, would deepen any recession – and it’s likely to be a deep one. It’s wildly optimistic to talk in terms of a six months’ cure.

Other problems are just as intractable. How it will be possible to snatch back JobKeeper or “free” childcare or the JobSeeker allowance, a doubling of the not so new Newstart and tacit admission that its forty dollars a day was woefully inadequate? Meanwhile, JobSeeker still promises punitive “mutual obligation” requirements after 27 April 2020 which force unemployed workers to look for jobs that simply won’t exist.

Greg Jericho reports that Callam Pickering, economist at global job site Indeed, estimates that currently job adverts are running about 33% below what they were last year. “It would actually be surprising if they don’t drop by more – during the 1990s recession they fell by half.”

Some prosperous businesses will receive a big boost from JobKeeper, notes Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute’s chief economist. For example, childcare which underpays and overworks its staff, exploiting a largely female workforce. But for many, it is no help at all. Worse it further divides the working poor.

A glance at current ABS statistics on businesses in the hospitality sector, already rife with wage theft and underemployment and now hit by the coronavirus social isolation decrees, reveals that seventy per cent are forced to further under-employ their workers, reduce the hours of their staff. Forty three percent are estimated, by ABS sampling, to have either laid off workers, or placed them on unpaid leave.

Federal Parliament is suspended until 11 August at least, although as government leader in the House of Reps, Attorney-General Christian Porter makes clear, it’s not due to resume until September. The recession-busting brains trust running the joint has “better things to do” than sit in parliament.

Non-essential outings are banned in NSW and Victoria in a zealous interpretation of a recommendation by Morrison’s oxymoronic adhocracy, his National Cabinet; a marvel of self-promotion and self-preservation by a PM who’d struggle to raffle a duck in a pub but who is a past master of the duck-shoving of responsibility.

Scotty grandstands, whilst ensuring responsibility for containing the coronavirus pandemic lies with the states. But it will all be OK because he’s agreed to a senate committee which will provide oversight. Seriously.

We’ve seen too much already of the contempt for democracy and transparency displayed by his government and senior public servants called before senate committees – including the ADF’s top cop, Reece Kershaw, whose boast was that he’d set a record for taking questions on notice. In other words, avoid answering.

Nowhere is Scotty’s buck-passing more apparent than in the five star scandal of the monster cruise ship Ruby Princess, our Typhoid Mary, an eighteen deck behemoth linked to over a dozen deaths and up to a thousand cases of infection.

Is it a cop-out by federal government as NSW Senator, Kristina Kenneally alleges? She’s being diplomatic about dereliction of duty compounded by a very clumsy cover up of Dutton’s Home Affairs failure to stop the one boat that mattered.

The shadow minister for Immigration and Home Affairs, accuses the Coalition of ducking its responsibility by expecting the states to take the lead – albeit in co-operation with federal Border Force officers. The federal government’s “dragged its feet” on crucial border protection measures, such as temperature checks at airports or mandatory quarantine for cruise ship arrivals.

“The wider Australian community is now seeing the calamitous results of their decision to allow the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney,” Kristina Keneally says, “a moment we have quickly realised was a tipping point in the spread of coronavirus in Australia.”

This will be regarded as the worst public health disaster in America in a century,” says Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego. “The root cause of the disaster was the lack of readiness to understand where, how and when the disease was spreading.” 

It’s been much the same in Australia but now with Carnival and other companies’ ships of shame no longer visiting, there’s been a drop in our statistics. Whether we are flattening the curve, it is too early to tell but there are encouraging signs of a decline in reported cases although community transmission continues to be a major concern.

Finally Morrison’s snapback is an illusion. Many who lost their jobs in past recessions never found another another, even years later.

In the recession of the early 1980s the unemployment rate almost doubled, increasing from 5.5% to 10.5% in two years. The number of unemployed Australians increased by 330,000. An equivalent proportion of today’s workforce would be about 650,000. It took six and a half years, to the end of the 1980s, for the unemployment rate to claw its way back to somewhere close to where it started.

And there were other, deeper, consequences. During the recession of the early 1980s, the proportion of Australian males with a job fell by about 7%. Only half of that fall was reversed in the ensuing recovery.  Then workers were hit with the recession of the early 1990s. In the following three years, the proportion of males with a job fell by a further 10%, Macrobusiness’ David Lewellyn Smith reminds us.

Morrison needs to step up, however much he fears accountability. Parliament needs to be recalled immediately. The nation deserves no less. Our public health and the health of our body politic, our democracy depends upon it.

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The state and the economy

By Evan Jones  

Right-wing governments splashing the cash in gay abandon – what gives?

Sydney Morning Herald journalist Matt Wade finished a recent article with: “In the shadow of a pandemic, we’ll have to get used to a bigger role for government in the economy”.

Quite, and not for the first time. Although perhaps what Wade meant is ‘a different role for government in the economy’. Residents of New South Wales are familiar with the over-arching activism of successive Liberal-National governments in this State since 2011 in plundering public property and in privileging developers, miners and rapacious elements of the rural sector. In Sydney, infrastructural monstrosities rule unhindered. More of this we don’t need.

Similarly, Americans are all too familiar with the leviathan that is the military-industrial-intelligence complex that not merely destabilises the globe but impoverishes the American millions who foot the bill.

The evolving imprint of the state

Behind Wade’s suggestion is an issue of historical import. Hark back two hundred years in Britain, experiencing industrialisation and urbanisation at a furious pace. What were the forces of ‘free enterprise’ doing at the time? Employing people under intolerable conditions and housing them in spec-built tenements in intolerable conditions.

From such conditions there arose dysentery, typhus, typhoid fever, smallpox, whooping cough, measles, diphtheria, scarlet fever, tuberculosis, and … (Asiatic!) cholera. Infant mortality raged. Herbert Spencer was hardly born, Darwinism a future creed, so time was not yet ripe for Social Darwinists to posit the inevitability and justice of the survival of the fittest, although the Rev Thomas Malthus was much quoted in support of that cause. Instead we got the consummate bureaucrat Edwin Chadwick’s 1842 Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Classes.

Chadwick highlighted, predictably, that suffering differed across the classes, but he also highlighted that the privileged classes were not immune. Horrors. Meanwhile the denizens of ‘the private sector’ were in their counting houses and reposing on estates acquired from an impoverished gentry. Here was a problem of the collective, and the entity evolving to pursue the collective interest, the state, had to step into the breach. By default.

This was a period that some economic historians had designated ‘the age of laissez-faire’, but there never was such a period. The state was dismantling timeworn structures at the behest of an ascendant bourgeoisie. Yet before that task was completed the state was confronted with problems arising structurally from the new order.

In 1833 there was legislated the Factory Act, which restricted the use of child labour in textile mills. That in itself was the product of thirty years of manoeuvring, and a foretaste of more factory Acts to come.

Since that time, the state has never ceased to pick up the pieces, direct traffic of a wayward economy and society. Its bailiwick – economic development and infrastructure, economic crises, natural calamities, scams of every description, class conflict, social deprivation, war and the aftermath of war, etc.

For example, in the late nineteenth century some governments instituted compulsory primary education, beginning an edifice of significant long term expense and administration demands. The motivation was complex. Employers demanded rudimentary skills even of the lower echelons of their workforce. Moreover, with the onset of adult (male) franchise, reluctantly ceded, the lower orders had to be educated as to what was right and proper.

The establishment and maintenance of economic and social order thus proved to be jolly hard work, an enterprise in progress, with a global dimension involving a system of states.

Thus has ensued a quantitative increase in the state’s presence, in terms of expenditures, and perennial qualitative transformations in the nature and subjects of regulations – all of which are the object of political and social contestation.

The state is hydra-headed. At root is the natural prerogative of states to make war, and to promote its economic interests abroad. The state, as a matter of course, will privilege the powerful (Engels, 1884: ‘… the state arose from the need to hold class antagonisms in check, but as it arose, at the same time, in the midst of the conflict of these classes, it is, as a rule, the state of the most powerful, economically dominant class …). The state will also, less regularly, privilege the less powerful and the dispossessed. From this latter category came the building blocks of the modern ‘welfare state’.

The sources for Marx and Engel’s generalisation were self-evident – as in the brutal repression of agitation for worker rights and political reform, as in the barbaric 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Previously, the British state oversaw centuries of enclosure movements by which a working class was forcibly created. State-legitimised class rule was embodied in the carry over and enforcement of Master-Servant statutes which structured workplace subordination and incidentally formed the basis for modern employment law.

As to contrary tendencies with the state attending to the less powerful, some state personnel had altruistic motives, but the majority were strategically more visionary. It was necessary to give a little, make concessions to the pressure from below and its supporters to prevent social breakdown and to maintain the social order. This was ‘intelligent conservatism’ (in the true sense of the label) at work – a label now difficult to understand as the breed and the mentality have been utterly obliterated from within the Right by the forces of reaction.

Such developments were not driven by ideas but facts on the grounds. Political processes in turn produced defensive philosophies and ideologies. Thus in late 19th Century Britain a dysfunctional classical liberalism was countered by a philosophical ‘social liberalism’ – as in the works of T. H. Green and, most accessibly, of Leonard Hobhouse. In Australia, we would later call this mentality ‘small-l liberalism’.

In the 20th Century, the pressure of events (crisis) and a social liberalist mindset operated dialectically to produce J. M. Keynes and his path-breaking analysis of an economic system behind the 1930s Depression. Ditto William Beveridge’s monumental overseeing of the creation of Britain’s National Health Service during World War II.

The state’s role through a glass darkly

The general public has been inadequately apprised of the nature of this long term evolution of the role of the state. Compounding the issue of gaps in general education has been persistent misrepresentation and deception.

The state in the economy is obtusely labelled ‘government intervention’, implicitly imparting an unnatural character to the state as actor.

Austrian economist and philosopher Frederick Hayek pushed the concept of ‘spontaneous order’. Rational autonomous individuals, acting out of self-interest with no bonds of formal cooperation, ‘collectively’ generate an ordered structure. The ‘market’ (always in the abstract) and the price mechanism are the impersonal means to this outcome. Don’t mess with it and all will be well. In the human domain, it is a concept both ahistorical and preposterous.

The much-feted Milton Friedman, in his (with wife Rose) much-feted 1980 Free to Choose, has it that the evolution of the role of the state in 20th Century US is due to the influence of the Socialist Party in the Century’s first decades. Friedman claims that although inconsequential electorally, “both major parties [henceforth] adopted the position of the Socialist party” (p.334). A proposition too ludicrous for words.

Down under, the key role of the state in the development of the 19th Century white settler economy is curiously labelled ‘colonial socialism’.

A sterling example of misrepresentation comes from the reconstruction of the economy in what became West Germany after 1949. According to the pundits, here was Exhibit A for the merits of financial orthodoxy coupled with a conscientious application of the homegrown ‘ordoliberalism’ (a Christian Democrat variation on a ‘free market’ theme). On the contrary. Andrew Shonfield’s 1965 Modern Capitalism, sadly neglected, sets the story right (p.274-5):

“… when the German Government intervened to accelerate the growth of certain sectors of the economy, it went to great lengths to present the matter … as if it derived from or supplemented some primary private initiative [unlike in France]. Indeed the German Government seemed at times almost to be trying to disguise what it was doing even from itself. …

“While the Ministry of Finance was busy keeping house, and conscientiously disregarding the effect that this frugal exercise might have on the rest of the economy, the Ministry of Economics was most actively intervening wherever opportunities for more production, aided by strategically placed subsidies or tax concessions, presented themselves. Rarely can a ministry so vociferously devoted to the virtues of economic liberalism and market forces have taken so vigorous a part in setting the direction and selecting the targets of economic development.”

This misrepresentation subsequently played a significant part in the terms of the construction of the European Union (under American suzerainty), ultimately under West German (later unified German) domination. The parlous effects of this gigantic sleight of hand are played out daily in the structured asymmetry of benefits from the Union.

Compounding the lack of understanding is the economics profession and its tentacled influence. The typical tertiary training in economics gives one no exposure whatsoever to the state. At best, the state exists as a deus ex machina handing down ‘macroeconomic policy’, perhaps the odd extra function exposed in an optional course that few take, but that’s it. It’s a monumental scandal, but internal dissent generally gets quashed, and the hallowed principle of academic freedom ensures that it the ‘profession’ is secure from outside forces. The sub-discipline of economic history previously offered some insight, even if over-populated by mainstream economic historians (c/f. ‘colonial socialism’). As economics departments were subsumed within business schools, the far-sighted new managerial class decided that economic history was dispensable. History is irrelevant.

More, said ill-tutored economics graduates staff, indeed stuff, key parts of the public service, especially the central agencies and the regulatory agencies. They become cogs in arms of the state of whose functions, history, capacity and limitations they are oblivious.

Beyond the perennial obfuscation is a larger project of denial.

If you want to bash the state you have two prominent, albeit divergent, schools to draw on (n.b. anarchism has been written out of history, so that doesn’t count). One is the US-based ‘Economic Theory of Politics’ school, for whom the late James Buchanan is a guru. The state is bloated and the source of this parlous situation is the unceasing demands of the masses on their governments. The problem is democracy itself, which will have to be dramatically straight-jacketed. Not unsurprisingly, Buchanan and fellow travellers have apoplexy over some activities of the state (welfare, affirmative action) and not others (the military, corporate welfare). Buchanan was instrumental in the counter-democratic refashioning of Chile’s constitution under Pinochet, against which the Chilean people are currently rebelling.

The second school draws its intellectual lineage heavily from the post-World War I Austrian School (Ludwig von Mises). This school boasts a phalanx of foot soldiers of purist libertarian persuasion, many of whom are curiously comfortably employed in corporate-funded ‘think tanks’ (c.f The Institute of Public Affairs, Hoover Institution, etc.) and press themselves regularly into the mainstream media with their homilies. For this mob, the significant role of the state in modern capitalism has all been a huge mistake and unnecessary.

One of the better informed of this latter mob is the much-published Richard Higgs. His 1987 book Crisis and Leviathan captures its substance in the title. Higgs argues that, at key junctures, crises that are ‘manageable’ are either overblown or non-existent crises manufactured so that the state apparatus can be dramatically and permanently expanded. Higgs’ argument is not without merit, drawing empirical support at this very moment as governments (France, Hungary, Israel) cynically use the Covid-19 emergency to develop nascent authoritarian tendencies into a fully blown police state. Indeed, Higgs’ argument provides substance for why those who postulate the possibility of ‘false flag’ operations by government operatives, universally denigrated as deranged ‘conspiracy theorists’, might occasionally have just cause.

But there is something essentially pathological about the libertarian set, with its vision of the ideal state illusory. The evolution of the role of the state in the West over the last two hundred years, in general rather than in particulars, has been inevitable. A strong state, for both good and bad, has been essential to the functioning of the capitalist economy. Finding an acknowledgement of that fact anywhere outside of select academic literature is a near impossibility.

The age of neoliberalism

Hawke/Keating Labor ushered in the neoliberal era in Australia, and John Howard determinedly cemented it. On the Liberal side, Howard tenaciously cleared out the small-l liberals in their midst. In Labor ranks, nobody had the courage to question the Hawke/Keating legacy (even with Hawke’s death, but Keating is still there to kick heads). Advisory staff to both major Parties would have been born the day before yesterday and have been suckled in the neoliberal age. Public servants, especially the newly fragilised Senior Executive Service, adopted the correct line to save their jobs and pay their mortgages.

Rod Clement, Australian Financial Review, 10 December 1999

This is ground zero. The past is irrelevant. An age of stunning intellectual vacuity. Exemplary for the age is the opening stanza of the fat 1981 Campbell Report into the Australian Financial System: ‘The Committee starts from the view that the most efficient way to organise economic activity is through a competitive market system which is subject to a minimum of regulation and government intervention’. Brilliant!

There ushered in through the front door an army of vested interests, hiding behind a front of ignorant but zealous ideologues. The arguments were all bullshit, floating on thin air. Neoliberalist tenets, unlike those of classical liberalism, had no organic relation with existing conditions. It was a vehicle for plundering public assets, exploiting small business, undermining hard-won workforce conditions and dismantling the hard-won welfare state.

Whitlam Labor created the Industries Assistance Commission to deal with a specific issue needing reform but entrenched an ideological coven. Hawke/Keating Labor reprieved it, gave it a universal brief as the renamed Industry Commission, and Howard had only to tweak the beast into the Productivity Commission. No other country has ever granted so much responsibility for ‘intelligence’ to a single unreconstructed think tank. Couple that with the massive out-sourcing of ‘intelligence’ to private consultants (now especially the Big Four ex-accounting firms) and one has an environment in which policy options are systematically truncated, alternatives still-born.

The neoliberal era was not a move to ‘the small state’. Rather, it involved a reorientation of a strong state to significantly different priorities – essentially catering to the wishlist of corporate capital. In the process political personnel and bureaucratic personnel have decapacitated the state apparatus to effect robust management of any crisis, leave alone to effect progressive change.

Representative was the Coalition’s belligerent indifference to the impact of climate change and to expert pressure on the need to prepare for impending bushfire devastation. Other reflections of this mentality are the Coalition’s attempted discrediting of Rudd Labor’s modest post-GFC stimulus, the deeply imbalanced economic relationship with China, the impoverishment of public infrastructure, workplace conditions and welfare, and the governing Coalition’s absurd mid-2019 tax cuts while tolerating widespread corporate tax evasion.

It is welcome then that this federal government, intrinsically reactionary, prone to lassitude, ignorant, arrogant in its ignorance, has turned on the sluice gates. For lack of grounding, it is forced into the ultimate in pragmatism, dependent on a federal Treasury out of its depth.

But will it change its ways after this crisis relents? There’s no evidence, as there is no evidence of such to date in any other country. With a nasty budget black hole, that ‘bigger role’ will, in all likelihood, not be turned to permanently enhancing Newstart or abolishing Robodebt siphoning but to further tightening the screws.

Evan Jones, now retired, lectured in political economy at the University of Sydney for 34 years.

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A government reeking of corruption hits the panic button.

Coronavirus-panic sweeps the nation. There’s barely a bottle of Dettol hand sanitizer left on a metal supermarket shelf across the land. Panic buying of toilet paper, pasta and rice turns ugly. A fight erupts in a Western Sydney Woolworths. Two Bankstown women, aged 23 and 60 are charged with affray.

Whilst no injury seems to have been sustained, the same cannot be said of the Morrison government which ends the week reeking of corruption after misleading the senate over changes to its rorted sports grants after it had entered caretaker mode 11 April 2019, whilst former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie departs from the script by insisting she knows nothing of changes made in her name after caretaker mode commenced.

Sport Australia has refused to answer forty questions, which officials took on notice, effectively denying a senate committee request and failing to meet its Friday deadline. Former Health Department Head, Glenys Beauchamp, did comply but she’s destroyed all of her personal notes following her resignation in January. Genius.

Adding injury to insult, Attorney-General Porter has to be corrected by his own department on his misunderstanding of his own paper tiger DIY federal anti-corruption body he’s been drafting since 2018. Then, from up shit creek, there’s a hullabaloo about all that bushfire crisis money being as scarce as rocking-horse poo. Labor’s Murray Watt makes a convincing case that Scotty’s $2 billion dollar fund doesn’t even exist.

But how good is our chief malignant narcissist for calling a coronavirus pandemic, early despite expert advice? Panic is a great distractor. As with his mentor, Donald John Trump, Scott John Morrison always knows best.  Also freakishly Trump-like is his urge to upstage anyone who knows what they’re doing but by week’s end, his shonky public appearances as leader of our fight against COVID-19 look less and less convincing.

Like Trump, Morrison loses interest quickly – especially when things are not going all his own way. Or are not all about him. Time to hand-ball to serial failure Hunt. By Sunday, the hapless Health Minister, now struggling with his fifth portfolio, urges Australia to draw on the community spirit it showed during the summer bushfire crisis.

Luckily, Hunt stops short of invoking the spirit of the fire-ravaged Bega township of Cobargo, or countless other small towns whose residents are underwhelmed by glad-handed Scotty and are happy to let him know it.

Melding bushfire crisis talking points into cryptic nostrums, like some talking fortune cookie, Hunt gushes puzzling, but tremendously uplifting morale-boosters such as  “This is the moment to be its best self, and for Australia to be the nation and the community we know it can be … We will get through this together.”

An orgy of public self-congratulation, spun as “Coronavirus updates” not only helps to boost the nation’s spirits with the palpable falsehood that all is well, it helps distract from a barrage of inconvenient truths. There’s still a bit of fuss over General Gus; Defence Force, Chief Angus Campbell, who tells Senate Estimates, Wednesday, he’s given Morrison an earful over the abuse of defence material in the PM’s bushfire promo.

Labor leader, Anthony Albanese is rapier-like in calling Morrison out, saying he “used defence force imagery to try to shore up what was flailing political support due to his lack of action during the bushfire crisis”.

“I talk to the chief of the defence force very regularly,” Morrison blusters in reply, slyly dressing up the dressing down. (Surely every healthy Western democracy has a PM who is bosom pals with the defence chief?) But there is even criticism from within his own party over his politicising of the climate bushfires.

Good Morning Britain host, Piers Morgan, who was recently gob-smacked by Craig Kelly’s climate science ignorance and denialism, calls the video, “a self-promotional commercial with cheesy elevator music.”

“This is one of the most tone-deaf things I’ve ever seen a country’s leader put out during a crisis. Shameless & shameful,” he rages on Twitter. A range of similar comments confirm Morrison’s ear of tin. It will undo him.

The Australia Defence Association – a public-interest watchdog – says the government breaks rules around political advertising. “Party-political advertising milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires is a clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs,”

Other home truths include a mismanaged economy; tanking for four years. Yet the government still has no plan beyond declaring it has a plan. Just as it has a coronavirus plan. Worse, the former Minister for sports rorts loads both barrels of her Beretta Silver Pigeon; takes aim at her PM Thursday. This is not in the plan.

The government’s cunning plan is to help “dodgy” Scotty (as the normally very proper ABC 7:30’s Laura Tingle calls Morrison on ABC Insiders, Sunday) evade questions such as Katharine Murphy’s query on sports grants Friday. Sport Australia tells The Saturday Paper that both former Sport minister McKenzie and the Sport Australia board approved its decision to withhold 25 per cent of the $41.7 million allocated to the Sporting Schools program in 2018 – and that it was “authorised by government under the usual budget processes”.

Sport Australia will soon “transition” to an Orwellian Sport Integrity Australia, due to operate from July or whenever the government comes up with the legislation required.

All Australians will be delighted to hear that Sport Integrity will police threats to Australian sport doping, match-fixing and cheating as befits an organ of Sport Australia which currently enables Liberal MPs to abuse funds in pork-barrel rorting to buy elections.

Yet another mystery hangs over our secretive government’s proceedings. Clover-gate is put in the shade. Thursday evening, McKenzie reveals she made no “changes or annotations” to a 4 April brief which suggests it was clearly altered by the PM or some staffer in his office before it went to Sport Australia 11 April.

Morrison fobs off questions at his Friday Presser. “I’m dealing with coronavirus”, Milli Vanilli Morrison lies. In reality, in between dodging shotgun pellets, he tries to take all the credit for the work of Federal Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Brendan Murphy and his team of state medical officers and staff. Yet it won’t wash.

Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is shocked by Scotty’s refusal to take her questions on Friday. Tactically, it gives Bridget McKenzie’s revelations a type of legitimacy. The PM appears to be running away. He has every reason to. According to legal experts such as Anne Twomey, there is not one occasion in the sports rorts saga where the government appears to have acted legally.

Not only were its actions illegal, Professors Cheryl Saunders and Michael Crommelin of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne University, and Professor Anne Twomey of Sydney University argue in a joint submission published by Senate Committee that the grants are unconstitutional.

The very bad news for Scott John Morrison is that the experts concur that not only did Minister McKenzie have no lawful power to approve the grants, but the offices of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister had no power to direct how decisions were to be made. No wonder Scotty’s running scared.

The PM’s bushfire disinformation campaign blaming a lack of back-burning is also cackling away. On ABC, Aunty recycles the inflammatory remarks of Ted Bull, superbly-named Gippsland Nationals’ MP.

Last January, killjoy CFA chief, Steve Warrington warned hazard or fuel-load reduction it is not a “silver bullet” solution.

“Some of the hysteria that this will be the solution to all our problems is really just quite an emotional load of rubbish, to be honest,” he says, a comment close to heresy in our current post-fact, anti-expert climate.

Too late. Great swathes are cut alongside roads in Gippsland in Victoria. It’s unprecedented, say conservationists, who report loss of habitat; vandalised ecosystems. Logging contractors clear-fell timber in an eighty to a hundred metre buffer along thousands of kilometres of roads in climate bushfire-affected areas, near Cann River, Mallacoota, Cape Conran and Orbost.

Bushfire consultant, Cormac Farrell, says burns are a useful tool, especially when the hazard reduction burns were completed within 800 metres of urban areas or public assets.

“But in terms of protecting towns and cities on those worst-case scenarios on those really bad days when the fire, the wind and heat are really pumping, we are finding it is able to burn over relatively bare ground.”

Luckily, Scott Morrison has already set up its inquiry, a Royal Commission which will follow its mining lobby script and find value in hazard reduction, praise the role of the military, call for its increase and confirm his sermons on “adaptation” the latest excuse for doing nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Our rort-meister government tries to jumps the shark in Senate Estimates this week. In a fit of sheer, gas-lit genius, rural and regional affairs committee chair, Susan McDonald rules, Monday, that the word “rorts” is unparliamentary.

Senate Estimates continues its theatre of cruelty; or abuse of due process, with AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw, prefacing his evidence by bragging that he set a record for questions on notice in his last appearance. He boasts he’ll beat his record this time.

Say what you will. Our federal government and its fans in big mining and banking and agribusiness are endlessly inventive in their contempt for democracy.

Everything is going to plan. But what is the plan? Wacky, undergrad humourist and Yoga-joker, Hungarian Josh Frydenberg, who is such a crack-up lately with his tacky, racist insults towards Australia’s Hindu community, in response to Labor’s Shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers’ well-being budget, suddenly goes all coy.

Morrison helps out heaps with a three word slogan; the response will be “targeted, measured and scalable”.

All the Treasurer will say this week is that his coronavirus stimulus package to rescue a tanking economy “will have a B in front of it“. For business, buffoonery, or bluff? His government’s chronic mismanagement has caused our economy to tank for some time. Not once in six years has GDP been on trend.

Doubtless, details will follow as soon as the BCA, the Minerals Council and the banks put their requests in.  But the Nats may still be unhappy.

The Incredible Bridget McKenzie pushes back at her PM from under the bus he drove over her – only to be upstaged by My Corona, a show from Shonky Morrison and his honky tonk combo starring Chief Medical officer, Brendan Murphy, who gets to bare his teeth in a shit-eating grin while Morrison takes credit for Murphy’s work.

Backing vocals are by doo-wah dweeb, Greg Hunt, Minister for flatulent garrulity and advocate for the private health insurance virus; today a six billion dollar impost, crippling our public health system, a subsidy introduced by lying rodent John Howard, in 1996.

Greg tells us, endlessly, how well our sick health system is and what miracles of planning are being wrought, tautologically; “we have a national stockpile that is very well stocked.”

In reality, our masks used to be imported from Wuhan and even dentists have less than two weeks’ supply but government is “close to securing a deal” with local manufacturers claim the Australian Dental Association.

Funding? Funding never ceases to be a good news story. A recklessly generous, federal government will be “shoulder to shoulder with the states”, as former rugby forward, Morrison, puts it. This means forking out an extra five per cent, Hunt explains, patting himself and PM on the back over cutting such a great deal.

“It’s a very, very good outcome for the states. I think they recognise that … Normally, if somebody presented at a hospital without something such as this, we would pay 45 percent of the costs, and they would pay 55 percent of the costs.” Put this way, the federal government seems a model of profligate generosity.

Just imagine. By Friday, GPs, officials, “primary health workers” and those who tend the elderly hold meetings. Medication is stockpiled, they fret. Masks and other protective gear are scarce. Workers already struggle to do their jobs after Morrison ripped $1.2 billion from the aged-care industry budget, a cut which came on top of an earlier $500 million reduction in subsidies to create an industry now on the verge of collapse.

Above all, those who make our medical system work lament the lack of information and real leadership from government. AMA head Tony Bartone, exposes the reality behind the federal government’s interminable spin,

“Communication, timeliness and consistency of messaging about the virus to doctors and the public was brought up by doctors loud and clear. As was personal protective equipment.” Fatuous reassurances follow.

“There was a deep, deep understanding and acknowledgement by the commonwealth that more needs to be done in both of those spaces,” Dr Bartone adds, channelling the “in this space” vacuity, so popular in modern officialese, a virulent disease of communication itself; the enemy of plain speaking. Or accountability.

“It does not look like we are looking at containment, we are going to be managing an outbreak across our community, and we need to be properly funded and need true leadership from government about what everybody’s roles are,” warns Dr Charlotte Hespe,  of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Talk about talk it up. Playing to packed houses across the nation, Morrison’s Corona Update Show features a troupe of Chief Medical Officers, state and federal, plucked, reluctantly, from the mounting impossibility of completing his or her day to day duties to publicly suffer the PM’s prolixity; his cheapjack grandstanding.

Worse, we “cross” to apostle of bombast, sidekick Dweeb Hunt who adds his own brand of long-winded spin.

“Our first task as a Government is to keep Australians safe. And as part of that, working together with the states and territories, with the community, with the health sector, to ensure that there’s a seamless approach.”

Clearly, the first task of his government is to divert our attention from the rising stench of scandal and corruption which, as Bernard Keane notes, threatens to eclipse the smell of fear as Morrison almost loses control of numbers in the House over Labor’s censure of his government because it “deliberately misled the parliament and the Australian people about the corrupt sports rorts scheme”.

Yet the message changes. “Get yourself tested” Hunt tells Australians with flu-like symptoms late Sunday. It’s a sudden departure from the confidence in containment script so carefully followed only a week ago. No-one tries to explain how an overburdened General Practice will cope with the sudden demand.

“Even though it can be a little bit of a stress on the system,” Hunt says. “If in doubt, get yourself tested.” If only you could get an appointment at your local medical centre.

The week has been testing for the Morrison government, a government which since its inception has found the challenges of policy-making impossible, let alone those of day to day administration. Whipping up pandemic panic is counterproductive, especially now since consumers see empty shelves; hear empty rhetoric while learning of the spread of the virus. Between reality and the rhetoric of government reassurances falls a shadow.

Exploiting fear while spinning the illusion of leadership and control marks the Coronavirus Update Show as another Morrison failure; another confirmation of the PM’s dud political judgement and the dysfunction of a cabinet of yea-sayers and bootlickers.

Worse, as COVID-19 takes hold in communities the length and breadth of Australia, it is clear that the PM’s initial claims of containment were mere Trump-like bravado.

Finally, fatuous Josh Frydenberg must come up with a miraculous package; a stimulus to businesses which are already foundering based on a trickle-down theory that is economic nonsense. Chris Bowen tries to be supportive on ABC Insiders.

“The economy has been weakening,” he says. “Now the government does need to respond. One of the things that they could do is adopt the policy we took with the election with the Australian investment guarantee – a … 20% upfront for all businesses and investments big or small.

The government has one sitting week before it is due to hand down its May Budget. It is unlikely to provide any relief to workers or the 4.6 million Australians who receive an income support payment of some kind from the Australian Government in the form of a pension or allowance. Or to increase the minimum wage or restore penalty rates.

Yet reputable economists argue that boosting household incomes is most likely to boost consumption and stimulate a stagnant economy.  Given its Coronavirus Update Show chicanery, however, expect the Coalition Coronavirus Budget Show to be all about rescuing its business mates while grandstanding fit to beat the band.

On its current performance, it will not begin to be able to factor in the economic dislocation of the virus such as the disruption of education, tourism, trade and supply chains, nor will its limited repertoire of neoliberal nostrums be up to the task.

But you can be sure the virus will be made to take the blame for four years of its own, woeful, economic mismanagement. And the welfare of business mates and wealth creators will matter far more than that of households or pensioners or wage and salary earners. And we’ll never stop hearing about how wonderful it is.

And it’ll be no good asking about sports rorts corruption and illegality or anything unconstitutional because the PM’s presser will always be about something else.

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It Can’t Get Any Worse. Can it?

By Grumpy Geezer  

Are we there yet? Have we reached rock bottom?

The L/NP coagulation’s purpose is, and always has been, to function as the primary mechanism for their corporate chums to shovel public money into their private hands – supplemented with a shoot-it-or-chop-it-down nod and wink to the squatocracy and the Kickatinalong kulaks to lock in the bumpkin vote.

* * * * *

There was a time when, as conservatives, the Tories believed in compliance with conventions and standards; when their born-to-rule beliefs at least included some sense of noblesse oblige, when rabid right-wing fuckwittery was hidden in the attic of their port and cigars old boy’s fraternities. That time was way back when a New Guard proto-fascist Francis De Groot got arrested and charged for being an arsehole whereas his present day facsimile, Herr Kipfler Spud-Dutton, gets handed the reins to the nation’s spooks, goon squads and thought police and who, in a fully functional democracy would be as welcome as a loose stool in a preschool ball pit. This is progress?

The 1975 overthrow of Gough Whitlam kicked the legs out from under Australia’s progressivism and showed the lengths that Tories are willing to go to when they lose control of the Treasury benches. But in the aftermath of the dark days of Kerr’s coup Malcolm Fraser as PM at least showed glimpses of humanity with his sympathy for refugees and his antipathy to apartheid.

The fetid stench that settled over the Lying Nasty Party was from the beetle-browed goblin John Howard’s shrivelled arse hitting the big, green Parliamentary swivel chair. His operating style was meanness and trickery, divide-and-conquor was his modus operandi and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) was his tool of trade. He was the architect of Workchoices Macht Frei – the manifesto of his mendacity and duplicity in one nasty, divisive Newspeak package. It could not get any worse. Except it did.

Enter the living proof of the invalidity of the Peter Principle:

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence.

If all of the village idiots in all of the world gathered together in the one village they would elect Tony Abbott as their icon of idiocy. He’s an ideas-free zone who through happenstance rose far beyond his level of incompetence. He would be mentally challenged in the role of porn theatre bucket boy, he could capture all of his thoughts on an Etch-A-Sketch and his rudimentary planning capacity had him thinking that tactics are a minty breath freshener. He’s a void that could suck the vacuum from empty space.

With the face of a carp wrapped in cling film, his tongue flicking like a lizard trying to lick its own eyeballs he’d invade the personal space of visiting dignitaries while the colour drained from their faces. He’d cackle like marbles being dropped down a drain – somewhat undermining his self-image of a macho man. Covering his manhood in too-small red sluggos made him look like a moulting yowie, his bow-legged, shoulder-rolling affectation not so much butch as “chimpanzee-with-ball-rash”. What a fucking disaster he was.

The L/NP effluvium was briefly masked with Eau de Swarovski-scented inertia in a leather jacket when the mendacious wrecker Abbott was consigned to the ignominy of the backbench by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull who impressed no-one more so than he impressed himself. He was a man of inaction but at least we were saved from the RWFWs; there was no-one who could be worse than Abbott.

Turnbull The Useless’s legacy is three-fold. We have a national telecommunications infrastructure that would embarrass Lower Moustachistan. We have a neo-fascist tuber as Minister for Home Affairs and we inherited a carnival side-show spruiker and Armageddonist as PM, showing that the impossible is possible – Morrison is even worse than Abbott.

Howard to Abbott to Morrison, lower and lower and lower. The mendacity has multiplied, incompetence is rewarded, avoidance of scrutiny is embedded in their governance; Parliament is like a performance of Puppetry Of The Penis – we’re watching cocks tie themselves in knots. Public service has been crushed by cronyism and profiteering privateers, authoritarianism is rampant and dodgy practice has devolved into brazen criminality. It’s as bad as it gets.

We have an end-of-times Prime Minister, an Armageddonist who wont buy long life milk let alone plan for the nation’s future. He no doubt secretly welcomes the coronavirus as both a distraction from the blatant theft of hundreds of millions of our dollars to support his re-election, and as a marketing opportunity to salvage his image from the train-wreck that was his behaviour during the bushfire crisis. It’s also a handy excuse for not delivering on his boasted budget surplus.

As a Pentacostalist nutter Morrison will believe that the virus, the fires and the drought are his god’s will and that he and his righteous brethren will safely ascend to the heavens in a golden, chauffeured, stretched Beemer. His god apparently has no misgivings about larceny on a grand scale, brazen lying or the persecution of the unfortunate – as long as there’s no lawn mowing on Sundays.

In the words of another ad man – but wait, there’s more.

Despite Australia’s governance being in the hands of a graduate of the Jimmy Swaggart School of Ethics and the deputy PM being a bobbleheaded dullard of such monumental dreariness that his pronouncements have been copyrighted as a sleep apnea therapy it can get even worse.

Like crows circling roadkill there’s the usual chancers impatiently awaiting their opportunity. There’s Christian Porter, an Attorney General who’d re-gift a Scrabble set to a school for dyslexics just so he could enjoy the bickering. There’s Smarmy Josh Fraudburger, a pitiable PJK-wannabe who’d take bets on which blind beggar in a wheelchair would make it across the Bradfield Expressway at peak hour.

And then there’s that other ever-present miasma, Barking Barmy – aka Englebert Humpastaffer. As coherent as a cement mixer with tourettes who shouts at clouds while dressed as a hay bale, who has more kids than teeth and who is a Riverview educated ex-Deputy PM raging against “elites” while trousering $600k for sending some text messages. This delusional cretin’s lack of self-awareness tests the parameters of the Dunning-Kruger effect as he continues to harbour dark thoughts about shivving his bobbleheaded boss.

A Dutton/Joyce government?

With Dutton and Joyce the Tories can indeed sink even lower than the fetid depths that they have already plumbed.

Let’s not forget some of Spud’s and Joyce’s appalling cheer squads who would be rewarded with further perks, rorts and influence.

Matt King Coal Canavan’s perpetually pained expression could be constipation – an ongoing struggle to release an immovable chocolate hostage on camera, however it’s more likely a symptom of his frustration at his inability to monetise sunshine and wind for familial benefit as he has with coal.

The rotund Georgie Porgy Christenson has reportedly been trying to get into shape. Spherical apparently. His running machine has a remote control, he attends a drive-through gym, he puts mayonaisse on his diet pills, he supports his local sugar industry via Krispy Kreme but Georgy has threatened to work up the effort to cross the floor. He’s just waiting for Harvey Weinstein’s zimmer frame to appear on eBay.

Abbott loyalist Otto Abetz is so inflexible and leans so far to the right he could double as a sun-dial’s gnomon. The possibility of a  suitable position in Spud’s Gestapotato (brown jacket included) could rekindle mein onkle-like ambition in Otto’s withered loins. Kriminaldirektor Deportations perhaps.

With a voice like fingernails down a chalkboard, dunking stool passenger Michaelia Carcrash’s palatability is limited and her loyalty is as suspect as a scoutmaster’s lollybag – just ask Malcolm Turnbull. Well practiced in the duplicitous arts as she is she’s comfortable in her current role as Minister For Employee Exploitation but likely could be tempted by a more rortable portfolio. Carcrash’s contribution to the sisterhood is in proving that a woman can be just as contemptible as any man. Her red high heels are not feminist symbols, they are simply to stop her nasty from dragging along the pavement.

Cheap shots aside, what’s my point?

The L/NP has provided easy targets for loathing and derision since Howard’s time. Their only innovation is in exploring new ways to exploit most of us for the benefit of the few. They are feudalists, Randesque survival-of-the-richest oligarchs, environmental rapists, autocrats and religious fringe dwellers. They are manifestly incompetent, they are liars and grifters.

But as abominable as they are the Tories have proven time and again they can go lower still. They are now indulging in brazen criminality. They should be in prison, not in government. Get angry, stay angry. If we let them they will continue to sink lower and lower.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Morrison’s government, a poster-child for irresponsibility on climate

“Australia is the poster-child for irresponsibility on climate change” laments Christiana Figueres, former head of The UN Framework Convention On Climate Change. A key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Dr Figueres is currently in Australia on a speaking tour. She deplores our PM’s latest “technology target” stunt.

Figueres dismisses Scotty from marketing, our coal lobbyists’ puppet PM and his weasel-worded “technology not taxes” evasion of responsibility; a dereliction of his duty to at least reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. But she may as well be talking about our bizarre determination to pursue the fiction of Kyoto carry-over credits.

Or the Coalition’s recent crazy decision to finance a four million dollar feasibility study into a coal-fired power station at Collinsville in North Queensland, a project that is destined to become a white elephant. Demand is flat and there is no shortage of electricity in supply in the area.

Tropical North QLD also has an abundance of renewables, wind, solar and hydro.

Morrison is concocting a fake substitute. Details remain top secret even to his own cabinet but he’s calling it a technology goal, so as not to upset the coal warriors who run his coalition. All will be revealed at the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held 9-19 November, in Glasgow.

Working on it now, doubtless, is Gus Taylor, the government’s undisputed computational champion following his sensational calculation that Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore’s annual travel amounted to an astonishing $15 million a year, a figure which was leaked to News Corp’s Daily Telegraph, in an apparently doctored report, by Taylor’s office, an action calculated to damage Moore’s reputation.

Happily, NSW Police were able to hand-ball the investigation of the forgery to the AFP which hadn’t “bothered” to look for the information required. As Clover Moore, herself observes,

“The people might pay the [AFP] salary but they work for the government who appoints them.”

Similarly, Figueres is not fooled by Morrison’s proposal of an alternative, Clayton’s commitment of his own. “I frankly think every industrialised country has to take on an economy-wide target,” she declares.

According to The Australian, (the Liberal Party’s Pravda), Morrison’s conflicted Coalition will oppose any proposal to adopt a long-term emissions goal, such as Labor’s net zero emissions target by 2050, which the Opposition announced this week. Already, crackpot Craig Kelly is calling it “an economic suicide note” on Sky.

It it’s suicide, then also committing economic self-slaughter are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Cape Verde, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Union, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Lao PDR, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu. Add in all Australian state governments including Liberal.

But don’t expect Morrison’s mob to be shamed into accepting their fair share of decarbonisation. Amy Remeikis notes in Monday’s The Guardian Australia the paucity of the Coalition’s latest threadbare case as it airs the Kiwis’ cow, sheep-fart and Fergie tractor exhaust exemption.

The government’s killer argument against Labor’s zero emissions by 2050 policy, is that the Kiwis have quarantined New Zealand’s agriculture industry from Aotearoa’s target.

“So suddenly, after years and years of rhetoric over how we don’t need to look to other countries for our policies, including NZ, in the wake of its offers to take additional refugees from Nauru, New Zealand is the gold standard of policy.”

But no-one expects, logic, consistency or sanity from Morrison. Most of the time now we are surprised, if not somewhat dismayed, that he remembers to show up for work.

Trying hard to be wily, Scotty recycles tactics Howard used to dodge emissions targets in the Kyoto Protocol negotiated in the 1990s. “Investment targets or goals” for technologies will help the Coalition continue to abdicate all responsibility for being the planet’s highest per-capita greenhouse gas polluter, amongst advanced countries.

The dirty trick of focussing on investment is a legacy of climate contrarians such as Bjorn Lomborg, the world’s most active luke-warmer. Lomborg doesn’t deny the physics of the greenhouse effect, but instead cherry-picks information to deny that the risks of climate change are large enough to justify strong and urgent action.

Morrison’s technology hoax contains the specious case that governments should develop new technologies to drive down costs, before actually deploying the new technology. It is simply another criminally irresponsible, flawed, stalling tactic. Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler calls out Scotty’s latest, futile, subterfuge.

Morrison’s ” … latest thought bubble of a “technology target” is just a throwback to the Howard era when he and George W Bush rejected emissions reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol in favour of a so-called “technology approach” which boosted nuclear power and so-called ‘clean coal,’” Butler says.

Serial ministerial failure, Greg Hunt, Abbott’s environment minister patsy, who gave the nation “soil magic” or direct action is a huge Lomborg fan. Greg tried to stump up $4 million in taxpayer funds to pay for Lomborg’s appointment to an Australian university. Hunt’s opposition to the carbon tax cited Lomborg’s nonsense.

Scotty’s mob denies that we live in a climate emergency. Refuses to even say “climate change“, let alone admit that it is a result of anthropogenic global heating or link this to our recent catastrophic megafires. And worse. Kelly’s all for distributing climate change lies in schools so that children can make up their mind based on falsehoods.

Kelly’s a fan of Advance Australia – which bills itself as a right-wing version of progressive lobby group GetUp. Advance Australia plans to develop materials on climate change targeted at children. Their fossil-fuel propaganda would include a “Smart Scientist’s Kit”, a misinformative e-book of “10 climate facts to expose the climate change hoax”, as well as an “educational video and speaking tour” by a “renowned climate scientist”. Nine Newspapers reports.

Liz Storer, the former, silver-tongued, Liberal adviser behind the development of the kiddies’ kit of lies is a model of halcyon objectivity and tolerance as is evident in her views on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. (CEFC)

We (recently) saw our PM give $1 billion more, taxpayer dollars, to the CEFC. For what? These guys started back in 2012 as a Labor-created, snot wad of a useless body,” she sneers. Useless snot-wad? Perhaps she should talk to CEO Ian Learmonth who notes in CEFC’s latest Annual Report,

We are proud to report that, since inception, CEFC investments have helped drive more than $24 billion in additional private sector (clean energy) investment commitments Australia-wide.  Yet her PM is no better.

Scotty resurrects all his favourite flawed arguments as he Gish-Gallops away reducing greenhouse emissions.

“Currently no one can tell me that going down that path won’t cost jobs, won’t put up your electricity prices, and won’t impact negatively on jobs in the economies of rural and regional Australia. And my Government is absolutely committed to the jobs of rural and regional Australians,” he spins his hurdy-gurdy of vacuous, dishonest garrulity.

Scotty is totally surprised to get a bit of a hand from bush-lawyer Barnaby Joyce who can’t resist his own garbled Gish-Gallop, either, as he vents in a parliament’s hallway, shouting over the top of Joel Fitzgibbons’ Monday morning conference. Joyce is right on cue. It’s almost as if his outburst is scripted by the PM’s office.

“What a load of rubbish. What a load of pig manure. He’s going to reach out to you. He’s going to reach out to the coal mines. Don’t worry, fellas, we’re reaching out to you. We’re reaching out and saying you’re going to lose your job. Reaching out, that’s how you’re going to do it. You’re going to make the equation work by putting trees back on people’s properties whether they like it or not. We’re going to let the shrubs grow back on the country.”

You can’t beat parliament’s hallways for a bit of sober, civilised, rational discourse. Putting trees back? Oh, the horror of wanton reforestation.

No-one asks Morrison of the negative impact of doing nothing – especially when that means continuing the $42 billion a year subsidy which fossil fuel industries enjoy in the absence of carbon pricing. That would be cabinet in confidence and/or commercial in confidence and above all a matter of national security.

No-one can tell Scotty anything – unless, it’s former coal lobbyist John Kunkel or one of other nine former mining industry suits whom he’s recruited on staff. Or the claque of former News Corp hacks, who join them.

Australia would prosper – if only it had a government responsible enough to take real action on climate change, according to a range of experts.  These include CSIRO calculations that we would spend 58-64%  less on electricity under a shift to 100 per cent renewables.

Above all, it exposes the Coalition’s reversion to the hype of $100 lamb roasts, as cynical, disinformation. In fact, renewables bring huge economic benefits.

The CSIRO’s Australian National Outlook report finds bold action on the uptake of renewables could lead to GDP growth of 2.76% to 2.8% annually, a 90% increase in real wages and net zero emissions by 2050.

Monday, Pravda is full of Morrison’s drop that Cabinet ministers, the National Farmers’ Federation and freight lobbyists are all calling for Anthony Albanese to cost his economy-wide target of net-zero emissions by 2050, despite all states in nation having already made their own independent commitment. It’s the same wedge tactics we heard from Tony Carbon-tax Abbott with his $100 lamb roast and Whyalla off the map hype.

Oddly, The Oz fails to include the relative cost of inaction — which the Climate Council estimates at over $2 trillion by 2050 for Australia’s agriculture, property and productivity sectors.

But ScoMo knows that when you’re a government in an abusive relationship with the electorate, you gaslight the nation, you insist repeatedly that renewables are so costly they will wreck the economy.  Or you make cryptic references to developing technologies – only to be blown out of the rapidly heating water in one of the best good news stories of the week.

“The technologies are here,” software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says as he announces a $12 million plan to fund solar and battery off-grid system to provide clean and reliable power to communities hit by bushfires and other disasters.

In delivering the first two of what could be one hundred off-grid solar and storage systems – using rapid solar deployed by Australia’s 5B, and Tesla batteries , Cannon Brookes is struck by how surprised people are that such technology is available now. They tell him they thought such technologies were a decade away.

Such misconception is rife in the general community as it is amongst our ruling class. Yet disinformation about energy and denigration of renewables is the mainstay of much of mainstream media – the Murdoch papers, Sky News and toxic talk-back radio’s investment in recycling ignorance, prejudice and superstition. Even our ABC is not immune. Who can forget or forgive Chris Uhlmann’s mis-reporting that the SA grid had collapsed not because of freak weather but because of over-reliance on renewables.

This Sunday, David Speers on ABC Insiders, whose objectivity is imperilled by its increasingly framing discussion by reiterating federal government policy, twits Albo eight times about a carbon price in the desperate search for a gotcha headline that is neither in the nation’s interest nor in the interest of informative, objective journalism.

At the arse-end of last week’s government by announceables and cheering ourselves on until we are hoarse over such big wins as an Aussie Coronavirus cure; a billion dollar spend for Tindal air base, near Katharine, to upgrade it to re-fuel US long-range bombers, a bit of maintenance on the US Alliance we must pay for ourselves, dynamic duo, Dan Tehan and Greg Hunt shuffle on stage right, Saturday to pin the tail on the donkey of the body politic, a Liberal party game of upbeat stuff and nonsense where self-congratulatory bullshit masquerades as fact.

This week’s show’s subtext is abuzz with feel-good fantasies. Good old Aussie know-how and “working around the clock” will produce an anti-Covid-19 Coronavirus vaccine any day soon, whereas, other scientists in other countries are also researching and any vaccine is years away from licence and use in the community.

Professor Warwick McKibbin, director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, argues that government money would be best spent on advertising public hygiene, given that simple hand-washing is the single, best preventative against the virus.

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has been contained in Australia, claims Hunt, a fair stretch, given that the Morrison government is again putting the interests of trade and investment ahead of any woke city latte-sippers’ concern for public health.

Worse. The much-vaunted China travel ban was relaxed last week when a series of its cargo ships were allowed to dock regardless of the compulsory 14 day exclusion period. Shocking as this may be it’s hardly a surprise.

If the travel rorts have taught us anything, it is that Morrison’s government is flexible in applying regulations. Yet Health Minister Hunt’s quite happy to take a punt on helping turn Covid-19 into a global pandemic, if there’s a quid in it. It’s our government keeping us safe.  Tarric Brooker in Independent Australia, notes,

By choosing to partially lift the China travel ban, the Morrison Government has chosen to bet the wellbeing of the Australian public on coronavirus statistics coming from the Chinese Government. The same government that lied about the impact of SARS and, even as late as January, was persecuting whistle-blowers who were trying to warn the world about coronavirus.

Yet Morrison’s government – can now add a brand new slogan. We’re the only party that didn’t stop the boats. New Zealand, on the other hand, has extended its ban on arrivals from mainland China into a fourth week, Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern announces Monday 24 February. The ban would be reviewed after that, she says.

Of course, it’s difficult to get a fix on the facts amidst background noise from other competing narratives; the cheering on of UQ researchers who are “just days away” from testing a COVID-19 vaccine on animals while dapper Dan’s on hand to spruik up getting “normality” back into the international student market.

Nothing is remotely normal about the international student market which Liberal con-artists such as Immigration Minister David Coleman claim is worth a whopping $35 billion in export revenue. Luckily, Dave was addressing Gerald Henderson’s Sydney Institute last August and no-one was paying much attention.

Coleman is wrong. It’s not export revenue, as Leith Van Onselen points out. International students studying in Australia are legally allowed to work 20 hours per week. Many also work illegally. Because the income earned is used to pay for either tuition fees or living expenses, it is not a true export but merely economic activity.

International students working and supporting themselves are no more an export than domestic students living away from home. It pays to take boasts about total numbers of international education exports with a grain of salt, however much Dan Tehan loves to blow his own trumpet. We just don’t know the facts.

Tehan dynasty scion, Dan, an Education Minister, who knows the price of everything we can charge a fee for and the value of nothing that accrues from study let alone learning, struggles a bit to get his message out.

The guts of it is that he’s going to take China’s reassurances at face value because we’ve got to get those Year 11 and Year 12 fee-paying students back into the country or all hope of any sacred surplus materialising is buggered.

In fact, given “political tensions” and diplomatic ineptitude, the result of our government’s US sycophancy, numbers of students from China are declining while those from India and Nepal are on the rise.

Leith Van Onselen worries given the ABC’s Four Corners expose of plagiarism, academic misconduct, and students from India failing their courses, that standards may be lowered in order that the government can pump up numbers.

Or, in other words, that we continue to prostitute our tertiary institutions to boost our “export” earnings, however, dodgy or “Gussied” up they may prove. Yet there’s no way to “Gussie up” or put lipstick on the pig of Morrison government’s energy debacle.

Our corrupt, coal-fired climate science denying Coalition is crippling investment in renewable energy, according to COAG’s Energy Security Board (ESB) which released its annual Health of the National Electricity Market report on Friday. It confirms recent reports that investment in renewable energy in Australia has slumped 40% in 2019.

Yet as Giles Parkinson writes in Renew Economy The only thing that is getting in the way of a zero emissions target is a government refusing to acknowledge it is possible. And that’s because it doesn’t set a plan that federal regulators and rule-makes can follow, and which can provide a signal to business and investors.

The ESB pulls no punches. It’s time we called sabotage for what it is. The Morrison government is sabotaging the uptake of renewables in order to build a case for the fossil fuel industries which are among its principal backers and donors.

In its report, the Energy Security Board observes

The lack of a strategic direction has led to stakeholders deferring investment in the maintenance and construction of new generation, especially in flexible dispatchable generation. This has increased reliability risks, undermined affordability and slowed progress on emissions reduction. It has also raised barriers to entry and constrained competition in the market. With political uncertainty investment planning becomes very difficult and this has impacts well beyond the electricity industry.

The undermining of affordability of renewables is exactly what those who drive the coal-powered Morrison puppet government desire. It is part of their game plan. With every delay and cynical evasion, the Morrison government reveals itself to be hopelessly, irretrievably corrupted; captives of a fossil fuel industry which is interested only in the profit that comes from expansion even if this means destroying the planet.

At a time when all around it, is the evidence of irreversible global heating, drought, catastrophic megafire, rather than take action to pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions the Morrison government prefers to play politics; weaponise climate change; rather than act in the best interests of the people it is elected to represent.

Labor’s pledge of net zero emissions by 2050 is neither controversial nor radical. Experts argue we should do much more. This week, it is abundantly clear, however, that the Morrison government, hopelessly in thrall to the coal and gas barons would rather wedge Labor than pursue an emissions policy which could help save the planet.

Its hoax of a technology target or goal is a ploy to get away with doing nothing when every indication from every expert is that we should do all we can and more.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor reduces our responsibility as global citizens to a despicable semantic quibble today. Australia has committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050 under the 2015 Paris Agreement?

“That’s incorrect,” said Taylor. “We signed up to the Paris Agreement, which involves the world achieving net zero in the second half of the next century.” We are not part of that world? Only a fool could be happy living in such a fool’s paradise.

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Comedy without art (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

At its heart, Australia is a system of representative government. More specifically, Australian parliamentary democracy is a variation of the Westminster system, the system which is characterised by responsible government.

The question is: responsible to whom? Both Her Majesty’s Australian Government and Her Majesty Loyal Opposition in Australia are responsible to the Queen – not to the people of Australia.

Now, the legislation enacted by the Parliament, the relative regulations, and also the international agreements and/or conventions freely acceded to and ratified by Australia must be regarded as the body of laws which is called, briefly, ‘the rule of law’. There is quite frequent reference to that in the statement. See, for instance, pp. 4 and 9 thereof.

It seems that there should be a kind of reciprocity between the government and the people: the government respects the law that Parliament has enacted or received as much and as long as the subjects do the same. It could be a condition for the protection of the people by and from the government.

The government commands and enforces respect for the ‘rule of law’ and at the same time protects the people within ‘strong borders’ and guarantees ‘strong national security.’ It is the statement proclaiming that much on p. 11, where the statement adds: “This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open, inclusive, free and safe society.” [Emphasis added]

The Australian Government of the time largely contributed to the wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), where Article 14 (1) reads: ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’ (Thank you Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt). Nowadays that means absolutely nothing in Canberra.

Successive Australian governments have acceded to, ratified and made the law of the land what is largely referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights, which is the name given to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) and two international treaties established by the Organisation. The Bill consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). The two covenants entered into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them. Australia was one such country.

Australian governments have entered into other treaties and conventions. To the extent that those instruments relate to the condition of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, every single one of those treaties has been violated by the Australian governments of the last twenty five years, including the present.

As Christos Tsiolkas wrote on 25 March 2017 in an extract from his foreword to They cannot take the sky – Stories of detention (Sydney 2017), apropos the “destructive national debate about asylum seekers”, “In all the screaming across the parliament floor or on social media, we forget that the asylum seeker and the refugee is a real person, with a real body and a real consciousness, that they are as human as we are.”

And he went on:

“For nearly two decades now, Australian politics has been corrupted by a toxic and destructive national debate about asylum seekers and refugees. Unfortunately, fought out as much across media – traditional and digital – as it has in our parliament, the issue of asylum has become inexorably entwined with our security and existential fears arising from the threats of international terrorism.

Our leaders, across the political spectrum, have failed in the democratic imperative to ensure a cogent and humane approach to the issue. In fanning the hysteria of partisanship they have betrayed our trust. That great leveller, history, will ultimately judge us on what kind of country we created for ourselves at the beginning of the 21st century. This isn’t the place for political analysis.”

“We know that the detention centres we have built on our continent, on Nauru and on Manus Island, are not places we would ever countenance imprisoning Australians. We know what we have done. We don’t need history to instruct us on that.”

As Primo Levi had been reduce to number 174517 at Auschwitz, so we have turned all ‘undesirables’ into numbers at Nauru and Manus Island.

Such is the respect for ‘the rule of law’ by Australian governments since 1992.

One concluding observation: the 20 March Turnbull Statement on Multiculturalism boasts of Australia as “the most successful in the world.” Well, it depends on whom you are reading and to whom you are talking.

If one is talking about multiculturalism as expressing cultural diversity and/or ethnic diversity, then one could hear different voices.

A recent work by the respectable Pew Research Center presented the study of cultural diversity and economic development by researcher Erkan Gören of the University of Oldenberg in Germany.

In his paper, Gören measured the amount of cultural diversity in each of more than 180 countries. To arrive at his estimates, he combined data on ethnicity and race with a measure based on the similarity of languages spoken by major ethnic or racial groups. “The hypothesis is that groups speaking the same or highly related languages should also have similar cultural values,” affirmed Gören. He used his language and ethnicity measures to compute a cultural diversity score for each country which ranged from 0 to 1, with larger scores indicating more diversity and smaller values representing less.

Not unusually, the list of culturally diverse countries is headed by Chad, with Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo following. (In Chad in north-central Africa 8.6 million residents belong to more than 100 ethnic groups). These and other African countries typically rank high on any diversity index because of their multitude of tribal groups and languages. According to Gören, the only ‘western’ country to break into the top 20 most diverse is, again, Canada.

Such data should be observed with considerable caution: cultural diversity is a different concept from ethnic diversity. As a result, a map of the world reflecting ethnic diversity looks somewhat different from the one based on Gören’s cultural diversity measure which combines language and ethnicity profiles of a country.

The Harvard Institute of Economic Research developed a map similar to the one offered by Gören’s findings.

Still, a comparison of the Harvard and Goren maps shows that the most diverse countries in the world are found in Africa. Such conclusion could have been a source of worry for Mr. Turnbull, permanently concerned as he was about his difficult relations with the troglodytes at his right and with most of the ‘Nationals’.

The cave-men, and probably some of their women, would feel more comfortable with the dreams of Menzies and his “British to the bootstraps”, or the menaces of Howard and his “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” than with looking, if they ever look at such things, for a real multicultural experience and finding it in … Chad. The comparison with Toronto comes back here: in Toronto there live 53 per cent ‘Whites’, 7 per cent Blacks, and 40 per cent ‘Others’. Every member of the Melbournian bene society would be entitled to worry. What? Some 250,000 Blacks going about in Melbourne? There is enough to hear about ‘being swamped’ by them!

And how would Mr. Turnbull have reacted if faced with a motion similar to the one passed by 201 votes to 91 on 24 March 2017 by the Canadian Parliament? On that day, the Parliament adopted a landmark anti-Islamophobia and religious discrimination motion which calls on politicians to condemn anti-Islamic behaviour and rhetoric. It called on the Canadian Government to recognise the need to “quell the public climate of fear and hate.”

It is worth reproducing that motion verbatim:

“Whereas: “Islam is a religion of over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Since its founding more than 1400 years ago, Muslims have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the positive development of human civilization. This encompasses all areas of human endeavors including the arts, culture, science, medicine, literature, and much more;

Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and

These violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world.

We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”

How can one even imagine such a thing happening in Canberra?

Try.

Beyond the words which decorate the composition of a multiethnic society such as Australia, and coming to the real substance of life – and in Australia that is money – it remains a reality that in multicultural Australia as described, the levers of command in the corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly in the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ hands.

“Anyone that sounds different, behaves different, or has somewhat different views  –  which is the point of diversity and the strength of diversity – it can be a little hard to get into the club.” the chairwoman of the Asian Australian Foundation, Cheri Ong, told the A.B.C.

A look at the statistics bears out Ms. Ong’s point.

In the past few decades Australia has become a very different country.

Only 58 per cent of Australians still have British roots; 18 per cent are European; 21 per cent non-European; and 3 per cent of Australians are Indigenous.

By contrast, in the big end of town, three quarters of C.E.O.s are from British heritage and 18 per cent from Europe, meaning a total of 93 per cent are white.

And in the boardroom, 70 per cent of directors come from a British background.

A detailed breakdown of the other 30 per cent is not available, but they include directors from other white, first-world, countries.”’

And there is more.

“But as tough as it is for people like Ms. Long [chairwoman of A.M.P. Capital Funds Management] and Ms. Ong to become directors, there’s one group that’s completely shut out, and that’s Indigenous Australians.

I think it probably stems from the generations of exclusion of Indigenous Australians from mainstream Australi,” said Ms. Laura Berry, who is the C.E.O. of Supply Nation, a company which links Indigenous businesses with the big end of town.

As an Indigenous person making her way in the business world, Ms. Berry has no doubt there are many Aboriginal people more than capable of being company directors.

Ms. Ong had one more interesting comment: “With company boards so un-reflective of Australian society, inevitably the issue of targets, or even quotas, gets raised in discussions about how to fix the problem.

Targets and quotas actually force boards to actually explore the option, and I think that’s where as a mechanism, in a tool-kit for change, that progresses the cause, if you like,” Ms. Ong said.

Targets and quotas have been shown to work in boosting the percentage of women on company boards, but as in the gender-diversity debate, there is one issue that’s also very important on dealing with cultural diversity.

“And that is it’s not what you know but who[m] you know that can determine your board prospects.

“If you didn’t go to that private school and you didn’t meet at university, or play in the rugby club together, then it’s really hard to have that network in place to be able to be considered in the first place,” Ms. Berry lamented. (A. Robertson, ‘In multicultural Australia, corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon,’ abc.net.au, 2 October 2018).

Despite the claim to multiculturalism prejudice remain. It is not possible to dismiss that as recently in October 2018 a question was seriously being asked such as: “How much prejudice is there against Australians of Greek and Italian descent in Australia?

Interestingly one of the respondents noted: “Growing up as Greek Australian I did face some prejudice and discrimination, especially during my early school years where I had an ethnic name and could’t speak English properly. I did change my name to an Anglo name when I moved to a different school, but I still got some racial hate. The high school I went to, there was a clear distinction between the ‘skips/Aussies’ (Australians of Anglo and Celtic descent) and the ‘wogs’ (Australians of southern Europe, Balkan and Middle Eastern descent). There were constant racial fuelled fights during lunch breaks and even after school hours w[h]ere the groups would meet at certain locations and fight. I did repeatedly get told to ‘go back to my country you wog’, have been spat on, was called s ‘greasy hair wog’ and stuff like that. Even some teachers had obvious biases too. But I never paid much attention to it.

We have integrated into society quite well and, in fact, some Greeks and Italians now don’t acknowledge their own heritage. [Emphasis added]

There are still isolated incidences [sic] that do come up every now and then. But for the most part, it is limited to really backward thinking Bogans (Australia’s equivalent to a redneck). Most of us live our lives in peace and the prejudice and discrimination we once faced is a thing of the past.”

Xian Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at University of Toronto at Mississauga, in a study appearing in Social psychological and personality science has observed that “We do not suggest immigrants to Anglicise their ethnic names in order to avoid discrimination” and “This certainly puts the onus on immigrants to promote equity and our previous studies also suggest that Anglicising names may have  negative implications for one’s self-concept.” (‘Biases Against Immigrants With Non-Anglicized Names’, eurasiareview.com, 27 December 2018).

There being no question as to existence of prejudice against minorities in Australia, one may well ask: is Australia racist? The question has disturbed and is returning from time to time amongst persons seriously concerned.

One of the biggest ever survey conducted on racism and prejudice in Australia was commissioned early in 2018 by Special Broadcasting Service with the Western Sydney University.

Professor Kevin Dunn, from Western Sydney University, led the survey of just over 6,000 respondents and examined issues including attitudes to cultural differences, tolerance of specific groups and racial hierarchy.

The conclusion was that one in five Australians had experienced racism in the previous twelve months.

More specifically:

  1. 31.6 per cent of respondents claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Muslim Australians, 22.4 per cent claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Middle-­‐Eastern Australians while only 9 per cent had negative feelings towards Aboriginal Australians.
  2. 36.4 per cent believe the number of immigrants accepted into Australia is too high or much too high.
  3. 41.1 per cent believe Australia is weakened by people of different ethnicities sticking to their old ways.
  4. 20.5 per cent believe that African refugees increase crime in Australia. Men and older participants were more likely to believe that African refugees increase crime.
  5. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experienced racism within their workplace. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experience racism within an educational facility.
  6. Those who belong to a Language Other Than English, LOTE background reported the highest rates of workplace racism (54.1 per cent) and racism within various educational institutions (55.8 per cent).
  7. The experience of racism on public transport or in the street was the highest at 34.1 per cent, followed by at a shop or shopping centre at 32.2 per cent. Online experiences of racism were also quite high at 28.2 per cent.
  8. Those of LOTE background experienced the highest rates of discrimination in shops/shopping centres (56.9 per cent), on public transport or in the street (58.2 per cent), and online (49.1 per cent).
  9. 48.6 per cent believe people from racial, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities groups should behave more like mainstream Australians.
  10. 54.4 per cent of respondents agreed that Australia should help refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland.43 per cent believe that all boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back. (M. Acharya, ‘Is Australia racist? Here are 10 stunning stats?’, sbs.com.au, 8 April 2018).

When Dr. Tim Southphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, gave his final speech ahead of stepping down on 20 August 2018, his message struck a sombre tone. Racial disharmony is on the rise, he lamented.

Dr. Soutphommasane warned that Australia’s success as a multicultural society is under threat. This threat is not from extreme factional groups or mask-wearing fascists, it is from the mainstream of Australian public life. So wrote Professor Carl Rhodes, of the University of Technology, Sydney

The real danger, Dr. Southphommasane argued, comes from “dog-whistling politicians” and “race-baiting commentators” eager to harness populist attention through the careless “mixing of race and politics”. Just about a week later, Senator Fraser Anning proved how devastatingly true that was when he called for a “final solution” to “ethnocultural diversity” in Australia in his first speech to Parliament.

“There is much more to the resurgence of cultural and gender politics in Australia than that.” wrote Professor Rhodes.” More than the playing out democratic differences, this is the acting out of white male privilege in a democracy fast turning to tyranny.

It is an absolute affront to democracy, at least insofar as democracy is understood in terms of a way of life that values equality over elite privilege.

“Nowhere is the reality of [white male] privilege more blatantly obvious than in the workplace – a location where the intersection of whiteness and masculinity dominate top leadership,” wrote Professor Rhodes. And he confirmed that “Recent research reveals that 95 per cent of corporate executives have Anglo-Celtic or European heritage. Despite comprising almost half the workforce, only 5 per cent of C.E.O.s are women. A third of those companies have no women at all in executive roles.”

For the past two decades, the gender pay gap has favoured men by between 15 and 19 per cent. Of women, 28 per cent report having been sexually harassed at work.

Clearly, the comfort and spoils of the Australian workplace are disproportionally skewed towards white men on a vast scale. Only staunch advocates of patriarchal white supremacy would have the audacity to suggest Australia is an equal society when it comes to gender and cultural difference at work.

The brute facts of white male dominance in the workplace – and politics – demonstrate that the promise of equality that is built into the very idea of democracy is not being kept. (C. Rhodes, ‘Anning and Latham fight for a white male privilege ‘final solution’, independentaustralia.net, 17 August 2018).

As Dr. Soutphommasane intimated, “If there is now political unity against racism let’s start seeing that unity and leadership every day. No more racial hysteria about “African gangs”. No more false alarms about multicultural “separatism”. No more assaults on racial equality and the Racial Discrimination Act.”

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 5)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 3)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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The damage Scott Morrison and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades

You could probably divide the world’s adult population into three groups. Those who have minds open to accepting new knowledge, those who have trouble absorbing anything that requires re-thinking what they have always accepted – and those who refuse to even consider that what they already know might not, in reality, be correct.

The essential scientific process is based on probability – an area which leaves many people a lot poorer after backing the wrong horse! In fact, the failure of education authorities to provide as many as possible of their students with a proper grounding in statistics and probability, enables a great many charlatans – political and otherwise – to flourish!

The scientist formulates an hypothesis to explain certain phenomena, gathers and then examines all possible evidence for the null hypothesis (i.e. that their hypothesis is false) and finally tests the power or probability that the null hypothesis is indeed true. They set a very high bar, and the whole process is very clearly documented so that fellow scientists, in the same specialist area, can repeat the process and compare results – this is what is known as peer review.

This makes it clear they are actually going in to bat for the opposition, as it were, and trying to prove their hypothesis is false – which should reassure those who believe that scientists are trying to prove their own theories!

You need to understand that peer reviewed research, when published, provides evidence of research which has been repeated and/or checked by other than the original specialist scientist, and which establishes scientific knowledge or fact – until and unless subsequent research updates those facts. Opinion has no place in this process and opinions provided by scientists in other discipline areas – unaccompanied by peer reviewed reports – carry no weight whatsoever.

Opinions published by those with neither scientific credentials nor, in particular, expert knowledge in the specific specialist area, should carry no weight and are simply smoke and mirrors, attempting to discredit, for whatever motive, information about the real scientific facts. Sadly, this succeeds far too often. The shock jocks are a source of misinformation for the gullible and should be banned, IMHO! They won’t be, because the profit motive beats social responsibility hands down!

Science and religion have fought many wars over the centuries.

Clearly documented, and available to all, is information on how the Catholic Church (and other Christian sects) have promoted the Holy Bible as being the word of god, and everything in that book is regarded as incontrovertible fact.

In fact, some religious so-called educators still promote the creationist theory – in flat contradiction of accepted knowledge of the development of the known universe.

Belief and opinion are often enemies of truth and at present we are witnessing the consequences of letting belief, opinion and vested interests, subvert public information and delay action which was shown, decades ago, to be necessary to avert catastrophic climate conditions.

Our current Prime Minister proudly boasts of his religious affiliations – a boast which should at once raise our suspicions that his judgement is biased and therefore faulty in any area which involves science!

His background as a failed marketer is responsible for his current, underhand way of promoting himself and fund-raising for the Liberal party in the guise of an information post on social media, linked to the Liberal party ‘Donate’ page!

He can’t help himself, because, on the evidence, he apparently is incapable of understanding the image he projects.

His party members are happy, because he has succeeded in leading them to an unexpected third term in government, but the damage he and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades – and may shorten many lives.

Throughout their current dominance in politics, the Coalition have promoted themselves as being better at managing the economy – and compliant media have supported this myth.

It seems that few people are aware of how massively the Australian debt has blown out since the Coalition undertook to restore the economy to balance. People do not understand national finances enough to realise that achieving a surplus is simply saying that, in the current fiscal year, the government will actually receive in taxes of all sorts – and from the sale of the country’s assets (thank you so much Peter Costello!) – more than it actually spends on services, while failing to mention that “As at July 1 2018, the budget estimate of net debt in Australia was about A$341.0 billion, up from A$174.5 billion in September 2013, when the Coalition took office. That’s an increase of A$166.5 billion, or roughly 95%, over almost five years.”

Fact Check: has Australia’s net debt doubled under the current government?

And when it comes to cutting services to achieve a surplus, what is the cost of damage to lives engendered by processes like Robodebt?

Emphasis on ‘fiscal rectitude’ has camouflaged incredible human damage, wherein the poor lack support and the borderline are actual driven into poverty and suicide.

And looming over all this is a genuine existential crisis which our government refuses to recognise by promoting appropriate actions.

It is worth repeating what everyone knows – Australia’s efforts alone will have minimal impact on world conditions but if every country took that same attitude, we are all doomed.

In fact, a significant number of countries, and States within a country in the case of the USA, are making great strides in developing policies which radically reduce the use of fossil fuels and counter pollution.

The start of serious efforts has come so late that we will be playing catch-up if we are to bequeath to our grandchildren a world in which they can do better than merely exist.

We need every innovation to be explored and every viable invention put into action.

We still have time – just – but, under this government, Australia appears to totally lack understanding of what is required.

The Prime Minister only returned early from a totally ill-timed holiday because his reputation was taking a public battering.

He only developed a policy to support the fire-fighters because he was pressured into doing so.

Initially he only offered financial support to volunteer firies in NSW – his home state – until he was made aware that it had to be a national offer.

Instead of having an experienced Public Service to advise him, he has been relying on advice from political advisers.

Their advice is directed to keeping him in power – not into doing what is right for Australia!

There are so many things on which we could expect our national government to be formulating national policy, while we have a Prime Minister who seems intent on throwing all responsibility to the State governments!

If our accidental PM had a vestige of commonsense, he would be forming a national, non-partisan government, including representatives from all states and political areas, plus experts from the CSIRO and other appropriate scientific and service organisations to deal with the climate emergency, housing those displace by the fires, related employment and food production issues – you could make your own list – it is endless and needs careful prioritising.

We are at war with the elements and the country needs to be on a wartime footing.

Can you do it, Prime Minister?

If you do not have the bottle, then step aside and let others take on a job which appears to demand more than you can give.

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

Will you join me and get out on the streets – maybe Australia Day would be appropriate? – and tell those whom we rashly elected that they need to go because they are not governing for us!

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