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Search Results for: the masters of scare

John Lord’s Election Diary No. 5: The masters of scare. It’s like watching the best of “Yes, Prime Minister”

Easter with interruptions for religious observation has certainly dampened the campaigning of both sides.

However, Saturday certainly saw a revitalised Bill Shorten but it seemed that just as he was getting on top it was Sunday.

So in the absence of a lot to write about I thought I would write a piece on scare campaigning. As is my usual practice I gather all my information and peruse it before beginning.

I always do a search on Google looking for facts to support my argument and for anything that might complement my own thoughts, or indeed, correct them.

In this instance I typed in “scare campaigns of the Liberal Party” and I was not surprised to find that the first three pages were full of links written about Coalition scare campaigns.

In this instance I wanted to show that the Liberal Party are the masters of scare so I also draw from a piece I wrote in 2016. (Albeit rehashed).

Contrary to what people may think, I believe all the scare campaigning is doing it is reinforcing the view that the Coalition is being led by negative leaders, with a destructive Ministry followed by a group of deleterious people all arguing with each other about how extremist they want to be.

The reason they find themselves in the predicament they are in is because they are guilty of the abuse of our democracy and as a result the public has said enough is enough.

We need to know that what you are telling us is the truth. We want you to reform the system so that it is transparent, honourable and reflects the fact that your interest is in us, not you. We want no more of the same old same old. You need not just restore our democracy but improve it. Change has to come.

The past 6 years has been shameful. At this election if you cannot demonstrate that you can do these things then we will come at you with baseball bats. Make that cricket bats.

Those of my vintage will well remember Robert Menzies’ “Reds under your beds.”

We are to be invaded by the red hordes from the north,” he shouted loud and clear in every election campaign he participated in.

I remember as a young boy seeing pictures on posters in trams, in the newspapers, and news shorts at the cinema with pictures depicting the communist hordes thrusting their way towards us. There were others with hundreds of Chinese rolling across Sydney Harbour Bridge in their rickshaws with guns and communist flags.

Both the Trade Unions and Labor were pursued with vigorous anti-communist slurs and scare campaigns for decades.

Tony Abbott in his tenure as both Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, on a daily basis sought to place the public in a perpetual state of shock and awe.

Remember his daily visits to businesses resulting in another deceit about a carbon tax. A Sunday roast was going to cost $100 (screamed Barnaby Joyce) and Whyalla was going to be wiped of the map. He insinuated a crisis around every corner every day. Pathetically so, without fact or reason. Yes, the Carbon Tax was going to wreck the Australian economy.

ISIS is coming to get us. And you personally. His scare campaigns were relentless dirty gutter politics. He stopped at nothing to frighten the shit out of people. It was like being on a permanent war footing.

He promoted fear like a legitimate political weapon and wielded it unapologetically.

He created a budget crisis saying that all hell was going to cut loose.

Lie after contemptible lie was told, terrifying the people into believing that the Australian economy was about to collapse.

Amazingly when they gained office we found no crisis. It was just shrill politics from a demented politician.

They had conducted a scare campaign about budget deficits and government debt, but in government Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey forgot all about it.

Make no mistake; the conservatives have been running scare campaigns for decades. Who will forget Phil Ruddock demonising Asylum Seekers always referring to them as illegals? Never in their scare mongering did they have the dignity to treat these folk as human beings.

Ruddock even told us that refugees were so evil, inhuman and violent that they throw their own children overboard. He went on to say that they were bringing diseases to our country.

Nothing was left out in their putrid zest for demonising these people.

Scott Morrison, the ‘Hillsong Christian’ at one time even went out of his way to encourage his party to be more destructive with their damnation. “Praise the Lord.”

Had Abbott continued in office their smearing of Muslims may well have reached its zenith during the election campaign. It is a scare campaign that in its longevity has shown the right of Australians to be the masters of scare.

John Howard, together with Bush and Blair with the use of blatant lies scared the world into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The consequences of the scare campaign are well known. In Australia we are constantly reminded by the right about terrorists and of course Muslims. Thanks, John.

More recently Liberal anti everything back-benchers conducted a scare campaign against the ‘Safe Schools’ legislation.

We have been told that Labor’s negative gearing proposal would wreck the property market and during the election that a Labor/Green alliance would be one of chaos.

In 2019 we have had Tim Wilson’s scare about Franking credits.

From borders to bankers the Prime Minister’s adoption of scare campaigns is straight out of the series “Yes, Prime Minister” and with the 2019 Election well underway Scott Morrison has about 5 campaigns under way simultaneously.

None worse than the latest one that the Greens and Labor have signed an agreement to, if they win, introduce an inheritance tax.


Prime Minister Jim Hacker: “Sir Humphrey, do sit down. There is a matter of great importance I wish to discuss with you.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes Prime Minister, aren’t they all?”

Prime Minister: “What was that?”

Sir Humphrey. “Oh nothing, Sir, I have been thinking about the beginning of our election campaign.”

Prime Minister: “How on earth did you know that was what I wanted to talk to you about?”

Sir Humphrey: “Well I didn’t, Prime Minister but may I suggest a scare campaign to kick off with. Now I know you haven’t been thunderous successes.”

Prime Minister: “What?”

Sir Humphrey: “The party, Sir. I was alluding to the state of the party. Anyway if I may continue.”

Prime Minister: “Yes, yes, let’s get on with it.”

Sir Humphrey: “Well as I was saying, Sir, ideally I was thinking of a scare campaign to begin with. We are historically very good at those. However this one is a little more complicated. You see we have to entice everyone into thinking that we are the best party to manage money, which isn’t true of course, but nevertheless we tell them that just as we have many times before and they will believe it.

At the same time we tell them how well things are going and convince them that if Labor get in there will be a recession. And we do it without you mentioning the R word. Everyone else can but you deny you ever said it.

Remember, we don’t need to tell the truth. We are only trying to convince the ignorant. Scare them, no educate them. The purpose of propaganda is to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you.

You see less-informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware. We therefore, feed them all the bullshit they need. And our menu generally contains a fair portion of untruths

And that should leave room to explain why we dumped Malcolm.”

Prime Minister: “And why did we?”

Sir Humphrey: “Because he can’t handle money.”

Prime Minister: ”But he is a multi-millionaire.”

Sir Humphrey: “Good heavens, man, life is not about what is, but what we perceive it to be.”

Prime Minister: “But, Sir Humphrey.”

Sir Humphrey: “Please don’t interrupt, Prime Minister. That wasn’t what I thought you meant at all. I know when he says something and I take it to mean one thing he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard at all.

You see now you are saying isn’t what I thought he said. It is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I said was only my interpretation of what he meant. I mean, did he say what he meant or did he mean to say what he meant or was what he meant really just a perception of what he meant.”

Prime Minister: “I think I understand now, Sir Humphrey.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes, Prime Minister, what does it mean?

Prime Minister: “If you tell enough lies people will eventually believe whatever you tell them.”

Sir Humphrey: “Bravo Prime Minister. That’s how we start our election campaign. We continue on as usual.”

Prime Minister: “Brilliant, Sir Humphrey.”

Sir Humphrey: “Yes, Prime Minister.”

My thought for the day

The Government are service providers and it takes money. A lot of it. Cutting taxes doesn’t build schools, hospitals and aged care services. It’s rather like thinking you can do something about climate change without any money.

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Day to Day Politics: This will frighten you.

Friday 15 July 2016

Coming from a party with a long history of frightening people the conservative’s accusation of a scare campaign on Medicare is an affront to ones sensibilities.

Those of my vintage will well remember Robert Menzies’ “Reds under your beds”. “We are to be invaded by the red hordes from the north” he shouted loud and clear in every election campaign he participated in.

I remember as a young boy seeing pictures on posters in trams, in the newspapers, and shorts at the cinema with pictures depicting the communist hordes thrusting their way towards us. There were others with hundreds of Chinese rolling across Sydney Harbour Bridge in their rickshaws with guns and communist flags.

Both the Trade Unions and Labor were pursued with vigorous anti-communist slurs and scare campaigns for decades.

Tony Abbott in his tenure as both Opposition Leader and Prime Minister, on a daily basis sought to place the public in a perpetual state of shock and awe. Remember his daily visits to businesses resulting in another deceit about a carbon tax. A Sunday roast was going to cost $100 (screamed Barnaby Joyce) and Whyalla was going to be wiped of the map. He insinuated a crisis around every corner every day. Pathetically so, without fact nor reason. Yes, the Carbon Tax was going to wreck the Australian economy.

ISIS are coming to get us. And you personally. His scare campaigns were relentless dirty gutter politics. He stopped at nothing to frighten the shit out of people. It was like being on a permanent war footing.

He promoted fear like a legitimate political weapon and wielded it unapologetically.

He created a budget crisis saying that all hell was going to cut loose. Lie after contemptible lie was told, terrifying the people into believing that the Australian economy was about to collapse.

Amazingly when they gained office we found no crisis. It was just shrill politics from a demented politician.

They had conducted a scare campaign about budget deficits and government debt, but in government Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey forgot all about it.

Make no mistake, the conservatives have been running scare campaigns for decades. Who will forget Phil Ruddock demonising Asylum Seekers always referring to them as illegals? Never in their scare mongering did they had the dignity to treat these folk as human beings.

Ruddock even told us that refugees were so evil and inhuman and violent that they throw their own children overboard. He went on to say that they were bringing diseases to our country. Nothing was left out in their putrid zest for demonising these people.

Scott Morrison, the ‘Hillsong Christian’ at one time even went out of his way to encourage his party to be more destructive with their damnation. Praise the Lord.

Had Abbott continued in office their smearing of Muslims may well have reached its zenith during the election campaign. It is a scare campaign that in its longevity has shown the right of Australians to be the masters of scare.

John Howard, together with Bush and Blair with the use of blatant lies scared the world into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The consequences of the scare campaign are well-known. In Australia we are constantly reminded by the right about terrorists and of course Muslims. Thanks, John.

More recently Liberal anti everything backbenchers conducted a scare campaign against the ‘Safe Schools’ legislation. We have been told that Labor’s negative gearing proposal would wreck the property market and during the election that a Labor/Green alliance would be one of chaos.

Their extravagance of language in these matters knows no bounds. Which of course makes their accusation of a Labor Medicare scare campaign bereft of historical conscience.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what sort of scare campaign Bernardi and his fellow homophobic MPs will mount during the marriage equality plebiscite but it’s sure to be chilling.

In other words, ‘they have form’ as Australians are apt to say.

So it is the height of hypocrisy to hear the conservative parties complain of a Mediscare campaign.

Malcolm Turnbull’s sullen and perplexing speech on election night blaming a result he didn’t anticipate, was full of shrill rhetoric about a well-funded Mediscare campaign. He blamed Mediscare on an unwelcome result.

What we saw was a deeply disappointed man unable to objectively point to the real reasons for a horrific performance.

An objective leader might have done some internal critical analysis and found himself wanting. He might also have questioned a hollow plan for jobs and growth.

Was it a scare campaign? There will be differing opinions. In my view a scare campaign usually has no substance in fact. In this case there was enough superficial evidence, at least, to suggest that if the conservatives had no plans to rid themselves of Medicare they certainly planned to play havoc with it. In my view Bill Shorten was correct to say that Medicare was under threat.

You only have to look at the conservative’s historical attitude to Medicare. They have been against it since Whitlam introduced it in 1974. Fraser tried to get rid of it. Hawke restored it.

They would try again if it were not for the public’s support of the programme. Conservative governments have always tried to destroy it using various methods. Turnbull’s government is no different.

Dr George Venturini in his excellent series on this blog “The facets of Australian fascism: the Abbott Government experiment (Part 40)” has this to say on fear:

“The State lives on fear. Today, it is the fear of ‘terrorists’, which is a manufactured threat, meant to scare people into handing over their rights and dignity to the tricksters in power. “Our twentieth century is the century of fear,” wrote Camus in his article ‘The century of fear’ for Combat, the newspaper which had supported the French Resistance to Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Camus said that fear could be regarded as a developed science”.

My thought for the day.

“How is it possible for the inherited rich and privileged to understand poverty – how can those with the means to pay medical costs understand the inability of those in ill-health who cannot?”


It’s not the economy, stupid, it’s climate change that matters most to the nation.

“In climate change, there will never be enough figures to satisfy the climate sceptics. If you don’t believe in the science of climate change, no amount of evidence will ever convince you because, fundamentally, it’s a stupid position not to take action,” Labor’s leader squelches a popular press narrative in Darwin Tuesday. The News Corp story is a “bait the left” stunt is that Labor’s emissions policy target will cost business $25 billion.

Bill-baiting starts Tuesday. 10 “News First” Jonathan Lea asks, “When can voters learn more about Labor’s emission reduction target, how you will get there and the cost to the economy?”  Read their policy?

A “look at me” moment from a TV journalist, to engineer a sense of something at stake, says The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy who has her own thoughtful analysis of a policy which has been available since December.

It’s not perfect. Labor’s carbon trading raises questions. No carbon budget exists yet, given the hyper partisan state of our energy debate, but it’s way ahead of a Coalition driven by a group of climate change deniers.

Malcolm Turnbull helpfully enters the fray, swinging at ScoMo, his nemesis, Sunday, alleging that by dumping the national energy guarantee, (NEG) Scott Morrison’s captain’s recall will drive up electricity prices. Turnbull takes issue with a Daily Telegraph column by Sky News’ David Speers on the NEG and electricity prices.

Turnbull takes exception to Speers’ characterisation of the NEG as “Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee”.  The NEG had support from cabinet and ScoMo. It is no longer policy only because of a “right wing minority” revolt in the party room: a few MPs threatened to cross the floor unless the NEG was dropped.

Disregarding the many flaws in the NEG, Turnbull argues, “The consequence is no integration of energy and climate policy, uncertainty continues to discourage investment with the consequence, as I have often warned, of both higher emissions and higher electricity prices.” In a parting shot at Labor, the former PM helpfully calculates Labor will have to find about $35 billion through carbon credits purchased offshore by 2030.

A small fraction of the economy would be affected, argues ANU economist, Professor Warwick McKibbin. The Morrison government policy to reduce carbon emissions would subtract about 0.4 per cent from the economy by 2030, he reckons, despite much criticism of Direct Action’s usefulness and Labor’s would do the same.

But long range forecasts are fraught. And why must cost dominate? William Richard Shorten remonstrates.

“This has been a 10-year torture on climate change, where the climate has got worse, the extreme weather events have got worse, and this government is still trying to delay and discourage.”

Australians are united on global warming.  New research from The Australia Institute, puts the lie to myths of a North/South divide: most voters in all states and a majority across political allegiances want the government to mobilise all of society, “like they mobilised everyone during the world wars”, to tackle global warming.

Instead, the Coalition mobilises a scare campaign to panic electors. Labor will massively tax superannuation. Business will go bust with the extra costs of international carbon credits.  Labor’s climate change policy is Carbon Tax 2.0 which will impose MASSIVE costs on Australians. Basic, diversionary tactics help it evade scrutiny of the $40 billion in spending cuts required to pay for the Coalition’s promised tax breaks.

The prospect of any cuts upsets the states. Treasurers in Victoria, Qld, WA, the ACT and the Northern Territory write to fledgling Federal Treasurer Frydenberg, this week asking him to “confirm that there will be no further funding cuts to hospitals, schools, infrastructure and other essential services that Australians rely on.”

Their letter points out that a $40 billion cut in spending “is more than the Commonwealth’s entire annual contribution to the states and territories for health ($22.8 billion) or education ($21.5 billion) in 2019-20”.

Along with its Kill Bill campaign and ScoMo’s nervous tic of naming Bill Shorten twice at least in every sentence, the Coalition attacks Labor’s electric vehicle target of 50% of all new car sales by 2030; a government fleet target of 50% by 2025 and 20% tax deductions for businesses purchasing electric vehicles (EVs) with witty retro word-play; Bill’s Car-Bon tax. Suddenly we’re back in 2013 with the Mad Monk Abbott.

Meanwhile, astonishingly, our accidental PM morphs into a clear communicator, admired for his consultative style by key stakeholders in an explosion of spin from his turd polishing unit which even has a piece on The BBC News website. Yet Scott Morrison cannot, so far, voice a single reason for toppling Turnbull. Instead he is photographed in business suit and RM Williams boots clod-hopping carrot fronds in Tasmania.

“What’s over there?”, he power-points, as all leaders must, on camera. “Carrots” says a minder. On a carrot farm? What will they think of next? Root vegetables deracinated, plant husbandry done, an honest tiller of the soil for a whole photo-op, hands dirty, ScoMo turns to ask reporters, “How shifty is Bill Shorten?” As he does.

ScoMo’s parody of John Cleese as Minister of Silly Walks may well win over a few Monty Python fans and those who warm to visual puns about carrot incentives and Easter Bunny (EB). But is it wise? EB’s role may be already taken by the lovely “Dutts” as Home Affairs’ Dutton is known to sycophants such as Hunt and Sukkar.

Peter Dutton is Labor’s Easter Bunny, their secret weapon, notes Paul Bongiorno in The Saturday Paper, who observes that Dutton’s abortive coup, (his numbers’ man Mathias Cormann botched the arithmetic), is a living reminder of the dysfunction and deep division that is today’s post-modern conservative Liberal Party. And a reminder of Morrison’s curiously confected legitimacy, his party’s antidote to having Dutton elected leader.

Dutton is toxic in Victoria, Labor research finds. He may even be the most unpopular Liberal politician in living memory, a keenly-contested title. ScoMo’s campaign stump in Deakin with local MP, Michael Sukkar, a Dutton numbers man, is briefly diverted when a wag hack asks whether the odium Victoria reserves for Morrison has anything to do with Sukkar’s judgement that “Peter Dutton should have been the leader of the Liberal Party?”

Luckily the government has campaign strategists and consultants CT Group to lead them onward; upward. There’s a bit of static about gorgeous George Christensen’s neglect of electoral duties in Dawson, QLD. “The Member for Manila”, as wags dub him, love-struck George spent seventy days each year, visiting April Asuncion, his fiancée in The Philippines for the last four years.

“He’s a human being,” David Littleproud offers a conjugal defence but Dawson voters may argue he’s their MP, first. At least his long-distance romance keeps him off the streets; away from Reclaim Australia Rallies.

On the streets, a Liberal Party advertising truck tools around Canberra, a city Walter Burley Griffin designed for “a country of bold democrats”“Labor will tax you to death” its slogan runs, a hoax which invokes rumours on Fake-book, (bogus Facebook pages) that Labor will re-introduce death duties.

The legend mimics Conservative negative advertising in the UK in 2010, by Crosby-Textor (now CT group) whose fear-mongering and dead cat on the table diversions failed to deliver a Tory majority in 2017 or avert Turnbull’s 2016 near-disaster.

Yet, as Lizard of Oz, Sir Lynton Crosby and former Australian Liberal Party Director, knighted for frightening UK folk to vote for their neoliberal oppressors, famously opines, “you can’t fatten a pig on market day”.

Or by weighing it. Sadly CT group has its own problems to contend with; Mohammed Saderuddin Syed, 44 the firm’s former chief financial officer has recently been charged with defrauding the company of $850,000.

The dead-cat slogan on the truck simply betrays Morrison’s mob’s desperation. Even those inside the Canberra bubble, a no-go-zone which bubble-dweller, ScoMo, invokes to dodge questions, know the Coalition’s on the run from voters wanting policy on environment, climate change, energy,  – anything -even a budget passed by parliament. Josh Frydenberg’s recent dodgy estimates will never appease our high priests, the economists.

Above all, voters have had a gutful of government profligacy, waste and the game of mates. Fourteen out of a flurry of 70 appointments to boards, statutory bodies and tribunals, and diplomatic postings in the last few weeks are former Liberal or National MPs, party executives or advisers to Coalition ministers, according to Guardian Australia analysis. No-one suggests corruption, but the practice does politicise government bodies.

Corruption’s stench does, however, waft up from water rorting in the Murray-Darling Basin, while Adani’s last-minute fake approval stinks; its water management plan is not endorsed by CSIRO, despite Price’s pretence.

The Australia Institute reports that “Minister Price was reportedly threatened by members of her own Government to approve the groundwater plan or face public calls for her to be sacked. The internal lobbying reportedly included Ministers Canavan and Dutton demanding answers of their colleague last week. Adani Australia CEO Lucas Dow even flew to Canberra to push the case, having recently threatened to sue for damages if any restrictions were made to coal mining in Queensland.” 

Adani still faces a number of other tests before it gains final approval from the Queensland government but the way the “approval” is rushed through, on the cusp of caretaker mode, raises serious concerns about the Morrison government’s regard for due process. It may also provide grounds for approval to be rescinded.

No-one was ever bluffed by Hunt’s Direct Action boondoggle. Now renamed “The Climate Solutions Fund”, it’s re-set to squander a $2 billion top-up paying farmers to plant trees they would have planted anyway, amongst other rorts, such as refurbishing Vales Point coal-fired power station. The move puts Australia at odds with The World Bank, the US and Europe, all of whom opposed using climate funds to retrofit coal power stations.

“If you were committed to meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which the Australian government says it is committed to, this is just lunacy,” says Sean Kidney, CEO of London-based Climate Bonds Initiative.

“No investors in the western world will accept any green bonds that incentivise anything like coal station retrofits. From an investor’s perspective, coal is a dead duck.”

Nothing to see here, is the Morrison dead Mallard’s response. Every truck, bus and Vespa motor-scooter in Canberra should bear the legend. Foremost is the erupting scandal of Murray-Darling Basin scheme water buy-backs. Minister for Agriculture and Water Rorts, Barnaby Joyce, fulminated against buy-backs, whilst overseeing at least three big deals; $200 million for giant corporate irrigators such as Webster farming.

The Menindee Water Savings Project will fundamentally change the lives and livelihoods of all of the people in the Lower Darling Valley report The Australia Institute’s MaryAnne Slattery and Rod Campbell, September 2018. The Australian government has paid one large agribusiness $80m in compensation. No other stakeholder has received any compensation, instead they have all been made more vulnerable.

Pressure mounts for an inquiry. By Saturday, however, it’s go-low ScoMo who accuses William Richard Shorten of “throwing mud around” during the election campaign. Our own Watergate scandal is upon us thanks to research compiled by The Australia Institute and some assiduous detective work by investigative journalist Michael West. Channel 10’s, The Project’s Hamish Macdonald re-runs the story, which first broke a year ago.

The issue has been “raised before and has been addressed” says Scott Morrison whose much-lauded (by his own spin unit) clear communication style becomes cloudier the more he says; the longer his sentences extend.

“I understand the Senate inquired into the matter and sought production of documents from the government, regarding those transactions, which the government has provided,” he bull-shits before reaching for the buzz-words. “So, that strikes me there is a high level of transparency.”  Expect more posturing and protestation but Labor has asked for an explanation by Monday 22 April. It’s a scandal unlikely to help Morrison’s campaign.

Nor is the Coalition’s war on climate change abatement. It is “malicious and stupid” snorts William Richard Shorten; as a reporter twits him about the cost of Labor’s carbon reduction policy on Thursday in Darwin, now another China One Belt One Road, port thanks to a Coalition financial management and security masterstroke.

In 2015, Adam Giles’ NT government leased the port for ninety years to Chinese-owned Landridge group for a mere $506 million. Andrew Robb, Former Trade Minister, who later became a star Landridge recruit, at $880,000 PA, promoted the lease and purchase of a controlling interest in port operations. It was a “powerful sign” of a commercial relationship through a free trade deal of his. Later he resigned from the firm when it did not seem to have much work from him to do. No suggestion is made that Robb acted with impropriety.

The deal did, however earned a protest from then US President Barack Obama who said he would at least have liked some prior notice. He should be so lucky. Even federal cabinet was not aware of the deal until hours before then-chief minister Adam Giles announced it publicly in November 2015. The $506 million is long spent.

Undeterred, News Corp hacks and flacks cackle gleefully at the prospect of beating up another great big new tax on everything fear campaign, praying that it’s 2013 all over again. As Darwin’s sale shows, only the Coalition, a party whose MPs have financial management in their DNA, according to fiscal wizard Tony Abbott can be trusted to propitiate our gods of the economy, free trade deals and security.

The Australian’s, Chris Mitchell, a flack with the Morrison incumbency’s propaganda arm, savages opponents of the Adani Carmichael Mine with environmental concerns. First, it is nowhere near the reef. The Galilee Basin is inland in sparsely settled, dry pastoral country. Adani’s coal will have to be railed 300km to the Abbott Point coal loader, which already services coal exporters from Bowen Basin fields 200km closer to the coast.

That settles that, then. Or does it? For James Bradley, in The Monthly, opening one more coalmine while allowing emissions to continue on their current path it is like locking our children in a burning house.

“Ecosystems around the world will collapse, wiping out most species of animals. Acidification and anoxia will devastate the oceans. Rising sea levels will destroy coastal areas, while heat and famine and cascading climate disasters will kill hundreds of millions. These are not outside possibilities. They are the inescapable and near-term outcomes of failing to reduce emissions. In the face of this reality, opening new coalmines is like locking our children in a burning house and throwing away the key.”

Divided, delusional and drowning in a Watergate scandal of its own making, the Morrison government is held by some news outfits to have “won” the first week of the campaign.

It’s a dubious claim that ignores vital evidence that voters see through the scaremongering, the nonsense about the prohibitive cost of acting responsibly on climate change – not to mention ScoMo’s Canberra bubble, his cone of silence, which is just Morrison’s update on refusing to speak on “on water” matters – a practice he began as Minister for Immigration and, later, Border Force, now a part of Dutton’s struggling super-ministry.

The phrase “on water matters” is particularly apt again now that a scandal is brewing around the rorting of water from the Murray-Darling Basin scheme that could help cause a Coalition election washout.


Seven flaws in the NEG from Environment Victoria


  1. It is worse than doing nothing for our renewable energy industry.
  2. It may give polluting coal generators an incentive to keep polluting for longer.
  3. It is inconsistent with our Paris climate agreement commitments or stronger targets necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2°.
  4. It concentrates market power with the ‘Big Three’ energy retailers (leading to higher electricity bills for consumers).
  5. A major loophole – international offsets instead of domestic action.
  6. It undermines state renewable energy and greenhouse pollution reduction targets.
  7. It ignores the advice of the Chief Scientist and is a thought bubble with no economic modelling.



Their lying has its roots in the gutter

When I was looking through AIM’s list of articles last weekend I noticed that Kaye Lee had already covered a subject that I so desperately wanted to write about.

To hell with it I thought. After watching Angus Taylor being interviewed by Barrie Cassidy on Insiders last Sunday I thought, bugger it. They need as much truth thrown at them as the lies they tell. His was a dreadful performance.

Cassidy threw all the truth that reason warranted at him but his lies contained a sort of political finality about them. Lies that are being told when an internal honesty tells the inner self that the final act of defence has been reached. When defeat looks one in the eye.

An observation

“Question everything. What you see, what you feel, what you hear and what you are told until you understand the truth of it.” 

The lies so frequently being told by this government are worse than the normal ones couched in innumerable shades of grey.

The lies being told by Morrison, Joyce, Dutton, Hunt, Taylor and others are so repetitive, so blatant, so desperate, that they could only come from men despairing of losing something. In this case power.

These are frightened scared politicians on the cusp of defeat so worried about it that they will not hesitate to place lies before facts, as was the case with Taylor.

Despite Cassidy shooting him down with irrefutable facts that our emissions were going up each year, he continued to talk over him with figures so obviously wrong that you would feel ashamed if your own son or daughter were quoting them.

But of course, he isn’t the only one. The Prime Minister continues to say that we will reach our Paris targets in a canter. He does so in the knowledge that it is untrue. His own department tells him we cannot but he so desperately wants everyone to believe him that he is prepared to toss his faith out the window and lie to us.

Normally a Prime Minister of standing, of reputation would not utter a sentence that implied that under his opposites governance the country would go into recession. Only a very desperate person would stoop so low. Morisson is one such person.

An observation.

“If we are to restore our democracy then the first thing we must do is insist that our politicians should at least tell the truth.”

In her article, Kaye Lee says that:

“For a democracy to function successfully, there must be checks and balances on power.  Government decisions must be transparent and accountable.  The electorate must be told the truth so they can make informed decisions about alternative approaches to address the challenges facing the nation.”

In September 2017 in a piece for The AIMN, I wrote:

“How important is truth in politics? As a writer who happens to love the way words can be constructed to shape a thought, send a message, express love, anger, or convey an action I am lost without them.”

“Without the,m something vanishes from our discourse. Without words, the ability to communicate the seemingly endless aspects of human emotion is taken from us.”

Words, of course, are at their best when they are accompanied by a factual truth of what they want to convey.”

The next great lie likely to be perpetrated on us is when the next budget is announced. The Treasurer will say that it is a surplus budget. But the reality is that we will not know until November 2020 when all of the accounts are finalised if it is or not.

Because their habitual lying prevents them from doing otherwise and despite the figures saying the economy took a dive in the last quarter of 2018 they will tell us that everything is splendid.

It is said that a campaign filled with fear will always beat one filled with hope. History would record that the LNP are the masters of fear.

An observation

“The purpose of propaganda is to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you”

A comment on Facebook this week said:

“Sadly, there are still millions of sheeple who are afraid to move from their entrenched position as LNP followers, believing the constant mantra “we are the better money managers “without even glancing at the turmoil and waste over the past six years. The sheer brutality and corruption is so blatant it is impossible to overlook, yet again, millions do. Poor fellow my country.” 

Tony Abbott is the greatest liar ever to dirty the plush carpets of Parliament House.

Malcolm Turnbull, by walking away from what he believed in is the greatest hypocrite.

Scott Morrison by trying to buy office with lies has betrayed his faith.

Again this week we had the Federal Treasury scolding the Coalition for exaggerating the impact of Labor’s proposed negative gearing overhaul.

The government’s words and actions bring into question the very essence of the word truth. Or they have at least devalued it to the point of obsolescence.

If more people had the capacity to think for themselves and question what they are being told perhaps we would have more genuineness in politics.

If more journalists had the intestinal fortitude to question and syphon out the truth of what politicians are telling them we may get a better body politic. A more honest democracy.

In July 2016 I wrote a piece for The AIMN about fear. In it, I quoted Dr. George Venturini:

“The State lives on fear. Today, it is the fear of ‘terrorists’, which is a manufactured threat, meant to scare people into handing over their rights and dignity to the tricksters in power. “Our twentieth century is the century of fear,” wrote Camus in his article ‘The century of fear’ for Combat, the newspaper that had supported the French Resistance to Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Camus said that fear could be regarded as a developed science.”

The next time you hear or see an interview with an LNP politician consider these methods they use to counter questions or even avoid them – 35 techniques politicians use to avoid answering interview questions.

Keep talking. The more you talk the fewer the questions.

Questioning the question or attack it.

The question is offensive.

Attacking an external group. (The opposition or rival groups) Blame Labor.

Starting an answer but not finishing it (interrupting yourself).

Saying or implying that the question has already been answered.

Lying, misinformation, lying by omission, subliminally implied suggestion, straightforward propaganda, deliberate scare campaigning and any form of untruthful communication has become the norm in the way politicians and the media converse with the public. So normal and long applied has this form of conversation become that we are now unquestioning of it.

This election should tell us if we have woken up to these illegitimate forms of persuasion or are we just plain stupid?

My thought for the day

Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s well-being for the sake of it.

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HMAS Chum Bucket almost scuppered in a week of scandal and self-sabotage.

Loose lips sink ships. “Hockey owes me”, a brief indiscretion over a mate’s favour – now disputed by both- almost blows HMAS Chum Bucket, the Coalition’s yellow submarine out of the water, this week. Yet “chum-gate” is merely the latest scandal in a series of political depth-charges that threaten to sink the rudderless tub that is the Morrison government.

Trump-like, Morrison retreats into howling down shonky Bill Shorten. No-one can trust Bill. His policies mean bigger taxes, sky-high power prices and a government run like a union (of thugs). He recycles Howard-era fear of boat people and blends in a bit of the budgie smuggler’s carbon taxing, big spending big Labor Scare Campaign of 2013.

No-one can get a straight answer out of ScoMo. He doesn’t run commentary, he says, or he’s just getting on with the job when journalists dare venture a question about Helloworld Travel. He denies that Joe Hockey instructed staff to meet on 26 April 2017 with Helloworld travel subsidiary QBT before it lobbied for government.

“I’m advised embassy staff did not meet QBT or other staff in relation to the tender and embassy staff have met and corresponded with a whole range of travel providers to discuss the embassy’s travel requirements.”

Labor’s Jim Chalmers responds that DFAT has documented Hockey’s request.

“The prime minister is denying something of which there are reports of documents which exist from officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – that is a very serious matter.”

Morrison shrugs it aside. Always he’s got better things to do than be accountable. He simply repeats his facile, clapped-out Canberra bubble mantra; nobody outside the Canberra bubble cares (about dodgy, dirty deals or wanton profligacy).

ScoMo goes OS. No. Not to China where mystery shrouds major Chinese port Dalian’s decision to ban further imports of Australian coal. That would require leadership and independence from Trump’s US China-bashing policy. He pays a flying visit to New Zealand, his maternal grandfather, Sandy’s homeland, but he’s careful not to outstay his welcome. Not every Kiwi is thrilled to see him given the Coalition’s deportation policy. And not all former colleagues love him.

In 1998, Morrison was inaugural Managing Director of New Zealand’s Office of Tourism and sport, a body offering advice to government where he reported to NZ Tourism Minister, Murray McCully but was not universally popular. “Hard man” ScoMo, as he was seen, takes credit for the 100% Pure NZ campaign, for which he contracted M&C Saatchi- whose services he sought for his later controversial campaign at Tourism Australia “Australia, where the bloody hell are you?”

Morrison and McCully clashed with the independent NZ Tourism Board and a number of officials and board members resigned during his tenure. Morrison, himself, resigned in 2000, one year before his contract was up. As with Helloworld Travel, or with his termination from Tourism Australia he himself has never given a satisfactory explanation.

In 1999, the NZ Auditor General challenged Morrison’s handling of an independent review and found two payouts of staff in 2008 to be unlawful. The auditor’s report was critical of Morrison’s job performance in ways that are echoed by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), nine years later, which finds his management of Tourism Australia marred by non-consultation, making unilateral decisions, not observing due process and restricting board access to information. Little appears to have changed since.

Not everyone hates him. Tim Fischer is a big fan – as is Martin Ferguson but Fran Bailey, Tourism Minister at the time, observes of Morrison, “I’m sure he’s learned how to work with people better these days. His career has certainly had a few twists and turns.”

In his quick trip across the ditch, Friday, Morrison cops an earful from Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern about all the Aussies born in New Zealand his government is repatriating, even though most have no family in the land of the long white shroud. It’s another diplomatic triumph as he cops a mouthful from Ardern. The NZ Herald reports,

“Ardern didn’t mince words. She employed the strongest criticism yet of any New Zealand Prime Minister or foreign minister about deportations of Kiwi offenders… The New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there with often little or no lasting connection to here.

Ardern’s referring to 1,500 NZ citizens deported since 2015. Coalition “immigration reforms” grant the Department of Home Affairs power to deport foreigners on nebulous ‘good character’. Last year, 600 Kiwis were deported on this criterion alone. It can be a death sentence. In the last three years, at least four people have died in Australian detention centres (where Kiwis are now the largest group. Before 2015, they were not even in the top ten).

Or they die immediately following deportation. Fatalities may be higher. Neither nation keeps records of deaths. 15,000 Kiwi citizens will be deported in the next ten years. Morrison is not receptive to Ardern’s appeals. She will not give up.

Nobody cares, ScoMo?  For all your nihilism, your Trumpista populism, the week sees the Canberra bubble burst by a series of sensational revelations. Top of the bill is the hyper-reality melodrama of “Hockey owes me” a rip-roaring, cigar-chomping, trough-snouting show of cronyism and corruption which Mark Dreyfus dubs “chum-gate”, in which Joe Hockey’s bestie Andrew Burnes’ Helloworld Travel company appears set up to win a billion dollar government contract.

Not all contracts are open, especially when the Commonwealth seeks “procurement” on Manus Island. Officials use a “limited tender” meaning no other bidders. They have to, they tell senate estimates. There are no other bidders. No-one good wants the work.

Yet this is a side issue. As the Australian Financial Review (AFR) investigation puts it, the committee wants to know “how Paladin, despite its lack of capacity, expertise or track record in the sector, appointed as the government’s main service provider on the island, becoming the recipient of contracts worth $423 million over 22 months.”

Yet journalists at the AFR quote locals who contest the government’s version and who suggest there were others who would have liked to tender for the contract. Greens senator Nick McKim gives Home Affairs a serve.

“The Paladin contracts, and the unexplained increases, yet again raise serious questions about lack of probity and due diligence inside Home Affairs. It’s an absolute disgrace that a shonky operator like Paladin is raking in the millions while comprehensively failing to provide even the most basic support for many hundreds of vulnerable refugees.”

Former CEO Craig Coleman broadly agrees with McKim. Three weeks before they gained the contract, he alleges, Paladin was,

“not well prepared to perform the role provided for under the Proposal” . He puts his view in documents he has filed with a court as part of an employment dispute with Paladin. Home Affairs cannot, of course, offer any insight and any further comment would be inappropriate given that the firm is to appear before a judge later in the year.

Yet more news does emerge of the shadowy Paladin Group’s receipt of over $A420 million over two years. A security firm is paid $1600 per refugee, per day, to pay locals to watch over men on Manus who pose little threat of escape? At least that’s the theory. News comes this week from two Manus detainees that Paladin does nothing.

Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize, Behrouz Boochani, who has been held on Manus for six years reports,

“What I am seeing on the ground is that Paladin, they … are doing nothing,” he tells Guardian Australia. “In Australia, people ask this question now. But this question for us is for years, not only for Paladin, but all of the companies. How do they spend this money? It is a question for us, not only Paladin, [but for health contractors] IHMS, PIH.

Paladin is part of a pattern where major “offshore processing” contracts are awarded in a limited tender process. Home Affairs deputy-secretary Cheryl-Anne Moy, explains to a senate estimates committee, this week, that companies are reluctant to run our gulags where human beings are illegally detained indefinitely without charge; with no other cause than they desperately needed to flee their country of origin by boat, instead of being part of the sixty thousand or so who successfully fly in with QANTAS and other airlines. Border protection or punishment? It’s sadistic cruelty.

“Primarily the people who expressed some interest early on and then decided that they wouldn’t tender gave us the reason that there was too much noise for their organisations – they were international companies – around regional processing.”

Too much noise? Try a reluctance to be part of a punitive, illegal scheme to deny refugees human rights.

Dutton’s mob is conceding that it can’t find competent contractors because no-one good wants to work on Manus? Time to close the camps. Bring the men to Australia. Let some take up residence in Australia – but shut down Manus.

The Guardian reports major flaws in the work of Pacific International Hospital, (PIH), a PNG healthcare provider which receives $21.5 million for ten months’ service from the Australian government to look after men we placed on Manus six years ago, despite its chairman, PNG Deputy PM being found guilty of misconduct in the use of public funds.

More alarming, PIH’s expertise, competence and treatment standards are a grave cause for concern amongst refugees remaining on Manus. Coroner,Terry Ryan, confirmed their worst fears during his 2016 coronial inquest into the death of twenty-four year old Hamid Kehazaei, who died in September 2014 from a treatable leg infection. His inquest found that PIH staff did not understand that Kehazaei was critically ill, despite hearing the alarms from his life support machines.

PIH staff failure to respond directly contributed to Kehazaei’s subsequent cardiac arrest. Equally disturbing, however, bureaucrats failed to book him on the next available flight to Brisbane. As Ryan reports,

“An urgent transfer request from a doctor had languished while an immigration official queried why medication could not be sent to the detention centre instead, and then referred the request to a superior who did not read it until the next day.”

As the Coalition prepares to take asylum-seekers to Christmas Island for treatment, will it follow Coroner Ryan’s eight recommendations? These include proposing that Home Affairs enact a new written policy which puts the clinical needs of detainees first when medical transfers required the approval of Australian immigration officials.

Ryan’s 140 page report also recommends that clinics treating asylum seekers offshore be accredited to a level equivalent to Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) standards. He recommends the Department of Home Affairs also conduct annual audits of clinics “in conjunction with” the RACGP.

Happily for the Morrison government, which has sensibly shut down parliament, Paladin is likely to be eclipsed by China.

The elephant in the news-room and the dark shadow over HMAS Chum Bucket‘s chartroom is, of course, China which, we learn this week, bans ship-loads of Australian coal, at Dalian, a north-east port where ninety per cent of our iron ore goes ashore. From its posturing, it’s clear no-one in government knows why China should give us the coal shoulder- but suddenly everyone can explain it all away. Alarmed? Relax. Sheesh, it’s a hole in only one end of our trade flagship.

Worth around $58bn, the coal trade is Australia’s largest export earner next to iron ore ($57bn). In 2018, we exported 89 million tonnes of coal to China, worth $15 billion, almost a quarter of our nation’s total coal exports.  Now they’ve suddenly cooled off on us despite our “you beaut” free trade agreements stuck five years ago. Then it’s not a ban but just a slowing up of the process of unloading while quality control checks are carried out. Then it’s a Chinese whisper joke.

You were saying coal not cow, right? China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, has a laugh at our expense. Yet in the China Daily, he upbraids ScoMo for alleging that “a sophisticated state actor” (read China) is behind the recent hack attacks both on parliamentary computers and those of major political parties.

China Daily responds by calling Scott Morrison a conspiracy theorist. ScoMo is rebuked for his Trump-like public accusations and for being a US lackey- or at least rashly irresponsible.

“… this is not the first time that Canberra’s anxiety-driven willingness to emulate Washington has prompted it to lay the responsibility for alleged spying at Beijing’s door… No matter whether he was assigning the malevolent acts to China or another country, it is irresponsible of him to cast aspersions in this way.”

Ian Verrender reports a Chinese go-slow on coal imports began months ago. Dozens of coal-laden ships are queued off ports across China as delays extend beyond 40 days.

Five harbours are under Dalian customs control but Phillip Lowe, governor of our politicised Reserve Bank -which even cautioned the Morrison government to avoid any “regulatory response” to the Banking Royal Commission which might put the brakes on lending to home buyers and businesses –  is quick to point out that it’s only a few months of our exports. A drop in the national coal bucket, really.

On the other hand, (Reserve Bankers are masters of understatement; the measured anti-inflammatory, anodyne),

“If it were to be the sign of a deterioration in the underlying political relationship between Australia and China, that would be much more concerning.”  Nothing like a passive, subjunctive construction to sound the non-alarmist alarm.

Given coal from Russia and Indonesia is still welcome in China, our finest political minds work feverishly overnight to assure us not to take the ban personally. This type of thing happens all the time; there’s nothing to see here. In brief, no-one has a clue what’s going on and China isn’t about to enlighten anyone. If it were a shrewd move to slow down coal consumption, then others would be subject to the same bans and caps.

Other commentators, including Verrender, see the bans as serious. Despite involving about ten per cent of our coal exports, Dalian’s indefinite ban on Australian coal imports marks a significant deterioration in Sino-Australian trade relations. As Greg Jericho notes, the incident exposes the Coalition’s spin about its Free Trade agreement with China. Revealed beneath the hyperbole is the vacuous rhetoric and the hollow promise of the free trade “breakthrough”.

“A major step in cementing closer economic relations with China” that would “be the catalyst for even further mutual gain between our two countries”, raved our then foreign minister, Julie Bishop, in 2014. Jericho calls bulldust. Had Bishop tarried after her valedictory on Thursday, someone might have asked her how it could have gone so wrong.

John “always look on the bright side” “Noddy” Birmingham, an underwhelming former education minister turned Trade Minister exudes insight and reassurance, telling an anxious nation that “it’s not an all-out ban“.  Whew! Not yet. Unlike the latest case against indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru just delivered to the High Court.

Prominent refugee lawyers are preparing to prick the government’s latest thought bubble – the moving of sick refugees and asylum seekers to Christmas Island. In addition, two new legal actions will also be heard in the High Court, explains ACU Allan Myers Professor of Law, Spencer Zifcak, a former president of Liberty Victoria – class action cases which argue that the Commonwealth has acted negligently; breached its duty of care.

The lawyers will argue that the negligence is constituted by crimes against humanity.

The Commonwealth Criminal Code 1995 criminalises certain crimes against humanity recognised in international law. These include:

  • Imprisonment or other severe deprivations of liberty.
  • Severe deprivation of a person’s rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These include freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom from arbitrary arrest , the right to take a case before a court if deprived of liberty, the presumption of innocence, freedom of expression, and freedom from national, racial or religious discrimination.
  • Inhumane treatment i.e. treatment engaged in intentionally that causes great suffering, serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

The argument is that the Commonwealth government has committed each of these crimes offshore.

As for Christmas Island, Human Rights Law Centre executive director, Hugh de Kretser, tells Nine Newspapers’ Sydney Morning Herald, “the legal basis for a challenge would be that the government had breached its duty of care by sending refugees and asylum seekers to a place where inadequate treatment was available”.

National Justice Project’s George Newhouse concedes a legal challenge over Christmas Island, which has inadequate medical facilities, is more likely to succeed than a challenge for those in offshore detention on Nauru or Manus.

While ScoMo is busy rehearsing his Kiwi charm offensive, Friday Labor also fires a warning shot across the bow of the Chum Bucket. And upstages him. The Opposition’s Immigration spokesman, Minister Shayne Neumann tells AAP,

“Labor, if elected, will accept New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle refugees with appropriate conditions similar to those under the US arrangements and negotiate other third country resettlement options as a priority.”

Labor reaffirms its pledge to accept New Zealand’s offer, a strategic policy announcement which wedges Scott Morrison, a puppet of his right wing, into defending an immoral, illegal and unsustainable, punitive, indefinite, offshore detention regime on the grounds that any change to it is “not in Australia’s interest”.

Opinion polls and the Coalition defeat in Wentworth suggest he’s increasingly out of touch with popular opinion. Sixty per cent of voters polled by GetUp! last Thursday support Medevac Bill reports The Guardian Australia.

Yet the nation so often learns of government by snafu, it may become inured to scandal and incompetence. Paladin alone or Chum-gate alone would be sufficient to bring other governments down. Now there’s dinnerplate.

The Morrison government must, navigate reefs of hazards as scandals arise from as far away as Manus Island and as near as the plush executive suites of our big bean-counters’ head offices with their billion dollar Sydney harbour views

Dinnerplate, involves CEOs from the nation’s Big Four accountancy firms, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC meeting regularly for private dinners, as Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer and former ANU economics professor Andrew Leigh discovers.

Naturally such gatherings lend themselves to admiring the view, praising the catering and appreciating the wine list, but Leigh’s curious to know what else is on the menu – and has asked to ACCC to look into the meetings.

Allegations of price fixing; collusion over fees and monopolising markets, such as Hayne found among our banks are not easy to prove. Doubtless the bean counters are celebrating their colossal good fortune in being blessed with a Coalition government which has been prepared to pay them $1.7 billion between 2013 and 2017 for their services.

Dining together may have in no small way contributed to any or all of the big four looking after their other three mates. A similar cosy mutual self-help arrangement also appears to have been part of the Helloworld Travel pitch, although all parties vociferously deny any allegations of impropriety.

Joe Hockey, our Ambassador to the US and occasional Trump golfing partner, a former treasurer who once defended a hike in the petrol excise on the basis that poor people either don’t own cars or don’t drive very far buys $1.3 million dollars’ worth of shares in a company run by his bestie, Andrew Burnes.

Burnes, who just happens to be federal Liberal Treasurer is CEO of a travel company Helloworld Travel which stands to win a billion dollar government contract if the Coalition scraps Labor’s red tape and goes with a single travel agency.

Tragically, after the rude intrusion of Labor and sections of the media, Joe’s holdings have dropped a tad. Shane Wright on Insiders brings it up.

Cursed by a run of bad luck and mismanagement, the Chum Bucket fetches up high and dry on a dying Great Barrier Reef after freakish cyclone force winds bring a perfect storm of graft, cronyism and catastrophic incompetence. As Jim Chalmers puts it

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House

(1) notes that:

(a) yesterday, it was revealed the Finance Minister received free flights to Singapore from Helloworld, which he booked by calling the CEO of this ASX listed company directly, just before it was awarded a multimillion dollar whole-of-government contract by the Minister’s own Department;

(b) today, it’s been reported that US Ambassador Joe Hockey – who has a million dollar shareholding in Helloworld – helped a Helloworld subsidiary lobby for the Embassy’s travel contract;

(c) the CEO of Helloworld and one of its largest shareholders Andrew Burnes is a Liberal Party heavyweight and current Liberal Party Treasurer, with connections to a number of Liberal Party politicians;

(d) the Finance Minister told Senate Estimates yesterday that he had “a close personal relationship” with Mr Burnes;

(e) Mr Burnes was previously a colleague of the now Prime Minister during the Prime Minister’s time at Tourism Australia;

(f) since being awarded Government contracts, the share price of Helloworld has skyrocketed, making shareholders like Mr Hockey and Mr Burnes rich; and

(g) this morning, it was reported that the Herald Sun asked almost all of the 82 Liberal MPs in Parliament whether they had received free travel from Helloworld, but only 14 said they had not; and

(2) therefore, calls on the Prime Minister to investigate and report to the House how far this Helloworld scandal reaches into his Government.

The PM hunches over his papers. Gets Christopher Pyne to answer.

Luckily, ScoMo’s unplugging the nation’s parliament for six weeks. The Coalition’s lost the remote. No-one’s seen it since Morrison lost Wentworth, plunging his government into minority. At least Hockey Owes Me should now get a good box office. It will run back to back with Tampa 2.0, the Coalition’s end of term pantomime; another terrific show to follow up Paladin’s Cave, a $423 million mystery saga attracting rave reviews this week over at Senate Estimates’ theatre in the round.

Hockey owes me turns out to be a big show with a huge cast, stunning song and dance numbers and some beaut ensemble work from veteran performer Hockey and his a star-studded chorus. A drop-dead gorgeous performance of injured innocence from Helloworld’s CEO Andrew Burnes, who also manages to double as the Liberal Party’s federal treasurer steals the show. Forming a brilliant counterpoint to Burnes’ aria Hockey Owes Me is the pathos of the poignant testimony of disgruntled former executive, Russell Carstensen. The production is every bit as good as Tampa 2.0.

Tampa 2.0 is modelled on the false assumption that John Howard won in 2001 by getting commandos to prevent the Tampa, a Norwegian vessel from docking at Christmas Island to put ashore 433 refugees it had rescued from the water.

The popular fiction is that Tampa robbed Labor of an easy election win. In reality, as statistician Adrian Beaumont and analyst Peter Brent point out, the polls were closing after Labor’s 57-43 lead in March to 52-48 in August when Howard denied Tampa permission to its human cargo. And while the Coalition may have gained a two point lead from Tampa, it gained five points from September 11 gaining a 55-45 lead which abated to a 51-49 win in November.

And HMAS Chum Bucket? The craft is modelled on US civil warship, CSS Hunley, one of the earliest fighting submarines sporting forty feet of bulletproof iron but a most dangerous vessel to be inside.

Morrison’s crew, duck down the hatch; all hands to the pumps. Chum Bucket is leaking badly; listing starboard.  Sharks circle asylum-seeker policy writes Laura Tingle who also notes that “chum buckets are buckets full of fish guts and heads and other smelly stuff” which fisher-folk cast overboard “to attract a feeding frenzy of fish, particularly sharks”.

Chum bucket first hove into view with ScoMo ranting that Labor had “gone to the bottom of the chum bucket” in seeking the truth behind Helloworld, a scandal which could blow any government out of the water. Chum bucket is Sutherland Shire satire; rebarbative wit. You can take the boy out of Bronte but you can’t take the Bronte out of the boy.

Julie Bishop, jumps ship, another rat joining a slew of deserters, including ship’s purser Kelly O’Dwyer, a former NAB banker whose bon voyage bon mots are missed by many Liberals, including Tony Abbott who choose to slink out precisely as O’Dwyer rises to give her valedictory.

It may be payback for her one good speech given to Victorian Liberals where she recently excoriated her party telling her colleagues the Liberals are widely regarded as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Displaying all the true grit and instinct for self-survival which has made her a household name, along with her enormous capacity for business travel, Princess Mesothelioma, aka Julie Bishop, a former corporate lawyer, whose sterling work for Perth legal firm Clayton Utz in the 1980s helped CSR delay compensation payouts the courts had already awarded to victims of its asbestos mining at Wittenoom.

“Even if the workers die like flies, they will never be able to pin anything on CSR,” wrote Norman Irving, the mining corporation’s personnel manager in 1977, expressing a contempt for its wage slaves distressingly familiar to students of modern industrial relations. Bishop, or Julie Gillon as she was then devised her own echo of Irving’s solicitude.

As Peter Gordon, recalls, “(She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Gordon’s words sum up so much of the inhumanity, injustice and indifference to those lower on the social ladder as much as they foreshadow the sense of privilege and entitlement and arrogant superiority that will ultimately be the undoing of this Liberal government, a Liberal government, as Bill Shorten put it, of the donors, by the donors for the donors.

Time democracy and humanity got a look in.

Extreme distraction (part 2)

By Tony Andrews

… Continued from Part 1

The world is rigged, and it has been for a very long time.

Society has a bad habit of labelling everyone into being something that can fit into an easily defined mould. Capitalist, Socialist, Christian, Muslim, right wing, left wing, progressive, conservative, conspiracy theorist, whatever term or ‘ism/ist’ that can be used to remove the impression of autonomous, free thinking individuals.

Labelling or pigeon holing is, after all, the basis of most of our western names. Our first names and our surnames are both derived from the need to identify and pigeon hole the owner, John Smith, ‘that man’s a christian and he’s a tradesman’, is one obvious example.

I’m no different to anyone else and am guilty of pigeon holing and labelling people and stuff as well, so feel free to label me as you wish, but at least I acknowledge that it’s a bad habit that allows us all to judge other people based on almost nothing… who knows, maybe it’s genetic.

The modern reality show, as well as being entertaining, is also exposing the flaws in our economic system. The popularity of shows that give an insight into how the other half lives, gives a newfound and constant form of proof to the world that the rich and privileged in our society are no smarter than average people. In fact, often they actually appear less intelligent, more self-absorbed and seem to lack self-awareness more than most of the world’s population.

While we laugh at the selfish and demanding personalities, edited to capture their individual extremes, the more outrageous the better, in order to capture the tv audience from other network’s similar, reality-based shows, overall, the essence of who these Uber members of society really are shines through. And we are all slowly realising that these are the people and children of the people, that control our very existence.

That they didn’t get where they are today by working harder or being smarter than the average wage earner. They did it by being either, manufactured by industry as marketing tools, a personality that the target market for the corporate product can identify with, or inherited wealth and the networks and connections that offers, has provided them with a life that their brains and ability could never have provided.

To quote Jack London, “they walk on dead man’s legs.”

The same flaws are being exposed in our political system. The constant need for program content on news and current affairs shows and its ‘news all day, everyday’ mantra, means that our elected representatives in government are revealed as the people they really are, warts and all.

The talking heads that interview our members of parliament and the senate, as well as our economic and intellectual leaders, are trained to attack weakness and to follow their employer’s editorial direction.

They need to look ‘hard hitting’ in order to maintain their own profile and career, in other words, to continue to service their mortgage and investments… to earn their daily bread, so to speak, because let’s face it, one thing we all have in common is a need to provide for ourselves and those we love.

The interviewers also have to appear knowledgeable about whatever subject is being discussed whilst maintaining their image as ‘ordinary’ members of society.

It’s a balancing act that has cut many careers short, as we don’t like ‘tall poppies’ or ‘know it alls.’

The work of selectively diligent researchers and discreet earpieces that can direct the interview from behind the scenes, mean these talking heads often appear more knowledgeable on a subject to the viewing public, than the person being interviewed, regardless of their training or expertise in the field being discussed… and we wonder why people have lost faith in ‘experts’… although, to be fair, strict ideological doctrines, like those that are universally trained in neo-liberal economic theory, for example, hasn’t helped ‘experts’ credibility much either.

Interrogated would be a more appropriate description of the modern interview technique. Especially when it is a politician whose views differ from those promoted by the shareholder appointed controllers of the media and whose ideas may upset the status quo… after all, the senior management of the media corporations want to keep their jobs as well and provide for themselves and those they love.

The accepted reality of today is that we need to be ‘competitive in the global economy,’ but the fact is that it’s just another slogan to promote the corporate’s profit serving agenda. Like the politically powerful ‘stop the boats’ or ‘jobs and growth’, used by the business arm of politics to persuade the general public that they are serving the needs of the people, when the reality is that they are only serving themselves and our corporate masters. We are a means to an end.

The corporations need us, the same way that a pig farmer needs to feed and fatten his produce in order to profit from their sale at market.

We, the consumers, are powerless and in today’s world, taxpayer funded government spending has added to the burden on citizens by directly subsidising these corporations in order to attract their investment. Allowing them to take full advantage of profit shifting to their parent companies via tax havens overseas and increasing the financial strain on the individual tax paying members of a country.

What is the point of a high GDP if the living standards of a country’s citizens don’t rise proportionately with it?

What has the ideology of the free market delivered for ordinary Australians?

For an economy to benefit everyone it needs to have a balance between regulation and the free market. No single solution ideology fits our modern societies, if they ever even did.

It’s about balance but, instead of looking for balance, we’ve allowed ourselves to get distracted, again, with seemingly urgent issues and philosophical debates that allow the corporate machine to continue on its path to worldwide economic and social collapse.

More and more of us know this now, we can see that we’re all being used, but we still fall for the old ‘divide and conquer’ rubbish. It’s not all our fault though, we’ve been trained by history to accept our reality and not rock the boat too much.

We know that millions upon millions of ordinary people have died in the pursuit of ‘freedom’. We know that fighting for a fairer share of the pie often leaves those that can least afford it destitute and hungry. Of course, we, the ordinary members of western culture and society, are scared to risk everything for a chance to help everyone and ourselves. History has shown us that we’ve risked it all before, only to replace one set of masters with another or have our burden increased by victorious incumbents we swore to serve. However, there is no free ride.

To really change things in favour of the majority of humanity, we need to resist the distractions of blame, hatred, and revenge. We need to resist those that insist change can only come with ‘class struggle’ and great personal loss because that brings with it the same problems… blame, hatred and revenge.

I’m not saying that there will be no cost, that it’s as easy to fix as snapping our fingers, but the revolution of the last thirty years, that’s what the economic reforms have been, a revolution, have occurred almost unseen. Capital has taken complete control over almost all the world economies. Social protections and our communal well-being have been removed almost completely from consideration.

In our country, Australia, de-regulation and the sale of publicly owned assets, as well as the offshoring of manufacturing have resulted in unparalleled levels of economic growth (on paper anyway). The social costs of these reforms need to be assessed accurately, calculated and given a value. This value then has to be returned to us. Not necessarily in monetary form, but in increased social protections and the ability to reform ourselves for future economic development, to regain the shared ability for individual economic prosperity.

We need to take some form of control back from the domination of the stock market’s rise and fall.

It’s not impossible, it just needs accurate data and the will to pursue a counter revolution. ‘Changing the rules’, a slogan and campaign produced by the Australian trade union movement is an example of this counter revolution. It’s already begun, the people are getting behind it. No guns. No violence. No ‘seizing the means of production’ or overthrowing capitalism. Just solid data and the will to initiate change to benefit people, not just bank balances. To quote a couple of influential Australians; “from little things, big things grow.”

The trade union movement and by extension, all workers, have suffered much during the current revolution.

The offshoring of manufacturing and the ‘modernising’ of industrial relations in all other forms of employment, has damaged our societies much more than the politically uninterested could believe possible.

Until rapid deregulation allowed the ‘housing boom’ to create another lucrative revenue stream for the multinationals, new suburbs around Australia were mostly built with public funds to provide housing for the workers that were needed in our industries. Not just large locally or internationally owned factories, but our mining and power generation as well.

Local workers earned enough to eventually build their own homes in the same areas. Creating ‘local’ economies, providing employment and opportunity for small businesses to service the local community. Creating, at the same time, the ‘fair go’, that’s become a cliché of Australian values.

Now, our communities are fractured. We no longer know our neighbours well or work together. Our high-priced homes in new estates, planned and built around the potential for profit generated by their development, rather than servicing the needs of local employers, has divided us more than skin colour or religious belief ever could.

Historically, communities formed the backbone of trade unionism in Australia and around the world. If workers in one industry were locked out or on strike, their friends, other members of the local community, did their best to ensure that the striking worker’s families still got fed and provided moral, as well as financial, support.

This concept of community must be recognised, also given a value, and internationalised. If the global economy is ever going to work for all of us, we need to re-adopt the same approach or similar, that allowed individual prosperity and the means for anyone to progress above the superficial barriers of ‘class’.

The idea needs to be continually reinforced in the public minds that modern unions are not just self-interested groups looking to improve the fortunes of some workers, while ignoring others that are not under their influence.

If we allow the current crop of revolutionary leaders and their propaganda arm, the media corporations, to continue with the ‘us vs. them’ style doctrines, directing the dialogue and condensing the public debate around globalisation into division between the haves and have nots, the future of the union movement and its regained public allegiance by the political parties that originated from their support, will wane.

Ignoring the current age of corporatism is not an option. Any political party that promises to wind back the clock and take capital head on, will very quickly find themselves unelectable.

Collective unity must include everyone.

The idea that for those with less to gain more, those with much must lose everything, has been an unshakeable barrier to change and is a huge factor in why we are where we are today.

The idea that there must always be winners and losers in any negotiation, means the threat of the guillotine still remains. For this reason, ‘changing the rules’ may bring about unintended consequences because capital will not capitulate.

It will go down fighting.

It will change the rules as well and, as history has shown us, it plays dirty.

The next card up the corporate sleeve if the status quo is too threatened, will be putting down social revolt in order to maintain the free market revolution. Not right now of course, so don’t go building a bunker in the bush just yet, they’ll need a reasonable excuse first.

Again, they’ll go back to basics.

The ever-widening gap between the rich and poor will be exploited even further because hate makes us blind. When we ‘see red’ we forget consequences. We forget to think rationally. Hate is a powerful weapon because it’s the one thing that can turn the masses into a mob.

Midway through the First World War, German leaders knew exactly what they were doing when they released Lenin from prison and shipped him off to Russia in a boxcar. The war was going badly, and they were desperate to ease the pressure on their borders. A Russia thrown into political turmoil seemed like a great idea at the time… it didn’t help them of course, they still lost the war, but the consequences of their actions still echo through time. The concept of the ‘class struggle’ has never gone away and it will only take massaging and coercion to steer the people’s desire for a fairer deal into something far bigger.

Just as the rise of salesman Trump has challenged the current political structure, it won’t be long before his polar opposite appears.

Not Sanders in the US, not Corbyn in the UK, these men desire stability and a fair go for all. That is not enough to create the kind of conflict that can stop change in its tracks.

The media, intentionally or not, will help create a new Lenin.

Like with the modern version of fascism, rising under Trump and others, ideology will be a secondary consideration. Old style communism will not work. Trotsky, for example, didn’t decide to take to the countryside and preach to the farm labourers, the rural peasantry, his version of a worker’s paradise for no reason. The more educated workers in the cities and larger towns were not so easy to convince and allow themselves to willingly be used as a weapon of their own personal destruction.

A new angle will need to be found and it’s quite possible that the trade union movement, somewhere in the world, will inadvertently provide it. Covertly encouraged by the masters of our present economic system.

Passion is infectious and easily exploited by those that have none. Given enough rope, a ‘true person of the people’, indulged by those in the media in search of high ratings and the illusion of job security that ratings provide, will help create an ‘anti-Trump’. Someone that can polarise the people by offering another means for us all to acquire that new can opener or toaster. The rope will tighten and there will be war.

The real winners though, will not be people. It will be the corporate machine and it will continue to roll over the top of us long after the war it creates between the historic monsters of ‘fascism’ and ‘communism’ has come and gone.

Any changes to the rules that will benefit us all and direct a fair distribution of profit back to those that provide the labour and consume the products created will be stalled indefinitely.

It will also provide another ‘ism’ for future corporate revolutionaries to scare us, the workers/consumers, into submission with for as long as they can… the threat of ‘unionism.’

Because almost all humans have at least one thing in common. We may wait years to buy a new can opener or toaster, deciding which brand suits us best, but when we make up our minds to get one, we buy it, and nothing will change our mind once it’s been made up. The same applies for which footy team we support or political party we vote for.

So the revolution will continue in the background and it will be our own fault, because instead of balance, we’ll allow extremes to control the agenda and humanity’s direction. Then, when the burden seems like too much to bear and we start to demand, again, a ‘fair go’, we’ll again search for someone to blame, rekindle our hatred, then seek revenge…

With the corporation’s covert approval.

Extreme distraction

By Tony Andrews

A revolution has occurred while we’ve been watching the telly, dreaming of a new car, dishwasher or holiday, and trying our best not to offend anyone.

No tanks have rolled through suburban Australia, no massed forces have seized the factories and farms, instead they’ve been relocated overseas or sold off, radically and completely changing the game.

Actually, ‘game’ is not the right word: our lives, our rights, our ability to work hard and be paid accordingly, our chance to get above debt and enjoy a comfortable life that allows more than just the illusion of freedom and independence. That is what’s been taken. It is no game.

This should be a reasonable and achievable goal for everyone, and from the 1950s up until the mid 1990s, it was. However, it isn’t anymore and never will be again for the majority of us, without a counter revolution.

We’ve been fooled into believing in nonsense concepts, like karma and good things come to those who wait. Work hard and be rewarded, good triumphs over evil… that the extra money generated by tax cuts for business will trickle down to the rest of us. But it’s all rubbish.

The reality created by this revolution doesn’t allow us all to become rich, doesn’t allow us all to have that one good idea that can put an entrepreneur into the world of the super wealthy.

That’s just how it is.

Almost all of us are destined to see out our days worrying about our rent or mortgage and paying just for the privilege of our existence.

Paying all we earn for our need for comfort and security. For our necessities and our most modest dreams.

Paying all we earn for our electricity, our phone, our car, our big screen televisions with Foxtel and internet, ensuring we can feed and clothe our children, send them to school, and dreaming that, hopefully, they can have a better life than us.

But they almost certainly won’t.

Life for all of us is full of good days and bad, regardless of our level of wealth. The difference between the haves and have nots though, is what they can do to ease the bad days and extend the good.

Most of us can only imagine never needing to worry about providing the basic needs of existence for ourselves and those we love.

Never worrying about where the money will come from to pay for the car registration or the utility bills. It’s a luxury not afforded to many Australians or indeed, most of the world’s people.

Worrying about unexpected illness or injury and the affects that it can have on our quality of life and finances has been eased a little for Australians without accumulated wealth, but the attacks on Medicare since its inception, and escalating rapidly, has given us long-term causes for concern. But, like everything that is taken away from us, it’s downplayed or dismissed as scaremongering from the radically conservative members of society… our revolutionary masters.

How to stay employed and have enough money to retire comfortably after our working days are over.

These worries take up a lot of the average person’s thoughts, just like finding enough work to feed themselves and their families possessed the thoughts of our great grandparents during the Depression.

Today, the radically conservative influenced governments and the media make sure that the rest of our thinking time is filled with distraction, not just entertaining programming, sports and reality shows but also news that’s tailor made to suit their needs. Preying on our fears and manipulating our emotions with one sided statistics and an agenda focused coverage of local and world events.

Advertising that forces us all to be avid, materialistic, consumers, spending more than we can afford.

This distraction allows them to further stretch the gap between those who have and those who have not, often without really meaning to. They are mostly just reasonably normal people. People that have been trained to see the world one way and have been given free reign by our apathy and life’s distractions to build the world to reflect their beliefs, often with unintended and unseen consequences. ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business’, is a phrase we’ve all heard way too often.

It’s not their fault really. How many people actually read a book that they aren’t required to?

How many people continue to educate themselves informally after their schooling is complete? Not many, and who can blame them?

It’s much easier and less stressful to drift with the tide.

Most people see glimpses of the truth at times, but the saying, “ignorance is bliss” is truly based in fact, so that when we see a politician or political commentator discussing the merits of this policy or that, the effects on our daily lives purposely obscured by lengthy, convoluted dialogue, we switch off, find another distraction and leave it up to those that we assume, know best.

One of the main focuses of distraction by boredom is the economy.

When you listen to our elected representatives in government and their spin doctors, the lobbyists, and our corporate masters, you get the idea that the economy is a fragile thing, that any negative affect to shareholder value and trade will cause untold damage to our way of life. And it’s mostly true. They have structured it that way.

They will wring every cent out of us that they can because the corporations no longer have any choice. Their programming has been designed to deliver certain results, not to think about social consequences.

They must expand and maximise profit, devouring smaller enterprises because if they don’t, they too will be taken over by other corporations.

Surplus profit has to be put to work to create more profit or else the whole concept of corporate capitalism will fail, but it’s very nature will also be our undoing.

Hardly anybody is prepared to make decisions anymore because it may affect their own position in the corporate world or jeopardise their climb up the ladder.

The ones that do decide on the future direction of the corporation that employs them are rarely given all the facts related to the decisions they are required to make. Only the information that is beneficial to the stock price appears to be calculated and taken into account, for reasons of ‘plausible deniability’ those in charge often don’t want to know all the facts.

Those below them in the corporate structure, will also quite willingly throw someone else under a bus to maintain their own progression and livelihood. Decisions which involve personal financial risk are avoided because the modern business has purposely removed the protections once afforded to its employees.

No one wants to be the negative voice that stands in the way of profit. Altruism and a social conscience have no place in the boardrooms of the corporate world. They have a multitude of think tanks and spin doctors compiling oaths, company creeds and internal policies that would have the outside world believe otherwise, but unless there’s a financial benefit to behaving ethically or for the good of humanity and the planet, it just doesn’t happen… well, sometimes it does actually, but it’s more of a by-product of progress rather than purposeful humanitarianism.

The world is changing though, like ‘terminators’ that have become self-aware, massed humanity is awakening slowly to reality. The only way the machine can continue to generate profit for profits sake, well into the future, is by distracting the masses with the same old tricks. By giving the monsters from the past enough air to distract us all from creating real change that may negatively affect the corporate bottom line.

Today, that distraction is ‘privilege’, ‘equality’ and ‘over-population’. Tomorrow, unless we’re very careful, the only solutions offered to us will be ‘fascism’ or ‘communism’.

Extremes never fail to keep us occupied.

White privilege is a fact, but it’s also a fairly broad term that misses the point. It seems to encompass all white people, and, to a certain extent, it does. Except that, for the majority of white people, it doesn’t mean very much.

Sure, we don’t generally have police checking our identification before we are allowed to buy alcohol, as is a frequent occurrence for Australian First Nations people, or are not baselessly accused of being ‘terrorists’ because of our olive skin, beards and belief in a certain religion, but overall, the majority of white people are not exactly given the red carpet treatment by society either.

Once upon a time it was definitely ‘trueish.’

White people did control commerce and write the versions of history that our western societies still mostly assume to be true. This is changing of course, but the belief of ‘white superiority’ will linger in the minds and ambitions of some for a long time to come. As will the concept of ‘racial superiority’ in the minds of people with a different melatonal composition, but if the ordinary Irish, Scot, English, or Frenchmen, from centuries past, could still speak, I doubt they would ever have considered themselves privileged above others.

It’s just another slogan that separates us all into factions and divides humanity, allowing the revolution to continue in the background.

An emotive branding that simplifies a complex issue, providing a focal point for the historically oppressed that covers a section of our global community with a blanket that would seem to define colonialism and atrocity purely on skin colour.

Or, if you’re white skinned, a rallying cry to draw those with an obvious genetic legacy into allegiance with those that wish to use our massed alliance to pursue their own agenda. It ignores the real truth, that individuals within the collective global society, with skins of many hues and varying degrees of size and strength, have no real power. We have no voice that isn’t just an extension of someone else’s philosophical or political belief. Our emotions are easy prey for our present and potential future, revolutionary leaders. Men and women that are trained to capitalise on our frustrations and voicelessness.

After watching a ten-minute adformercial about the latest and greatest can opener or toaster, who doesn’t want to own one themselves? If every couple of days we’re told we’re being discriminated against because we’re white, black, too short, too tall, disabled, unskilled, too skilled, male or female, genderless even, it’s hard to resist the impulse to agree, especially when we are barely treading water. Even the most successful humans (in monetary terms) of our societies are prone to the suggestion of discrimination against themselves. ‘Class warfare’ is their rallying cry, isolated by their wealth and despised by those that are not so well off. The unfortunate victims of ‘the politics of envy’.

We are all malleable to suggestion.

We are unconsciously drawn to anything that appears to improve our present circumstances. We buy lotto tickets hoping for a better life, knowing that we don’t have a hope in hell of winning. We grasp at any straw that’s offered to us because we know that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Am I saying that discrimination based on human traits doesn’t occur or the lingering effects of historical oppression are blown out of proportion… no, I’m not.

An interesting fact is that men between 6’ and 6’ 3” are the most highly paid and are disproportionately represented in the higher levels of the corporate and political world. Is this their fault?

Are they smarter than those of less impressive stature?

No more or less than any other group within society, it’s just that height commands a kind of instant respect and is considered a ‘leadership quality’… unless they are too tall of course, over 6’ 5” and we consider them to be freaks.

Is this bias towards a certain male height an example of what they call ‘reverse discrimination,’ because I’m not sure what that term means exactly, but it’s obvious that we are not only malleable to suggestion, we are all guilty of stereotyping as well. Which goes a long way towards creating the world’s winners and losers.

Even the terms we use most to describe admiration and respect reflect this bias. We “look up” to someone and “look down” on those that we don’t respect. We ‘size people up’ to appraise their worth.

Men of less impressive stature that question this ‘natural’ order, apparently have a well known syndrome…

Humanity it seems, deserves the future that has been written for us.

We all need community, people that we feel akin to, that we consider are the same as ourselves. It’s natural and human. It’s just that it’s no longer sustainable for these feelings of tribal connectivity to be localised or based on common features, cultures or easily definable traits. If we want human life to continue to exist, we have to evolve, not regress. Race. Religion. Nationality. All redundant. All just a form of special effects used to distract us from the present revolt.

Blaming individuals or groups within society for our disconnect from modern life and the lack of individual advancement, regardless of effort, is pointless and self-defeating. Collectively, we are achieving nothing except another drift into catastrophic global conflict, but there is hope.

Slowly and, in most cases, without actually meaning to, individuals on our planet are educating themselves, all of them.

We have access to the accumulated knowledge of the entire world. Our children can access historical information that their grandparents, unless specifically trained, would’ve refused to believe could be true.

They were not stupid, not at all, unfortunately, ignorance is now commonly regarded as meaning the same thing, but ignorant just means unaware.

Our grandparents were generally ‘unaware’ of what was happening outside their own borders or interests. Which is why they were susceptible to ‘the call to arms.’ Why the people of the past appeared so willing to allow themselves to be treated like cattle and herded in whichever direction their political leaders required. Now, we want more than a strong hand to guide us or a romanticised ideal. We know there’s no Utopian paradise awaiting us after the war, any war is won… the truths of history are now in the public domain and easy to find if you look or accidentally stumble upon when ‘net surfing. However, before enough of us wake up a ‘strong hand to guide us’ is a distinct possibility for our future.

The drift away from our major political party’s is a reflection of the dissatisfaction and doubt in the ability of our leadership to improve our individual lives. Which is why voters are choosing to elect people that they believe share their outlook or are prepared to ‘shake things up’. Trump, a billionaire salesman. Clive Palmer, a billionaire mining magnate. Pauline Hanson, a fish n chip shop owner.

‘Class’ is not the issue for most voters, they don’t care about your background anymore, they just want things to be different.

Trump is a good example of this indifference to class war by the general public. He is a salesman, pure and simple. Trained from birth to ‘make the deal’, he is not affected by attacks on his intelligence or diplomatic skills by political pundits or his rivals, it runs like water off a duck’s back because he knows who his target market is. He knows who’s buying what he’s selling. It isn’t the intelligentsia or political elite, it’s the average, disillusioned punter.

These voters are not confined to any particular class, they are from all levels of society. That’s what makes him scary to the existing political establishment and exemplifies how easy it is to drift toward fascism. Not ideological based fascism as we know it, but a different kind. The people know he’s bullshitting to them, but it’s ‘honest’, car salesman style bullshit. He’s promising them a better can opener, a better toaster, and just like insomniacs tele-surfing at midnight, the voters have got their credit cards ready.

Those that wish to continue the present revolution are getting desperate to maintain the illusion of division rooted in different skin colours and cultural backgrounds. Between left and right, god and the devil, between anything that they can think of really, to keep us from collectively changing the world to one that benefits all of mankind, instead of just those that have inherited the earth and its riches as we know it. The modern beneficiary however, is not a person or small group of powerful individuals, they’ve now been incorporated. The multinational is now in control of our destiny, and it’s a runaway train. A Titanic in search of an iceberg.

The individuals at the helm however, are still under the delusion that they are in control and will fight to the death (your death and your children’s, not theirs of course) to maintain the status quo. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that their fortunes are tied so closely to the stock price and not their brains. The influential proponents of the ‘free market’ and its revolutionary leaders are not immune to the negative effects of its progression, unfortunately though, their cognitive dissonance and fear of a future created by the disgruntled masses continue to perpetuate the current revolution…

They feel they have no choice.

War and economic collapse are almost inevitable because the real division in society is dawning in the minds of ordinary, working people. Those that are in power, as well as those that seek control, are starting to strategise. Some have even re-emerged from history’s closet, to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs… before it’s too late.

Before enough of us understand that philosophical ideals and adherence to strict ideological doctrines are the reason we are where we are today, and that almost all of them are a con.

The world seems unable to stop the rapid rise of inequality. The yawning chasm between the haves and the have nots is ever widening, yet the ‘solution spinners’, the political and intellectual elite of our world (both from the left, the right, and all spaces in between) apparently have no ideas or set directions to follow that aren’t based on ideological and/or philosophical notions from the last and previous centuries. Notions that widen the chasm even further by encouraging hatred and revenge. That promise to satisfy their followers, yet only offer further division of our already fragmented humanity.

The agenda driven, manufactured versions of division, the ones based on religious beliefs or melatonal composition are designed to distract us, but the ones underlying those, the ones that until now, have been easy to defeat for those with the money, are not so easily hidden.

When the obvious disparity between the wealthy and the wage earner is more and more pronounced every day and the access to factual information regarding wealth inequality is within the reach of almost anyone with access to the internet and an inquiring mind, those that hold all the cards need to reshuffle the deck.

Until recently, the aces hiding up their sleeve haven’t been needed, but the age of distraction, the game of smoke and mirrors is almost over. It’s time for the manipulators to bring out their big guns, and this is why…

All the distractions of the modern world are failing to numb the minds of wage earners and their children. Normal, everyday people, that are developing, through education and intimate knowledge, an awareness of the real causes of the stress created by providing a living for themselves and those that depend on them.

The ability and means to understand that something is wrong with the way the world is run and that no matter how hard they work, they only ever seem to barely, and not always, stay ahead of their financial commitments. Seeing a future where retirement is not going to provide security or comfort. Where their children are at the mercy of an untouchable system that still doesn’t care if they survive or not.

That doesn’t care about addressing past wrongs or future internationally significant issues. Paying lip service to change, instead of actually changing to advance the interests of all mankind…

OK, I meant man and womankind… umm, maybe I mean all genderkind. Forgive me, it’s difficult to keep up with the divisive distractions that seem so vital to address and cause us all to walk on eggshells every time we open our mouths or write down our thoughts, but actually create more division that hides the real barriers to collective unity.

Concluded tomorrow with Part 2

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The capitalism beast beneath the bed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shorten draws a line in the sand

Bill Shorten and the Labor party are beginning to demonstrate true grit. The latest policy announcement that will see an end to a welfare handout to the rich, otherwise known as the Dividend Imputation Scheme M2, is a masterstroke.

The dividend imputation scheme enables salary earners who own shares to minimise their tax liabilities with franking credits. However, where a person has a very low income those franking credits not only mean they pay no tax, but they result in non-taxpayers being owed money by the ATO.

Yes, it will hit some part-pensioners, perhaps as much as $4800 a year but, as they weren’t paying any tax, it was only acting as a supplement to their pension payment anyway. Its cancellation will result in them receiving a larger pension payment.

They will likely be no worse off, or minimally out of pocket. But for those who have large shareholdings and have used John Howard’s overly generous system to firstly, pay no tax, and then receive a cash handout each year from the ATO, effectively working the initiative in a way Paul Keating never intended, their days of sponging off the system are coming to an end.

This is just another example of the Howard era’s middle-class welfare that has reached its use-by date. We can place this in the same basket as capital gains tax breaks and negative gearing concessions that are wasted on the wealthy and which offer no benefit to our economy.

This May, Scott Morrison will deliver the last budget before the next federal election and it is not surprising he has been talking up the possibility of personal income tax cuts. So it wasn’t surprising then, when Bill Shorten made his announcement, that Morrison immediately began a scare campaign trying to frighten pensioners into thinking they will lose their imputation credits. They won’t.

They will only lose the amount over and above the point where they stop paying tax. And that will likely mean they receive a higher pension payment as compensation. As if to counter Morrison’s plan, Shorten has demonstrated that Labor can also offer tax cuts and he is showing us how they will pay for them.

And just so we get it straight, the amendment to Paul Keating’s original scheme was one of several measures introduced by Peter Costello in the early 2000s, that was introduced on the back of the mining boom and which was nothing more than a vote-buying exercise.

Shorten believes that the economy cannot afford such generous arrangements for the wealthy in much the same way Morrison believes we can no longer afford welfare for the unemployed, the sick and the less well off. It’s an interesting dichotomy. It’s neoliberalism versus left-wing ideology. We now have a clear distinction in policy approaches by the two major parties.

At a time when we have record high levels of private debt, record low interest rates, and mortgage stress tied to wage stagnation, the combination of which threatens to bring about an economic meltdown, highlighting the two starkly different approaches will make for a robust debate. It is one Shorten and his shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen are confident they can win.

We will probably get some indication of its acceptance or otherwise when the next opinion poll is published. However, putting some sense and sensibility back into the dividend imputation scheme is the right call.

Day to Day Politics: Who is the biggest grub in the Coalition?

Dutton wins by the length of the straight.

Saturday 6 January 2018

It’s not unfair to say that amongst Coalition MPs there are a lot of slimy types. If I’m being polite, it’s my nature. Others might say that the likes of Barnaby Joyce, Julie Bishop, Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne, Peter Dutton, Michaelia Cash, Matthew Canavan, Greg Hunt, Mitch Fifield, Josh Frydenberg, Tony Abbott and even the Prime Minister are in differing ways the sort of people you wouldn’t invite to dinner.

But they do form the collective leadership of the nation. If you think that in character they are suitable for the enormous tasks facing the nation please say so. Conversely, if you think they are not,perhaps you could say why in the comments section.

I recall the night when Penny Wong and Barnaby Joyce were on Q&A together. They were discussing Marriage Equality, and Barnaby was spruiking the virtues of his Catholicism, putting Wong down in the process. A transcript of the program no longer exists but I recall Barnaby making a derogatory remark about Wong’s sexuality and her rebuttal, referring to her family, was absolutely priceless. Now it seems family wasn’t as important as he made out.

If you have ever witnessed his cringing appearances on Q&A when surrounded by people of sagacious knowledge you will understand where I’m coming from.

Julie Bishop is another conservative without compassion. Some of you might recall this from 2012 …

Lawyer Peter Gordon told Australian Doctor magazine in 2007: “We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial. I recall sitting in the WA Supreme Court in an interlocutory hearing for the test cases involving Wittenoom miners Mr Peter Heys and Mr Tim Barrow. CSR was represented by Ms Julie Bishop (then Julie Gillon). (She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Labor MP Stephen Jones said at the time:

Of course, solicitors don’t choose their clients but Jones thinks Labor should point out Bishop’s role. “You can’t judge anyone by their clients, I suppose. But she had some pretty dodgy ones in my view.”

And more recently this, referring to Barnaby Joyce’s NZ immigration problems:

“It was all at the behest of the Australian Labor Party, who stop at nothing, will trash any principle, trash any promise, trash any element of decency in order to gain a political advantage.”

Scott Morrison will of course be remembered for his statement that Cabinet wasn’t taking full advantage of the plight of asylum seekers and his rather indelicate remarks that Australia should not have to pay the air fares for asylum seekers to attend the funerals of those who died at sea.

Morrison’s oafish intransigence, a refusal to infuse any form of decency into his thinking while Immigration Minister disgraced our country in the eyes of the world.

Of course the one thing, the thread that binds all these people together, is their enormous capacity for lying. Which brings me to perhaps the greatest grub of all. The self loving Christopher Pyne who often calls fellow members “grubs” but now and then c#nts. He did this in Question Time and the proof of it is on YouTube

As a Minister of the Crown, he is an alarming spectacle. Is he mad? Is he a deluded, paranoid megalomaniac? Does he suffer an extreme narcissistic personality disorder? The jury is still out. It could be all of these and more.

Christopher Pyne is the second youngest MP ever elected to the House of Representatives. He is also arguably the most disliked. (He doesn’t mind that) No one has been expelled from the Chamber for unruly behaviour more times than Pyne.

Offence comes as naturally to him as does sleeping and wakening. His demeanour is crass and unpleasant. His self-righteous indignation is prissy, shallow, superficial, and school boyish. Some time ago the Coalition said that “the adults were back in charge”: then it’s difficult to imagine how this adolescent loutish, imbecile with an uncouth acerbic tongue got a jersey.

Which brings us to Greg Hunt, who a couple of years ago received an award for ‘Best Minister in the World’. It was received with much scepticism by many Australians. Even hilarity.

Mr Hunt told Fairfax Media at the time that he was “genuinely humbled” by the prize, but noted “this is really an award for Australia”.

The criteria for winning the award, according to the organisers, was that the minister should lead quality successful initiatives that serve the needs of citizens.

Any economist, environmentalist or climate scientist or journalist specialising in the subject would be aghast that a person who has done so much harm to environmental policy could be honoured with an award.

In environmental gatherings Hunt is referred to as the man for all seasons. He has long been admired for his ability to put the case for Direct Action without ever explaining exactly how it might work. Or how it might be paid for.

He gained a masters with honours in 1990 with a brilliantly argued thesis for a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions. Then he did an about turn when Abbott gained power supporting Direct Action. It was then that he lost all credibility and has been ridiculed ever since.

There is an award at every climate summit called ‘The Fossil of the Day’. The award is given by the international Climate Action Network to the country which has done the most to block progress at the climate change negotiations. We are a regular recipient of this award.

After Abbott might I suggest that Hunt is a sublime liar who does it with a calmness that is frightening.

This brings us to Michaelia Cash. Writing for The AIMN in December David Tyler said:

“Pluto-populism has been a GOP strategy in the US since Ronald Reagan. It involves a super wealthy elite who have systematically learned to manipulate the electorate to their advantage. Its key feature is to use democratic processes to establish an authoritarian, autocratic power over the people.

It was deployed in Latin America; it is at work in Trump’s America and it is at work in Australia, too.

Recent events in the brilliant career of former employment Minister, Michaelia “Union-bash” Cash reflect how the Turnbull government’s jihad on organised labour aka “union thuggery” confer a self-righteousness which help Coalition MPs set themselves above the law.”

Josh Frydenber is another MP in the Hunt ilk. Calm, rational with Hunt’s grubby need for lying.

Although not now in the cabinet Tony Abbott has done more than any other to destroy our democracy and the institute that is Parliament. I have written more on Abbott than any other person, so the short summary that follows suffices for this post:

“Tony Abbott if nothing else is a very colorful character. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. His negativity is legendary and he has little consideration for any ideas other than his own and says NO to his opponents policies regardless of their worthiness. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some regularity. Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions. Like most conservative politicians from the Abbott/Turnbull governments he show an incapacity to feel or display compassion.”

Currently we are experiencing a shift in power from government to those who control the means of production, financial institutions, the media and large corporations.

Transparency isn’t something this Government displays openly. The Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield cannot explain what appears to be a gift of $30 million to Rupert, and is in the budget when there are no papers to explain it. An application to FOI revealed no paperwork. It seems it is just a nod and wink gift of taxpayers money between friends.

Yet Fifield complains incessantly about ABC bias and has defended his decision to legislate that the ABC must be “fair and balanced”. But private enterprise doesn’t need to.

The Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull must surely be the greatest hypocrite the country has ever seen so I won’t expand much, suffice to say that power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s wellbeing for the sake of it. Those who follow me would know just how much I have written about his leadership, or lack of it.

The new Minister for Anything approaching evil insists that “people are to scared to go out to restaurants of a night-time because they are followed home by these gangs”.

When asked to provide factual evidence of this the former copper from Queensland could not. No one is surprised for it is a method of demonising people that he has used for some time now.

Is it effective? Well, he must think it is because he takes every opportunity to use this malevolent methodology of scaring people at every opportunity. He is the sort of bloke I would never like to meet up a dark ally on a bleak cold winters night.

In short I have posted a summary of the qualities of some of our cabinet members. Surely the Liberal and Country Party can come up with better people than these.

Victoria Rollison in her open letter to the Prime Minister last December on this site said:

”This week you’ve made the call, through saying nothing at all, by hiding away, by pretending you don’t need to comment, to support your Immigration Minister Dutton’s blatant lies, designed to demonise asylum seekers by accusing them of paedophilia. We all know it’s messy for you to call Dutton out, to say he’s lied, to take responsibility for sacking him as Immigration Minister; he’s just as dangerous to you as Abbott. But Malcolm, just because something is messy and hard and takes a bit of bravery, doesn’t mean you need to rule it out. Were you never told as a child that nothing worthwhile was ever easy?”

My thought for the day

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

A double agent in the house? It’s the least of our worries.

Loud hosannas resound in Canberra. Hallelujah. Could it be the joyous news that Harry and Meghan Markle will grace us with their royal presence at a charity polo match in Marvellous Melbourne early next year?

Or is it Dotard Trump’s Middle East diplomatic masterstroke? Swayed by Zionist lobbyists and fat-cat Republican donors’ demands he moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Images of rioting, protesting Palestinians appear immediately. Any moment, son-in-law, slumlord Jared Kushner, will “deliver peace” in the Middle East on cue.

No. It’s our own joyous ritual bloodletting. The killing season is upon us. A PM should watch his back. Beware Daily Telegraph claims that Turnbull is “turning the tide on Labor”.  Which tide? A chorus of MSM hacks ignore NewsPoll and Ipsos showing the Coalition lagging Labor 47:53, while Essential has the government 45-55 to Labor.

Yet Turnbull insists he’s ending the year on a high. Even lurching from crisis to catastrophe, a Coalition government always gets a fabulous press. It has the best connections.

Or it just helps itself to credit due to others.  A week before parliament plunges into recess, the government covers itself in stolen glory. In a stunt worthy of a Mean Girls’ character, little Malco takes credit for the Yes vote himself, despite leaving all advocacy to others. It’s his big win. This does not endear him to any LGTBI advocates.

More worryingly, Turnbull shows no sense that the survey was a delaying stunt. Nor is there any hint he feels sorry – or some responsibility for all of the injury done. Mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry – reports that, for many, the campaign revived traumatic memories of bullying and discrimination they faced at school.

Online agencies report a similar pattern. Digital Youth service ReachOut, a Frontline Service which attracts 1.5 million unique visitors to its website annually, reports its online forums recorded a sharp increase in activity, with young gay people reporting feeling scared and tired of personal attacks.

Many other agencies report distress. A key source of psychological suffering stemmed from the flaw in the survey’s conception. Many share Dennis Halloran’s anger that other people get to vote about his personal life.

“It’s insulting,” says Halloran a voter in Turnbull’s Wentworth electorate . “I believe equality is a human right.”

In other aspects, Turnbull’s support of marriage equality is equivocal; inconsistent. In 1997, he wrote a case against a postal vote because “it flies in the face of Australian democratic values”. In 2012 in Julia Gillard’s conscience vote in parliament, he voted against marriage equality. Bill Shorten voted in favour.

Turnbull has not been honest about the concept. The postal survey was not Dutton’s idea but came from Andrew Laming, an MP who drew up many surveys, which, when trialled always managed to get a negative result.

Most tellingly, Turnbull has never been keen to canvass the thoughts and feelings of those whose interests and experiences are most relevant.   Last August he ignored calls to consult with the LGTBI community before introducing his postal survey which, in inception at least, was a Trojan horse to forestall marriage equality.

Congratulations? The PM will be lucky to receive a Mean Girls  Spring Fling plastic tiara a cheap, hollow crown.

Yet a euphoria descends upon weary but relieved yes supporters. Even IPA tool, former anti-human rights commission, human rights commissioner Tim Wilson proposes to partner Ryan mid-debate.

You can read it in Hansard. Then, quickly compartmentalising joy as all male-dominated outfits must; it moves on to pride. The Coalition channels its inner Trump, boasting over its glorious, historic victory in the New England by-election.

The Coalition  crows. Biggest swing to a sitting government in history, even if it must say so itself – repeatedly.

This “wasn’t a Newspoll”, this was “a real poll” shouts a PM whose credibility is in free fall as a nation has just seen him cynically cancel a week of parliament on the pretext of making room for marriage equality law-making. The hiatus is a desperate move to ensure his own political survival. So, too, is his over-promotion of Peter Dutto.

Yet joyous exultation froths out of the Liberal spin machine over the imminent elevation of our Lord High Protector Peter “Spud” Dutton to his new Home Affairs gig. His installation is fast-tracked not by popular demand but by Turnbull’s need to appease right wing party bullies intent on total domination via ownership of the PM.

Dutto, too, kicks along the nation’s ersatz euphoria as Dastyari-bashing, a national blood-sport, is back in season.

“Sam Dastyari is a Chinese spy. A double agent”, dirty Dutto dog-whistles in Question Time. It’s a slur speaker Tony Smith doesn’t hear, he says, but it’s clear enough to 2GB listeners when Dutto first makes it a week earlier.

“You can’t have a double agent in the Australian parliament. It’s simply not good enough, Ray.”  

Government MPs love a lynch mob – especially with a racist vibe. All week, MPs pile on; raid the Liberals’ stock of Yellow Peril formula from the Cold War to whip up a fresh brew of Sinophobia. They howl Dastyari down, a Labor traitor in our midst, while putting the wind up the 44341 Bennelong residents who identify as Chinese-Australians.

Political piñata he may be, but Dastyari’s bashing goes too far. And not just in Sydney. China is “astonished” by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statements which risk “poisoning” our bilateral relationship.

Less puzzled, however, is Martin McKenzie Murray who reports in The Saturday Paper that senior Labor Party figures believe the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) leaked the audio of Sam Dastyari’s 2016 press conference in front of Chinese media, but possibly did so following pressure from a disgruntled US.

Like the giant panda in the room, the issue of how the media gained report of Dastyari’s diabolical treachery is largely ignored in our MSM. A security agency’s spook may have leaked intelligence to the media in order to damage Dastyari and Labor but the story of the week has been largely ignored, save by McKenzie-Murray.

A hostile US embassy concerned with Labor’s links to China – and a willingness to co-operate may have stitched up Sam – and his PM.

How this Chinese-whisper stacks up against Andrew Robb, for example, or countless other money-grubbing Coalition figures is problematic. Dastyari’s breach of protocol is nowhere as serious, for example,  as Stuart Robert who, as assistant minister of defence, oversaw a mining deal between Nimrod Resources – run by his close friend, major Liberal Party donor Paul Marks – and the Chinese government-owned company Minmetals.

In a review conducted by Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC)head, Dr Martin Parkinson, it was found that Mr Robert had acted inconsistently with the Statement of Ministerial Standards, if unwittingly. Parkinson also notes Mr Robert appears not to have received any financial benefit from the deal. Unlike Andrew Robb.

Andrew Robb’s contract with Chinese company Landridge, a document shrouded in confidentiality,  effectively guarantees him $800,000 per year with little in the way of prescribed, part-time  duties, – beginning shortly after he left parliament in 2016 – a contract revealed by Fairfax Media and Four Corners in June.

Billionaire Ye Cheng owns Landridge, which controversially acquired a 99-year lease for the Port of Darwin in 2015. In brief, any investigation of China’s influence in Australia would begin with far bigger firms and entrepreneurs.

And agents. McKenzie Murray reports sources who suggest that the damaging leak against Dastyari may arise from his association with Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo. ASIO had forewarned major parties Huang was a likely agent for the Chinese Communist Party. Some suggest the NSW Right may have leaked the story.

A separate leak against Shorten was made quickly after the Dastyari tape went public. The Opposition leader is reported to have visited Huang prior to the federal election – months after an ASIO warning – for a campaign donation. The NSW Right may have leaked to warn Shorten to acquiesce with the pro-China faction.

All of this is damaging to Labor. Yet more than some of the story beggars belief.

Getting great airplay in parliament and in MSM is the PM’s story that Dastyari visited Huang at his home. He suggested to Huang that his phone may be tapped, or its microphone remotely activated. The story depends on the willing suspension of belief that neither man would simply turn his phone off.

Or that neither uses Telegram or some similarly secure popular messaging device. But we mustn’t spoil the story.

Being bugged by a phone which is  turned off taps vast reserves of fiendish oriental cunning and other Sinophobic prejudices. It is also fed by popular mythology of all-pervasive, ruthless modern cyber espionage, currently fanned to fever pitch by dynamic Dan Tehan and his PM on behalf of a government keen to crank up fear of Cyber-attack.

Hysteria beckons. MSM report stories of people fearing they are being spied on by their microwave ovens.

The attacks on Sam are problematic. It is unwise, however enjoyable, to speculate on motivation. Yet they are odd and appear orchestrated.  Are they US inspired? Shopping a spook – or a double agent could help the coalition show its fealty to the US and also be part of an attack on Shorten, an MP who has been pilloried mercilessly since Abbott in a prolonged and damaging process of character assassination and personal slur.

What is alarming is the number of MSM stories which now suggest Shorten faces troubling times.  Even more disturbing is Peter Dutton’s promise that he has more dirt to dish on Dastyari.

There will be more revelations to come out on shady Dastyari, he threatens in that menacing generality one expects from a super minister about to run a Home Affairs super ministry. Or a drug cop about to fit you up.

Huge damage has been done, despite Labor’s strong opinion polling. So effective has coalition sledging been, alone, the name “Bill Shorten” has in some contexts become a type of gag-line; a means to invoke derision or worse. Barnaby Joyce loves to make himself useful with such attacks. Nationals exist to bait Labor.

“You might be leader of the Labor Party, but it looks like you’ve never done a day’s labour in your life.

“He couldn’t run a pie shop and the thought of him running the country fills me with dread.”

Lapdog Barnaby is eager to follow Turnbull’s lead in preferring personal insult to political debate. Character assassination takes far less preparation than refutation or rebuttal or any other of the arts of debate. Far more damaging, too.

Yet there’s another twist. Mal’s cunning plan is to crank up the war on Dastyari to smooth the passage of a bill or several –he talks loosely of laws – which will restrict foreign influence- not just Chinese interference- while it prevents charities from advocacy (which entails criticising government policy) and nobbles GetUp!

More worrying is that the new legislation appears directed against Sam Dastyari, our Labor opponent du jour.

“In my view, the conduct alleged against him does not reach the threshold of the existing laws of treason and espionage, but that is why we are introducing – because of the gap in those laws, a new offence of unlawful foreign interference,” argues Attorney-General Brandis, a Queensland QC who argued in August that ignorance would save Barnaby Joyce.

Ironically, Australia takes further moves to silence dissent and to diminish agencies of advocacy or criticism, while China, with a long history of such measures  including persecution of dissidents, is quick to voice its displeasure.

Yet Turnbull’s gone overboard – or thrown the Dastyari out with the bath water. Whipping up anti-Dastyari hysteria so keenly as to offend a major trading partner amounts, is another poor judgement call from the PM. Happily the Liberals’ broad church can celebrate Barnaby’s brain farts instead.

Joyce to the world. Barnaby is not just Tamworth’s Salvator Mundi, says the PM although BJ says he’s no saint.

New England writs return in record time; Turnbull urgently needs BJ’s vote. By Wednesday, Joyce’s back at the despatch box ranting at Labor in a mongrel attack bagging Shorten for not sending MPs straight to the High Court .

 “Even after seeing the decision in the High Court where it is black and white, they (Labor) still made it a resolve of theirs to hide, to obfuscate and treat us all as fools,” he thunders his face all beetroot borscht and no cream.

“To Mr Shorten, to the Labor Party, to those being led around by the nose by the Labor Party, who actually took them on good faith to what they told you. I think now is the time that you should truly hold the Labor Party under the tutelage of Mr Bill Shorten well and truly to account.”   

There’s more of this from the former bean counter but the jig is up. Joyce is rewriting history. Preposterous is his outrageous claim that his delayed appearance in the High Court was not an attempt to hide, obfuscate and treat judges like fools. But he knows, as well as his government’s dirt unit, that it’s the big lies that work best.

Mangling syntax, forging tortuous metaphors, BJ rivals Bob Katter for wrangling language into nonsense.  Barnaby has his own wordsmithing ways and he’s not afraid to enter the smithy. Even if it gets him into serious trouble.

In October 2014, Barnaby corrected Hansard  His drought assistance answer claimed farmers received immediate help. He added disclaimers and qualifiers – “unless it is a new application,” and “if you were also a recipient of the Interim Farm Household Allowance”. He later had the changes struck out, blaming his staff for the error.

In  March 2015 his secretary Paul Grimes wrote to the now-Deputy Prime Minister telling him he “no longer [had] confidence in [his] capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with him. Grimes resigned. Fudging Hansard is probably not something to put on a CV but Barnaby’s absolved of all sin by his latest, greatest, glorious win.

The government has Joyce sworn in just before Question Time Wednesday and uses his crucial vote to stymie Labor’s attempt to send a joint referral of its current crop of nine MPs with dual citizenship to the High Court.

Turnbull does another flip-flop, back-flip. His political gymnastics are guaranteed to convey stability; strength.

For all its hype about a bipartisan resolution of the citizenship crisis , the government is now adamant that only Labor MP David Feeney and senator Katy Gallagher will be referred to the High Court. Given a chance to clear up an unpopular and time-consuming crisis, Malcolm Turnbull has chosen to prolong it indefinitely.

Yet, just as big, is the news of the elevation of Liberal top banana, former QLD drug squaddie “Dirty” Peter Dutton.

Riding high on the runaway success of his off-shore detention regime of deterrence and the genius of his Manus’ final solution, Dirty Dutto’s long overdue promotion to a Home Office super-ministry is tipped for 17 December.

The move strengthens talk that Santorin George Brandis, our Attorney-General, will slope off to Old Blighty to replace High Commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer even if he does have to evict Downer kicking and screaming out of his High Commissioner’s mansion. At least Theresa May will receive some free entertainment.

Yet Dutto has a tough gig. Long overdue is Australia’s response to the UN Human Rights Committee, a body which harshly condemns of Australia for failing in its treatment of refugees, Indigenous rights and inadequate protection of human rights, including the lack of a national human rights act.  On past form, Dutto will ignore all this.

His pal Tony Abbott provides a clue. Going on the offensive, Abbott declared that we were sick of being lectured to when a 2015 UN report found Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers breaches an international anti-torture convention. It was just after he called Professor Gillian Triggs report on children in detention a stitch-up.

The UN’s special rapporteur on torture finds Australia is violating the rights of asylum seekers on multiple fronts under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a notion which Eric Abetz calls deluded when Tasmanian Senator Lisa Singh repeats it on ABC Q&A last Monday.

Dutto will be champing to get this bit between his teeth. His  super ministry will combine Australian Federal Police (AFP), spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the Australian Border Force (ABF).

But the week has a happy ending after all.

All hail New England’s conquering hero, former dual Kiwi, bar-storming, Barnaby Joyce, a man of the Tamworth world, who returns to Canberra in a blaze of glory, a cloud of bull-dust and his Akubra Cattleman hat. He’s back in parliament in a flash. His government’s majority rides on his RM Williams hand-tooled dynamic flex boots.

A boisterous, brawling government is abuzz with something more than the size of the New Election by-election win, a win which Turnbull instantly appropriates for the coalition – as he does with the marriage equality Yes vote.

Meanwhile, true-blue, Aussie battler and patriot Barnaby is pitted against Sam Dastyari public enemy number one.

Or that’s this week’s national mythic contest. It doesn’t pay to look closely. Barnaby may be Australia’s best retail politician but he’s a mining lobbyist who would help pollute the Great Artesian Basin, the world’s largest and deepest and our island continent’s biggest water source is extolled as a paragon of Aussie loyalty and fidelity.

“If you want to focus on the person in the weatherboard and iron they will give you the grace of their vote,” says the MP with a touch of Huey Long a politician who like Donald Trump appeals to the battlers and does nothing for them. And almost everything against them. Barnaby’s backers include billionaire Gina Rinehart

A deputy PM in charge of resources and water, he has no issue with spruiking for Santos on the local radio despite the damage done by fracking to local water.

Amidst the crush to cheer on Barnaby and install him in Tamworth’s pantheon as a cultural icon and appropriate his victory as the greatest swing to a sitting government ever, a frantic Canberra reaches fever pitch Thursday as religious freedom fears or time-wasting “pious amendments” such as Tony Abbott proposes are brushed aside and it becomes legal for same sex couples to marry. The winners’ circle is swamped by raucous gate-crashers.

Much of the ruckus is joyous celebration over the removal of an injustice and the recognition of a human right but there is also a desperate rush by a crush of unlikely MPs – rent-seekers eager to claim the victory of marriage equality, hitch their star to true-blue Barnaby’s iconic victory – while Dutton’s hot-eyed zealots pool resources, horses, water and feed and prepare to run any double agents right out of town.

Activists, lefties, greenies, advocates and dissidents all need to sit up and take notice.


Make laugh – not war

A couple of weeks ago, esteemed blogmaster at ‘The Political Sword’ Ad Astra published a piece asking ‘Why is there so much anger?’ It’s a good question.

Sociologists will tell us that whatever position a person takes on a particular subject, there will be some who agree, some who disagree and some who don’t have a strong opinion either way; they’re ‘sitting on the fence’. Some of those who disagree would listen to an argument designed to change their mind; for others, successfully changing their viewpoint would be impossible.

This played out for all to see in the recent federal election. Out of the 150 House of Representative seats, by the end of the election night there were only a dozen or so that were still in play. The (never-ending) election campaign wasn’t to convince the voters in the 130 odd seats that were almost certain to fall to the red or blue teams, the millions of electrons and litres of advertising ink were all expended to convince a handful of voters to change their votes. Out of the 90,000 people in these marginal (or swinging) electorates, the advertising was designed to convince a small number of voters to support the red, blue, green, orange or other party on 2 July rather than their previous allegiance.

How about we look at this another way. Uncle Toby’s Oats products are available all year round on the shelves of most supermarkets so there is clearly a year round demand. As it is winter in Australia, the sales of this and similar products would currently be higher as people choose to have something warm for breakfast instead of their normal cereal with cold milk. Some people will always purchase Uncle Toby’s Oats regardless of the price or difficulty in sourcing them because of some perceived benefit of the product over other similar products. Others would purchase oats in winter based on the cost or some other criteria without caring about the brand. There are also some who would never buy oats in general or Uncle Toby’s Oats in particular due to any number of reasons from they just don’t like oats through to some perceived shortfall in the Uncle Toby’s product.

In a similar way, some people will always purchase a Ford vehicle, some will buy a vehicle regardless of the brand due to the perceived needs of the consumer being matched as closely as possible by the vehicle they are considering and others would never buy a Ford due to past poor experience, they have a tribal loyalty to another brand or some other reason.

Advertising is designed to move people from the ‘undecided’ column to the ‘always purchase’ column. The belief is that if you convince someone to consider your product, the obvious benefits of your product once they have tried it will convert the consumer to an ‘always’ purchaser of that brand. There are a lot of ways to do this: Uncle Toby’s may hand out free samples at little athletics carnivals or major transport interchanges; Ford might display a car at or sponsor a pop culture festival or perhaps loan vehicles from their range of light commercials to the Gympie Music Muster in South East Queensland; a luxury consumer goods supplier might choose to associate themselves with the Australian Ballet or a series of performances at the Sydney Opera House.

At the same time, other manufacturers of similar products such as Kelloggs and Toyota are attempting to convince the undecided consumer that their products are better for each individual consumer than Uncle Toby’s or Ford. You need something to make your advertising memorable. Comedy seems to be frequently used, such as in this Specsavers advertisement.

PJ O’Rourke is an American political satirist and journalist. He is, by his own account, a conservative Republican who is in Australia for the next month or so on a speaking tour that includes the Byron Bay Writers Festival and a number of ‘think tank’ events in the southern capitals. O’Rourke’s writing skills can be demonstrated by his ‘fawning’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential Race – ‘She is the second-worst thing that could happen to America’. O’Rourke was interviewed by Matt Wordsworth on ABCTV’s Lateline. (Slightly off topic, the interview is worth reading solely for O’Rourke’s opinion of Trump.) O’Rourke and Wordsworth discussed the crossover between comedy and commentating:

MATT WORDSWORTH: You and your colleagues at Lampoon — you’re editor of Lampoon, obviously — now, comedians are the go-to commentators.
P.J. O’ROURKE: Isn’t that stupid?
MATT WORDSWORTH: Did you see that coming?
P.J. O’ROURKE: No, no. Who could possibly have seen that coming? I mean, it’s absolutely ridiculous. The role in — if humour has any positive role in covering politics, it’s simply to keep people’s attention for long enough that they will actually look at the serious issues that are …
MATT WORDSWORTH: But they’re increasingly becoming the primary source of news for some people — your Colberts and your John Stewarts and whatnot.
P.J. O’ROURKE: (Laughs) Yes, yes. And I object. That’s not where one is supposed to be getting one’s news. We are and should remain a sideshow. If we can get some more people to go to the big top, great.

The reality is that comedy has been used as a ‘cover’ for making pointed comments since the middle ages. Former Liberal Party Senator Chris Puplick was talking about court jesters in an ’Ockham’s Razor’ interview on ABC’s RN radio network in 2003:

Their job was to give what used to be called ‘frank and fearless’ advice to the monarch. They were the reality check to the absolute rulers of their day. They were the utter reverse of today’s spin doctors. They told the governors what the people needed them to hear, they took the views of the masses to the masters rather than being employed to tell the masses the lies the rulers think they ought to be fed.

It wasn’t just a mediaeval thing, the UK has a long and proud history of comedic comment on ‘sacred cows” such as this Dave Allen clip on his first experience of religion.

Australia also has a rich history of using comedy to comment on the news, from The Mavis Bramston Show, through The Gillies Report in the 1980’s (worth watching the whole 9 minutes for the very young John Clarke at the start and the ‘cover’ of the song ‘Shout’ at the end) …

… to today where Waleed Aly who presents The Project on Network 10 …

… and Charlie Pickering who presents ABC’s The Weekly  …

… both offer razor sharp commentary on current events.

So why are some people always angry? Some people are always going to find something to be angry about. Regardless of what argument you present on a particular issue, some people are going to absolutely disagree with you. In today’s winner take all society, some of those who will never be convinced to change their mind on their ideas will actively attack you (in an attempt to either change your opinion or challenge your right to have a different opinion) rather than just agree to disagree.

Others will be open to having their opinions changed by discussion. Currently the discussion on a number of issues around the world is being led by those who preach anger, hate and isolation, such as Trump, Christensen, Bernardi, Hanson and so on. While they claim that their argument is sound and consistent, don’t forget that Hanson’s initial speeches referred to the Chinese who were going to take over Australia 20 years ago, showing similar consistency to those who were around in the 60’s and 70’s suggesting that the Greeks and Italians were going to take all our jobs while claiming unemployment benefits (and other farcical stretches of logic). The problem is that if there is no other argument that sticks in people’s minds to reinforce positive attitudes over the carefully calculated scare campaign, the hate preachers gain more converts.

Mark Twain is alleged to have said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. Advertisers use comedy to attract attention and ensure that the sponsored product is kept top of mind. Perhaps the Colbert’s, John Stewart’s, Waleed Aly’s and Charlie Pickering’s have worked out how to produce discussion in respect to sensitive issues, keeping them top of people’s minds (hopefully turning a number of ‘undecideds’ into people with positive opinions on the way), by appealing to those who are looking for relevant information and using comedy as a tool to deliver the message.

Fairfax recently ran an article in The Brisbane Times that demonstrated how the Islamic Council of Queensland is managing trolls who contact them by social media. Instead of getting upset, they use humour to disarm the situation. It’s an example we could all follow.

A little way up the screen is a Dave Allen clip relating to religion. While he was probably best known for his religious jokes, he also frequently told stories about other issues — such as how he lost the top of one of his fingers. If only we could all tell stories like this the ‘hate’ preachers would have nowhere to go.

Dave Allen, Waleed Aly, Max Gillies, PJ O’Rourke and Charlie Pickering are all good story tellers and frequently discuss subjects where others are too afraid to go. While there is the need for decorum and consideration of others feelings, those who wish to provide positive arguments to people who are undecided about a whole range of subjects including religion, drug use, responsible behaviour and so on need to use tools that those looking for information will relate to. Unfortunately, the argument for positive behaviour is usually more nuanced than the alternative, so the message can’t be communicated in a 10 second soundbite that you watch while scrolling through your Facebook feed. Rather than using ‘fire and brimstone’, perhaps a little humour during the explanation of the positive view will delay scrolling long enough to discuss some facts, helping to disarm the hate and anger. It’s fine to disagree — anger and hate is another matter entirely.


This article from 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Can Labor seize the moment?

By Steve Laing

Let’s face it. A loss is not a win.

So here we are again. The election is over, the counting almost finally concluded, and the Coalition has limped over the line in the House of Reps, but with an even more divided, and potentially difficult Senate than the double dissolution was ironically called to help remove.

Despite the relative success of the Labor gains, the actual result is really quite depressing. In this largely two horse race, they lost. And it is us, the electorate, who will continue to suffer. Yet if there was ever a campaign that the opposition should have romped home, it was this one.

Firstly, the government ran a lackluster campaign, almost completely devoid of policy detail, repeating ad infinitum the three word slogans that Malcolm Turnbull had sworn the electorate wouldn’t be exposed to. The aim of the game was small target, and presidential. Keep the monkeys away from the media and public, even though it will be these monkeys that will be the ones running the show.

Secondly, Turnbull has also been promising us a “grown-up conversation” with everything on the table, yet somehow over the course of the last six months, still managed to throw things into the mix completely out of left field, such as the idea of the states setting their own income tax rates. So his personal credibility as an action-taking politician has been shown to be so much hot air. Malcolm the Ditherer; Malcolm the Waffler; Malcolm the Flop.

And finally, on any measure of financial success, this past government has been less than woeful. There is no value in going over this disaster, it having been described far better by others. Fortunately Abbott couldn’t get any of the really nasty policies past the Senate, but Turnbull seems equally incapable of getting anything to stick either. Three years, and not one budget passed. Worst government ever? Quite possibly.

But then we look at the opposition. In comparison to the LNP policy vacuum, they’ve produced sensible measures, with details and costings, across almost every policy area. Oppositions just don’t do this! Moreover they seemed to run a decent campaign, setting the agenda, and regularly putting the government on the back foot. The cabinet team was strong, they were united, they won the debates hands down!

Yet even with the strengths of Labor, and the weaknesses of the Coalition, this still wasn’t enough. Sure, the media gave significant support to the LNP, but some question as to whether they really have that degree of influence to the majority of the electorate anymore. And ultimately the electorate in their wisdom re-elected the dunces, the dodgy and the incapable. WTbleedinF!

If it is the case that even in this perfect storm Labor still couldn’t get up, perhaps they would do well to recognize that we now appear to be approaching electoral stalemate, with significant majorities of voters “stuck” in voting patterns, whether by direct intention, or through fear of the other side getting in.

Campaigning purely towards their “electorate”, a classic Machiavellian tactic, the LNP seem to be able to command enough support to always keep them in the running, or indeed to win well. And as Pyne annoyingly reminded us, they are masters at doing so. Unscrupulously finding loopholes to fund their advertising strategies, shamelessly using scare campaign after scare campaign, delighted to instigate an expensive royal commission whose sole outcome appears to have been little more than smear Bill Shorten, and more than happy to degrade key infrastructure like the NBN, or use refugees as political pawns purely as opportunities on which to wedge Labor. Mental illness, rape, suicide and murder all appear to be legitimate campaign tactics for the current LNP, just as illegal wars, wholesale bribery, and international deceit were stock in trade for their best PM ever. Their primary goal is to win the election, what they actually do in power is a lot lower in their priority list. But if you don’t win, all your clever policy work means naught.

Compare this to Labor who, I believe, actually try to campaign for the vast majority of Australians, but never quite manage to satisfy enough of them to get much more than a majority, and certainly not a sizeable one.

And such electoral results mean policy outcomes, when won by either of the major parties, that only a significant minority of the population seems easily able to support. Is it any wonder that we appear to be stuck in a slow spiral downwards because the big stuff is just too politically hard? The current political malaise is far from the nation building that we need to transition us from the old economy to the new, nor to ensure our survival when the true ravages of climate change really start to kick in. And even when we, the electorate, vote to show we aren’t happy with what is being offered, the parties look to put the blame for their lack of results any where but themselves. The total lack of self-reflection has yet again been entirely predictable, with both major parties both now giving themselves huge slaps on the back for what great jobs they’ve done!

Of course the Coalition won’t change. And why should they? They continue to hold the upper hand, and actually don’t really have the talent to do anything other than keep doing what they do.

Conversely, progressive politics needs to change significantly if it is to attract the necessary support from many on the “conservative” side of politics if they are to have a future. As they stand, both Labor and the Greens are too susceptible to the cheap political point-scoring tricks that the Coalition (and their media servants) are all too quick to adopt. They somehow need to make themselves smaller targets. Moreover rather than falling into the false dichotomies that the Coalition love to use, they need to stop being dragged into idiotic discussions that serve no purpose except to those starting them. If the MSM aren’t helping to get the message across, shut them out. Keep playing their game, and you will never win, because the media is a business and knows which side keeps its proprietors wealthy. And in an election comparing policy on one side, against nothing on the other, to have the media choose to endorse the unknown, fundamentally reveals that there is no real support for Labor, and so Labor should stop supporting them. Without content, the media is nothing. Without political news stories, the press gallery have no work. No work, no job.

Personally, my single biggest turn-off this election from Labor has been its unwillingness to discuss working with other parties (particularly the Greens) because “history”. I’m sorry, but I’m not supporting political pig-headedness just because the Coalition likes to trot out the “stability” message (whilst clearly being about as stable as Polonium). I know that the best solutions to problems are those determined from a team of diverse thoughts and opinions, not groupthink. I mean, you only need to look at the woefully inadequate thought process that goes into determining LNP policies to see the outcomes of a team of ideologues backed up by nodding dogs of the backbench are not even as good as third rate. So Labor needs to get off its high horse, and start working out how it can avoid the (very few) mistakes that were made in the Gillard years (which, yes, were in part due to the Greens – they need to do the same thing too, and I think they already are), rather than simply dismiss working with others as too hard, or indeed unpopular with the electorate.

You see the electorate actually would prefer a degree of political consensus. And the LNP do recognize this, but as usual want such consensus to be entirely on their terms. Though for them this means that if anyone else doesn’t agree with their ideas, that those “others” are feral, not team-players, spoilers, etc. Brandis on QandA even said so much, and it is no surprise given this was their MO in the last government. But they are just preparing the voters for the anticipated trotting out that it will be Labor’s (and indeed everyone else’s) fault when their next set of inept policies are voted down by the Senate.

But what Shorten should do is find a way to genuinely offering the players who commanded enough electoral support (not seats, but by percentage of primary votes) early involvement in the White Paper definition process. The best time to do this is not in the solutions stage, but in the problem definition stage (particularly since this is the bit that both parties seem to get significantly wrong, judging how quick they bought into the “need” for 12 very expensive submarines). And if Turnbull is out building bridges now, Shorten needs to be doing exactly the same, not least because he is a lot better at it, and because if there is a snap election he may have to run another minority government.

Secondly, Labor should have pushed hard for a Federal ICAC, and now should make it a core promise. No ifs, no buts. Their failure to pursue this revealed that they too fear their own skeletons in the cupboard, which to my mind is also another good reason for not being able to fully trust them. And these weaknesses make their elected representatives just as vulnerable to manipulation, and whether that is either actual or imaginary, there are enough voters that think it is real for it to be a problem. As someone once explained to me, in the real world perception IS reality. And if there are dodgy operators, we need them out. This isn’t acceptable on any side of politics.

Thirdly, Labor need to disengage financially from the unions. Now this is a very major one given Labor’s background, but given the union movement also needs to rethink how it operates in this new world, Labor needs to rid itself of an image of being controlled by “evil unions” which again the Coalition will shamelessly exploit (whilst simultaneously sucking at the teat of big business, property developers, media tycoons, and indeed it would seem even criminals, if they are willing to put money in their electoral fund – ironic? Yep, but it’s a real stopper for many voters, so either get over it or never expect support). Labor need to pursue a strategy where political parties are no longer dependent on external funding, and make the enactment of such a pre-condition on them dropping that financial tie. And if pursued expediently, it might help cut off the LNP from one of their own most significant advantages – access to the coffers of wealthy donors and big business. Again I believe the electorate would love it.

And finally, all parties need to find better ways of communicating with the electorate in a more complete manner than the current ad hoc communication we have now. I’d like to see a comprehensive document (or better still, website) that explains that parties positions on the full range of policy areas. Better still if this was a website that the AEC controlled so that voters could compare each parties position on each topic. I’m sure that the utter lack of thought and concern shown by the current government to so many areas (homelessness anyone?) that would benefit from central involvement would assist voters in making informed decisions. As it currently stands, fact-finding takes too much time that voters don’t have. Is it any surprise that many still vote on what they feel is right, rather than what they actually understand to be right. Of course, that is exactly how the LNP want it, but Labor need to stop being LNP lite, and recognize that the entire system needs a dramatic overhaul, and that if this doesn’t occur their ongoing electoral hopes are very precarious indeed.

Personally, as I’ve stated before, I think party politics stink. I’d rather a representative democracy where the representatives were the best that each electorate could offer (irrespective of their political leanings) rather than a selection predominantly of nodding dogs endorsed by their local cabal. Evolving to that ideal won’t be an overnight process, so in the meantime we need the parties to progress the small steps that we need to improve the system. Electoral reform of the senate, despite some of what has arrived, was one such measure (and one that the LNP will rue for an awful long time – which makes it so much sweeter!), but we need more improvements to the processes of government if we want our countries decision making to rise above the classroom squabbles that our two major parties seem inextricably locked into, encouraged and abetted by a lazy fourth estate who are more intrigued by the politics than they are by the policies.

To be effective Labor doesn’t just need to win an election or two. Because we know that any positive policies are as quickly condemned to be taken apart by the ever-cynical Coalition when next they get back in. To endure they will need to become the long-term major force in Australian politics. And to do that means more change is needed. The changes to leadership rules are certainly on the right track, but they aren’t enough. So my first question is this. Are Labor big enough to recognize the actual failure of this campaign, and realize that they need to do much, much more to change the political paradigm? But my second question is equally pertinent. Do Labor actually really want to run the country on an ongoing basis, or are they really just satisfied to be the bit players in the circus that is Australian politics? Because if they truly cared about the electorate then Bill and his team should be absolutely seething that they lost, not grinning like idiots. Well Bill, we’re watching.


Adani And What You Tell Your Mistress!

Aloysuis says to his lover that he intends to leave his wife and move to Queensland, but it’s just a little inconvenient now because well, his son, Bobo’s doing Year 12 and his daughter, Momo’s getting married, but after that, well, there’s nothing to stand in the way of their love. On the other hand, when he goes home, he continues to plan for the overseas trip with his wife for the middle of 2018.

Who’s he lying to?

On the law of averages, it’ll be the lover. It’s not certain, but nothing’s certain.

Although Warren Truss (you know, our Deputy PM) seems to be certain that coal will be around for the next hundred years, because Adani told him so. He tweeted:

“Coalition Friends of Mining heard today of the exciting opportunities the Adani coal mine will deliver to Australia and India for 100 years.”

Well, Warren’s trust in Adani and the excting opportunities notwithstanding, let me remind everyone that companies are required to report changes in their circumstances in a timely manner. In other words, it’s illegal to hold onto information about your bottom line and not report it to the general market. On the other hand, what you say in a general sense can use the same sort of hyperbole as a politician at election time.

In other words, you can tell everyone that you’re excited about your new product and you think it’s going to turn your company into a market leader, but you have to report if sales are so slow that it’ll affect your profits as soon as that information is available. If you, for example, divested yourself of half your personal shares in the company before the update was made public, it’s called insider trading and it’s illegal.

Late last year, Adani announced that it had “secured” a billion dollar loan from the State Bank of India for the coal project in Queensland. Naturally, the Indian Stock Exchange wanted to know if just maybe, there was information that should have been reported, given that financial arrangements of that size are quite significant.

Well, no big deal really, said Adani because we haven’t actually done anything yet, but the bank “has agreed in principle to consider extending financial assistance of an amount up to $US1b for development of Carmichael coal mine”.

(And Aloysuis has told his mistress that “in principle” he’ll leave his wife at some future date, circumstances permitting.)

Let’s just consider Adani’s statement for a moment. Apart from it reminding me of those finance ads that promise you’ll have a response within sixty seconds where I suspect they’ll tell you: “Thanks, for ringing – our response is that we’ll take your details and let you know if the next few days”, there are so many qualifiers that I could just as easily say the I have full support from my wife to try and beat Bart Cummings record of Melbourne Cup winners, on the condition that I can get a training licence and persuade the owners of the top horses to switch to me.

The Bank has agreed in principle to CONSIDER extending financial assistance of an amount of up to $US1b (but not more, only up to that amount).

In other words, Indian Stock Exchange, we didn’t see the need to tell you because well, it’s just something we’ve discussed and they didn’t say go away we’d never lend you money, but hey, nothing’s been finalised, they just said come back later when you know what’s going on.

Now, I’m bringing this old story up to highlight the difference between what Adani are telling analysts and what they’re publicly saying.

As I wrote the other day, they’re telling analysts that the project is on hold until the price of coal improves. However, they assured us that – like Aloysuis – they’re still firmly “committed” to the Queensland project.

Of course, one suspects that if they told that to the analysts, then they’re share price would tank – in much the same way that, after the salmonella scare, a decision by Woolworths to run a campaign to eat more pre-packaged salads would lead one to suspect that management didn’t have a clue and that Masters hardware stores wasn’t going to be a one-off disaster.

So, expect to see lots of rhetoric about the legal challenges to Adani holding up jobs and growth by politicians. As for Adani, look at what they tell the market, not what they tell Australia.

On the lighter side:

Tony Abbott passes away and is met by St Peter who gives him a quick tour of Heaven. At the end, St Peter tells him that because of his life on earth as politician, he has to spend the weekend in Hell. Tony assures him that it’s not necessary, that he was a good politician, but St Peter insists that all politicians have to spend their first weekend in Hell.

Tony takes the elevator to where Lucifer greats him with a beer. “G’day, mate. Would you like to go your room first and have a rest or would you rather go to the spa?”

“I’m not sure,” says Tony, so Lucifer tells him to go to the bar and think about it. Tony goes to the bar and catches up with a few of his Liberal colleagues before he’s mobbed by a group of women who tell him how much they loved him and present him with a bottle of Grange.

After a weekend of drinking, surfing and cycling, Tony goes back up to see St Peter.

“Well,” says St Peter, “would you like to come to Heaven, or would you rather go back to Hell?”

“To be perfectly honest,” says Tony, “I found Heaven a little boring even during the short tour you gave me.” 

“Remember this is forever!”

“Ok, Hell it is. I couldn’t stand to be here forever.”

So St Peter puts Tony in the elevator and he goes back down to Hell where Lucifer meets him.

“Ah, Abbott. You get in that cell over there, and we’ll send your tormentors in to…”

“Hang on, where’s the bar and all the stuff I saw when I was here before?” asks Tony.

“Gee mate, we were campaigning, surely you didn’t expect we’d be able to afford all that after you’d voted, did you?”



Each generation has its historic moments, its touchstone memories. I grew up in the 1980s, and my touchstones were the Ethiopian famine, Masters of the Universe and Transformers toys, and ebola. For all that ebola was a virulent disease, the outbreak was in a faraway land and affected only a few hundred people. It was horrible for those people, of course, but it’s difficult to see now why an obscure virus outbreak in third-world countries became the subject of teenage nightmares. Breathless news reports gave the unwarranted impression that the scourge of a horrible and uncurable disease was about to sweep the world and bring humanity to its knees.

It never happened, of course. Due to effective healthcare and isolation procedures, ebola was brought back under control, its outbreak cleared, and the disease eliminated from human population centres.

In the years that have followed, the odd case of ebola has surfaced. Few cases could be classified as “outbreaks”. Ebola has remained a remote threat and it fell out of the consciousness of the public.

Recent weeks have seen ebola back in the news, with a far more serious outbreak than anything before in history currently spreading in western African nations. Today’s news media are full of breathless reports on a wildfire disease, out of control, an epidemic. And far more than in the 1980s, what starts as breathless reporting in the mainstream media easily evolves into sheer panic-stricken hysteria  in some portions of the internet. It’s important to be aware of the facts, the real risks, and what realistic risk, if any, there is to western populations.

So what is ebola, why is this outbreak significant, and is there really a risk of a global pandemic that will kill us all?

What is Ebola?

ebola“The Ebola virus” is a term applied to a group of related viruses, infectious viral diseases that cause a deadly kind of haemorrhagic fever in mammals. It’s a cruel disease and a frightening one; the symptoms of advanced ebola infection are both hideous and highly dangerous.

The virus has a long incubation period – the time between infection and showing the first symptoms – of between one and three weeks. During the incubation period sufferers have no warning of the disease and its progress, and they are not infectious to those around them.

When they appear, early symptoms can seem like a mild influenza, including fever, muscle weakness, sore throat and headaches. The classical symptoms of ebola follow later: the virus attacks the body’s internal organs, particularly the kidneys and liver and the digestive tract. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. Another effect of the virus is to impair the ability of blood to clot, leading to internal and external bleeding. In the advanced stages, sufferers can bleed from all of the body’s orifices.

Ebola is one of the most deadly viruses on Earth; fatality rates for the different strains vary between approximately 50 and 90 percent. There is no cure. The current outbreak in Africa has a fatality rate of about 60 percent – and that’s with medical intervention.

How is Ebola transmitted?

The virus is highly infectious with contact to the sufferer’s body fluids. This includes blood, urine, faeces, vomit or even sweat. A patient is not contagious until he or she starts showing signs of the disease.

Ebola is not “airborne”: you cannot catch ebola by breathing the same air as an infected patient. There has been one documented case of the virus spreading through the air: in 2012 a study involving pigs and monkeys resulted in infection of the monkeys from infected pigs without any direct contact. However, ebola infects humans and pigs differently. In pigs ebola concentrates in the lungs, causing infected pigs to sneeze and splutter much more than humans, where the virus principally attacks the liver. Human sufferers do sneeze and cough infectious droplets that can travel short distances through the air, but this form of infection would require close proximity. It is theoretically possible to catch ebola from a large droplet but so far there is no evidence to point to aerosolisation.

How do you treat it

Ebola is a tropical disease that is thought to be carried in the wild by bats. There has been little exposure of this virulent infection in human communities, and thus there is little to no immunity already in the human population. When ebola infects a human population, most people are extremely susceptible to it upon exposure. Despite intensive research over decades, there is currently no vaccination or prevention method available for ebola. The only way to ensure you don’t catch it is to avoid contact with infectious materials, which can be difficult when the late stage of the disease results in significant amounts of bleeding and other fluid discharge.

It’s important to note also that you can’t cure viruses. A virus is not like a bacterium; bacteria are self-contained organisms that invade and infest a host, but remain separate to it. Viruses have no independent existence outside of a host. Viruses are, in effect, strings of DNA, and they act by embedding themselves into the DNA of the infected creature. Upon infecting a cell’s DNA, a typical virus will prevent that cell from acting normally and instead turn its machinery to churning out billions more copies of the virus, eventually breaking the cell open to infect those around it.

The problem is that, like a cancer, a virus-infected cell still looks like it belongs to the body. An infected cell cannot be returned to its pre-infection state; the only way forward is to kill that cell. Any “cure” needs to be able to identify infected cells and kill them while leaving uninfected cells intact. Human medical science is typically not very good at doing this; in some cases the effects of viral infection can make a cell susceptible to specific drugs, but there are as yet no drugs on the market that can specifically target ebola-infected cells.

Where human science fails, the immune system normally excels. Identifying infected cells and destroying them is its sole function. But ebola virus is also known to attack and pervert immune system cells, and even to use these cells to carry itself throughout the sufferer’s body. With the virus wreaking havoc on the body’s organs, causing massive internal bleeding and constraining the immune system’s activity, the infected host will almost certainly die well before its immune system can fight off the infection.

Given enough time, for some people, the body can rid itself of an ebola infection. Left to its own devices, the disease is virulent enough to kill most people before their immune system can do the job, so treatment for ebola is, simply speaking, to treat the symptoms, and to keep the victim alive long enough for their own immune system to let them recover. If the victim was healthy with a robust immune system prior to infection, the chances of survival increase.

Keeping patients hydrated and providing them with the nutrients they and their immune system need is the accepted treatment for this disease. In the case of ebola this must be done whilst avoiding contact with infectious materials and isolating the patient from family, friends and the public. Even with full medical support, in the current outbreak, the chances of survival are only about 40%.

The current outbreak

Ebola was first identified in 1976, and was named for the region in Africa (the Ebola river) in which it emerged. From that time until the current outbreak, there have been about 1700 recorded cases of ebola in humans. The current outbreak has so far (as of 22nd August 2014) killed well over 1400 people and infected over 2600.


(Image source: BBC)

The current outbreak affects a region of Western Africa overlapping the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Due to the virus’s highly infectious nature and its long incubation period, there have been many cases of travellers from these areas bringing the disease to other nations. Most significantly affected in this way are other African nations such as Nigeria and Congo, but cases have been identified as far distant as Ireland.

Unofficially, it is likely that the infection rates in Africa could be MUCH higher than the official numbers. The actual numbers are impossible to quantify, as many cases have not been laboratory confirmed and the disease is officially out of control. With a long asymptomatic incubation period, it is likely that many people are infected without yet showing symptoms. Many cases are likely to be in “shadow zones”, outside of officially monitored areas and unrecorded by medical authorities.  In addition, there are currently outbreaks of ebola-like disease in other neighboring countries not yet officially declared a part of this outbreak.

Regardless of the numbers of infected, the UN states that over a million people are affected either directly or indirectly by this outbreak.

Different strains of ebola have different levels of lethality. The current outbreak is trending at about 60%: six of every ten people diagnosed with the virus (and under medical care) are dying despite best medical efforts.

Why it’s a crisis

The keys to dealing with an outbreak of ebola are halting its spread, and treating its victims to keep as many alive as possible. In the areas of West Africa, in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria, both of these are proving problematic.

Halting the spread of the disease entails rapidly identifying and isolating all sufferers, quarantining those who might have come into contact with them, and educating populations about behaviours that contribute to the virus’s spread. Attempts to do this are ongoing, but are running into difficulties due to human nature and community practices in these regions. Patients, and their families, have been seen to behave in ways that are harmful to themselves and to others. In some cases, infected patients have fled hospital, or avoided going to hospital in the first place, for fear of being restrained there to die. Families hide their symptomatic relatives to prevent them being isolated. Local burial customs further complicate matters, with some documented cases of people being infected by touching the departed during preparation of the body or during the funeral service.

Treatment, too, has its problems. The affected countries already have healthcare systems that struggle to support their populations. In many cases, healthcare in rural areas is nonexistent, and the disease has now spread into major urban centres so the lion’s share of medical resources are spent there. Despite ebola being endemic to Africa, previous outbreaks have been in the centre of the continent, and West Africa was neither experienced in nor prepared for an infection of this type. As a result we have seen a high number of healthcare workers succumb to the disease as response efforts scaled up, leading to a loss of expertise and resources.

The other enemy is fear. In many areas, deliveries of goods (including medicine, food and water) have ceased as couriers and drivers are unwilling to enter the infected areas. This simply contributes to the breakdown of social order and the environment of fear, and hampers those whose goal is to control the infection and help those affected.

What’s being done

It is clear that this outbreak is well beyond the capabilities of the affected nations to handle on their own. Even with contribution by the World Health Organisation and the CDC, the epidemic is currently classed as “out of control”. Medical charities such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) have deployed thousands of staff to run ebola clinics to supplement overwhelmed healthcare systems. The WHO is providing expertise and leadership, although some have accused it of reacting far too slowly.

In the face of the unprecedented scale of this outbreak, the usual safeguards on novel treatments have been relaxed. Antiviral drugs such as ZMapp are being provided for live-action trials on the understanding that survival is unlikely with or without treatment; even though such treatments might be untested and theoretically could in themselves be harmful, the thought is that someone who’s already dying of ebola is going to be willing to take the risks. While several people treated with ZMapp have survived, some have not, and it it far too early to say whether ZMapp or other drugs currently in testing are having any positive effects at all.

The imperative to constrain the spread of this virus has led to the imposition of a zone sanitaire: the affected regions are being closed off, with the only egress being via controlled medical checkpoints. Most international airlines have already ceased flights to and from affected areas. At the same time, entry points across the world are on high alert, with airline staff, port and dock authorities and airports being on the lookout for any travellers from affected regions showing any symptomology. This may not be enough to completely prevent the disease’s spread but should severely constrain it.

It’s important to note, finally, that even if a case of ebola does arrive in Australia or the US – say an infected traveller arriving before they become symptomatic – the uncontrolled spread of the disease is far less likely. In the western world we already impose standards of hygiene that protect against transmission. We generally don’t come into contact with other people’s blood, urine or faeces in daily life. By the time a sufferer becomes highly infectious, they are also highly symptomatic and likely to be under appropriate medical care. We can be sure also that appropriate quarantine and control measures would be rapidly brought to bear.

Learnings for us

There are several key factors in the current ebola scare. The first is that the current outbreak of ebola is unlikely to become a pandemic and we, in civilised Australia, should be safe from its immediate effects. Breathless reporting of the risks to global civilisation are overstating the infectiousness and risk of this disease. Ebola may well bring African nations to their knees, but by virtue of distance and a sophisticated healthcare system and high standards of hygiene, any cases in the western world will be rapidly contained.

It’s not all good news though. We live in a global world. Conditions that affect remote third world countries nonetheless have an effect here. Our healthcare systems are on high alert for this disease and, belatedly, the western world is pouring money, personnel and resources into helping their poorer neighbours in Africa. Globalisation has had many beneficial outcomes for the western world – particularly in the availability of cheap labour and cheap goods – but it has also thrown into sharp relief the inequalities between nations.

Ebola is zoonotic disease. Like Hendra, swine flu, rabies and SARS, a form of the virus lives in wild animal populations, but is capable of being passed to humans on exposure. The virus is not new. What is new is its introduction into human populations, and this is typically the result of increasing encroachment of human civilisation into previously wilderness areas. The unfortunate fact is that most of this encroachment, and thus the initial outbreaks of many of these diseases, occurs in third world countries with low socio-economic conditions.

The rise of new human-infectious diseases from zoonotic sources is driven by the need of poor people in Africa, in South America, and in Asia, to support themselves with a continual push into wilderness areas. Deforestation across the world is accelerating rather than slowing. As countries are progressively deforested, native wildlife is displaced, with terrible consequences for biodiversity and ecosystems. The increased interaction between humans (and domesticated animals) and wildlife which might carry novel viruses such as ebola means that the introduction of new diseases is not likely to end any time soon. In bats, a particular virus might be relatively harmless, as wild populations have developed immunity to it over the course of millenia; but for humans, who have never encountered it, this new virus can be devastating.

We are fortunate insofar as the human-infectious strains of ebola are not airborne. (One known strain of ebola is at least somewhat airborne, but this strain is not harmful to humans. “By some genetic fluke, the same mutation that rendered Ebola Reston airborne apparently also left it harmless to humans.” We dodged a bullet with that case.)

It is not beyond the bounds of consideration that a new virus will be introduced to the teeming human masses in a third-world country in the near future, a virus with the deadly consequences of ebola but the ease of transmission of an influenza. This is the stuff of fiction – for example, Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, the movies Outbreak and Contagion, Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone. But how we would deal with such an outbreak is the subject of deadly serious consideration by epidemiologists and governments.

The long term learning is that no nation is an island. The inequality of nations should not be allowed to continue. As long as there are impoverished populations in impoverished nations, desperately levelling their jungles at a time when the world desperately needs those jungles to be maintained, the globe will remain at risk of novel zoonotic diseases, and we may not be so fortunate next time.

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