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Day to Day Politics: When did it all go wrong? Part six – ‘If you’re racist, don’t read it’.

Monday 3 October 2016

Author’s Note:

Thus far in this series I have covered ‘Where it all began’, ‘Newspapers’, ‘Electronic media’, ‘Rightwing feral opinion’ and ‘Democracy torn asunder’. At the beginning I said that my observations would be random. This one deals with the propagation of racism and is collated from earlier articles I have written for The AIMN that deal with the decline of our democracy.

At the end I will to bring them all together to form a view of the decline in Australian politics.

Preface. An observation.

“The Murdoch media and large sections of the Australian Conservative parties are to be congratulated for their successful long-term character assassination of those who are different”.

If you’re Racist Don’t Read It.

On Facebook every day I post “My Thought for the Day” and every now and then I put the question: “What word best describes you?” My personal word is ‘observation’ because it covers a multitude of experiences. With very limited formal education, observation became an integral part of my private classroom. From an early age I became a keen observer. Nothing escaped my scrutiny or sensory surveillance’s. I watched people, nature and life in general. I examined and considered.

It was a weekend when I was watching my grandsons playing basketball. One of the boys in the team is from Somalia. A number of families with African heritage have moved to our area. I observed the mateship of their winning endeavors and the generous enthusiasm of their play, between matches. The fun, friendship and frivolity of their connectedness was a delight to watch. The dark lad is of enormous talent with a generous smile, a face as black as night and gregarious nature.

I have also observed the total unabashed acceptance by children of different races at school, and at the local swimming pool where mature judgement is made by children unhindered by the prejudicial ignorance of adults.

My thoughts drifted to my own youth and I wondered just what it is that causes people to be racist. I recalled as a small boy being told what side of the street to walk to school because Jews lived on the other side. I lived through the post war era of immigration when Australians belittled and sneered at Italians and Greeks.

Then later with bi partisan agreement we accepted the Vietnamese who came by boat. But not before debasing them with the worst part of our own uniquely Australian prejudice.

Memories came back to me of a pub I used to drink at on my way home from work. The beer garden attracted a cohort of Aussie builders who sub contracted concreting work to a group of Italians. I would observe how the Aussie fellows would run them down with the foulest of language behind their backs, and then drink with them, without a hint of condemnation when they arrived.

There was a time when a relation who was traveling by caravan around Australia rang me from some remote area highly populated by indigenous people. After the usual greeting the following words were advanced.

“I’m not a racist but . . . “. When you hear someone say those words they generally are. What followed was a tirade of critical commentary about every aspect of Aboriginal culture and living standards. I have no doubt that much of what she was saying was true however, there was no situation that wasn’t replicated in white city society.

Her comments were therefore racist. The singling out of any group for reason of drawing attention to color is abhorrent to me.

More recently I have experienced racism where I live. I have two neighbours (one now deceased) who when talking about indigenous folk have described aboriginals as taking up to much space.

At a junior football final a couple of years ago a teenage boy was standing behind me verbalising a young Aboriginal player of immense talent. I allowed the insults to insinuate themselves into the minds around me.

The Aboriginal boy had heard the remarks and was a bit distressed about it. I turned and said to the boy of uncouth mouth:

“So yours is what a racist’s face looks like”.

The teenager slunk away probably not used to having his racism confronted. In the unnatural silence that had invaded the group where I was standing I received a couple of congratulatory slaps on the shoulder.

You see, I hate all forms of racism in a way that even someone like me, with a love of the moulding of words as disciples for good, cannot do. It was a little brave of me to do what I did because I am getting on in years but we must confront it.

In watching the antics of children of different races in their play we can bear witness to the sin of the abusers of decency. By the influence of those who cannot concede that we were all black once. And those who believe that superiority is determined by a chemical compound.

Children celebrate difference and prove to us that racism is not a part of the human condition. It is taught, or acquired. You have to learn it and those who tutor it and preach it are to be pitied for their ignorance and imbecility. No one is born a racist but we are born into racist societies.

What is racism?

It is best described in two parts. Firstly it is the belief that one race is superior to another. That it accounts for differences in human character and ability. Secondly racism is, discrimination or prejudice based on race.

Scott Woods puts it another way:

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything”.

Racism is preserved in many and various ways. Even Christian art propagates the myth of Jesus being white when in fact he would have been dark skinned and of Middle Eastern appearance.

But art depicts him as white with European features and more often than not as effeminate.

Christians also cannot bring themselves to the point of accepting that dark skinned people were responsible for the introduction of religion into society. No white person has ever introduced a major religion. Some Christians even quote Bible verse to justify white superiority.

Even the law disproportionally targets colored (I hate that term) people resulting in levels of incarceration much higher than other groups.

The worst perpetrators of racism are those who do it through the guise of free speech. People like Andrew Bolt. A journalist of mediocre talent who writes in a grammatical style attractive to the intellect of 13 year olds, unable to challenge the mind (or his argument) with a word, or sentence.

Recently he wanted the law changed so that he would be freer through his column to abuse and defame. When the legislation was turfed because of its unpopularity Tony Abbott felt obliged to phone this journalist of such little virtue and apologise.

People who support Bolt and his racism need to ask just why it is that he is fixated on the subject of race (and Muslims and climate change) and the answer is simple. Murdoch has built his news empire on smut and controversy. The formula has made him extremely wealthy. And there is no doubt that Bolt is paid extraordinary amounts of money to proliferate the pages of the Herald Sun with this sort of gutter journalism.

Let us not forget what Justice Bromberg, said about Bolt’s use of language. He said:

“His style and structure is highly suggestive and designed to excite. His style was not careful, precise or exact’ and the language not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic”.

“There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery … Language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines.”

We should also remember that during the London riots, of the not too distant past Bolt in one of his pieces used the word ‘aped’ to describe the copycat behaviour of some people. The use of the word was legitimate in that sense until you appreciate that he was talking about black West Indians, and then the word became racist. Bolt keeps coming back to skin, or the color of it as if it were a sexual fetish that gives him endless gratification.

And it must be said that Andrew is presumed a racist and has been found to on many occasions lie in his writing, particularly on the environment. In addition he has been known to defame a female magistrate.

He wants the law changed so that in the future under the guise of free speech he will be able to vilify at his heart’s content.

Take two recent examples from his TV program, ‘The Bolt Report’.

Bolt is an opponent of an attempt, which has bi partisan support, to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution, contending that to single out any particular group is racist because it divides Australians? Former Labor minister Craig Emerson thus declared him a racist by his own criteria:

“Then you are a racist … because of the comments you made in relation to Indigenous people. By your own criterion, and that’s what you did. You identified a group of people and went for them.”

He was correct. Emerson’s remark relates to the legal case in which Bolt was found to have breached racial discrimination laws in articles that implied light-skinned Indigenous people identified themselves as Aboriginal for personal gain. He was guilty by his own admission.

Another more recent example is when he quiet bizarrely declared that “Aboriginals weren’t here first”. As I said earlier, he has this thing about race that sends him into some kind of mental climax that needs constant stimulation. If you want to figure out the argument he was putting go here and then explain it to me. I cannot.

I will end where I started with my observation of that gregarious dark skinned boy playing joyfully in fellowship with his light skinned mates, and the fact each was different in color, one to the other didn’t enter the unblemished purity of their companionship. And I silently prayed that it never would.

“The Murdoch News Media and large sections of the Australian Conservative parties are to be congratulated for their successful long term character assassination of those who are different”.

It began many years ago when opinion speakers began demonising those who are different. From Philip Ruddock’s description of asylum seekers as illegals to Alan Jones involvement in the Cronulla riots and the thousands of pieces written by racist journalists and the hundreds of tabloid pages of tabloid pages depicting difference as sun human.And of course those parliamentarians so blatantly racist that they don’t even try to hide it.

Two questions need to be asked. Firstly, what is that those who want 18c changed want to say, and secondly, why do we as a supposedly enlightened society need to enshrine in legislation the right to hate each other?

My thought for the day.

Wonder When the Seed Is Planted

I look upon the child’s face and see Innocence – unblemished purity Translated in looks virtuous How sweet how incorruptible

Then it happens with measured subtly The distortion of youthful thought Insinuated into free And immature minds

I wonder when the seed is planted When evil first takes hold And intolerance evolves To become scum on the pond of life

Who grants permission to damage the child? Of its pristine purity The wonderment of adventure And unfiltered creativity

Is it the sin of the father? That makes a child loathe That makes them xenophobic Racist just like him

When does it take root this hatred? That enters the child’s mind To be carried with them always Fermenting as they grow

Are parents so imbued? With experiences of the past That forgiveness is impossible Bad memories seem to last

So they pass it onto their children And intolerance lingers on Licking on the finger of hate It seems to have no end

I can only ask that compassion Might replace their putrid sin And the cry that is inside each heart Will – let understanding in. (John Lord).

 

Day to Day Politics: When did it all go wrong? Part four – ‘Right wing feral opinion’

 Monday 26 September 2016

Somewhere along the way Australia again followed America’s lead with the arrival of ‘opinion’.  As staff were sacked, decreasing the ability of newspaper journalists to investigate and research they began the concept of ‘opinion writing’. Radio had been doing it for 30 years or so but the right of radio decided to go a step further, and so was born the feral shock jocks of today.

Alan Jones, John Laws, Chris Smith, Ray Hadley, Stan Zemanek and not to forget the feral champion Andrew Bolt himself who has gained a foothold in all genres of media. (Although his audience is in decline).

Shock jocks are usually described as broadcasters who create a large audience with untruth, exaggeration, offensiveness. They are deliberately outrageous and place ratings above common decency. Hence the term ‘feral’. They are the equivalent of the Murdoch tabloid newspaper.

They are paid enormous amounts of money to be rude indecent and provocative. And do so with gusto attracting large audiences of the older demographic.

Right wing shock jocks tend to push the envelope, disregarding broadcasting authorities and even the rights of the individual.

Those who complain about media bias might note that the left of politics does not have a shock jock they can lay claim too. It’s not just the radio shock jocks who cast their opinions in feral fashion. It has insinuated itself into all facets of media communication.

Why is the Right So Feral?

A year or so back some Facebook friends took it upon themselves to add my name to three pages. The first, Australian Government Your Say is administered by a Ross Parisi who I have since been told is a failed Liberal right-wing politician. I cannot verify that, nor do I want to. Another page is called The Middle Ground and thirdly, one called Australian Political Debate. All pages purport to give their members the opportunity to debate political issues. Right Vs Left. Sounds even-handed.

I think the friends who pitched my name thought I would be someone who could present a leftish view with a sagacious intelligence spliced with some worldly wisdom, even humor. Perhaps they thought it was what these sites needed.

On that point they were correct. On the other hand they could have chosen Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and many other social democrats and their combined intellects would have been totality ineffective.

Never in my life have I come across a human rabble so feral. So nefarious, so malevolent, so xenophobic, so bigoted, so homophobic so ubiquitous, discourteous and disgustingly bad mannered.

I am not a naïve person. Far from it. However, nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of vicious, vile, ill-informed, fact-less views that were thrown at me by people spewing verbal vomit with an intensity and regularity that left me somewhat ashamed of my fellow humans. So bad was their gutter filth and their intelligence so poor that they became more rabid even when I agreed with them.

Often I asked myself if they might all suffer from some collective mental disorder. Like intelligence deficiency syndrome.

For example, I made some comments suggesting I disagreed with the Asylum policies of both parties. They formed like a group of hyenas attacking me on all fronts. The end result being that “I supported people dying at sea.” No attempt at balanced discourse or reason had any effect. They employ tactics that very quickly take you off subject so that they can employ sarcasm, verbal intimidation and emotional blackmail. I complained to Ross Parisi three times but he showed little interest. More or less telling me to mix it with them.

A friend asked me after a week of it why I bothered. Initially I thought, oh well someone needs to stand up to them. Then rather pragmatically I decided I was interested in the psychology of it so for the second week I studied their behaviour. Then I suggested to those of the left that frequented the site that they should follow me and leave. Then the right could argue among themselves. I thought the ferals would rather enjoy that.

Now I am left to analyse just why the right are as feral as they are. It is not only on Facebook pages that we find them. More alarmingly and with more influence they inhabit all forms of media. It is there that they have become progressively more outlandish, more tantalising, more seductive, more flirtatious, more provocative, more stunning and more enticing.

But what is it that occupies the minds of men and women that they need be so malevolent in their thinking? That the power of persuasion with reasoned thinking and debate no longer suffices?

What is it in the backgrounds of people that causes their narcissism, their inability to accommodate difference or equality?

Is it the sins of the fathers?

In the media, is it loyalty to the despot? Or an acceptance of serfdom? Why is it that megalomaniac Alan Jones with his vile gutter speech attracts a huge listening audience? And a perverter of the truth like Andrew Bolt command mega readership.

Why is there this preponderance of right-wing attitude? This alignment to neo conservatism. Why have we allowed ourselves to be saturated by extremism?

Perhaps the answer can be found in materialism. Or in an entitlement society. Maybe it’s those elements of Christianity who believe in a gospel of wealth. Do people believe it’s their individual right to take an ownership of prosperity and cultural worth?

Does it belong to them and them only? In my lifetime the left have moved to the right and the right have gone further so. Perhaps social media has given it a voice too loud.

Maybe it’s the preponderance of right-wing propaganda in our media. Whatever it is, why are they so feral about it? Well I’ll have a stab.

With the media I believe it is the threat of annihilation and in turn profit. Social media and the advent of bloggers is now threatening their power and influence.

In order to maintain the viewer’s interest they need to progressively become more outlandish, and this is exactly what mainstream media is doing. And in the process has chosen to prostitute itself in the forlorn hope of remaining relevant. So they resort to lies and biased opinion with pursed lips.

Also empowered by social media the feral right have also been given a new voice. At the zenith of her popularity Pauline Hansen received 20% of the vote. Twenty years later she is back with 500,000 supporters and backed by the feral news media.

Two explanations occurred to me for the unbalanced hatred right-wing politicians and their supporters extol. Firstly, in the case of feral followers it’s the inheritance factor. Hatred is simply passed on from one generation to another.

It is born of ignorance and misunderstandings. There are in my view three psychological types. Those who know. Those who know when they are shown and those who have no interest in knowing because of their inheritance of hate. They are the feral philistines.

In the case of the politicians they have inherited the worst traits of American Republicanism and the Tea Party. People like Abbott, Bernardi and Christensen say the most outrageous things in the knowledge that they will be given immunity from the feral media. They are the repugnant ferals.

MY THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“Perhaps a greater understanding of what I am saying might be obtained by exercising a greater willingness to think more deeply”.

 

Day to Day Politics: When did it all go wrong? Part three – Electronic Media.

Sunday 25 September 2016

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” – Malcom X.

Facebook makes you dive into humanity, hear things you do not want to hear, and defend what you have to say. It is for those with opinions or for those without the courage to share them. And fence sitters of course. It attracts the reasoned the unreasoned the civil and the uncivil. The biased and the unbiased. It is for people with ideas and sadly those without any. It whispers or shouts dissent. But mostly it’s a society of our own creation.

It is a medium that has the unique forum for introducing strangers by preference of choice, appreciation of character, acceptance by consent, and mutuality. It is rare to witness impersonal contact in society, and to be given the ability to employ friendship that is informal and mutually acceptable is rare.

I am by nature inquisitive although spontaneous introduction is not a problem. I find that Facebook provides an invaluable introduction to people from all around the world that I probably would never have achieved in normal circumstances.

The impact of the mass media that has evolved since the birth of the internet cannot be ignored, informing, forming and misinforming political opinion of the masses.

In essence public opinion is created by mass communication media and, as a result of it, most people delegate their own vision of the political reality to what the mass media imposes on them.

We are not thinking, mass media thinks for us. We are not what we think; we are what they think we are. Two years ago the Australian government threatened its public servants with disciplinary measures including dismissals if they made comments or if they expressed political opinion on social media. The government was prepared to spend more than $42 million to control social media and investigate cases where political opinion was adverse. This was at the time a clear invasion of privacy and a restriction of freedom of speech. I remember saying then that the government could save that money by asking for my phone number straight away.

Social Media and Participation

One of the most relevant characteristics of social media is the direct and instant participation of users in the political, social and economic reality. Users are exercising real power by interacting through online comments, blogs and the publication of articles on independent websites and blogs. The online participation of common citizens in the social and political issues, balance or to some extent neutralise the power of the old means of mass communication, because citizens are now not passive spectators of the reality but part of it. Citizens did not have the right to exercise their power by expressing their opinion on social issues in old media. On the contrary they were selectively ignored by mass media”. Opinion has triumphed, the populace can now express a view on anything and everything in real-time.

No wonder Abbott wanted to destroy it. People today extensively are losing faith in the old media because they can test reality by their own means online. People are becoming part of reality rather than mere viewers.

Social Media and Hope

There are many hopes and fears surrounding the “virtual” democracy in the emerging of the Internet Age.

Much debate revolves around whether the distinctive structure and interactive format of the internet will provide a genuinely new form of political mobilization, enticing the dissent into public life, producing a more egalitarian democracy, or whether its primary function will be to reinforce those who are already most active through conventional channels like social organizations, community groups and parties”. One of the benefits, or hopes, of public participation in social media is that it might create a more authentic democracy as people can express their political views in a direct way and make it public.

One of the pitfalls however is that it has emboldened the feral right of our community and anyone who has experienced their wrath can attest to their vileness.

It has given voice to the extreme right, people like Bernardi who use social media to exploit and mould public opinion. Those who wouldn’t have warranted a by-line in old media now find their unsavoury views saturated on social media.

It is of course not unfavourable to the left. People like ‘’Getup’’ have an enormous following. One which Cory Bernardi is desperately trying to replicate.

Into the future Social Media will play a greater part in how political news is disseminated and it will be in their own self-interest for Facebook, Twitter and others to service them.

How it will affect our Democracy is not yet known. We can only hope that fairness and truth will prevail.

Mt thought for the day.

“It is far better to form your own independent opinions relative to your life experience and reason, than to allow yourself to be blindly led by others”.

PS: My next post in this series – ‘The shock jocks’.

Day to Day Politics: When did it all go wrong? Part two – Newspapers.

Friday September 23 2016

Murdoch Media. Where the truth goes to die.

What part have newspapers played in the demise of our democracy? There was a time in my life when to miss reading The Age daily would bring on symptoms of withdrawal. Newspapers have been part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. I purchased them for reasons of a desire to be informed. To understand what was going on around me. To shape a world view.

In modern terms ‘The Fourth Estate’ commonly refers to the media but more specifically the print media. In the American system of government the term segregates the media from the constitution, the law, various levels and branches of administration. In Australia the same principle applies.

And of course the truth of it. It has no official status but is of symbolic importance. Its function should be to provide access to the public of information vital to the essential health of democracy for two reasons. First, it ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation. Second, information serves a “checking function” by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.

It is called the fourth branch of government because it plays such an important role in the fortunes of political candidates and issues. This is where the role of the media can become controversial. News reporting is supposed to be objective, but journalists are people, with feelings, opinions and preconceived ideas.

And it is the owner and the editor who call the shots and employs the journalists.

What is a newspaper?

“A newspaper is a publication that is issued daily or weekly and includes local and international news stories, advertisements, announcements, opinions, cartoons, sports news etc. It is an important method of letting the public know everything that is happening in their local area and around the world. Even with the advancements in computer technology, the internet and on-line bloggers newspapers continue to be an important, if not a rapidly declining aspect of everyday life.

Editorial opinion usually reflects the proprietor’s political philosophy. And whoever owns it is entitled to represent his or her views. Stories usually attract column space relevant to the credibility or authenticity of the subject. For example if 98% of the world’s scientists said that global warming was of major concern than normally the other side would receive exposure pertinent to its credibility. There is of course this fourth estate thing that requires truthful journalistic enquiry together with fair and balanced reporting. In this area Murdoch papers fail miserably. In fact his publications have abdicated any allegiance to the doctrines of the Fourth Estate.

When it was launched and for some time after The Australian was a decent newspaper. In the 1980s and 1990s, before the Internet, it was a credible source of computer industry news and general world affairs.

When it turned into the official newsletter of the Liberal and National Parties is difficult to pinpoint. But it certainly did.

The average print circulation for The Australian on weekday’s pre 2013 was 116,655 during the June quarter 2013, it fell 9.8 per cent compared to the June quarter 2012. The average print circulation for The Weekend Australian was 254,891 during the June quarter 2013, down 10.8 per cent compared to the June quarter the previous year.”

Murdoch newspapers have little readership and have been losing millions of dollars for years. Rupert Murdoch has been propping them up for two reasons. One it is in his blood and two because of the power and influence it gives him. In all probability when he dies The Australian (and others) will ether fold or be sold.

However as it stands The Australian is the go-to source for every right wing supporter and feral media commentator in the country. It feeds its conservative bullshit to the shock jocks and the awaiting throng of drooling journalists who would rather do the bosses bidding than report the truth.

An observation.

“If a newspaper article is written in a manner to suggest objectivity but subjective words are scattered throughout it together with carefully phrased unsupported statements then dismiss the article as having no cogency”.

As an example of their right-wing bias I put to you this list of stories that I collected from its pages on Thursday January 16 2014.

Yes it’s just one day a couple of years ago but on weekends it gets worse. It is not an isolated instance. Almost every day the front page is riddled with anti-left rhetoric.

1 Another instalment in the long running, dirty, smear campaign against Catholic Church child sex whistle-blower, Peter Fox.

2 Climate change denier, Maurice Newman, attacks scientists again.

3 Economist David Crowe defends Tony Abbott’s Commission of Audit saying there is no alternative to raising the GST and selling government assets including Australia Post and the ABC.

4 Another Republican Party report accusing President Barack Obama of a cover-up over the Benghazi attack on September 11, 2012.

5 A defense of Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison, insisting that the Australian navy never fired on a boat carrying asylum-seekers from Indonesia.

6 Kenneth Wiltshire calls for schools to teach conservative values.

7 Andrew Robb writes yet another article denying climate change.

8 Editor, Chris Mitchell, cheers on the demise of the Australia Greens Party in his sarcastically titled “Say a little prayer for Greens”.

9 Peter Shergold argues for the selling off and outsourcing of social services traditionally provided by government.

10 Greg Sheridan cheers Tony Abbott’s victory over people smugglers.

11 Gerard Henderson attacks SBS over a documentary on the history of ASIO calling SBS’ screening of the doco “totalitarian slurs” and accuses SBS of “leftist sympathies”.

13 Angela Shanahan calls for abortion to be banned at a national level.

14 Bjørn Lomborg says the burning of coal is not causing climate change.

Please Note. Janet Albrechtsen was on holidays so it could have been worse.

I repeat. This is not an isolated incident as the front page of the Australian often contains up to six anti left stories.

Generally speaking newspapers report both sides of an argument, its bias will usually slant toward its own editorial bent. However most will seek to achieve a reasonable balance in light of the weight of any given argument. With climate change it would be hard to argue the weight should come down on the side of science. Yet in his Quarterly Essay critique Australian academic Robert Manne read almost seven years worth of news and opinion articles in the Australian Newspaper and discovered that, of the 880 articles printed, just 180 were “favourable to climate change action and 700 unfavourable” – a four to one difference. On the newspapers opinion pages alone, the sceptics out-number the “consensus” 10 to one. Enough said. You be the judge.

An observation.

“It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated”.

The Murdoch media’s approach to journalism can best be described with these lines that I wrote some time ago and often repeat.

“It is said of pornography (and I am not expert in this field) that in order to maintain the viewers or readers interest it needs to progressively become more outlandish – more tantalising – more seductive-more flirtatious-more provocative – more stunning and more enticing. And in their desire to maintain some dominance, that’s exactly what main stream media is doing. It has chosen to prostitute itself in the forlorn hope of remaining relevant”.

The pity of it is that newspapers have chosen to address their declining readership with absurdity. No matter how many pictures of half-naked girls, sensationalist headlines and scandalous biased stories with melodramatic front page exaggeration their sales still go down.

Murdoch is so locked into a world where newspapers once dictated or swayed public opinion that he cannot see alternative ways of doing things. It would be impossible for him to consider that the opposite might work, that social conscience might be a worthy pursuit for any newspaper. This of course not only applies to him but to other proprietors also.

Newspapers as we know them will in a matter of years fail to exist. But the damage the have caused to society cannot be forgotten. Their capacity for persuasion is/was so misused. The lying headlines immune from criticism. The incitement to racial violence. Their character assassinations. The demonising of people seeking asylum. The half-truths. The imbalance in their reporting of Climate Change. The shaping of public opinion for nefarious reasons.

In the shaping of opinion they have a lot to answer for.

Of course I realise that the internet has had an enormous effect on newspaper sales but would Murdoch ever consider that telling the truth might just have saved them.

Murdoch Media. Where the truth goes to die.

My thought for the day.

“Less informed voters unfortunately outnumber the more politically aware. Therefore, conservative news outlets feed them all the bullshit they need. And the menu generally contains a fair portion of untruths”.

PS Next post in the series: ‘New Media’.

 

Day to Day Politics: Where did it all go wrong? Part seven (conclusion)

Author’s Note:

Thus far in this series I have covered ‘Where it all began’, ‘Newspapers’, ‘Electronic media’, ‘Right-wing feral opinion’, Democracy torn asunder’ and ‘If you’re racist don’t read it’. At the beginning I said that my observations would be random. This is the last of the series and deals with which party is suited to govern in a highly complex world. It is collated from earlier articles I have written for The AIMN that deal with the decline of our democracy.

Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?”

Before we can even begin to answer that question we need to have a clear understanding of just what they are. But we have to keep in mind the often subtle (or not so subtle variances) differences and interpretations that universally exist. For example, the term Liberal means an entirely different thing (it means socialism) in the USA.  And in the United Kingdom it takes on another meaning. Even Democracy itself has interpretations that take on complex variances from country to country. Socialism takes on many shades of grey often depending on an historical time frame.

In a recent piece I was presented a case for ”The Common good” being at the center of every political philosophy. I described what I thought to be the fundamental political ideologies. They are as follows.

What is a conservative?

I would say that Conservatives (LNP) believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty and traditional values. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.  Conservative policies generally emphasize the empowerment of the individual to solve problems. And they are cautious about change or innovation, typically in politics or religion.

What is a neo-conservative?

Neo-conservatism goes back to the 30s however in its modern form it is identified with George W Bush who embraced unbridled capitalism, corporate greed together with literalist Christianity to form a modern neo conservatism. Carl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld and others added global superiority to the mix believing that America in all aspects was above the rest of the world. A further element in this mix is Tea Party Republican politics.

What is a social progressive?

My view is that Social democrats (Labor) believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.  That it is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights thus believing the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.  Progressive policies generally emphasise the need for the government to solve problems.

A friend after reading my piece agreed with the general thrust of it but decidedly (and rightly so on reflection) disagreed with my analytical take on the isms (his comments are edited for the sake of brevity):

“First up – the ideological comparison. Covering conservatism, neo-conservatism and social democratic traditions misses two major theories: socialism and liberalism. To my mind, the three ‘fundamental’ ideologies are socialism, liberalism and conservatism. Neo-conservatism and social democratic traditions are just derivatives of the above (both are kind of attempts to mix *some* liberalism in with the other, but primarily in a one-dimensional way). I’d say libertarianism is also a derivative ideology, but one with a different genesis”.

“There are a few ways to conceptualise the three main ideologies – perhaps the best is to look at them from their own world view of paradigm. Understanding how the adherents actually view the world goes a long way to explaining the resulting ideas that are put forward. Conservatism: Civilisation (order & tradition) – Anarchy (social disintegration) Socialism: Oppressors (rich, elites, owners of capital) – oppressed (poor, minority groups) Liberalism: Freedom (of the individual) – Coercion (subordination of another’s will or action by force or pressure)” “Your definition of conservatism is rather off the mark, but that often happens in Australia. In the UK, Canada and most European nations, there are conservative and liberal parties that are radically different in outlook. You’ve tried to tie them together – which has happened in Australian politics with the emergence of the Liberal Party – but philosophically they are miles apart. “I would say that Conservatives (LNP) believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty and traditional values. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals”.

His response was rather lengthy and a very worthwhile read. I concede that my take was limited to Australia. That was my intent for the audience I was addressing. I saw social progressives like myself as a modern extension of socialism and I left out Liberalism because I believed it no longer existed in Australia, in its original form and had morphed into conservatism. This may have been a mistake because there will be those who believe that true Liberalism might very well be the answer to my question.

Before addressing my question, ‘Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?’ I feel a need to explain why I feel it essential to ask it in the first place.

There is no better example of the deterioration in Australian politics than the way both major parties have tackled the issue of asylum seekers. Nothing encapsulates more, than a willingness to forego decency, principle, fairness and empathy for fellow human beings simply to achieve political power. When political parties throw away these basic human tenants they lose all credibility. So far have our standards sunk that we must now suffer the indignity of being lectured on human rights other countries.

The problem requires a bi partisan approach and while then opposition leader, Tony Abbott refused every offer. Instead he opted to solicit the votes of the racists and gutter fringe dwellers in our society. And in doing so set about demonising those who were simple seeking freedom. The blame for this lies squarely at the foot of the then Prime Minister. And the Labor party stands condemned for its acquiescence.

Australian politics has descended into a murky pit of corruption, vindictiveness and scandal on both sides. The pursuit of power for powers sake has taken on an importance that relegates the common good to a distant second. Personal gain has surpassed public service. People of questionable character hold high office and influence. Big business has become the senior advisor.

Economics has become the barometer of a successful society rather than the well-being of the people.

Public discourse is no longer a healthy adversarial debate about ideas. It has now adopted a king hit mentality replacing truth with propaganda and leaves it to the public to decide what truth is.

The conservatives have coerced the right wing media into supporting them and the language of journalism has descended into biased unsupported rhetoric. As a result the support for far right politics by a far right opinionated media threatens the way we conduct democracy.

Tony Abbott’s ongoing contempt for our democratic conventions and institutions only served to uphold the low opinion people have of politicians.

We have never had an opposition leader like Abbott and we have never had an opposition leader as our leader. If you take my point.

The pugilist Abbott did not transformed into a national leader that even now continues to trash everything with negative invective and muted sarcasm. The man who set new lows in negativity and obstructionism in opposition took us to new lows in government.

Whilst I have used asylum seekers as the catalyst for my question it is not the only one. He sought as opposition leader to trash many of the Parliaments practices and did so at an accelerated pace aided and abetted by a rogue speaker. Retribution replaced respect and it’s a dog ensued.

Political controversy and conflict has always been with us and probably always will be, but for the future of our democracy it needs to be tempered with a contest of ideas. Better people need to be elected to parliament. People with a wide range of experiences. Not just party hacks but people with character, with desire for change, for truth, for equality, for justice and with an honourable understanding of what public service is.

This then leads me back to my question …

Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?

Liberalism.

The Australian Liberal ideology that I grew up with no longer exists. It exists in England and is espoused by Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg. He is on a crusade to reform his party further arguing that Left versus Right is no longer relevant:

It is not often you’ll hear me say this, but I agree with Tony Blair. In his words “the big difference is no longer between left and right, it is between open and closed.

So what is an open society?

It is a society where powerful citizens are free to shape their own lives. It has five vital features:

i) social mobility, so that all are free to rise;

ii) dispersed power in politics, the media and the economy;

iii) transparency, and the sharing of knowledge and information;iv) a fair distribution of wealth and property; and

v) an internationalist outlook

By contrast a closed society is one in which:

i) a child’s opportunities are decided by the circumstances of their birth

ii) power is hoarded by the elite

iii) information is jealously guarded

iv) wealth accumulates in the hands of the few, not the many; and

v) narrow nationalism trumps enlightened internationalism

Closed societies – opaque, hierarchical, insular – are the sorts of society my party has opposed for over a hundred and fifty years.

If you read the full speech it is easy to understand why there are those who believe that Liberalism in its purest form is arguably the best and most suited political philosophy for addressing the problems of tomorrow.

Conservatives

The Australian Prime Minister these days rarely uses the word liberal. This is because the Liberal and National parties (what is the difference) have now fully converted to American style Tea Party Republicanism. It is obvious by speech, action and policy. The once soft edge of small ‘L’ Liberalism has been expunged from the party but for a few tiny remnants. Its current course of vindictive political witch hunting may very well put in place a series of retaliatory Royal Commissions that that will further erode political public image and damage our democracy irrevocably.

To quote Ross Gittens:

“It takes innocence greater than I can muster to believe the motive for the inquiry is to bring justice to the program ‘s victims rather than to embarrass the Coalition ‘s political opponents by raking over one of their more celebrated stuff-ups. One thing we can be sure of is that when next Labor returns to power it will lose no time in retaliating, as will that government ‘s eventual Coalition successor. Advantage-seeking retaliation will become a bigger part of the political debate”.

Truth has been the first casualty in its Tea Party conservative conversion. Secrecy and lies is its replacement. Characterless, boys club, leadership with fear mongering negativity that abounds every day.  Its profound fear of science as a threat to capitalism together with its blind reluctance to change in my view makes it unsuitable for addressing the problems of tomorrow. I find that the most objectionable feature of the conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge because it dislikes some of the consequences which may follow from it.

There are real facts in life.

As Friedrich Hayek “Road to Serfdom” says:

“By refusing to face the facts, the conservative only weakens his own position. Frequently the conclusions which rationalist presumption draws from new scientific insights do not at all follow from them. But only by actively taking part in the elaboration of the consequences of new discoveries do we learn whether or not they fit into our world picture and, if so, how”.

The Social Progressives.

In my following comments I will refrain from including the Greens in this discussion in so much as I don’t see them as a genuine answer to my question. They may play a realistic role in the answer but not one of total resolution.

The Labor Party is in a state of ambivalence not knowing whether it should cling to long held traditions or disperse with them. It has to modernise but is hamstrung by allegiances and commitments to affiliated organisations (Unions) that in the public eye are detrimental to its image.

It has lost the compassionate vote to the Greens and is not prepared to regain it because it risks alienating the middle ground. It fails to see that to regain government it has to turn politics as we know it on its head and start a new politic. And I don’t mean structural but a kind of reverse of Abbotts propaganda and one liners. Like making “we can do better” as repetitive as “stop the boats”.

While on the one hand it sees the need for reform, power plays from within make it almost impossible, although they have made a start with the democratisation of leadership selection.

It has a good heart and its policy ideas are streets ahead of the conservatives. They are making progress at brand marketing and public relations. Creating progressive narratives that have passion and purpose with a dose of charismatic flair as seem in the last election. If they are to regain government in the short term many unpalatable decisions will have to be made. The alternative is a wait our turn attitude.

As to the question …

“Are the political ideologies of today suited to address the problems of tomorrow?”

Well let me put it this way. I am born and bred of the left but I don’t have a closed mind. I do believe that the problems of today and tomorrow are so overwhelming that they require solutions that go beyond an ideology first mentality. A politic that puts it all aside and simply says. ‘’What serves the common good’’

My thought for the day.

“The common good should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right”.

 

Day to Day Politics: Where did it all go wrong? Part one.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Where the Rod Laver Tennis Centre now stands, in Melbourne, the area was once occupied by massive Elm trees under which fierce political debates once took place. Rather like Hyde Park in London. It was there that as a teenage boy I spent many a Sunday afternoon. Politics has been for most of my life something that sort of ties things together. Other than what one might do in bed I can think of little that politics doesn’t invade in one way or another.

I like to think that I am wise enough to know that in a democracy the party I don’t support has as much right to power as the one I do. I am of the left because social injustice, inequality, unfairness and prejudice are anathema to me. They abducted my early life.

There was a time when I had a guarded tolerance for things Liberal and got on with life. But somewhere along the way things went wrong. Like rust finding its way, hate and untruth insinuated its way into the Australian body politic. It has become a cesspool of lying ideological corruption where politicians have forgotten what public service means. The turn to the right with its focus on capitalistic individualism at a time when the world is screaming for collective answers to complex problems might just prove disastrous.

I have developed a particular loathing for this self-righteous attempt to corrupt the business of government.

What follows is an attempt to explain where it all went wrong. My thoughts are random and I hope they come together to form some sort of explanation at the end.

Where to start. Undoubtedly the rise of the right, imported from the United States, has been the major and most worrisome aspect in the decline of the Liberal and National Parties. Where once small ‘L’ Liberals had residence, little exists today. Neo Liberalism/Conservatism aided by an inheritance of lying as a political weapon from the US, infiltrated the Coalition and gave birth to extremism.

Once there was a time when the seats of the houses of Parliament were occupied by people of countless and varied backgrounds. From farmers to lawyers. Now there is a tendency for both sides of politics to select from within their ranks. The party ‘hangers on’, union officials, academics and researchers etc. The consequence being that it is unrepresentative of a real Australian Community.

The Senate was once truly a house of review where a few independents, or minor parties resided with a controlling number. With a degree of compromise they got what they wanted. Usually around a state self-interest issue. Now we have minor parties and individuals, some of who have interest’s way outside the mainstream of conventional thinking. As Paul Keating once said, “They are an unelected swill who put their rather anomalous beliefs before the good of the country”.

Women have not advanced as a cohort in the political sphere. The Coalition remains an old man’s male club uninterested in the advancement of women. While most of the world has moved on in many areas of equality, right-wing conservatives seemingly want to remain in or regress into the past as if it were the de facto future. Know your place has been shouted on the floor of the House of Reps. The Left of politics to its credit seeks to advance women with virtuous zeal.

Lying has and will probably always exist but it reached its zenith during the 2012 Presidential Debates. In the first Obama was said to be unprepared. Having watched it and read the reviews I concluded that he was taken aback by the outright lies that Mitt Romney was telling.

Lying in American politics is now part of the cut and thrust of it. In that campaign, Romney was reported to have told over 2000 individual provable lies.

We have inherited it. Lying in Australian politics has reached an unprecedented level. The current Prime minister and his cabinet is taking lying to such depths that it is not disingenuous to suggest that they no longer have a moral compass  or understanding of truth. Some time ago I wrote the following in a piece titled, ‘Abbott Tells Another One’:

“If this means I am saying he is a pathological liar then so be it. It’s not a nice thing to say about anyone but we are dealing with truth here. It’s not so much that he is a serial offender, he is. I think the electorate knows that and factors it in. The fact that he lies can and is easily supported by volumes of readily available, irrefutable evidence. (I can provide it if need be) However what is of equal concern is that the main stream media (the so called forth estate) who are supposed to be the people’s custodian of truth, condones it”. More on that later.

Some time back Tony Abbott told us that the best way to understand the truth of what he was saying was to have it in writing. Otherwise what he was saying was just idle chatter for an audience. My take on that was this..

You see, now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all. That 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. It 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 what he meant. I know that I am 76 and I have the odd senior moment but usually I know what I mean and what is meant by what I say. I also know that people understand what I’m meaning.

Ministers also seem to have carte blanche to follow his example and tell as many as they like. George Brandis, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton and Christopher Pyne lie with monotonous regularity.

Truth is the victim.

In the first instance the best way to turn the profession of politics on its head in this country and create a new democracy would be to demand they tell the truth.

You can shape truth by telling lies for your own benefit and you can use the contrivance of omission to create another lie. However, the ability to admit you are wrong is an absolute pre requisite to discernment and knowledge. It requires truthfulness. If we are to progress as a country we must accept that there can be much pain in admitting we were wrong but there is no harm in it.

If a political party is not transparent in supplying all the information the public has a democratic right to be aware of, it destroys the very democracy that enables it to exist.

And if humility is the basis by which intellectual advancement is made then it is only on the basis of truth that we obtain human progress. Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it. It is far better to be comforted by truth than to be controlled by lies.

It is often difficult in politics to distinguish a broken promise from the convenience of a change of mind, but with Abbott there were no shades of hue. It takes courage to change one’s mind for the greater good. It requires the telling of truth. I saw no capacity for it in Abbott nor do I in our current Prime Minister.

It was so ingrained in Abbott’s persona that distinguishing between truth and lies was beyond his private and public morality. He had little trouble merging his faith into his political philosophy but eliminated a cornerstone of his faith, ‘’truth’’, when applied to his politics.

Of all the things that have caused the disintegration in the public’s trust in the body politic. it is the lack of truth that defines it.

My thought for the day.

“Honesty isn’t popular anymore. It doesn’t carry the weight of society’s approval it once did”.

Part two tomorrow.

 

Government’s institutional brutality (Part 2)

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

The Commission had a shaky start. Appointed on 28 July, the Hon. Brian Ross Martin resigned four days later, following perceived conflicts of interest relating to his and his daughter’s former roles, and saying that “rightly or wrongly, in this role I would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which has a vital interest in this inquiry.”

Mr Martin’s quitting, after criticism especially from the Indigenous community, has embarrassed the government, reinforcing arguments that it moved too quickly to finalise details of the inquiry and did not consult widely enough.

Since Mr Martin’s appointment his appropriateness had been questioned on several fronts. He is a former Chief Justice of the Northern Territory Supreme Court, and critics said therefore he would have had a conflict of interest. At least two of Justice Martin’s judgments in cases involving Indigenous people raised controversy. He said that he was not prepared to proceed with the Commission in face of the risk to its effectiveness. “This royal commission is far too important to undertake that risk and, in the public interest, personal considerations must take second place.”

It also came to light that his daughter Joanna was employed as a justice adviser to the former Northern Territory Labor Attorney-General between 2009 and 2011.

Clearly, the choice by Prime Minister Turnbull and Attorney-General Brandis had been a bad one, and an embarrassment for Mr Martin.

The Australian Government proceeded promptly to appoint a former judge of the Queensland Supreme Court, Margaret White, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, to conduct the Royal Commission.

Attorney-General Brandis enthused about the new nominations: of Judge White he said that she had extensive experience in both the civil and criminal systems and experience in conducting inquiries, including recently into the Queensland racing industry. (!)

He said that Mick Gooda was one of Australia’s most highly regarded Indigenous leaders, who enjoyed the respect of both sides of politics. Mr Gooda is a descendent of the Gangulu people of Central Queensland.

In replacing Martin, the government had taken up the call made by Labor and Indigenous representatives that the Commission should have Indigenous representation on it.

Late on September 2016 Dr Olivia Ball, who is child rights advocate at International Social Service Australia, advocated for a bill of rights.

Undoubtedly some members of the Australian Government, some parliamentarians and some social scientists in and out of universities read the piece. But there was no answer. One wonders.

This is, in part, what she wrote:

“In the Northern Territory, children as young as ten are incarcerated and some have been horrendously mistreated. A breathtaking 97 per cent of juvenile detainees in the Northern Territory are Indigenous. Should a 10-year-old be in prison at all?

The international community has decided when a child should be held criminally responsible for their actions. By human rights standards, the minimum age is 12. Twelve is the absolute minimum, according to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child, with no exceptions. And governments are urged to set it higher.

Australia is at odds with this standard. Children as young as 10 can be charged and tried for criminal offences throughout Australia. Our criminal codes must be revised to ensure no child below the age of 12 enters the criminal justice system. Below that age, problems of misconduct – however serious – ought to be treated as a welfare matter, with increased support and resources for families, carers and schools.

Our parliaments needn’t wait for the Royal Commission to make this straightforward reform to bring our laws in line with our human rights obligations.

Prisons, police cells, juvenile and immigration detention centres – where people are held under the total control of the state – are places where abuses of power are likely to occur. We would be naïve to assume the crimes allegedly committed against children at Don Dale are an exception, or that the perpetrators are somehow “bad apples”. The Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971 demonstrated how ordinary people readily become despotic in an authoritarian environment. Wherever people are deprived of their liberty by the state, we must take proactive measures to prevent abuses.”

And she went on: “Any child deprived of liberty must be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity, and in a manner which takes into account their developmental needs.

Don Dale is a powerful argument for why we need a bill of rights: to protect our most vulnerable and hold those in power to account. Australia has ratified numerous international human rights treaties, but has failed to write most human rights into domestic law, leaving gaping holes in the legal protection of our rights. [Emphasis added].

The right of children to be imprisoned “only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time” – while guaranteed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – is not mirrored in Australian law. Don Dale amply demonstrates our common law is also inadequate to protect our children from abuses up to and including suspected breaches of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Any child deprived of liberty must be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity, and in a manner which takes into account their developmental needs. This is a universal right of every child. It seems so basic, yet we have not thought it necessary to protect these rights in our laws.

We must not use the NT Royal Commission as a reason to sit on our hands while we wait for recommendations.

Let us act swiftly to enact a bill of rights in Australia. An ordinary act of parliament would be an expeditious start. Expatriate human rights luminary Geoffrey Robertson QC has written a draft bill for Australia (in his book The Statute of Liberty) which would serve as an excellent template for our legislators.

In addition to states and territories raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, the Australian Government should introduce a national bill of rights, with straightforward and immediately available remedies.”

Dr Ball was adamant at to what should be done.

“Our governments should also implement the following law reform without delay:

  • Ban solitary confinement: Solitary confinement is a breach of the Convention Against Torture. There is no safe length of time to which a person may be subjected to forced isolation. Social contact is essential to human health and well-being and it is cruel to deprive anyone of it. And yet solitary confinement appears to be common in our prisons and immigration detention centres – and was used against children at Don Dale. It must be made unlawful in all circumstances.
  • Ratify OP-CAT: Australia is a party to the Convention Against Torture, but has thus far refused to ratify an addendum called the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT) which would allow scrutiny of Australia’s practices, through unannounced visits by independent national and international monitors to places where people are deprived of their liberty. This measure can act to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We need this independent monitoring and should welcome it.
  • Ratify OP3-CRC: Equally, we should ratify the 3rd Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (OP3-CRC) which allows children and their representatives to complain to the UN when their rights are violated by Australia, if they can secure no remedy here. This is an important avenue of accountability and redress when our systems fail.

As the new Commissioner Mick Gooda has said, it’s impossible to work on Aboriginal issues without working on human rights. Human rights offer us guidance and tools to redress and prevent abuses. Let’s make the most of them.”

One would look in vain for a reply – in or out of parliaments   to such fundamental suggestions. (Don Dale abuses illustrate why Australia needs a bill of rights, Dr Olivia Ball, 29 September 2016).

Dr Ball’s article was reprinted early in 2017 (Don Dale: Why Australia needs a bill of rights, 14 January 2017). Silence is the word – perhaps indifference, which may explain, never justify.

The video obtained by Four Corners of Dylan Voller hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair sent shockwaves around the world. It was broadcast as part of an investigation detailing the repeated assault and mistreatment of children in youth detention, culminating in the tear-gassing of six children in Darwin in 2014.

In a written response to Four Corners a Northern Territory Corrections Department spokesman said that the restraint chair had been used on youth detainees “once” and that it was used “only at adult correctional centres.”

Former youth detention guard Ben Kelleher came forward to speak out for the first time. Mr Kelleher was a youth justice officer at Don Dale. He told Four Corners that he saw Voller in the restraint chair in the Old Don Dale Youth Detention Centre some time before the tear-gassing incident of 2014.

“I know of three times he was in the restraint chair,” Mr Kelleher said. “Dylan was never so still, he was never so sheepish as he was when he was in that chair. I think he had admitted defeat when it happened. I turned up for one shift and Dylan was in the chair and the other two times they were on incident reports I read once I got to work,” he said.

Mr Kelleher worked in youth detention centres in both Darwin and Alice Springs between 2011 and 2014 and worked primarily with the ‘highest risk’ children being kept in isolation. Videos obtained by Four Corners show prison guards stripping, assaulting and mistreating teenager Dylan Voller over a period of more than four years.

As a difficult-to-manage detainee, Voller was well known to Mr. Kelleher. Mr. Kelleher said that the first time he saw Voller in the chair he did not think it was wrong, but after seeing the vision of the time Voller was strapped to the chair in 2015 he felt uncomfortable.

“Now I’m a father, I feel there should be no time a kid should be restrained that way, but at the time I felt that was the way he had been dealt with and I didn’t feel qualified to argue the point,” he said. “I truly believe no matter how misbehaved a young man or lady is, they shouldn’t have their right to movement taken away like that. The old me two years ago wouldn’t have been able to say that because I didn’t understand that no one deserves their right to movement or vision be taken away. It’s very hard for the individual and a worker to draw a line between your safety and the safety of the kids.”

Voller told his lawyers that he was hooded and strapped in the mechanical restraint chair in both the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre and in the old Don Dale several times, the first time when he was as young as 11.

Disturbingly such incidents occurred well before the Northern Territory Parliament moved to amend the Youth Justice Act in 2016 to ensure “that modern mechanical devices of restraint” could be legally used on children.

Voller told lawyer Peter O’Brien that he was placed the chair after kicking and damaging his cell. “He said he has been in the chair more than one time, he certainly has told us that he’s been in several times in the chair, as you’ve already seen depicted on the program,” Mr O’Brien said. “The most concerning thing about that chair is that when it was brought to the attention of corrections, this Government decided to legislate to allow it, to lawfully condone the use of this chair. That’s the sort of people you are dealing with. They should be sacked, they are dishonest, they have been caught out telling complete untruths and they ought to be gone.”

Mr Kelleher said that serious shortcomings in staff training and a lack of resources contributed to problems at the Centre. “You can see why workers get fed up when there’s no clear pathway to fixing the problem. It’s shift after shift, and incident after incident. There’s no support system,” he said. “There’s a one day training course and everything else is off the cuff. You can walk in off the street, apply for a job and the next day you’ve got a kid’s wellbeing in your hands and that is not good enough.”

He said that while working in the behavioural management unit he developed a close relationship with Voller and tried to find constructive ways to manage his behaviour.

“The thing about Dylan is that he just wants somebody to give a shit. He’s a kid who was forgotten about at home, so you can understand why he wants somebody to hang out with.  The boys you see and the boys portrayed on the tele[vision] as being delinquents who deserve a chance, that’s absolutely what they are, they deserve a chance,” Mr Kelleher said.

Mr Kelleher stopped working at Don Dale in 2014 after he was investigated for throwing wet toilet paper to conceal a CCTV camera in Voller’s cell days before the tear-gassing incident.

Four Corners had obtained videos, dating back to when Dylan Voller was 13 years old, which show prison guards stripping, assaulting and mistreating the teenager over a period of more than four years while he was in youth detention in the Northern Territory.

A troubled boy with behavioural problems, Dylan Voller has been in and out of juvenile detention since he was 11 years old, for car theft, robberies and, more recently, assault. He is one of the Northern Territory’s most notorious young offenders. On the other hand, his sister said that Dylan’s life was stripped from him after being mistreated in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

There is a video showing that, on 20 October 2010, the thirteen-year-old Dylan was being held up by his neck and thrown into a cell in the ‘behavioural management unit’ at the Centre. The officer involved was charged but found not guilty of assault. The casual officer’s contract was not renewed.

In another video, dated 9 December 2010, Dylan is being held in isolation again after threatening to self-harm. He is seen playing with a pack of cards before he is grabbed by the neck, thrown onto a mattress and forcefully stripped naked. The officer involved was twice found not guilty of aggravated assault.

On 7 April 2011 thirteen-year-old Dylan was on the telephone. When he refused to hand it over, a guard ripped the telephone off him, forced him to his knees him and knocked him to the ground. The officer involved was found not guilty in court. His casual contract was not renewed but a 2015 report found he was later re-employed at the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre despite objections from the Professional Standards Command.

On 4 October 2011 Dylan, now fourteen, was recorded as being held in isolation after threatening self-harm. Three officers entered the room, grabbed him by the neck, stripped him naked and left him on the floor. The removal of his clothing was part of the Centre’s ‘at risk’ procedure.

On 16 August 2014 a youth justice officers entered the isolation unit. One angry guard hurled a pear at Dylan and attempted to conceal the security camera by throwing wet toilet paper at it. He then told Dylan that he was planning to assault him on the outside.

Five days later, on 21 August 2014, Voller was one of six children tear-gassed in the isolation unit after another inmate, Jake Roper, ran amok. The boys had been held in isolation in the ‘behavioural management unit’ for between six and seventeen days before the incident.

On 4 March 2015, when aged 17, Dylan Voller was transferred to the Alice Springs adult prison and – as a video showed – strapped into the chair for almost two hours. Earlier, as the video recorded by guards on duty showed, Voller had chewed on his mattress and threatened to break his own hand after he was put in the restraint chair.

There is uncorroborated evidence of ‘institutionalised brutality’ that the children had been kept in cells for twenty-three hours a day, forced to fight with each other, and even to eat animal faeces. (Dylan Voller: Timeline of teenager’s mistreatment in NT youth detentionA.B.C.).

On 5 December 2016 Keith Hamburger, the former head of Queensland Correction Services Commission and author of a highly critical report on  the Northern Territory corrections system told the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory that Don Dale was run like a ‘human storage facility’, ‘basically a prison’ and not a ‘therapeutic environment’.

On 23 October 2017 Amnesty International, Australia complained anew: briefly – it said – Indigenous children make up one in 15 kids in Australia, but are half of all children in Australia’s youth detention centres. (Actually, it seems, 57 per cent). By locking away children and separating them from their families and communities, the Australian governments are placing limits on children’s potential and causing them life-long, psychological harm.

Amnesty launched a campaign for Indigenous justice, mainly for the advantage of children. Other Indigenous justice issues on which Amnesty is working include: 1) action to stop Indigenous deaths in custody; 2) defence of the right to live on Aboriginal homelands, and 3) protection of the right to be free from racial discrimination.

“We launched our Community is Everything campaign in 2015 because we don’t want to see Indigenous kids locked up anymore,” explained Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon, a Palawa man, Chair of the National Reference Group for Repatriation of Australian Indigenous Remains, and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commissioner for Tasmania. 

We want to see them living in happy, healthy communities, finishing school, getting good jobs and becoming community leaders.” It is common knowledge that putting children in gaol only makes matters worse. It should be a last resort but research by the Victorian Government [which is known to be sending children as young as 15 to Barwon adult prison] shows that Indigenous children are much more likely to be charged by police, than cautioned and referred to a support programme.”

Mr Dillon went on: “Magistrates in regional and rural areas have said that too often, but local Indigenous programmes are not sufficiently funded to be part of the solution, which makes detention a far more likely option.” To close the justice gap, the Australian Government must work with the states and territories and Indigenous organisations to reduce the number of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander children in detention. “This is our main campaign aim,” said Mr. Dillon. “Our research highlights the compelling evidence that intervening early in the lives of disadvantaged kids to address the causes of offending helps improve their wellbeing and sets kids up to thrive. With your support we can make a difference to [their] lives. In the words of Noongar Elder Eugene Eades, who we’ve worked closely with on the campaign: ‘The sky’s the limit if we work together’.”

Continued Monday with: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 3)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 1)

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

 

African Gangs Makes Melburnians Afraid To Go Out, But AMP And The Banks Make People Unsafe In Their Houses

Now, I know that I’m meant to write satire but sometimes I just have to use my language skills to point out what is probably bleedin’ obvious.

Compare the way the conservatives among us thunder on about burglaries and carjackings to the way they respond to people who are prepared to steal your life-savings…

No, I don’t mean the Labor Party. Honestly, the whole kerfuffle about the idea that money going to retirees from dividends should be taxed at least once was a great example of how the Liberals – with the help of Murdoch – can spin things that make Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” look like a case of understatement.

But anyway, Victoria was being hit with a crime wave because of Dan Andrews being too soft on crime and that was making people too scared to go out at night. Well, that’s what we were being told. Although this did seem to stop once polling showed that, while people were becoming more concerned about gangs, they also felt that Labor would be better at dealing with it. We didn’t seem to hear much about African gangs after that.

However, I think that conservative calls for tougher sentences make an interesting comparison when placed along side Scott Morrison’s comments on the Royal Commission into Things We Tried To Avoid Looking Into Because These Men Aren’t Linked To Labor. Our Treasurer really got stuck into AMP, telling us:

“This type of behaviour can attract penalties which include jail time. That’s how serious these things are.”

Ok, it seems fair enough if you don’t actually compare it to say, a car theft. I can’t imagine any Liberal politician telling us that maybe, just maybe, a car theft could attract a penalty. You know, it might. And that penalty could include jail time. So, shucks, guys, you really shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing. I mean it’s that serious. So please don’t do it again, hey? Of course, it’s not like AMP and some of the banks were actually taking your car for a joy ride. Nah, they were just giving some people advice that led to them losing their home.

So it’s a bit rich when people complain that they were charged for financial advice they never received. I mean, given the quality of the financial advice and the fact that the Liberals opposed legislation to ensure that a financial advisor was acting in his or her client’s best interests, people who didn’t receive any advice at all should have been more than happy to pay for the privilege. Nay, they should have been grateful. Instead, they’re complaining.

The Liberals were right. There’s no need for a banking Royal Commission. It’s just fostering ill will and leading to a lot of complaints from people. Ok, not perhaps, the dead clients that the Commonwealth Bank continued to charge for advice even though they knew that they’d died. Let’s be real here, people. Dead people aren’t in the best position to make their own decisions so they probably needed the advice more than anyone. I have it from a source that in many cases the advice was: “You should stop paying me now that you’re dead.” Not one of these dead clients are complaining that the advice was wrong, even if it wasn’t heeded.

Yep…

I had another paragraph, but some days when I consider that, not only is Scott Morrison our Treasurer but he doesn’t seem as disconnected from reality as the rest of the government,  words just fail me.

 

Ho, Ho, Ho, Scott Is Santa, While A Shorten Government Will Fail To Balance The Budget!

There’s an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me! Fool me over and over again, you must be the Murdoch Press telling me that the Liberal Party are great economic managers…”

Yep, I did think that most ridiculous thing I heard was Sean Hannity’s denial that he was a “client” of Michael Cohen. Hannity – the Faux News’ personality in charge of justifying whatever Donald does – denied that Trump’s lawyer had ever been hired by him. Hannity has just – from time to time – had the odd chat about legal matters…

There’s a whole series of questions there, but I’ve been distracted by the photo of Scott Morrison in a Satan suit. Sorry, Santa suit. I always get those two confused. That’s Santa and Santa, by the way, not Scott and Satan. Scott, Santa and Satan One is a mythical creation designed to scare people into being good, one just enjoyed punishing people, and one used to be  charge of Hell. However, he’s passed that job onto Peter Dutton, so Scott’s the one without a clear role, hence the Santa suit…

Anyway, I’m not suggesting that Scottie Morrison actually dressed up in a Santa suit. This is just a little something that the Murdoch media are allowed to do. Dress Scott up in a Santa suit, place Labor politicians in Nazi uniforms, put Chris Kenny in a compromising position with a dog…

Oh wait, that last one was done by the ABC’s Chaser crew and was just totally wrong, because they were doing satire and not serious news. Apparently you’re only allowed to photoshop things that haven’t happened if you’re doing actual news…

So let’s be clear, we can’t elect Shorten because that’ll stuff up the whole economy because it’s only by giving tax cuts to rich people that anything good happens. However, giving tax cuts to anyone earning less than $60,000 is just a waste of money because they’ll probably just spend on things like food and shelter. Then, before you know it, the Budget will be in worse shape because Labor need to run surpluses, but the Liberals just need to be reducing the size of the deficit at some future date after the next unicorn sighting, or when Gerard Henderson admits he was wrong about something.

But apparently, now that the Budget is only a few billion in deficit, everything is just hunky dory and Scott can afford to make it Christmas in May.

Although, didn’t Bananaby tell us that Malcolm needed to fix his poll numbers by Christmas or he should step down? Christmas in May?

Could this be Santa Morrison’s way of bringing forward a challenge?

Well, if there’s one thing I can’t predict, it’s the future. However, in spite of that,  I’ll bet that when uses the Budget reply speech to tell us that we’d be better to put the company tax cuts towards a cut in personal tax for people on incomes less than $100,000, we’ll be told that this will send the Budget into freefall even if it costs less than the $65 billion for the company tax cuts.

 

Government’s institutional brutality (Part 1)

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

Government’s institutional brutality

Located in Berrimah, an Indigenous word which in Yolngu means ‘to the south’, in fact east of Darwin, is the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, a facility for juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. It is actually a maximum security prison for male and female regarded as juvenile delinquents. The prison is named after Don Dale, a former Member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1983 to 1989 and one-time Minister for Correctional Services. The Centre is managed by the Northern Territory Correctional Services.

‘Correctional Services’ is a euphemism often used in Australia. Don Dale Youth Centre revealed itself in time as a place of torture. The Centre had been built in 1991 to detain young male and female offenders from across the Northern Territory. It provided ‘medium and high level’ detention, usually in single cells.

At Don Dale, in the early evening of 9 February 2000 Johnno Johnson Wurramarrba, a 16-year-old Indigenous boy, had been found in his assigned room with a sheet tied around his neck. He was taken to the Darwin Hospital, and there he died on the subsequent night. The Indigenous youth had been sentenced on 18 January 2000 by the Juvenile Court sitting at Alyangula to serve a period of 28 days detention under the Juvenile Justice Act for stealing some oil and paint from Angurugu School on Groote Eylandt. The death was properly categorised as a death in custody as he was a “person held in custody” within the definition in s. 12(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Coroners Act 1993 (NT).

A Coronial Inquiry into the circumstances of the death resulted in a number of recommendations being made relating to training of staff and management practices in the centre. Nothing came out of those recommendations.

Two and  half years later, on  25 July 2016, the A.B.C. broadcast a Four Corners report, titled ‘Australia’s shame’, which disclosed the systematic abuse of youths in the Northern Territory ‘corrections system’ and would lead  to the Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention in the Northern Territory.

As the A.B.C. report revealed, in August 2014 six boys were in solitary confinement cells in the Behavioural Management Unit. One boy walked out of an unlocked cell, and beat on a locked reinforced door. The staff considered that there was a ‘riot’, and released tear gas into the hallway, gassing all six boys. It took up to eight minutes to rescue the boys in their cells from the tear gas. A news release to the media falsely asserted that six boys had escaped from their cells, despite CCTV in the hallway showing only one boy in the hallway. The incident, among others, was investigated by the Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gywnne in a report provided in August 2015 to the then Corrections Minister John Elferink.

The A.B.C. report, which included the 2014 tear gas incident, was later in the year televised worldwide. Teenage boys were shown being assaulted, stripped naked and tear-gassed. They were being held in isolation up to 72 hours with no running water. The programme also showed a 17-year-old boy shackled and hooded in a chair at a facility in Alice Springs.

At this point the Office of United Nations  High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, let it be known that he was “shocked” at the “appalling treatment” of the detainees, which violated the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, to which Australia is party. Global broadcast of the documentary caused worldwide astonishment about the inadequate actions of the minister.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was forced to announce a Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention in the Northern Territory.  ‘Corrections’ Minister  John Elferink was dismissed the morning after the programme was aired. The corrections and justice portfolios were taken on by Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles. Only then, the use of restraint chairs and spit-hoods, a mesh hood used by police officers to stop suspects spitting at them,  was suspended.

On 28 July 2016 it was announced that the 33 youths incarcerated in the centre were to be moved to the Wickham Point Detention Centre, a former immigration detention centre, located some 50 kilometres south of Darwin. The Wickham Point Detention Centre has been deemed by the Australian Human Rights Commission to be “completely inappropriate for children.” Within 24 hours the decision to close the centre and relocate the detainees “had been scrapped for the time being”, with Chief Minister Giles saying that the facilities at Don Dale were “good enough.”

Chief Minister Giles may have been wrong with recent media investigations (ABC news, 20 March 2017) showing systemic sexual abuse of children of both genders, systemic abuse by guards, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse; and a lack of governance oversight which ensured a permissive culture of guard entitlement to treat vulnerable children as play toys for their own gratification.

Four Corners had managed to track down several of the boys who were tear-gassed. They described being highly distressed, afraid for their lives, and said that two years after the events they are still suffering from disturbing flashbacks and nightmares from the ordeal.

The CCTV vision also showed the children’s reactions as they were affected by the gas, running to the back of their cells, hiding behind sheets and mattresses, gasping for air, crying, and bending over toilets.

One boy was left in his cell and exposed to tear gas for eight minutes. He was seen lying face down on the floor with his hands behind his back, before being handcuffed by two prison officers wearing gas masks and dragged out of his cell.

The use of tear gas at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2014 came after months of tension, repeated escapes and incidents at the Centre, which was staffed with under-trained youth justice officers, in what has been described as a ‘ticking time bomb’ by former staff.

Three weeks before the tear-gassing incident, five boys had escaped from the Centre. When they were recaptured, they were placed in the isolation wing of the prison for between 15 and 17 days, in what were described by both children and staff as appalling and inhumane conditions. They were kept locked in their cells for almost 24 hours a day with no running water, little natural light, and were denied access to school and educational material.

The boys being kept in isolation were accidentally discovered by a group of lawyers, including Mr Jared Sharp, a solicitor, when they were taken on a tour of the facility in August 2014. “We all sort of looked at each other in shock that there was kids in these cells, because there was signs of life in there but we didn’t know who was in there or what was happening, or how long they’d been there.” Mr. Sharp told Four Corners. “To what extreme is that, is to my view is torture. To my view that is treating kids in a way that is just entirely unacceptable,” he said.

Ms Ruth Barson (Masters of Laws (criminology) from the University of Sydney and Masters of International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford) of the Human Rights Law Centre said that the isolation of the children was a clear violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture.

“The UN’s expert on torture has said there are no circumstances that justify young people being held in solitary confinement, let alone prolonged solitary confinement,” Ms Barson told Four Corners.

“I think the Northern Territory and in particular Don Dale has a long way to go to ensure their practices are compliant with Australia’s obligation on the convention against torture and [for] the right of the child.”

In the days after the tear-gassing, Corrections Minister John Elferink praised the actions of his staff and the prison security dog used on the night of the incident. “I congratulate again, and place my support behind, the staff who made this decision. The staff worked hard, ‘Fluffy’ the Alsatian worked hard and, as far as we are concerned, it was a problem that was solved quickly,” Mr Elferink told Parliament.

In the wake of the incident the Don Dale Centre was closed and the children were moved to the run-down, old Berrimah adult prison.

The Northern Territory Government commissioned an independent report into the incident by former Long Bay prison boss Michael Vita, which was released in January 2015.

Mr Elferink told Four Corners that the Government had learned from the mistakes of the past. “It was a system that needed improvement. It was a system that had fundamental problems, which is why I’ve worked so hard to improve it and it has been improved,” he said.  “That was a circumstance that clearly demonstrated to me that something had to be done, which is what the Vita Report was all about. Those circumstances have now been changed… we hope that they won’t be repeated.”

Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne confirmed to Four Corners that there were still unresolved problems with youth detention in the Northern Territory, with many of her 2015 report recommendations still not implemented. “The response has not been as urgent as we would have liked. The issues raised in that report are extremely serious and I would like to see a more full response,” she said. “[We need] some urgency and some dedicated resources thrown at this.” (Evidence of ‘torture’ of children held in Don Dale detention centre uncovered by Four Corners, by Caro Meldrum-Hanna and Elise Worthington, 21 July 2016, A.B.C.).

In the view of Mr Juan E. Méndez, an Argentine lawyer, who was at the time United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and a human rights activist known for his work on behalf of political prisoners, treatment of children at Don Dale prison could amount to torture. (Treatment of children at Don Dale prison could amount to torture, says UN, 28 July 2016, The Guardian).

Public officials who covered up the acts at the Detention Centre could also be guilty of torture, but – of course – it would have been up to Australia to prosecute those involved.

Any such public officials could also be guilty of torture as defined in the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, which includes acts done “with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

Speaking on the A.B.C.’s Radio National on 28 July 2016, Mr Méndez said that the acts shown in footage broadcast by Four Corners, which included children being thrown, stripped, assaulted, tear-gassed, held in solitary confinement, and hooded and tied to a ‘mechanical restraint’ chair, “can amount to torture or to very cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment under any circumstance.”

In 2015 also, Australia was accused of violating the international Convention against torture for holding children in immigration detention and holding asylum seekers in dangerous and violent conditions on Manus Island. Mr Méndez, who was responsible for that report, said at the time that Australia had fallen short “of its obligations under international law.”

He said the acts committed against the children at Don Dale could have made up the elements of the international crime of torture but it would be up to Australia to prosecute those involved.

“There’s no question here [that] there’s been an infliction of very severe pain and suffering, that the perpetrators are, or seem to be, state agents; but what we need to know is whether appropriate action was taken afterwards,” he said. “If this information was in the possession of other state agents who didn’t do anything about it, then of course it would be an added, you know, reason to conduct a very serious inquiry and to let the chips fall where they may, and punish those who not only participated in the acts but acquiesced in them and tolerated them.”

Whether it puts Australia in violation of its international responsibilities, he said, depended on the government’s response.

Mr Méndez said that it was “encouraging” that the Australian government had moved swiftly to establish a royal commission into both the abuse and the alleged cover-up of abuse.

Speaking on the A.B.C.’s Q&A programme after Four Corners had aired shocking footage from the Don Dale Detention Centre, Professor Gillian Triggs, then Human Rights Commission president, said that treatment of teenagers at the Centre was a manifestation of wider acceptance of detention practices in a regime of “ increased detention without trial” in the whole country, citing as an example Australia’s “unique” immigration policies which mandate, as a first resort, the indefinite detention of children and families who arrive in Australia by boat seeking asylum.

Professor Triggs endorsed calls for the matter to be independently investigated, with a view to charges being laid against those responsible. But she argued that the brutalisation of children was not an isolated incident.

She added that she felt “absolute horror” watching the footage. The youngest of the boys was 14.

“If one of us were to have been found to have treated our children in this way we would probably be charged with a criminal offence and the children taken away from us. It’s an extremely distressing piece of footage to look at and I have visited many detention centres, sadly, but I have never seen conditions of that kind and I have never seen people treated in that way. I think it’s something that, as the experts were calling for, we clearly need some kind of investigation into this,” Professor Triggs said.

Professor Triggs said that a government-based independent commission was needed to establish the facts of the children’s abuse.

“We’ve created an environment in which governments feel free to exercise an administrative discretion to detain people for a number of different purposes. They may be good purposes, but the concern that we have at the Human Rights Commission is that when we detain people with cognitive disabilities for years on end without trial, when we detain children and their families … we’ve created a culture of accepting this level of detention without trial and without proper judicial supervision. And, I’m sorry to say this, but I think there is that sense that the children are out of sight and out of mind in the Northern Territory in these detention centres and that’s an acceptable and necessary thing to do because some children go off the rails. … We need to look deeply into our own psyche as a nation to say, ‘why have we not been prepared to be more humane?’ – to understand that we’re dealing with human beings. Some of them have committed serious offences, some have committed no offences and are seeking our protection.”

Some of the boys assaulted in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre were Indigenous. Ms Shireen Morris from the Cape York Institute said that Australia had become “used to accepting low standards when it comes to Indigenous kids.” … “These kids are born with worse life chances than the rest of us and they end up in detention like that, getting treated as they do, and as one of the lawyers said in the program, it is consigning them to no future.” (Northern Territory abuse reflects Australia’s detention culture, says Gillian Triggs, 26 July 2016, The Guardian).

In a scene that the Four Corners presenter Ms. Sarah Ferguson compared with images from Guantánamo Bay or the Abu Ghraib gaol in Baghdad, 17-year-old Dylan Voller – who was featured repeatedly in the programme suffering apparent mistreatment at the hands of guards – was shown hooded and tied in a restraint chair for two hours. The chairs were among items recently included in a widened list of ‘approved restraints’ under the Youth Justice Amendment Act 2016 to amend the Youth Justice Act. (Northern Territory juvenile detention: ABC airs scenes likened to Abu Ghraib, 26 July 2016,www.theguardian.com › World › Australia › Northern Territory)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acted quickly and  was set to release the terms of reference for the commission after a cabinet meeting on 28 July 2016.

He had already said that the inquiry would be restricted to the Northern Territory, despite calls from Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander leaders, lawyers, and Professor Gillian Triggs, of the Australian Human Rights Commission, that the inquiry start with the events at Don Dale and be broadened to include juvenile justice centres in other states.

Labor senator for Western Australia Patrick Dodson, who was one of the commissioners in the 1989-91 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, said that the inquiry “should look at how systemic practices pertain across all jurisdictions”, and should also look at how children ended up in detention.

The Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, said that it was up to other states to initiate their own inquiries if they believed they had similar issues.

On 28 July 2016 the Governor-General issued Letters Patent to establish a Royal Commission into the Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Government of the Northern Territory, and appointed the Hon. Brian Ross Martin, A.O. Q.C. as Royal Commissioner.

The quick choice will remain as testimony of the combined wisdom of two prominent Oxonian lawyers.

The chosen Commissioner was thought to have a deep understanding of the legal and justice systems of the Northern Territory, and deep familiarity with issues arising from the engagement of Indigenous People with criminal justice and penal systems. In 1991 he acted as Senior Counsel assisting the Royal Commission into the Commercial Activities of Government and Other Matters, known as ‘W.A Inc.’ In 1997 he was appointed the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. He had served in that role until he was made a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia from 1999.  In 2004 Justice Martin was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory – a role he served until 2010. He was an acting Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 2012.

The Royal Commission was to be conducted jointly with the Northern Territory Government which was to issue an appointment in identical terms under its Inquiries Act.

“Specifically, the Royal Commission [was] asked to examine:

  • failings in the child protection and youth detention systems of the Government of the Northern Territory;
  • the effectiveness of any oversight mechanisms and safeguards to ensure the treatment of detainees was appropriate;
  • cultural and management issues that may exist within the Northern Territory youth detention system;
  • whether the treatment of detainees breached laws or the detainees’ human rights; and
  • whether more should have been done by the Government of the Northern Territory to take appropriate measures to prevent the reoccurrence of inappropriate treatment.”

The Royal Commission was also to make recommendations about legal, cultural, administrative and management reforms to prevent inappropriate treatment of children and young persons in detention, and what improvements can be made to the child protection system.

The Royal Commission was due to report by 31 March 2017. The Commission submitted an interim report by that date. (The interim report did not deliver any findings or make any recommendations. Nor did it reflect young people’s personal stories). By the end of August 2017, when the final report was due, the Commission was granted another extension, the third one. The Report of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was tabled in Parliament on 17 November 2017.

Continued Friday with: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 2)

Previous instalment: Going around in circles (Part 2)

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

 

You Really Have To Admire Some Liberals!

Ok, you probably noticed something about the Monash Forum in the media…

But just in case you haven’t, basically, the Monash Forum is a group of backbench Liberals which includes Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly and a number of others who are even more irrelevant than the aforementioned trio. Their aim is to stop the “demonisation” of coal.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. Coal has been demonised by a handful of Christians linking it to the fires of Hell and therefore it’s been associated with demons in much the same way that Matthew Guy has been linked to underworld figures just because he has the occasional lobster with a mobster. Totally unfair.

As is the suggestion that many of us heard as kids that Santa would leave lumps of coal in our stocking if we were naughty. How innaccurate! Clearly it’s only the very best children who’d be given lumps of that good-for-humanity coal stuff!

So anyway, this Monash Forum has the intention to remind us all how absolutely necessary coal is for cheap power. It takes his name from John Monash, a man who, while once very useful, is now – like coal – dead.

There have been suggestions that the group has evolved from the so-called “Monkey Pod”. Although the suggestion about evolution has angered some in the group because they don’t support evolution in any shape or form.

George Christensen has encouraged various Nationals to also join the group, prompting one Nationals senator, John Williams, to tell the media that while he’d yet to see the group’s pledge or manifesto, he’d texted back saying that he was keen to join because anything pro-coal was just fine by him. He further added that if AGL didn’t want to sell the Liddell power station, then the Government should compulsorily acquire it and run it. After all, it’s not like that would be socialism or subsiding an inefficient industry.

Anyway, the group is also suggesting that the Government should intervene and build Hazelwood 2.0 because well, it just should, because spending $4,000,000,000 on a new power station is no problem, just so long as it’s a coal-fired one and not one of these new-fangled renewable ones.

Josh Frydenberg told us that the Government and the Monash group wanted the same thing. As far as I can ascertain, nobody in the media asked him if that were the case, why did the group feel the need to form. I mean, it’s not like there’s a sub-group of Liberal backbenchers forming to press the case for company tax cuts.

Whatever, the group is assuring us that coal has a future and that there’ll always be a need for it. While some silly greenies believe that coal and oil will one day run out, it’s clear that the Monash Forum believe that there are sufficient fossils in the Liberal Party itself to provide coal in the future.

Yep, like I said, you just have to admire some of these Liberals. In spite of all the opposition from people who know what they’re talking about, they bravely go on, insisting that coal is the way to go. No, the scientists don’t know what they’re talking about. No, the industry experts are wrong too. And AGL, why on earth would you shut Liddell when just a few hundred million dollars will make it as good as new? Better even. The free market just doesn’t work sometimes because it doesn’t deliver the outcomes we want, and then we need to tweak it so that our biggest donors get the money in their pockets, so that they can continue to be our biggest donors… How many other people could go on in the face of so much opposition and continue to deny reality like that? I’m sure I couldn’t.

And no, this isn’t a threat to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. Of course not! Didn’t Malcolm once say that he could never lead a party that wasn’t as serious about climate change as he was. While some of you have taken this to mean that all his talk about climate change was just empty, populist rhetoric from a man who makes the characters from film “La La Land” look complex, I would argue that this is a promise he’s certainly kept.

There’s no way anyone could consider that Turnbull has led the party in any sense of the word.

Why Malcolm Turnbull’s Government Will Win The Next Newspoll!

Prediction is easy. It’s one of the easiest things in the world. The difficult bit is getting your predictions right. However, getting your prediction right isn’t always the only thing that matters. As a society, we give too much credit, on the person who fluked the unlikely, and far too little criticism on people who get things consistently wrong.

In the case of the fluke, some people have attempted to claim a lot of credibility from the fact that they predicted a Trump win. In their triumphal gloating, they claim that they were right and everyone else was wrong. However, people who only gave Trump a ten percent chance of winning weren’t necessarily wrong. Think about it this way.: Most of you wouldn’t play Russian roulette even though the odds of the bullet being in the chamber is only 16%; you’re aware that it’s entirely possible that something with a low chance of happening might happen. And you probably wouldn’t play even if you were the chance to win a million dollars with one click of the gun.

Just getting a prediction right doesn’t mean that your reasoning was sound. When Fred consumes twenty stubbies and assures you that he’s right to drive, the fact that he makes it home safely doesn’t mean that he made an intelligent decision even though his prediction was accurate. Similarly, you should ignore the argument that he always intended to knock over the letterbox because it’s ugly and his decision to use his car to do it was a flash of genius that he wouldn’t have had if he’d taken a taxi.

The unlikely event that happens is just that: An exception to expectations.

So, if by some freak of statistics or some fiddling with the figures, and Turnbull does win the next Newspoll, and I look clever, it’s no good asking me for the Tattslotto numbers or stock market tips. I’ve had my fluke for the year. Of course, I deliberately said next because that means that I can point to the headline and say I was right in the unlikely event that he ever actually wins another one.

That would be similar to the way that during the GFC, the media gave a lot of time to pundits who’d been predicting a crash, and asked them what would happen next. Of course, the fact that some of them had been predicting a crash since 1988 didn’t stop the media from saying how prescient they were. Predicting a catastrophe in global markets is a bit like predicting rain in a desert. Sooner or later, it’ll happen, but a lot of people will die of thirst waiting for their containers to be filled.

The great thing about making predictions is that nobody ever seems to remember the ones people get wrong. (I’m talking here about the media, of course, Some of my friends still remember predictions I got wrong from last century!) Some political and economic commentators will be back telling us about the future and nobody will ever have the temerity to remind them that the only thing they got right in the past five years was when they were asked for a tip on Melbourne Cup Day. And even then all they got right was, “Number 5, but I have no idea, so you’d be foolish to back my horse.”

So it’s no surprise that these commentators don’t call out politicians for their lack of prophetic powers. After all, when everyone’s getting it wrong, it’s best just to move forward and hope that nobody has a memory or enough time to go back and point out that the most accurate thing that anybody said was: “Whatever. The sun will still rise tomorrow.”

Ok, we all remember when Malcolm Turnbull told us that Barnaby Joyce shouldn’t stand down as Deputy PM  because the High Court would find in his favour, but we didn’t think of that as an inaccurate prediction. We just presumed that it was Malcolm’s arrogance that he knew the law because he’d studied it.

And Tony Abbott’s wonderful concession speech to Malcolm Turnbull where he predicted that there’d be no sniping or. undermining. That’s pretty hard to forget, but we don’t take that as a failure of prediction; we just take it as another broken Liberal promise.

But we seem to have collective amnesia when we read yet another article about how Adani intends to start it’s mine “next month”, no matter how many times they announce an intention to start soon.

And then there’s, all those golden oldies: Predictions byTony Abbott and Joe Hockey about getting the Budget back into the black in their first term of office, and how once we had a Liberal government then the economy would click back into gear and…

Budget deficit? What Budget deficit? Everything’s just fine. We can give business a tax cut. And this will lead to wage rises. No, really. Nothing surer. Didn’t we say that we’d have jobs and growth? And isn’t growth just as good as it was under Labor? And didn’t we produce a record number of jobs last year? In fact, we produced enough jobs that unemployment didn’t go up. Ok, it didn’t go down but it will when the company tax cuts get passed.

We know this because if there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s a prediction.

 

Liberals Make Jesus A Little Cross On Good Friday!

Ok, it’s a terrible pun. Some might even call it blasphemous…

I’m sure Victorian Upper House Liberal, Bernie Finn, would. Bernie Finn, you see, announced that he found the whole idea that the Victorian Upper House sitting on Good Friday just plain wrong and he couldn’t do it. And no, not because he wasn’t getting penalty rates, because it was “blasphemous”. Bernie told us that he didn’t even celebrate his birthday if it fell on Good Friday.

Now, for those familiar with Mr Finn, there is a strong argument that there is no cause to celebrate his birth no matter which day of the year it falls. However, that would be nasty and I’ve made it a rule never to be nasty on Easter Saturday… Unless, of course, that doesn’t suit me, and I can just change my mind.

Anyway, Labor offered Mr Finn a “pair”. By that I don’t mean that they were suggesting that he grow some. They were agreeing to a long-standing arrangement where, if  a member of one party can’t vote for a legitimate reason, then the other party has one of their own refrain from voting.

He was joined by another Liberal MP, Craig Ondarchie, who also indicated that his religious beliefs prevented him from staying. Labor agreed and allowed two of their MPs to go home also. Although when I use the word, “also” I mean, in theory, because, as with my rule never to be nasty on Easter Saturday, their religious beliefs didn’t prevent them from hiding in their offices and when the time came for the vote on the CFA, they sprang out of hiding, leaving Labor the Easter bunnies.

Ha, good one. I mean, don’t Labor know tomorrow is April Fools Day? Ok, the joke was a bit early but it’s not like a real lie. Silly Labor. Thinking just because someone was a fine upstanding Christian that they wouldn’t be prepared to lie about something as unimportant as their religious beliefs. Or joke. That’s it. It’s all an elaborate joke. Like my joke about the Liberals making Jesus a little cross. No harm done. It’s not like breaking one of the ten commandments and bearing false witness because, well, “false witness” is about something that has happened, so lying about what you’re going to to is all good with big guy upstairs.

Besides, Parliament shouldn’t be sitting on Good Friday anyway. And, and… the legislation is all wrong and we don’t like it. And, and… Labor wouldn’t give a pair to one of our Upper House MPs who’s sick. Labor claim that they haven’t been asked about a pair for her yet, but they should have given her one before they were asked because she’s really sick. No, this is not another April Fool’s Day joke. To suggest that this could be another lie is outrageous. How low can Labor sink?

No, this wasn’t cheating like the Australian Cricket Team. This wasn’t even Labor cheated when they used staffers to help with the election campaign. This was cheating like when Federal Liberals raised funds through Parakeelia, the Liberal Party-owned company that billed taxpayers for computer services, which wasn’t cheating at all but a legitimate rort because we got away with it and nobody seems to care…

No, this was all just fine and dandy. As Opposition Leader, Matty “The Family” Guy tweeted:

“Am so proud of my Upper House colleagues and the MPs who stood up for our CFA today and defeated the Andrews Govt plan to smash it up. The Liberal Nationals will always stand up for volunteers against this bully of a Premier.”

Yes, that’s right. It’s a day to be proud. Wonder if he’ll tweet after the election: “Am so proud of my colleagues who stood up for our mates and told lies in order to defeat Labor because we don’t care what the truth is so long as we win the vote!”

Or is that a little too obvious a subtext.

Day to Day Politics: Don’t they realise we woke up to them ages ago?

Monday March 26 2018

To see the Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft looking as though he was fiddling with the crown jewels when he was actually tampering with the ball wasn’t just a bad look for Australian cricket, but also an inditement of just how much public and private morality has slipped in our country. Call it ethics if you want l, or boil it down to cheating or better still, call it plain old-fashioned lying. Like rust it has now permeated itself into all facets of society. Or maybe we have just inherited another of America’s worst traits.

We have had two examples this week in politics. Trust in politicians in recent surveys has them at a well deserved 13%. These are the people we trudge of to polling booths every three years to vote for and entrust to do their very best to govern for us until we form judgment on their efforts the next time around. Well, at least 10 to 20% do.

For the last 10 years or so deceit or lying in politics has reached outrageous proportions. The contempt with which politicians treat us is so perfunctory that they believe we actually believe them. Now we are not talking about little white lies … we are talking about whoppers. You know the ones that leave you breathtakingly open-mouthed for there unconscionable audacity.

An observation

“When you tell a lie you deny the other persons right to the truth.”

Writing for The New Daily on Sunday, Paula Mathewson identifies them (politician’s lies) as follows:

1 “The Labor opposition constantly peddled its claim that the proposed company tax cut for big business is $65 billion. It’s not. The whole company tax cut package costs $65 billion, but the cost of the cut for the big end of town is $36 billion.
The tax cuts that have already been implemented for smaller businesses account for $29 billion of the $65 billion.
Now $36 billion is still a truckload of money, with which Labor could just as easily make its point. But no, it continues to talk about the Turnbull government planning to give a $65 billion gift to big business – which is an outright lie.”

2 “The Coalition is no better, of course. It peddled its own porkies this week about the opposition’s new proposal to scrap cash refunds on dividends.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was one of the chief offenders, asserting his opponent, Bill Shorten, was “robbing pensioners and retirees of their tax refunds”, and that “these are not rich Australians”.
The PM then doubled down on the deception, claiming “Bill Shorten is targeting mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers on low incomes who rely on a tax refund to help pay the bills”.

This is a lie by omission – Mr Turnbull was referring to pensioners and retirees on low taxable incomes, which means they may also be (and most likely are) rich in assets and superannuation. That is why the Grattan Institute reported this week that the government’s conflation of low-income and low taxable income in this debate was “deeply misleading”.

What is it with politicians that they would believe that we are dumb enough to believe they are telling the truth when with every lie they tell they are simply reinforcing the fact that we know they are telling them, regardless of whether they are blatant or lies of omission?

All they do is increase our scepticism of everything they say.

When politicians lie over a long period of time, it only serves to denigrate the liar and show contempt for the voters intelligence. Especially if the lies are chronic and systemic. The current use of the term “no direct knowledge” is a lie within a lie pretending to absolve a person who is fully conversant with the facts.

There are many reasons why people think lying is wrong; which ones resonate best with you will depend on the way you think about ethics.

Lying is bad because a generally truthful world is a good thing: lying diminishes trust between human beings. If people generally didn’t tell the truth, life would become very difficult, as nobody could be trusted and nothing you heard or read could be trusted – you would have to find everything out for yourself and an untrusting world is also bad for liars – lying isn’t much use if everyone is doing it.

If we were truly enlightened we would treat our fellow human beings, with respect love and faithfulness. We would do unto them as we would expect them to do unto us and we would strive to do no harm. We would love life and live it with a sense of joy and wonderment.

We would form our own independent opinions on the basis of our own reason and experience; and not allow ourselves to be led blindly by others. And we would test all things; always checking our ideas against our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not conform to them. We would readily admit it when we are wrong in the knowledge that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement and that it is truth that enables human progress.

And of course we would enjoy our own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.

We would uphold the principle that no one individual or group has an ownership of righteousness. We would seek not to judge but to understand. We would seek dialogue ahead of confrontation.

An observation

“Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth that enables human progress.”

We would place internationalism before nationalism acknowledging that the planet earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and attention if we are to survive on it. In doing so we would value the future on a timescale longer than our own. We would recognise that the individual has rights but no man is an island and can only exist, and have his rights fulfilled, only by the determination of a collective.

We would insist on equality of opportunity in education acknowledging that it is knowledge that gives an understanding. We would seek not to indoctrinate our children in any way but instead teach them how to think for themselves, evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. We would, in our schools open their minds equally to an understanding of ethics and the history and practice of religion.

An observation

“Free speech does not mean it should be free from ethics. Like truth, for example.”

We would never seek to cut ourselves off from dissent, and always respect the right of others to disagree with us. Importantly, we would not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

Lastly, we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a replacement for fact.

Politicians currently are playing a dangerous game in thinking that we are all dumb and without understanding. Look what happened to Abbott when he tested us.

Meanwhile, the latest bunch of cheating, lying Australians are protesting their innocence despite trying to lie their way out of a situation that is simply not cricket. Last night the Prime Minister, in yet another display of hypocrisy, gave Steve Smith and the team a full-on blast. It seem politicians can tell lies and cheat as much as they like but for the national cricket team it’s taboo.

My thought for the day

“Do you shape the truth for the sake of good impression? On the other hand, do you tell the truth even if it may tear down the view people may have of you? Alternatively, do you simply use the contrivance of omission and create another lie. I can only conclude that there might often be pain in truth but there is no harm in it.”

Day to Day Politics: Why did he do it?

Sunday 18 March 2018

I sit before my computer, fingers poised, well two of them anyway, searching for a beginning and I cannot find one. By the time people are reading this the Batman by-election and the South Australian Election will be done and dusted. Or perhaps we will have to wait and see. Both are filled with there own political complexities, intrigues even.

What effect will Bill Shorten’s controversial decision to announce cuts to Franking Dividends make in the Batman by-election?

If longevity of tenure was a measure by which you judge a government then Labor in South Australia, with 16 years consecutive years of governance must surely be applauded.

I shall come back to this later but first, there are a few matters to clear up.

1 Some tweets.

Wayne Swan Verified account @SwannyQLD

“Excessive executive pay drives a further wedge into Australia’s deepening economic inequality. Bank CEOs received 100 times more than average Australians in 2017. We ignore these gross distortions in distribution at our peril,”

Craig Emerson

“Howard-Costello buy votes with unsustainable spending – middle-class welfare, Baby Bonus, imputation refunds. Falls to Labor to unwind it against trenchant opposition from LNP & NewsLtd. #HandsOffOurLurks”

Bill Shorten Verified account @billshortenmp

“You either think Australians deserve a pay rise, or you don’t. I believe Australians deserve a pay rise.” #realPM

This tweet came to me via Geof Mason. I am an admirer of brevity in writing. This one is impressive.

Tweet by “Queen Victoria”:

So let me get this straight: Dutton wants to bring white South African farmers to Australia who aren’t refugees and don’t want to come, but he won’t let any actual refugees who aren’t white, who want to come, come at all? Makes perfect sense.

Tweet by “Edo Voloder”:

Under Labor’s policy a wealthy person who currently pays $0 tax, won’t get a franking credit refund..for tax they never paid saving the federal budget around $8billion dollars a year, which can be spent on vital services instead.

How is this bad Turnbull and Morrison?”

2 Some other thoughts.

The Tasmanian election is clearing the air and what do we find? Well, it’s certainly historical but who will notice? Tasmania has become the first Australian state to return a female-majority parliament.

Thirteen women and 12 men have been elected to the House Of Assembly as counting is finalised in the state election which was held on March 3. It should have received more media space but you know how it is with women.

3 Peter Dutton’s undoubtedly racist comments about the white South African farmers was totally unnecessary, but as usual, he couldn’t help but take the opportunity to express his white superiority. Most racists tend to want to hide the fact, but not our Peter.

As I thought about it, the plight of the remaining Asylum Seekers on Manus and Nauru came to mind. This Immigration Minister – who delights in showing his toughness – still hasn’t found places for them, meaning he has condemned them to a lifetime of incarceration without ever having committed a crime. What sort of man would do that?

4 On the Franking Credits, it must be remembered that of the $10 billion of franking credits, the overwhelming majority flow to high-income households, 75% going to the top 10%”!

5 I had a thought about those school kids protesting the ridiculous USA gun laws. “It is the children of the USA who lead the need for gun reform. You would think it is the adults who should know better.”

6 The conspiracy theorists are out again with the killing of the two Russians in England. The question is, is it mere coincidence that two weeks prior to the Russian Presidential elections and after Mr Putin says “We are under attack from the West” that these uncanny events take place?

7 It’s rather like if you were Prime Minister of Australia and your deputy had a voice louder than your own, what would you do? The sequence of events surrounding Barnaby Joyce’s resignation were also a touch conspiratorial. What do you think? Notice how there is only one voice speaking for the Coalition now?

8 I have had a bad week on Facebook, being attacked for my perceived bias. After giving it much consideration I thought the best way to describe a biased person is thus …

“I would say it is either an inability or unwillingness to want to understand an opposing point of view.”

9 Now back to where I started; “Why did he do it?”

Why in God’s name did Bill Shorten pick last Tuesday to announce a rather contentious policy? In the full light of day knowing that there was a must-win by-election the next weekend, and a South Australian State election? What sort of basic political thinking was going on in the head of Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen that on the surface at least sounds incredulous?

Was there thinking that a large section of the community would see Labor as progressive on tax reform, even courageous taking on problems that the Coalition didn’t have the guts to? But did it meet the fairness test? Fundamentally, yes.

Was it a risky proposal that they thought worth it, given they were well in front in the polls? Only time will tell if they were right or wrong.

Conversely, why wouldn’t they see the traffic jam of dissatisfaction that would confront them? Sure there would only be a small number of people affected but they would react like kids being stung by a bee’s nest.

Putting aside the fact that this initiative, political speaking, is a good one what really did they have to gain. It could have waited until a better time. People are intuitively wary of change. Even beneficial change. Tinkering with a policy where the goal posts seem to be moved every week puts people on edge.

But however, you look at it something has to be done. Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the Money editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. She sums it up this way:

“The Howard-Costello largesse is now unsustainable. We have a tax system that can no longer pay for all the services that older people have been accustomed to all their lives.

The deficit in 2017-18 is estimated to be $24 billion. It’s unreasonable to expect working people – many of whom can’t afford their own home – to shoulder the entire burden of budget repair.
It’s also about intragenerational fairness, since it overwhelmingly affects well-off retirees, not all older people.
The fact we have so many retirees chasing fully franked dividends – where there’s a full credit because the company has paid the full rate of tax – is a huge distortion for the sharemarket. It means an excessive amount of money flows into the stocks of the big banks and Telstra.
There are many vested interests who cry foul over the proposals, but there are those in the investment world who acknowledge the status quo is far too generous.

Interestingly the Labor proposal doesn’t really affect pooled super funds – that is, the big industry and retail funds most people are members of. They have enough members paying tax to make the full use of all franking credits.

While the measure is aimed at well-off retirees, it catches some part pensioners and a very small number of full pensioners. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hinted at some sort of compensation scheme for pensioners, before concluding that “we will make sure that pensioners are OK, full stop”.

My sources suggest a specific scheme is off the mark but there’ll be further announcements closer to the election to make sure pensioners are better off overall under a Labor government than a Coalition one

 

Time alone will tell just what if any this announcement will make to peoples voting. Given the hole the Government is in it may not make any difference.

Whether we have the results for these two important elections we will continue to debate the merits of Shorten’s decision.

The Batman by-election will determine the structure of the current Parliament. Will the Greens pick up another seat or will the status quo prevail?

In South Australia will the Government hang onto power after 16 years or will the Nick Xenophon experiment against the major parties work? Or can the Libs form a Government?

Whatever happens, how will we judge Bill Shorten’s decision?

My thought for the day.

“The word “Frugality” is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying and a consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

:)
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