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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.

 

From Aristophanes to Knight Or “Is something else going here?”

By George Theodoridis

It is a case -as it bloody nearly always is- of relevance deprivation and diminution, thanks mainly to the prodigious proliferation and ever burgeoning of social platforms and the largely bored hoi polloi, bored by celebrities who have nothing to offer but the empty, irrelevant minutiae of their lives. The celebrities, like the emperor in the famous tale by Hans C. Anderson, have shown the full nakedness of their existence.

So, they’re out and about -celebrities of all sorts- and they are using anything and everything they can, including cartoons, as platforms (already well lit up by their adoring hoi polloi,) to stand upon it and yell at us, “hey, look here! Here I am! This way! I am a celebrity, listen to my rants, watch my outrages! I can still perform! I’m still a celebrity. Someone give me another contract!”

This includes the cartoonists themselves, of course, the tennis players, the hollow-headed authors like Rawlings whose credentials as moral and art arbiters are questionable if, quite arguably, non-existent.

This is a cartoon by a satirist and all satirical messages, from those by the very first ever and arguably the very best ever, Aristophanes, (c. 446 – c. 386 BC) whose world was no better nor worse than ours, if political chicanery is the measure, to Knight (born c. 1960s) all satirical messages are about exaggeration, exaggeration about everything from the shape of one’s nose to the shape of one’s words, to the colour of their budgie smugglers and the pitch of their Hanson-like squealing. Cartoonists are satirists and the identifying first sign of a satirist is exaggeration. No exaggeration, no satirist. It’s that simple! The other sign is that they condemn or criticise, or ridicule someone in a powerful position, be it in the political sphere or in the social one. From fathers of children to fathers of the Church or the State. Aristophanes depicted most brutally politicians Cleon among many, a Military man, Lamachus among many and philosophers, Socrates, among many. Most brutally!

We can like that sort of thing or we can hate it and we can express that love or hate by any means we can. Cartoonists do it by drawing cartoons.

Knight is a satirist and he did his satirical work, not only on Serena but on many other people, and did it in his own inimitable style which we all know and -as I said- either love or hate, laugh at or spat the dummy at. I can’t remember any such similar bellowing noise and social media turbulence generated by any of his other drawings, all of them satirical, all of them critical of someone or other.

Serena mucked up badly. Knight portrayed that.

Here we have a glowing emblem of an athlete, an icon of the best of them, rightly adored and admired by millions, acting like a spoilt child, “spitting her dummy,” as Knight put it. Something that does not fit that icon. Not at all! She happens to be black. Her opponent was an American-Japanese. Both were women, both non-anglos. The umpire was a non-anglo too and would most definitely have felt the excruciating pains of racism -as have I and anyone with even the slightest difference in the spelling of their name or the shape or colour of the skin on their face. No doubt, Carlos Ramos, the umpire would have heard the word “dago” as I have heard the word “wog” (among many other equally vile epithets) countless of times and felt its mind-numbing, stomach-churning jab often. He would know the excruciating hurt that racism can cause and he -as do I- would try his utmost to avoid delivering racism to anyone.

It also so happens that he is a male.

Would this ridiculously outraged, bigoted crowd, feel better or as bad if the incident were reversed and it was Osaka on the receiving end of the umpire’s penalties?

What the fuck are they on about?

Knight did the same thing many times before and is unlike to stop now -probably especially now and probably especially because he is now a celebrity. He sees the bullshit and he calls it for what it is and he draws a cartoon about it, satirising it. The bullshit, that is.

The Herald reminds us of these cartoons, also by Knight: Tony Abbott depicted as Hannibal Lecter with the caption “Banned: Big ears, cannibal mask,” and a topless Kim Jong-un with the words “Blocked: Belly fat, Asian stereotype.”

I can only conclude that all these “celebrities” from all over the world who have added their penny’s worth, thinking it was worth a pound, commented on this issue because they are desperate to be seen again and to be read again and to be listened to again and to be re-admired and, so as to jog our memory about their vacuous existence. They did so because they saw this incident as a platform, a stage where they can jump on and once again play the prima donna or the primo uomo.

The rest of us, the non-celebrities, we are either rational enough to see that there’s nothing to see here or not rational enough and so we behave like gangs of cowardly thugs who put the boot into some who’s down. A boot, by the way, which I and as I said the umpire, have felt and still feel now, at times, most painfully. Being kicked like that leaves great scars on you, scars that can flay not only your body but also your soul, scares that never leave you.

And, let us not forget that the umpire is a male who sits high up, above a couple of females -in the form of an idea as well as in that of reality- and it is therefore unequivocally and duty bound, in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him!

And that the cartoonist, of course, is a male also and also with a power mightier than a sword, and therefore it is also unequivocally and duty bound in fact, ok for us to put our boot into him as well!

The other reason is that, as a gang, we love to hate. We love to kick, we love to shout and show outrage. It’s an easy thing to do and, to some sick minds, it’s also an entertaining thing and something that gives us the power we have lost in almost all other areas of our lives. We’ve been made lesser in worth and dignity than overloaded donkeys, so we “kick.” We kick at anything and anyone, given half an opportunity. Knight’s cartoon has all the makings of such an opportunity for us to exert some of the power that’s been taken away from us.

Are we saying that the umpire is racially prejudiced against blacks but not against yellows?  What sort of racial prejudice is that?

Are we saying that Knight has similar predilections to those of Carlos Ramos? WTF  ARE we really saying? Whom are we accusing of what exactly and why? Based on what evidence?

Racial history of the world is brought into the court. Questions about the umpire’s integrity are raised or comments are made about Serena’s glowing sportsmanship, or about the umpire’s inconsistency of awarding penalties and Zeus knows what else, are all proffered to the judge as evidence that something is dreadfully wrong here! But none of these questions and comments and exhibits should even be heard or seen by the judge or us the jury.

They are all irrelevant to what had happened in that court on that day. They have nothing to do with the participants playing that particular game of tennis. They are simply hollow drums beating wildly! Loud shouts of wannabe celebrities. Loud shouts of hollow heads. Blistered tongues talking bullshit like our Prime Minister is so keen to do almost non-stop!

None of it should persuade the Goddess Justice, who should be blindfolded and unable to be persuaded by anything outside that single event on that single day in that single court.

Racism, misogynism, prejudice of any sort is disgusting. Utterly unacceptable to a society that wants to call itself civilised. So is bigotry, even if our erstwhile attorney general, George Brandis is otherwise convinced. According to him, we have the right to be bigots… but not be racist!  

Well, Zeus be praised now it’s all made very clear!

Over sixty thousand years of Indigenous history of white torture has always and still is being treated with neglect, scorn and disdain but we’ve spent copious amounts of ink and intolerable decibels of noise arguing about the depiction by a cartoonist of a tantrum thrown by a tennis player. The hypocrisy is exasperating! The outrage is baffling.

Is it racism, sexism or is it cultural supremacism by the supreme supremacists we all know supremely well?

Just asking.

Serena has done wrong. The umpire penalised her.
END OF FUCKING STORY!

Henceforth it has become a boring ochlobabble!

Can we now shine our torch on the new champion, the new real sportsperson, the youth, the serene, the graceful and gracious, the true lover of tennis and not of vacuous notoriety, Naomi Osaka, please?

She beat the other player. She won the match. She did not yell or insult the umpire and -may the gods bless the young woman- she played by the rules, such a rare thing these days of spoilt sports and overpaid celebrities.

Yes, Naomi Osaka had won the match and the day. Three cheers for Naomi!

PLEASE?

Scott “had a go”

Pretending he is leading a united team, Scott Morrison handed out flag badges to remind his colleagues whose side they are on.

It didn’t work.

Inevitably, the recriminations continue as speculation grows that Scott had been planning on “having a go” for some time.

Despite not having anonymous sources to brief me or drop leaks in my inbox, it seems pretty damn obvious.

Exhibit A – When Turnbull appeared in the courtyard flanked by Cormann and Morrison, Scott, unlike everyone else, was grinning like a Cheshire cat.  Peter Dutton’s tortuous attempt at smiling didn’t come close to Scott’s beaming visage as he told us how ambitious he was for “this guy” and hugged the man he was about to stab in the back.

Exhibit B – The lies about numbers and support.  Forty-eight people voted for Malcolm first go around.  Whilst some argue that he caught people off-guard by calling a spill, they cannot possibly say that they didn’t know it was in the wind.  Cormann, Cash and Fifield lied about the majority favouring a spill.  That was not the case until they jumped ship.

Exhibit C – The confusion.  Fierravanti-Wells claims “well-known powerbrokers here in the Liberal Party in NSW” have been plotting Scott’s ascension for some time.  Bishop blames the “Queensland influence.”  Others point to the treachery of the WA vote abandoning Julie who seemed the most popular and experienced successor.

Exhibit D – The dust had barely settled but Morrison had a cabinet all picked out and ready to announce immediately.  With only a few months to an election, Scott threw the cards in the air, sacrificing any hope of continuity. Amongst the bruised and battered countenances of his colleagues, Josh Frydenberg’s shit-eating grin was completely incongruous.

Exhibit E – He dropped the company tax cut for big business in his first announcement, something he and Matthias would not allow Malcolm to do before the Longman by-election.

Exhibit F – The paying off of troublemakers and the elevation of people who were demoted for wrongdoing.  The Special Envoy sinecures tossed to Abbott and Joyce are embarrassing in their hamfisted obviousness.  The promotion of Ley back into the Cabinet is perhaps explainable but the promotion of Stuart Robert is nothing but blatant payback to a man who has so many clouds hanging over him he makes Sam Dastyari look like a saint.

Exhibit G – The recent roles of the two men who are now in charge mean they know the facts about how to reduce energy prices yet they publicly back coal.  The AEMO’s report, based on extensive modelling of different scenarios, concluded that “The lowest cost replacement for this retiring capacity and energy will be a portfolio of resources, including solar (28 gigawatts), wind (10.5 GW) and storage (17 GW and 90 GWh), complemented by 500 megawatts of flexible gas plant and transmission investment.” New coal power didn’t rate a mention.  These two happily sacrificed the NEG rather than prosecute the policy they developed and industry wanted.

Exhibit H – With flag badges in hand, Scott assured us he is “on our side” which kind of implies they haven’t been up till now?  He even had his new slogan ready – “if you have a go, you’ll get a go.”  It sure worked for him anyway.

 

Rewarding poor behaviour is not going to get us good policy

It seems obvious to say that, if you ignore, or worse still, reward bad behaviour, you set yourself up for future problems.  Parents know that.  Teachers know that.  Employers know that.  Sporting coaches know that.

But apparently, our politicians do not.

A whole bunch of people in the Liberal Party spent last week lying to each other.  These are people who are supposedly on the same team.  And our new PM has chosen to reward them.

Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce now “deserve the respect due to former leaders” and have both been offered sinecures.  Barnaby’s job seems to be to wander round outback pubs and farms, chatting and drinking with the locals.  Tony’s is a tad more problematic because Indigenous people definitely do NOT want him being the voice to parliament that they asked for.

Arguably the most treacherous player, Matthias Cormann, retains his position as he does a media blitz denying his despicable behaviour which is on the record for all to see.

Peter Dutton, who must now realise that he was a dupe being lied to as well, also retains his position and, whilst immigration has been taken from him, he still maintains power over asylum seekers.

Morrison is going to have to come up with some policies.

His first act was to appease the Nats which he has done by appointing a kazillion people with “drought” in their title and heading off for his first photo shoot.

But he has been lashed by former president of the National Farmers’ Federation, Brent Finlay, who insists that any policy about drought must include action on climate change as they are “interlinked”.

“Instead of jumping in front of the cameras when a drought is on, we need them to do the grunt work on effective financial measures that allow our farmers to build up cash reserves in the good times to draw upon when the dry comes again.

The climate is changing, you can see it in the eyes of farmers who dismissed it as rubbish eight years ago. By recognising climate change, it is empowering resources to support agriculture.

It’s not going to make me popular to say it but unfortunately current drought assistance measures reward our less efficient farming operators at the expense of those families who’ve been better prepared for drought.

You’ve only got to look at our current weather patterns to know that climate change is real and we should expect more extreme weather including more droughts in the future.”

Scott’s next priority is to lower power prices but he is under even more intense pressure than Malcolm was from those who think building new coal-fired power stations will achieve that.

It was April when Morrison “smacked down a backbench push for the Turnbull government to back a new coal plant, arguing that high-efficiency coal does not mean cheap energy, and taxpayers would also be left on the hook.”

He has just appointed an energy minister who spoke at Alan Jones’ rally against wind farms and who has described climate science as a religion based on faith rather than facts.

The facts show that renewable energy will bring down power prices but that doesn’t seem to be where we are headed which is more regulation, possible nationalisation, and government subsidies to prop up a dying, polluting industry.  They used to talk about the sovereign risk of blocking the Adani coal mine, yet now they are talking about compulsorily stripping assets from companies, assets we sold them only a few years ago.

The other focus for Scott is immigration but this too is a minefield.

He has pushed the line that we must unite together, I suppose to forestall any playing of the race card, but there are many in his party who do want it to be about race and religion, or “composition” as they say to try to disguise their bigotry and white supremacist tendencies.

Tony Abbott, when addressing the Sydney Institute in February, called for immigration levels to be cut from 190,000 people a year to 110,000.

Morrison responded by saying “Mr Abbott’s plan would cost the budget $4bn-$5bn over four years, and result in a lower proportion of skilled migrants.”

Addressing the National Press Club a few months ago, Peter Dutton backed that view.

“Essentially our two-thirds, one-third mix of skills to non-skills within the visa program has continued as it did in the Howard days because there is economic benefit, as well as a social dividend. My judgment is we’ve got the settings right.  There’s an economic benefit to bringing people in who are skilled, who will work and pay taxes and contribute to society.  It’s not just a social dividend. There’s a significant economic dividend.”

So are they both going to backtrack on those views to say Tony and Pauline had it right all along?  Are we going to hear more about the “composition”?  It would appear as a shameful populist capitulation rather than a considered stance on what is in the best interests of the nation.

If early indications mean anything, we will not see any sensible policy come from Morrison’s government, but there is a going to be a whole lot of populism, pork-barrelling, and rewarding of bad behaviour as he uses his few months as PM to appease all the wrong people.

When all else fails – dogwhistle

Religious organisations have been getting a bad rap in Australia recently, thanks to the Royal Commission that investigated serial abuse of children and the disadvantaged. Those that committed the abuse and those that covered it up deserved what they got. However, there is a tendency to tar all with the same brush, which is unfair. We’ve suggested on this blog before that there are literally thousands of members of religious groups that are working hard to make their communities better and fairer on a daily basis — and in a lot of cases doing it for the love of it because the rate of pay is usually very poor (if it’s paid at all). On top of that, they are probably as mortified regarding the behaviours by the hierarchy of ‘their’ organisations as you or I are.

It’s not very hard to find examples. St Vincent’s Health Australia is operated by a religious order with Catholic affiliations. When Abbott’s Government announced that ‘we’ would accept 12,000 additional refugees as a result of a humanitarian crisis in Africa (yes, you did read that correctly), St Vincent’s offered the temporary use of 60 newly renovated and unused units in an aged care facility in Eltham, about an hour out of Melbourne’s CBD.

The usual suspects went wild. Those that are very good at throwing insults from behind mirrored sunglasses wearing black or flag motif t-shirts that don’t really cover the ‘patriotic’ tattoos went to the site to protest and in the words of The Guardian Their protest – based on racism, misinformation and fantasy – was ugly, threatening and hostile. Another breeder of racism and mis-information, (then newly re-elected) Senator Hanson called the plan an absolute disgrace.

Two years after St Vincent’s threw open the doors, the program of assistance provided by St Vincent’s with some assistance from Catholic Care is coming to a close. So what’s happened? According to The Guardian again

as what became known as the Eltham Project draws to a close, the dire predictions by the extremists — everything from ushering in a local crime wave, to creating an environment of fear among the village’s elderly residents — have proven unfounded.

Instead, what has occurred has been a wonderful exercise in cohesion and respect: a community’s generous embrace of the refugees, who have been eager to put down roots in their new environment.

Out of the 54 adults and seven children temporarily accommodated in the section of the aged care facility, all but four have moved into private rental accommodation and are making a contribution to the society they live in. Fourteen refugees who are over 55 are now renting at the Eltham facility on a long-term basis as it reverts to offer accommodation and care for the over 55’s, and the remaining four that don’t qualify to stay at St Vincent’s are moving on to private rentals in the next few weeks.

Despite the claims of Hanson and others

over the duration of the project, crime in the local area actually went down … dramatically.

The number of recorded offences in the Eltham area dropped by more than 44% between 2016 and 2018.

Australia has been resettling refugees and economic immigrants for decades, from the southern Europeans after World War 2, through the ’10-pound poms’ in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon and more recently those affected by wars and humanitarian disasters in the Middle East and Africa. Generally, the Australian people through government and private organisations (including religious groups) have given targeted assistance to those who need to gain an understanding of the differences in culture and language between their country of origin and Australia as well as some job assistance. In 2007, Liberal Party conservative MP Kevin Andrews discussed the difficulties of being a refugee in a different culture and specifically referenced those who had come here from Sudan (partial paywall)

“We know that there is a large number of people who are young. We know that they have on average low levels of education, lower levels of education than almost any other group of refugees that have come to Australia. We know that many of them, if not most of them, have spent up to a decade in refugee camps and they’ve spent much of their lives in very much a war-torn, conflicted situation.

“And on top of that they have the challenges of resettling in a culture which is vastly different from the one which they came from.”

The year the comment was made is significant — the Howard LNP Government was looking down the barrel of electoral defeat in 2007, so less than a month before the election suddenly immigrants from Africa were not adjusting into Australian society as quickly as ‘required’. Accordingly, the number of immigrants permitted to immigrate from northern Africa (and the distinction is important here — South Africans moving to Australia are generally white) was slashed. It is history that Howard lost the election.

More recently, the LNP under Abbott and Turnbull have maintained the narrative that certain groups of immigrants are more trouble than they are worth, while cutting funding to programs that actually assist immigrants from other cultures to identify Australian cultural norms, receive targeted job assistance and acquire language skills. At times, the target has been ‘boat people’ who ‘jump the queue’ or more recently ‘African gangs’ that, while only being a ‘problem’ in Melbourne (where the Andrews’ ALP State Government is up for re-election later this year and the State Liberal Opposition is running hard on a ‘law and order’ platform), apparently can be used in a fear campaign across the country as witnessed recently in the ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections. The campaign was a spectacular failure as the ‘African gang’ rhetoric aimed at unsettling the ALP candidate in Longman (a marginal seat prior to the by-election) increased the ALP’s margin by nearly 4%.

Sadly, The Shovel’s recent headline Threat Of African Gangs Has Halved Since By-Elections, Analysis Shows has more than the usual faint resemblance to the truth. Conservative politicians have been dogwhistling on race and immigration since the 1980s around election time, with Howard, Abbott, Morrison and now Dutton plumbing new lows as the public ‘got used’ to the existing level of vitriol.

At the height of the ‘white Australia policy’, founder of the Liberal Party, Robert Menzies, stated as a principle of the Liberal and Country Parties during his 1949 election policy speech

Though we naturally want as many migrants as we can get of British stock, we denounce all attempts to create hostilities against any migrant or group of migrants, whether Jew or Gentile, on the grounds of race or religion. Once received into our community, a new citizen is entitled to be treated in every way as a fellow-Australian. The strength and history of our race have been founded upon this vital principle.

You’d have to ask what Menzies would be thinking about those that lead the Liberal Party today. As St Vincent’s has proven yet again, giving assistance to immigrants when they need it, rather than marginalising them, produces positive outcomes.

What do you think?

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

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You’ve got to hand it to Morrison (or he’ll take all the credit himself).

“Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! enough!’” Macbeth Act V Scene viii.

It might have been heroic. Given another time, place or PM, Malcolm Turnbull’s call for a Liberal leadership spill Tuesday, might have been inspiring -“Turnbullian”, as Turnbull torch-holder, fan-girl Annabel Crabb would have it. Perhaps she could run a new hit TV series: “Kitchen cabinet makeovers you can safely enjoy at home.”

As it is, Turnbull makes a typically, ill-judged, call. Rattled by the jungle drums of the Dutton camp, amplified in True HD Dolby stereo in the Murdoch media, Turnbull demands a Liberal leadership spill, Tuesday. It is his undoing.

He gains 48 votes, 57.8 percent of all ballots cast. Making public his meagre victory, however, serves only to advertise how many oppose him. It helps prematurely end his own vexed term as the 29th PM of Australia by Friday; a mixed blessing.

Dutton says he’ll challenge again, (and again) Turnbull demands his Home Affairs Supremo supply 43 signatures by Friday.

Calling a spill may throw Dutton off-guard, but with Turnbull’s modest support now public, his insurgents have some useful vulnerability to work with as they hit the phones, twisting arms, tweaking role descriptions, even promising portfolios.

Don’t be sucked in. Monstrous, soulless, merciless, the Coalition is a horror-show, Labor Deputy, Tanya Plibersek warns the house.

“This is a Frankenstein’s monster of a government. It has the face of the member for Wentworth, the policies of the member for Warringah and it has the cold, shrivelled soul of the member for Dickson.” 

Others, out of right field, voice disappointment that Tuesday’s coup has not delivered Mal’s head on a platter. Or under a strappado. Some may be heard getting pilliwinks ready.

“… in its current state the Liberal Party cannot even organise an assassination, let alone run the country,” Catherine McGregor carps in Fairfax, disappointed that Abbott and his monkey-pod rebels or his Monash Mensheviks have been so overtly unsuccessful. Rasputin’s hit job is beginning to look more professional.

Rasputin was poisoned, shot three times, bludgeoned with a dumb-bell, before he was bound and thrown from a bridge through the ice and left to drown in the river Neva. Even so, when his corpse was recovered, the position of the hands suggested he was trying to untie the bindings. The Turnbull government is just as messily despatched.

The final twist of the knife, happens mid-morning Thursday. Three cabinet ministers claim publicly that Turnbull has lost majority support among his colleagues and that they have to bring the leadership dispute to a head. Had they not defected, their three votes would have been enough to thwart Friday’s spill. Turnbull would still be PM.

Ultimately, Turnbull is undone when his three loyal lieutenants desert him. Cormann, Fifield and Cash all defect to the enemy en masse. Why? There’s no logical reason to pull their vital support. “It’s just the vibe of the thing”, Tony Wright writes in Fairfax. Do the three musketeers nobly elect to go with the flow in order to purge their party?

True, the Liberal Party, itself, is paralysed by division; gripped in a “cataclysmic, existential” fight, as Liberal shill, Terry Barnes, adviser to former Health Ministers, Abbott and Medicare levy Michael Wooldridge, hypes party discord to Fairfax.

Malcolm’s political miscalculation; misjudgement plays into Labor’s hands: Shorten calls a vote of no confidence. Pity there’s no vote of over confidence.

“The conduct of this narcissistic government is both shocking and selfish and undervalues the Australian people.”

This house should vote for no confidence because the prime minister has no authority, no power and no policies. And the reason for that sits behind him. If nearly half of his own government do not want him to be prime minister, why should the rest of Australia put up with him?”

Shorten echoes former Howard adviser, former QLD and SA state Liberal Party President, Geoffrey Green, a “senior Liberal” strategist who told The New Daily astutely and fearlessly last year that,

“The Turnbull government is at war with the people. This is a government which hates their own constituents. The Liberal Party has lost touch with what it stands for and will be decimated unless it changes tack.”

“The Turnbull government has attacked every core constituency, small business, superannuants, pensioners, families with children, all because they have a budget that is out of control.” OK there’s a class war they have to win too but he leaves that out.

“They have not done anything about their own backyard. Public servants still fly at the front of the plane.” Or anywhere in the plane if it’s a chartered RAAF jet to the football.

Far from having his knuckles rapped, Greene, moreover, now runs Peter Dutton’s campaign in the seat of Dickson which he holds by a margin of 2%. But he’s going to have to hose down Spud’s coup-mania, or his urges toward auto da fe.

Even for the modern Liberal Party, an oxymoron which rivals “Turnbull government” as a contradiction in terms, Tuesday’s botched right wing coup is a colossal cock-up. It sets in train a farcical series of miscalculations, aided and abetted by Murdoch’s media, Australian politics king-maker supreme. And by its own, internal fifth column.

Be it group madness or poor arithmetic, or Turnbull’s sheer bloody-minded revenge on Dutton, Scott “where the bloody hell are you?”, Morrison wins narrowly 40-45 against Dutton, Friday, after Julie Bishop is unfairly eliminated first ballot with only eleven votes.

A leaked WhatsApp reveals the party is instructed not to vote for Bishop in round one as this is a ruse to enable shonky Morrison to drop out and give all his votes to Dutton.

Dirty Tricks? Morrison is victorious 40-45. The MP whose capacity to foster racism and resentment makes him the “greatest grub in Australia’s political history”, according to Peter Hartcher, is sworn in as Prime Minister, Friday.

A divided, dysfunctional, party musters all its sublime ineptitude to transform chaos into catastrophe. Above all, as David Marr argues, the fiasco reveals an atavistic right wing desperate to wrest control of a party it doesn’t reflect.

Trouble is already brewing for Morrison if it is true that Peter Dutton, is – or was a stalking horse for Tony Abbott’s own return from exile. Morrison has already wisely excluded Abbott from his cabinet, fobbing him off with a job as Coalition water-boy.

The latest Newspoll shows a massive blowout in what Turnbull bragged, this week, was a closing of the gap – but which is more likely to have been an aberrant result. The two party preferred split showed a slim two point gap of 51/49 in favour of Labor a fortnight ago. Now it’s blown out by twelve points. Labor now leads 56/44.

For the first time since 2015, Bill Shorten emerges as preferred PM, reversing a 12 point lead by Malcolm Turnbull, two weeks ago, into a six-point lead (39/33) for the Opposition leader over Morrison.

As The Australian’s Simon Benson puts it mildly, popular support for the Coalition has crashed to the lowest levels in a decade with the newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison now faced with leading a shattered government out of the wreckage of last week’s leadership coup and rebuilding a Liberal Party in crisis.

Yet there’s a lot to Morrison’s rebuilding of his own background before we even get to his party leadership or to his fitness to be Prime Minister. His success as state director of the NSW State Liberal Party 2001-4. His subsequent $350,000 PA post as head of Tourism Australia, bestowed by a grateful then Tourism Minister, Joe Hockey, is widely seen as cronyism or part of the Liberal tradition of jobs for the boys.

Morrison soon, however, ran into trouble with the nine man board of Tourism Australia inspiring complaints which echo those from Immigration Department Officials when he militarised the nation’s compassion by setting up Border Force in what it suited the xenophobic Abbott government to pretend was “strengthening our borders”.

Nick Bryant reports of Tourism Australia in The Monthly, “Its members complained that he did not heed advice, withheld important research data about the controversial campaign, was aggressive and intimidating, and ran the government agency as if it were a one-man show.”

His contempt for then Minister, Fran Bailey, also reveals qualities of mind and spirit that do not augur well for any neophyte Prime Minister. Morrison boasted that “if Bailey got in his way, he could bring her down”. In the end Howard backed his minister. Morrison was paid out in an “agreed separation” believed to have been A$300,000.

Much of the secrecy and the absurd officialise and bureaucratic jargon of “operational matters” and “on-water” matters are part of Morrison’s lasting legacy to obfuscation if not secrecy. Morrison’s incoherence owes a great deal to meaningless jargon.

Morrison’s dealings with the media and accountability to the public have been widely criticised. A 2014 Australian Human Rights Commission report to government found that Morrison failed in his responsibility to act in the best interests of children in detention during his time as minister.

In 2014, he also succeeded in passing a bill through parliament which gave him more power than any previous immigration minister. He could now return asylum seekers to their place of origin, detain asylum seekers without charge, and refuse any asylum seekers who arrive by boat. No-one made much of a fuss. Unless it was all hushed up.

In his two-year career as Immigration Minister Morrison saw at least one major incident where he was shown to lie about an attack 17 February 2017, on a 23 year old refugee Reza Barati, who, Morrison maintained for days, was outside the compound of the Manus Island detention centre, until incontrovertible evidence emerged later that the young Iranian man was in fact attacked by a gang of guards inside the compound.

Witness and fellow Iranian refugee, Behrouz Boochani writes: “Even though four years have passed, the killers have yet to be brought to justice, and there are still no clear answers to the fundamental questions concerning the riot.”

Reza Barati’s parents still hold Morrison completely accountable for their son’s death. A senate inquiry found  the cause of the riot to be a failure to process asylum seeker claims, stating the violence was “eminently foreseeable”.

It also found that the Australian Government failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Barati. Morrison accused Labor and the Greens of using the report “as a blatant attempt to whitewash their own failures in government“. Nice.

Many similar miscarriages of justice and neglect of duty of care are documented in the 2000 leaked reports which detail the abuse of women and children on Nauru Island during May 2013 to October 2015. Morrison was Minister for Immigration and Border Protection 2013-2014.

Other examples of Morrison’s behaviour suggest that he is not a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister.

These include politicising suffering. When 48 people died in the Christmas Island disaster of 2010, Morrison objected to the Gillard Government offering to pay for families’ fares to the funerals in Sydney. The cost of the fares would have amounted to a few cents per Australian taxpayer.

Morrison did admit later that his comments were insensitive and in appropriate. But how many incoming PMs have hung with Hun Sen? Or sipped champagne with Pol Pot’s former Khmer Rouge battalion commander, a mass murderer and his cronies in Phnom Penh, just four years ago, as he sealed a bargain A$55m deal, whereby they would take five of our refugees off our hands?

The corrupt regime got A$40 million vaguely described as “development assistance’. In other words we bribed a corrupt Cambodian government to take our refugees, aka “illegal maritime arrivals”, whom our domestic political theatre has been taught are illegal aliens, persons we cannot accept because of their links with Islamic terror and their capacity to encourage demon people smugglers and other monsters of our leaders’ febrile imagination.

Finally, together with this selective account, offered as a clue to “Scott Morrison: Who the bloody hell are you?” (as Nick Bryant entitles his Monthly essay) must be included the means by which Morrison secured preselection for the safe Liberal NSW seat of Cook, prior to the 2007 federal election.

Michael Towke, a Lebanese Christian from the right faction, won with eighty votes. Morrison managed only eight. Four days later, amid allegations of branch stacking, Towke became the victim of a smear campaign, suggesting he’d inflated his CV, along with a series of damaging personal stories alleging his family has unsavoury connections leaked to the Daily Telegraph. (After mounting a legal fight, News Limited offered him an out-of-court settlement).

A Lebanese Australian could never win a seat that had recently witnessed the Cronulla riot, it was muttered. Consequently, the NSW state executive refused to endorse Towke’s nomination, and demanded a second ballot. The beneficiary was Scott Morrison, a cleanskin in the factional fight, who was parachuted in as a unity candidate.

Turnbull looks relieved. In part he is happy, no doubt, to see Dutton come unstuck. Some part of him also must be relieved to be rid of a role no-one could master; a straightjacket imposed by the Nats’ former leader, Warren Truss who, in the secret Coalition Agreement, dictated Turnbull’s Faustian compact: Malco could be PM just as long as he was never himself – especially on such matters as climate change, energy, water or same-sex marriage.

There’s a lot of the thespian in the PM; a ham actor. Yet quitting office is quite the best thing Turnbull’s done to date, a measured, if not restrained performance, not that he’s likely to get any thanks for it. The right wing mistrust him as a dangerous leftie, a threat to the purity of their Menzian ideological mish-mash. He’s not one of them.

Our media, once again, rush to air with “vox pops” interviews with “ordinary Australians” (there is no such thing as an ordinary Australian” – “ordinary people” are extraordinary – but that heresy is never part of the narrative).

The narrative is to deplore the change of Prime Ministers. In the next breath, it is time to bag Labor. Sheesh, the Coalition’s caught the Labor disease. Enough said.

Yet for all the truth that people like to get the PM they vote for and for all they suspect that a change means they’ve been sold a dud, the notion of betrayal is nonsense, a cheap and easy way to expose a raw nerve. We all know that our pollies our parasites. How much joy it gives to express our futile righteous indignation. And envy.

Aussies love to take the mickey out of those with tickets on themselves – even if we’re paying for them. We love to puncture the pomposity of the over-exalted. There’s nothing wrong with that. But Shorten’s on to something when he claims Turnbull’s government undervalues the people. We’re all ripped off.

The popular narrative has two skeins. Men and women in the street obligingly decry the incessant changing of our PMs, while behind our backs, other parts of the media find virtue in a new pretender, a process ScoMo helps with a brilliantly timed set of releases including a puff piece in the Australian Women’s Weekly that takes the cake.

You have to hand it to Morrison. His knack of being in the right place at the right time, his Zelig-like shape-stealing self-camouflage, his overweening ambition, his lust for realpolitik and his PM’s backing all help him see off his rival. ScoMo riskily insinuates himself between Dutton’s coup and victory; snatching the nation’s thirtieth Prime Ministership all for himself. For now at least.

Dutton is undone. ScoMo robs an ugly mob of reactionaries, opportunists, and the malignant malcontents of the monkey pod room, Monash groupers, a scurvy crew of climate change deniers orchestrated by Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin in league with Sky, The Australian and other Murdoch media outlets out to depose Turnbull.

Just how many days will it take before they turn on him? How long before telling the truth about a prime or any other minister will become an indictable offence?

 

 

 

 

Don’t wait for the next challenge, Malcolm. Call an election now!

It would be safe to say that, as a prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has been a disappointment. Displacing Tony Abbott, as he did in 2015, was supposed to be a new start, correcting the bizarre image of a bumbling, buffoon leading the country.

That’s how it was supposed to be.

Malcolm was seen as a move to a more statesman-like candidate, one who would not embarrass us either here or overseas. We had every right to expect, not just a more polished, professional approach to government and recognition of much needed social reform, but also a more mature approach to tackling the issues of climate change and energy.

The one social reform he did give us was same-sex marriage, but its execution was akin to extracting teeth while simultaneously amputating a limb after the patient had woken from the anaesthetic and fallen off the operating table. In other words, it was a horrible, bloody mess.

Since then, Malcolm has failed miserably in achieving anything of note during his three-year reign. He had an opportunity to be the man to drag the Liberal party out of the 19th century and effectively blur the line between Liberal and Labor party policies.

He could have been so effective, that Labor would have struggled to display its more socially-minded platform. He could even have surpassed John Howard’s tenure as prime minister.

So what went wrong?

For some inexplicable reason, Turnbull, in many ways a leftist, chose to be a prisoner of his party’s hard right. This hard right conservative element, led by Tony Abbott, operates in tandem with the highly sinister, clandestine group known as the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

It is so committed to turning back the clock, socially, industrially and religiously, it has lost sight of the principles that gave its party’s founder, Sir Robert Menzies, the legacy he enjoys today.

And Malcolm Turnbull has done its bidding from day one. As the saying goes, “if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” There should be another saying that explains how, if you don’t cleanse yourself of fleas, even the dogs will desert you.

That’s what is happening to Malcolm now. By sucking up to the hard right he has had to compromise his own belief system and forsake any chance he had of being a great prime minister.

In return, his party have demonstrated their contempt for him, time and time again. They have bullied him from post to post. A drover’s dog could have told him it was never going to end well.

So why would he reward them any further by continuing to lead them? Would he not be well justified in calling an election now and allowing the people to decide if they want this charade to continue? Isn’t that the way bullies should be treated?

Would this not be a way to repay the Liberal party for their treatment of him; reduce their tenure from three years to just two and let that reality sink into their dim-witted brain cells? After all, he has nothing to look forward to, beyond another challenge to his leadership.

Yes, he will lose the election, but would that not be the more honourable thing, rather than sitting around waiting for the next challenge?

Cut your losses, Malcolm. Isn’t that what bankers do?

Let’s Just Remember That Bloke In The Senate Didn’t Get As Many Votes As You Have Friends

It’s important to keep a sense of perspective here. I read somewhere today that Fraser Anning was elected with 19 votes. I’m not prepared to accept that as fact because it’s clearly wrong!

No, it’s not true that Anning was elected to the Senate with less votes than even Malcolm Roberts…

He wasn’t elected.

He was appointed after Malcolm “I thought that I was Australian” Roberts was turfed out because he had dual citizenship. Which makes Anning’s hostility to immigration a little ironic.

After being sworn in, even his own party didn’t want him and so he joined Bob Katter’s party.

When it’s all said and done, I may not have that many friends, and not everyone in my family would vote for me, but I suspect that I’d be able to rustle up more votes than he did.

So why are we all getting so worked up about a loser like this? I mean, why give him the free publicity he must surely be seeking…

Of course, we could accept the explanation of Bob Katter that – owing to his lack of university education – Anning had never heard the phrase “final solution to the Jewish problem” and that it was just an unhappy coincidence that his racism should coincide with one of the best known racists of the 20th Century.

I mean, we shouldn’t be calling him a Nazi. Godwin’s law and all that.

And is this perhaps another case of political correctness gone mad? I mean, free speech. You know, shouldn’t someone be able to call for a referendum on immigration without these attacks because doesn’t free speech mean that privileged white men should be able to say whatever they like without criticism?

But perhaps the time has come to stop arguing with certain people. Perhaps the time has come to simply stop all the “political correctness” that right wing nuph-nuphs complain about and start telling it like it is.

So, Fraser, why on earth should we think that someone who’s so ignorant of history that they’ve never heard the phrase “final solution” would have any ideas about how this country should be organised? And when you say we should introduce the White Australia policy does that include the dictation test*? Come on, Fraser, you must surely know what the dictation test is. Are you bringing that back in, or are you proposing a new,  more restrictive White Australia policy?  And were you aware that your speech contained a number of inaccuracies, or is that part of the whole thing that it’s only the elites who have to worry about things like what’s true and what’s not true? Or don’t I understand that it’s only the educated who have to worry about justifying their position – when you don’t bother finding out what’s true and what’s not true, you’re one of the people.

You know, one of those people who belongs to a party where the leader has their name embedded into the name of the party… like Clive, Pauline and Bob. Where we don’t like elites… Unless they’re the god-like founder of the party.

Fraser, you’re a stupid man and it’s about time we stopped all this “political correctness” and simply told it the way it is: Some people are born stupid, some achieve stupidity, and some have stupidity thrust upon them.

And speaking personally, I’m sick of all the stupidity thrust upon me from politicians, the media and the guy who hasn’t read anything about a topic but thinks that his opinion is just a good as a scientist who’s been studying it for years.

Let’s hear it for the clever, the informed and the thoughtful. Stop pretending that Trump is a good role model and accept that the foolish can be lucky for a while but sooner or later, people who play with matches start fires that they don’t know how to deal with.

*    “The Dictation Test applied to all non-European people entering Australia between 1901 and 1958. The applicant was required to write out 50 words in any European language (after 1905, any prescribed language) dictated by an immigration officer.”

 

Is the ACCC being verballed or has Sharri got it wrong?

According to the Liberal letterbox, Sharri Markson, “The Turnbull government will underwrite multi-billion dollar investments to build new coal-fired power stations…The Daily Telegraph understands Mr Turnbull will announce his support for the ACCC recommendation at [today’s] party room meeting.”

Except the ACCC didn’t recommend that at all Sharri.

Here is what they actually said:

“The National Electricity Market is largely broken and needs to be reset. Previous approaches to policy, regulatory design and competition in this sector over at least the past decade have resulted in a serious electricity affordability problem for consumers and businesses,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“There are many reasons Australia has the electricity affordability issues we are now facing. Wholesale and retail markets are too concentrated. Regulation and poorly designed policy have added significant costs to electricity bills. Retailers’ marketing of discounts are inconsistent and confusing to consumers and have left many consumers on excessively high ‘standing’ offers.”

“While important steps have been taken recently, restoring electricity affordability will require wide ranging and comprehensive action. We believe our changes can and will, if adopted, have a powerful and tangible impact on electricity affordability for all Australians; this will reduce economic inequality and enhance our national welfare.”

“Three further points need to be made. First, our recommendations require some difficult decisions as sound economic reform usually does. Second, despite poor decisions over at least the past decade creating the current electricity affordability problem, it now falls to current Commonwealth and state governments to make the difficult decisions to fix it. Third, we must move away from narrowly focussed debates; addressing affordability requires change across a broad front,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC’s recommendations include:

  • Abolishing the current retail ‘standing’ offers (which are not the same between retailers), and replacing them with a new ‘default’ offer consistent across all retailers, set at a price determined by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
  • Requiring retailers to reference any discounts to the new ‘default’ offer pricing determined by the AER, making it easier for consumers to genuinely compare offers. Conditional discounts, such as pay-on-time discounts, must not be included in any headline discount claim.
  • A mandatory code for comparator websites be introduced so that offers are recommended based on customer benefit, not commissions paid.
  • Voluntary write downs of network overinvestment, including by the NSW, Queensland and Tasmanian governments (or equivalent rebates). This could save consumers in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania at least $100 per year.
  • Premium solar feed-in-tariff schemes should be funded by state governments and the small scale renewable energy scheme should be phased out, saving non-solar consumers $20-$90 per year.
  • Government support to make bankable new investment by new players in generation capacity to help commercial and industrial customers and drive competition.
  • Restructuring of Queensland generators into three separately owned portfolios to improve competition.
  • Limiting companies with 20 per cent or more market share from acquiring more generation capacity.
  • Improving the transparency of over-the-counter contract trading by requiring reporting of these trades to a central registry.
  • Improving the AER’s powers to investigate and address problems in the market and increasing penalties for serious wrongdoing.

“The ACCC’s affordability measures for consumers also include improvements to state and territory concession schemes, and funding for organisations to assist vulnerable consumers to choose a low-priced electricity offer that suits their circumstances,” Mr Sims said.

“One of the most important recommendations is to move customers off excessively high ‘standing’ offers to a new standard ‘default’ offer to be independently set by the Australian Energy Regulator.”

Moving average residential customers who are still on the range of current ‘standing’ offers to the new ‘default’ offer could result in savings of $500 to $750 per annum (25-35 per cent). Similarly, small and medium businesses could save $1450-$2250 (30-35 per cent) per year by moving to a standard ‘default’ offer. Currently over 20 per cent of small businesses are on high ‘standing’ offers.

“Too many consumers and small business customers have given up trying to understand offers and switch in a confusing retail electricity market. Big changes are required to make it easier for consumers and businesses to understand market offers and improve competition,” Mr Sims said.

Australia has committed, through international treaties, to reduce its carbon emissions. The electricity sector has, understandably, been a key focus for these efforts given the historically carbon-intensive nature of electricity generation. However, various policy failures here have hurt consumers.

As the Finkel review identified, there has been a failure to facilitate an orderly transition from carbon-intensive generation technologies to cleaner ones. This is highlighted by the relatively sudden decisions by the owners of the Northern and Hazelwood power stations to close those plants. The short notice of closure of these plants did not enable the market to respond to expected shortfalls in capacity with adequate and timely investment.

While many incumbents have pointed to the lack of an enduring and stable climate change policy as a cause of investment uncertainty and under-investment, at the same time, they have had little incentive to invest in new capacity when they are reaping the benefits of higher spot and futures prices.

The National Energy Guarantee seeks to more clearly link the introduction of lower emissions generation sources to the ability to call on generators to produce energy when it is most needed. To the extent that this policy can encourage investment in capacity from a diverse range of sources, diluting market concentration and promoting competition to supply retailers, the policy should assist in delivering electricity affordability.

It’s hard to find a recommendation to build new coal-fired power stations in any of that.

Yes, Prime Minister. Fishy, well not at all, you see …

Sunday 12 August 2018

Aid Memoir: Meeting between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Minister for Energy and the Environment the Rt. Honorable Josh Frydenberg representing the Commonwealth, and Dr. John Schubert representing The Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

April 9 2018

Schubert: “Good afternoon, Prime Minister, Minister Freydenberg. Please take a seat. May I enquire as to the reason for your visit?”

Turnbull: “I want to give your company $440 million. No, it’s closer to half a billion …

Schubert: “Good lord, that’s a lot of money. And might I enquire as to why you have selected us?”

Turnbull: “Do you mind if I close the door. You understand that this is all highly confidential.”

Schubert: “What is?”

Turnbull: “Well you see, in the May budget we managed to cut $500 million from Early Childhood development. Nobody noticed. Nice piece of work by the Treasurer wouldn’t you say, Josh?”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister. It went as planned. ‘Save’ might be a better word Prime Minister.”

Turnbull: “Pardon.”

Frydenberg: “A better word than ‘cut,’ Prime Minister.”

Turnbull: “Of course.”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister”

Turnbull: “Yes of course, Josh. Well we managed to save some money and we think you are well placed to put it to better use. The reef for example. And some of your directors are friends of ours. A lot of them actually. Lucy even had two of your directors over for lunch. Anyway the money will eventually make its way to the right places.”

Schubert: “The reef, you say. What it needs most is urgent action against climate change.”

Turnbull: “Oh goodness no, we were not thinking along those lines at all.”

Schubert: “Oh I see. I’m beginning to get your drift. Yes we don’t do climate stuff. It upsets some of our donors. Tell me how did you find us?”

Turnbull: “Some of my friends at Goldman Sachs recommended your foundation. Have you had a chance to peruse the agreement?”

Schubert: “Well to be honest it did pass my desk but I thought someone was trying to pull my leg. For example it said we could spend $40 million on administration no questions asked. It sounded well; it looked a little fraudulent if you ask me. If it’s a grant, it would seem to lack process, due diligence is “entirely absent”. There isn’t much transparency.”

Turnbull: “Doctor, if you’re not interested we can … ”

Schubert: “Oh please don’t take me the wrong way, Prime Minister. The agreement also indicated that the CSIRO would have to approach us for funds.”

Turnbull: “Is that correct, Josh?”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister.”

Schubert: “A bit like winning tattslotto, isn’t it? Won’t someone find out that $500 million has gone missing from the early childhood development budget. That fellow Shorten is rather smart.”

Turnbull: “Probably not, but if they do the storm should pass in a few days. Any further questions? Anyway it has passed in the budget.”

Schubert: “Well there is the question of transparency. I read that Law professor Tim Stephens has jumped in, saying that cutting greenhouse gas emissions was a key to helping the reef. You know we don’t get involved in that area. Actually we don’t believe in that. Well most of our members don’t.”

Turnbull: “Yes, you said that before.

I thought you would have been better briefed than this.”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister.”

Turnbull: “I know you have been busy with energy Josh but how much does John know.”

Frydenberg: “The more he knows the less the better, Prime Minister.”

Turnbull: “Yes I realise that, Josh but … “

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister, it’s just that the climate, if you will pardon the pun, has gotten a little out of control and I have been trying to fix it so I asked Christopher to do the briefing. He rang this morning to say that what I thought he said was 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. Man’s a bloody fool.”

Turnbull: “Yes of course I understand, least I think I do. Josh, you stay behind and brief Mr. Schubert thoroughly. It’s a good chance to pick up a little extra on the allowances. Mr. Schubert has got to understand the end objective here.

And tell Pyne not to worry so much about what people think of him. Jesus, if only he knew how little they did.”

Frydenberg: “I think he needs a manager boss, if you want my opinion he has been handling himself to long. Too busy thinking about what’s in it for him.”

Turnbull: “Umm we have a few like that. Delighted to have you on board, John.”

Schubert: “Thank you, Prime Minister. Well gentlemen if you don’t mind its Friday and I have a luncheon appointment with the CEO.”

Turnbull: “Why don’t you take the staff and break the news? I’m sure the 8 of you will be in for promotions all round.”

Schubert: “Just amazing to think that you would hand responsibility for the reef’s future to one tiny private charity. I’m sure that with former executives from BHP, Origin Energy and GE Mining on the board that we are the right folks for the job.”

Turnbull: “Yes, so are we. That right, Josh?”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister.”

Postscript

Frydenberg: “What do you think, Malcolm?”

Turnbull: “Most of it will be up to you, Josh. Just keep everyone as confused as you possibly can. We don’t want anyone to know what the end game is. Especially the public servants.”

Frydenberg: “Yes, Prime Minister. Remember Orwell wrote an excellent book for dyslexics called 1948.”

My thought for the day

“The right to vote is the gift that democracy gives. If a political party is not transparent in supplying all the information necessary to exercise this right. It is destroying the democracy that enables it to exist.”

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