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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.

 

Day to Day Politics: The sooner they go the better.

Friday 10 November 2017

1 Yesterday’s interview with Karl Stefanovic, in my mind at least, left little doubt that the Prime Minister is losing his cool. Sure, Stefanovic was deliberately trying to bait him but there is little doubt that the pressure is showing. Mind you, he has a lot to put up with trying to control a party that is out of control.

At the heart of his frustration is the citizenship debacle and it’s not going to go away. Rightly or wrongly the government owns the problem. Shorten might be milking it for all it’s worth but having said that, it might take a decent dose of bipartisanship to get out of this one. Surely good government cannot survive a series of by-elections not knowing if government has a majority from one to the next.

It has to end with either the Governor General or the Prime Minister dissolving the Parliament and calling an election. Leaving the matter where it stands is dangerous and using it as a free pass into 2018 will only anger the public more.

The whole thing has arisen because we don’t have a standing constitutional tribunal that sits frequently and advise the government on reform.

2 The drums of the conservatives are already pounding to the tune of a defeat in the Marriage Equality Survey: making loud noises about freedom of speech and other matters. If the YES vote wins then it will be incumbent on the government to act quickly and fulfil its promise of legislation before Christmas. It should also be a time for the likes of Howard and Abbott to shut their mouths and admit defeat.

Why am I so confident, you well may ask. Well, this week’s Essential poll asked the following question:

Q. Did you answer yes or no to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry? (Based on those who have voted).

Of those who have voted, 64% say they voted yes (up 4% from 2 weeks ago) and 31% no (down 3%). 5% did not give an answer.

Those most likely to have voted yes are Greens voters (92%), Labor voters (79%), people aged 18-34 (77%), and women (69%).

3 You can’t help being cynical when the press and the Government collude to get stuck into South Australia’s renewable energy policy. They have demonised the state for so long that most Australians think that the state is a major factor in our total energy problems. Then we read this headline:

“South Australia’s Stunning Transition to Consumer Power Grid”

“South Australia is already being hailed – or in some quarters demonised – for its leadership on renewable energy technology. But a new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator highlights how far out front it is in the tradition to a consumer-powered grid.

The new AEMO report highlights that 9.2 per cent of the electricity generated in the state over the last financial year came from small-scale (sub 100kW) of solar PV on the rooftops of households and businesses in the state.”

On the same subject the Canberra Times showed this headline:

Former Clean Energy finance chief Oliver Yates slams Turnbull government’s ‘immoral’ climate policies

A Liberal Party veteran and former head of the federal government’s green bank has unleashed on his party’s “immoral” climate change policies, saying they “knowingly and willingly inflict damage on others”.

My thought for the day

“We have now had 22 Newspolls with an eight per cent two-party-preferred deficit, a sustained and disastrous primary vote and a collapsed net satisfaction rating. Something has to give.”

Day to Day Politics: How did it come to this?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Australians have always had a sort of love-hate relationship with America. Whilst we come from an English heritage, it has been the United States that has had the most influence on our maturing as a nation.

Rightly or wrongly, we have blindly followed them through wars that arguably were not of our concern. We have alliances that almost guarantee our national safety. We have embraced their culture to the detriment of our own.

We have grown up with their music be it pop, jazz or theatre. Their television is over represented on our screens. The Americanisation of Australia is all but complete.

Their sports have become second nature to us as have the artistic creations of Hollywood. We have accepted the American inclination toward scandal and sleaze. We also suffer from both political and social narcissism.

Our natural inclination for technology has seen us take up their inventions at unprecedented levels. It is said in economics that if America catches a cold then we get the flu. Its endless unwinnable wars are bankrupting it but they don’t seem to care and go on spending more on defence than the rest of the world put together.

The science of climate change shows that we are looking at an impending environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions but like many of us the US refuses, as they do with evolution, to believe it.

In the US 22 million people live in poverty. Inequality in both countries is a problem with only the left of politics acknowledging it. The right don’t give a damn.

Trickle-down economics and de-industrialisation are responsible but the right cling to the God of capitalism, that believes that making the rich even richer will solve the problem.

Religion has a rather odd hold on the most technologically advanced country in the world but we are more circumspect and Christianity is in decline and is likely to disappear in two or three decades. However, there are growing signs that among the young that religion is on the decline.

The rich citizens and the big corporations of both countries seem to have ‘boycotted’ paying tax. The American President, Donald Trump appears to pay no federal income-taxes and uses his foundation to pay his legal bills.

Corruption runs rampant in both countries. Both are loathe to tackle political exploitation … being afraid of what revelation might bring. While in Australia we don’t have periodic mass killings at schools, malls, movie theatres and other public places, there are those who would soften our gun laws.

Fortunately we don’t have the problem of police committing public executions of black people in our streets but only a fool would deny that we have an element of racism.

Like America, the reality is that we have a media that produces an avalanche of political and cultural untruths. It is based on the assumption that in a declining market it is legitimate to lie and disseminate political, intellectual and cultural discourse with a perverse sensationalism, emotionalism and pathetic dishonesty to arrest a declining market.

American and Australian media is saturated with highly paid commentators whose job it is to titillate, gossip and contaminate the airwaves and television screens with nonsensical garbage where people talk up negative possibilities. Selling advertising comes first and it’s done in any manner it can be.

Mass entertainment, both violent and sexually explicit, contaminates the cultural life of both our countries. American reality television conspired to produce a ‘reality’ presidential candidate.

“There’s no business like show business”

America elected a President who may at any time be investigated and put in jail. If he has the support of Congress he will obliterate Obama’s legacy by dismantling all US social programs, environmental regulations, civil rights legislations, and the elimination of the federal minimum wage.

Obamacare is currently being put to bed and private insurance will have a ‘free ride’ over US healthcare coverage. A Trump Administration would eradicate all global, solar energy technological incentive programs. (Trump believes global warming to be a hoax stemming from China). Our government believes it to be a socialist plot. In Australia we have citizenship problems relating to the dual citizenship of parliamentarians that could develop into a constitutional crisis.

Private prisons will become a nationwide corporate reality. And Trump has promised media/press ‘crackdown on contrary news reporting’. Roe v Wade (a landmark decision in the US Supreme Court on the issue of abortion) might be overturned. Programmes like planned parenthood would be abolished.

LGBT laws will be overturned. Same-sex marriage will be outlawed. All civil rights legislation will be reversed. Privatisation of Social Security and Veterans Administration will become a reality.

On top of that Trump will make America a better place by defeating ISIS – because “I know more about ISIS than the generals do”. By building a wall. And then making Mexico pay for it. By deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants. By banning all Muslims from entering the nation.

Essentially, all of what Roosevelt’s New Deal stood for would be scrapped (or privatised). International relations would be turned upside down.

If you take a look at the far right’s agenda in conjunction with our IPA’s, together with the extreme of the Australian Coalition, there are striking similarities. ”I will make America great again” Trump shouts from the highest pillars of the mountain of illusion. Hundreds of millions of Americans have ‘woken up’. The dream has ended.

The promise that everyone can be whoever they want to be and have whatever they want, if they would just work hard, and trust in God, is dead.

American Exceptionalism, the land of milk and honey belongs to a bygone era. Polls show that as few as 20% think that Washington can be trusted to do what’s best for the country.

They feel incapable of doing anything about it.

In Australia we feel powerless to have any influence in what we thought was an inclusive democracy. We are both just spectators, hostages to broken systems of government. Chaos abounds and the common good forgotten.

The political, cultural and intellectual discourse of both countries has been so effectively muted by the contamination of those who would seek power for power’s sake. They have successfully stifled the intellectual exchange of ideas. Australia has a compulsory voting system and America a non-compulsory one. Neither serves the people well.

We the people of our enlightened societies feel betrayed by a lack of leadership, of vision. Capitalistic neoliberal ideology has won the day and we have given up. The words we use to describe these events, the austerity, and the lack of transparency, uncontrolled capitalism and the death of truth are of themselves devoid of concern and fight.

Sure, both societies have advanced but the price is gauged by the exploitation of the poor and middle classes. The price we have paid for our progress is measured in wars and seductive illusions about our culture. Our lives are about perception. Not ‘what is’ but what we perceive it to be.

And in our powerlessness we listen to the voices of the absurd, to the promises of demigods and racists in the absence of ideas about how to fix our comparative democracies. It’s called long-suffering irrationalism.

We no longer have the patience or desire to soberly examine policies that effect our lives and politics has been relegated by the media to a 24/7 sideshow.

In America the voice of Trump is heard by those who cannot see that the great American dream has ended and those who have lost faith in institutionalised politics see no future.

What used to be a beacon of light to the free world, the presidential election is now but an illustration of the decline of a once great nation.

In Australia the voice of the far-right is gaining a foothold because people have become dissatisfied with our institutionalised democracy. Our government produces slogans and promises repetitively until the people are conned into believing them. They deal in the illusions of social progress and prosperity. They refuse to acknowledge any reality that might concern us about the future.

The people either don’t vote or think they gain a voice by voting for extremists. Few people trust our politicians or have faith in our system of government. We live a life of permanent malaise and think little about what makes our nation work until the next election come around.

Yes, we are much alike. Both countries are on the verge of democratic collapse. Politicians in both countries have little incentive, or even the capacity to change the democratic structures because they so are locked into neoliberal corporate capitalism.

Columnist and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges puts it this way:

Life is lived in an eternal present. How we got here, where we came from, what shaped us as a society, in short the continuum of history that gives us an identity, are eradicated.

What Australians dislike about Americans is their pomposity and self-righteousness, their know all attitude and belief in their own self-importance for which we have a saying. ‘They think their shit doesn’t stink’. Some would say that they are the only people in the world that believe their own bullshit.

Whatever happens in America, (apart from frequent mass murders), usually reinvents itself in Australia. Greed is now God. Paying tax has become a sport with no rules.

Narriccism is rampart and religion has more to say than it should.

How did it come to this?

It did so because we allowed ourselves to believe the lies. We fell for the mantra of hatred and fear they so delicately indoctrinated us with.

An observation

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

We permitted ourselves, because of our innate narcissism, to believe all the bullshit, the incoherent absurdities mouthed by self-serving politicians. We believe in our feelings and mistrust facts. In short we allowed ourselves to be conned into believing that poverty is the fault of the victim but wealth comes from virtue and both are the natural order of things.

Good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it. Unfortunately we have forgotten just what that means.

In Australia we will see a continual decline in our politics until the next election in 2019 and beyond.

In America they had a choice between a women so entrenched in establishment politics that the people despised and mistrusted her or a man described as a sick deluded one of no redeeming features, full of racial hatred, bile and misogyny. A deluded pathetic liar unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world. One who sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black and white solutions.

My thought for the day

“Sit before your televisions and watch Trump’s antics and ponder at the gullibility of the American people and say … ‘only in America’.”

Turnbull government caught between crisis and catastrophe.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but my incompetence has never stopped my enthusiasm. Woody Allen 

 

The nation is spellbound this week as a Turnbull government, long-acclaimed as a leader in mismanagement and dud judgement, breaks all former records in a crop of epic, self-inflicted disasters which begin with a bungled police raid on the Australian Workers Union and ends with an inept government in catastrophic trouble.

First, the government woos us with a shaggy dog story. David De Garis, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s bat-eared Man Friday, hears the Australian Federal Police are about to raid the Sydney and Melbourne AWU offices. The AFP have been tipped off: The AWU is about to destroy some ten year old receipts for donations to GetUP!

Instantly, a squad of 30 AFP wallopers swings into emergency receipt rescue formation. No-one gets between an AFP and paperwork in danger. Danger? Incredibly, it turns out the AWU is diabolical Bill Shorten’s old union.

David phones journos. Happily, he gets everyone in time to make the evening news. SKY and ABC have cameras rolling at 4:30 pm just as the AFP arrive. As with all classic comedy routines, timing is everything.

Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash who has a lot on her plate managing her property portfolio as well as growing all those jobs every month, says she took Dave to lunch with Mal, Wednesday.

As the PM’s red teapot is her witness, Dave didn’t say a word about the AWU stunt, much less fess up to having orchestrated the whole damn catastrophe. It beggars belief but Cash won’t budge from her story.

Cash returns to the Senate Estimates Committee where she lies five times that no-one from her office called the cops or got the media on to the AWU witch hunt raid stunt. No-one believes her – clearly the tip-offs have got to senators, too although, by Sunday, Phil Coorey a big Cash man on ABC Insiders, will charge to her defence.

“I can also assure you that my office did not find out about the raids until after they were conducted. It is a very serious allegation that you are making and I refute it completely,” she tells a Senate estimates hearing.

Liberals do moral indignation so well. On the other hand, they do get a lot of practice. Butter wouldn’t melt.  Cash’s shocked denial is a haunting performance.

By tea-time, Cash changes tune. De Garis did it, she says. He’s gone off and done it all off his own bat. Not told a soul. Not me. Not the PM. Not even the Daily Tele. Turnbull, in it up to his neck, says Shorten, clinches his complicity by faking moral indignation. It was, he finger-wags,  “a very, very wrong, improper act of indiscretion”.

Keeping a straight face, Cash suggests the AFP look into it. Brilliant. The AFP should investigate the AFP. She deploys what Mark Kenny sees as the Sharon Strzelecki defence from Kath and Kim, “I didn’t know”

More credible is the pithy, down to earth Labor Senator Doug Cameron who tells the hearing: “She’s thrown her staffer under the bus”. In the process she has misled parliament, her department has clearly busted the ROC as a political witch hunt, she’s blown the Coalition’s latest Kill Bill strategy and a staffer’s career is ruined.

It may even be the end of the ROC, experts tip. Apart from that, the AWU raid’s a stroke of genius.

What better than an Australian Federal Police raid on AWU offices in Sydney and Melbourne, Tuesday, to blood the ROC (Registered Organisation Commission) the new union-bashing lynch mob on the block, smear Shorten, puts the wind up GetUp! and help disguise Turnbull’s “game-changing” brain fart as an energy policy.

Nothing shrieks “gotcha” like a shot of a burly cop lugging a bulging plastic bag of receipts. Wonderful optics.  Get the photographers from the Jihadi mincer plot on to it. They have a wonderful eye for guilty before charged.

Years of images of terror busts have, doubtless, helped soften us up to accept random AFP raids. Yet AFP powers are limited to investigating crimes which fall under Commonwealth laws. Most crime is a state law matter.

In May last year, The AFP raided the home of then shadow communications minister, Jason Clare, and senior Labor Senator, Stephen Conroy in connection with what were claimed to be leaked government documents. Don’t ask what became of the inquiry. The AFP bust like all performance art won’t be rushed liked that.

Then, as now, the Prime Minister rejected any suggestion of Government interference, claiming the AFP operates “entirely independently of the Government”. His assurances ring as hollow as his energy or NBN guarantees – or indeed the heavy-handed, ham theatricality of his patently insincere censure of the dynamic David De Garis.

In a travesty of due process, the ROC says it ordered this week’s raid solely “on the basis of an anonymous call”.

No lawful reason exists for the raid. The documents the government seeks are not required to be held beyond seven years. They were documents, however, which the union was making available to the ROC.

“We were cooperating before we ended up in this remarkable situation yesterday. For our 131 years, there has not been one occasion that the AWU has not cooperated with any investigation and we don’t have any ideas of changing that,” National Secretary, Daniel Walton tells ABC’s AM.

Nor has any law been broken: this is not a criminal matter but just a routine ROC-AFP bust to see that the AWU is following its own rules. No wonder the coppers on camera are scowling.

Attorney-General George Brandis, who is still wiping the egg off his ample face over his disastrous advice to his government over its dual citizenship debacle, adds his own hint that the ROC is a kangaroo court.

“Its job is to enforce the law and if it finds the law has been breached, then its obligation is to pursue that,” Brandis, our legal Mr Magoo, tells Sky News. No law has been breached? The government does not care.

So what if the AWU says it’s happy to share the documents? It has already made them available to Dyson Heydon’s Trade Union Royal Commission, an $80 million witch hunt into Bill Shorten which spawned the ROC concept?

Nobody in a post-truth, Trumpian world is bothered by evidence any more. As the Productivity Commission’s rules this week, on its yen to change GST distribution, “An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

It is an alarming trend – even if the phrase is a gift to the t-shirt slogan industry. The title of the Commission’s report – ‘Shifting the Dial’ is a clue to our brave new government’s desire to march to the beat-up of a different drum; its rush to tune out empiricism in favour of a more pliant metaphysics; the vibe, the smear and the spin.

Equally alarming, as Mark Kenny notes,  is the tally of Turnbull government ministers who have entered the plea of ignorance as their defence and who have freely admitted, as coal puppet Matt Canavan does, after blaming his mother and updating his story several times, that they were prepared to stand for election and to bank the 300-400,000 salary but that they weren’t fussed checking whether they were eligible for the job.

“For … institutional conservatives, the trashing of basic parliamentary and ministerial standards through these events is even more depressing. Having lawmakers deploy the ignorance defence fundamentally erodes the power of law, and materially weakens the very project of parliamentary representation.

At the ministerial level, it renders the sanction of executive resignation hollow, by allowing a minister to simply stand with everyone else, among the great unknowing. This lack of knowledge and basic curiosity makes a mockery of the accountability mechanism central to the Westminster tradition.” He writes.  And then there’s the lie of spin.

Spin? Anti-worker Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, insists the ROC will just subject Unions to the same rules as company directors. Sure. Every day we see directors of banks, mining companies, casino operators and betting agencies being raided by AFP officers and sundry men in suits just to help accountancy teams with their filing.

Like extreme vetting, an AFP raid on your archives is positively therapeutic; a type of clerical, colonic irrigation or a form of shock treatment. Or both.

In fact, the ROC has markedly more extensive investigative powers than Fair Work, the power to lay criminal charges and impose financial penalties harsher than those applicable to businesses under the Corporations Act.

Slater and Gordon caution that ROC and supporting laws represent a significant attack on the rights of unions to self-govern. Imposing a dedicated regulator focussed squarely on Unions is an attempt to ensure that Unions are focussed on compliance with costly, unwieldy regulation at the expense of organising and representing members.

ROC aids and abets union bashing. Former shonky jobs figures shill, Senator Eric Abetz, a veteran GetUp! foe takes time out from fighting safe schools, same sex marriage and encouraging gays to come out as straight, Sunday, to explain that if the (perfectly legal) GetUp! funding “was proved inappropriate”, it raises serious questions.

” … finally issues relating to potential trade union corruption are being taken seriously and thoroughly investigated,” he says “Honest union members have the right to know that their money is being spent correctly.”

Proved inappropriate? Since 2010, Eric, who is convinced the organisation is a Greens/Labor front run by George Soros, has reported GetUp! unsuccessfully to the AEC and the ACCC. It is disingenuous to continue the smear given the publication of clear refutation by both bodies. But Eric has a record of being fast and loose with facts.

On a local radio station last year he argued that GetUP! should have its charity status revoked.

“If an organisation becomes involved in the political debates, they shouldn’t be allowed to get charitable donations — which means tax-deductibility — in circumstances where the political party against which they are campaigning cannot get that sort of tax-deductibility and charity status for their donation.”

Sadly, for the senator’s rapidly dwindling credibility, GetUP! Is not a charity.

Issues relating? While they’re after the GetUp! paper work, the police seek evidence of a $25,000 payment made by the AWU to Mr Shorten’s election campaign in the Melbourne seat of Maribyrnong in 2007, and another two payments to campaigns in the seats of Petrie (Queensland) and Stirling (WA).

Unions legitimately support Labor candidates but the raid helps create suspicion of criminal misconduct.

No-one will worry it’s a stunt. All that matters is that Shorten be smeared, somehow, because the AWU openly and legitimately donated $100,000 to GetUp! when the Opposition leader led the union over 10 years ago.

The law is now on side, too, thanks to nifty Nick Xenophon and dreadful Derryn Hinch’s vote in May. The ROC, a double dissolution trigger last election, is nothing less than a state attack on workers.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton calls the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources”. “It is clear the Registered Organisations Commission has been established, not to promote good governance, but to use taxpayer and police resources to muckrake through historic documents in an attempt to find anything that might smear a future Labor prime minister,Walton tells AAP. 

Wages stagnate, work becomes increasingly deskilled, part-time and casual while inequality becomes more deeply entrenched, yet the Coalition responds by attacking working people, their representatives and the many volunteers who give their time to be delegates and to generally support unions in their work.

Unions are already covered, moreover, by the Corporations Act, and lately by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Now the Coalition has imposed a third tier of union oversight. While it claims to be after union corruption, the government is interested in union governance; donations and superannuation funds.

For a divided Coalition at odds on energy, education, environment and marriage equality to name a few, policy debate yields readily to dirty pool. It’s week of defamatory personal attacks on Sponge-Bob Bill Shorten whom the PM jeers, is “Melbourne’s greatest sycophant, one of the union movement’s great sucker-uppers.”

Worse, in that perverse projection Turnbull favours, Shorten is one of Labor’s “hereditary union princelings”. “Not everybody has a privileged ride to power through a union job,” he sneers, baring bottom teeth.

The politics of sledging is a legacy of junkyard dog, Tony Abbott, whose grasp on any policy is, still, at best tenuous and whose sole, intelligible claim to remain leader, was that he could “beat Bill Shorten”.

If only politics could be reduced to a boxing match between the two leaders. If only we could sucker punch the entire Labor mob. Kill Bill with one knock-out punch. The team is working on it. Sadly, Rupert Murdoch’s rags have far less influence now.

Gutter politics are almost eclipsed, however, by the Coalition’s secret strategy to deal with Friday’s High Court verdict: complacency and entitlement. Ayatollah Turnbull, as he is known to his former fellow merchant bankers, has let his ego do the talking. You can tell he’s still personally outraged at the court’s lese majeste.

This was not the plan. Now he dithers for two days about whether he can trust Julie Bishop to act PM.

A High Court wowed by the PM’s parliamentary chutzpah ,”… the High Court will so hold…” was meant to clear Kiwi Barnaby and as many of the remaining six dual nationals as it cares, leaving himself and Lucy free to jet to Israel where he could pose as an international statesman and explain how the charge of the Fourth Light Horse Brigade at Beersheba in 1917 allows Australia to lay claim to founding Israel.

“The capture of Beersheba allowed British empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948,” Australia Post said in 2013  It’s a popular new reimagining of the past to give Israel another link with Australia.

Clayton’s Deputy PM Julie Bishop will now hold the fort. She can deal with the backlash over Turnbull’s decision, announced Wednesday, to reject any plea for a constitutionally recognised voice to parliament.  Cabinet rejects The Uluru Proposal  five months on from the historic constitutional summit in Central Australia.

The Uluru statement is a rejection of symbolic constitutional reform in favour of a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, which would sit outside the parliamentary structure but provide advice and consultation on issues and legislation affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Establishing a Makarrata commission with a view to establishing a treaty, or treaties, between Indigenous people and Australian governments is a second, vital component of the Uluru statement.

As Paul Daley notes, the rebuff is a slap in the face to “all the linguistically and culturally diverse urban, regional and remote communities that comprise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia”, a breach of trust and a rejection more pointed  by making the announcement, from on high, in cabinet on the cusp of the PM’s departure and at a time when parliament is in recess.

Above all it sends a clear signal that the Turnbull government lacks humanity and common decency as much as it lacks vision and leadership. It is by far the biggest failing of his utterly disappointing prime ministership and will be cost him dearly.

Indigenous leaders rightly feel betrayed if not duped. The Coalition has let indigenous Australia, indeed all Australians down first by having no plan for constitutional recognition of its own when it came to power  – then by asking leaders to consult with communities to come up with a model – only to reject that model when so much hard work is done. At the very least, it is a consultation in name only, an act of gross bad faith and betrayal.

The PM rejects embedding an indigenous voice in the constitution as “too ambitious”. While The Referendum Council’s proposal for an Indigenous representative assembly, or Voice, is a new concept constitutional change, the PM must acknowledge the extensive and valuable work of the past decade – largely with bipartisan support.

It is a poor thing to say “too ambitious” or that the model lacked detail. A good government, committed to equality and partnership, committed to community works with people to find that detail. It is mutually demeaning, moreover, for Turnbull to retreat to a symbolic recognition.

Turnbull himself is now also disgraced by his poor form in prompting the High Court in parliament to find in favour of his deputy PM in an extraordinary moment of poor judgement when he took it upon himself in Question Time in the House in August to predict – if not lead -the High Court in its judgement.  The High Court will so hold what the High Court decides and not what any jumped up Prime Minister may try to dictate.

Similarly, the AFP raid on the AWU reeks of the same poor judgement that indulged Godwin Grech in Utegate in 2009. Instead of blowing up Bill, the PM has effectively blown up his own government.  By Friday, gone is his parliamentary majority, two cabinet ministers and any sign of an acting deputy PM.

No-one knows what challenges will be mounted to decisions taken by ministers who were allowed to continue while their eligibility to be in parliament remained in doubt.

Worse, Michaelia Cash has disappeared into WA for a good lie down gifting politics with an open season on backstabbing, bitching and petty vendetta, especially given she’s widely tipped to be next Attorney General.

The week ends with a government in crisis, its credibility in tatters, its majority shot and with serious questions hanging over the legitimacy of its decisions after The High Court rules comprehensively against its brilliant case that for MPs caught in the trap of dual-citizenship, ignorance is somehow an excuse, an argument which is itself indicative a deeper, postmodern malaise in which truthiness displaces truth and all is spin.

Day to Day Politics: What Hypocrisy! It’s really staggering.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

When I have written on this subject in the past I have always approached it by saying that whilst I have a layperson’s appreciation of science, an in-depth, educated, comprehension eludes me. That is why in 2014 I wrote “Climate Change: A Lay Persons Dilemma” and “You Probably Won’t Read This, its About Climate Change“.

In the latter I questioned: How does the layperson like me reach a view on such subjects without any formal training?

It’s simple really. There are many areas (medicine for example) that I don’t have a deep analytical grasp. Like many others I listen to experts, apply common sense, observation and what my life experience tells me. It is not difficult to understand a theory. Generally people assume that a theory (for example the theory of evolution) is something unproven.

In the scientific world, a theory is something that has evolved to fit known facts.

Conversely, those who deny Climate Change and the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science deniers with obscure qualifications or worse-to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training what so ever.

These people have no way of evaluating the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions. One of the most outspoken deniers (Andrew Bolt) has, in recent times, been found guilty of deceptive lying in that he defamed some white skinned aboriginals. One has to wonder how many he has told when writing about his favorite topic climate change.

Which brings me to the point of this piece: Hypocrisy.

Now who said this?

“We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got … We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic. We know that extreme weather events are occurring with greater and greater frequency and while it is never possible to point to one drought or one storm or one flood and say that particular incident is caused by global warming, we know that these trends are entirely consistent with the climate change forecasts with the climate models that the scientists are relying on … We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us”.

Who said this?

“So as I am a humble backbencher I am sure he [meaning Tony Abbott] won’t complain if I tell a few home truths about the farce that the Coalition’s policy, or lack of policy, on climate change has descended into.”

“First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal-fired power stations with cleaner gas-fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal-fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money.”

“To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. Somebody has to pay.

So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it.

The whole argument for an emissions trading scheme as opposed to cutting emissions via a carbon tax or simply by regulation is that it is cheaper – in other words, electricity prices will rise by less to achieve the same level of emission reductions.

The term you will see used for this is “least cost abatement”.

It is not possible to criticise the new Coalition policy on climate change because it does not exist. Mr Abbott apparently knows what he is against, but not what he is for.

Second, as we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.

Now politics is about conviction and a commitment to carry out those convictions. The Liberal Party is currently led by people whose conviction on climate change is that it is “crap” and you don’t need to do anything about it. Any policy that is announced will simply be a con, an environmental figleaf to cover a determination to do nothing. After all, as Nick Minchin observed, in his view the majority of the Party Room do not believe in human caused global warming at all. I disagree with that assessment, but many people in the community will be excused for thinking the leadership ballot proved him right.

Tony himself has, in just four or five months, publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and, if the amendments were satisfactory, passing it, and now the blocking of it.

His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this, but … ”

Who said this?

“Or if you believe that there is not going to be any global action and that the rest of the world will just say, “It’s all too hard and we’ll just let the planet get hotter and hotter,” and, you know, heaven help our future generations – if you take that rather grim, fatalistic view of the future and you want to abandon all activity, a scheme like that is easier to stop. Now I think those are arguments that some of the supporters of the scheme take, but it obviously – if you want to have a long-term solution to abating carbon emissions and to achieve – if you want to have a long-term technique of cutting carbon emissions, you know, in a very substantial way to the levels that the scientists are telling us we need to do by mid-century to avoid dangerous climate change, then a direct action policy where the Government – where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more and more taxpayers’ money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the budget in the years ahead.

And this really is the point, Tony. I mean, you were quoting to me back a speech I gave when I crossed the floor to vote for that legislation. For me, it went beyond an environmental policy issue. For me it was a matter of integrity and principle, because I had reached an agreement in good faith with the Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, to support an emissions trading scheme, which was not a Labor Party policy in the sense of being a Labor Party idea; it was in fact a policy that John Howard had taken to the 2007 election, an election in which I was his Environment minister and responsible for the emissions trading scheme policy. So for me it was very much a matter of personal integrity and principle, and that was why I took that very, very painful, anguished step of crossing the floor and voting against my own party”.

What Staggering hypocrisy

Yes of course, the words are those of Malcolm Turnbull. He makes an excellent argument against Direct Action on Climate Change. In fact it’s more than excellent it’s persuasive, well thought through and to the point. When you read it you know that here is a person on top of his subject. Which makes it all the more confounding as to why he would sell out his personal integrity and principle to a group of denialists.

I believe that changing one’s mind in the light of new evidence, even in politics, should be encouraged. But in this case there is only one reason why Malcolm Turnbull has sold out his integrity and principles. It’s as I have said many times. His job would be on the line.

Selling out to the loopy right of his party demonstrates character deficiencies no different from those of his predecessor.

In rejecting the Chief Scientist recommendation for an energy target Malcolm Turnbull has proven himself to be a hypocrite of unfathomable proportion. To think that Turnbull has favoured Tony Abbots view over that of the Chief Scientist is not just appalling, it’s unspeakable.

Availability and security have become the new slogan with meeting our Paris commitments running a poor third. “An Australian Clean Energy Target”is now dead and buried. Abbott has won the day. There will be no subsidies for renewable energy, the coal producers will keep theirs and Malcolm Turnbull is a fool.

The nutters, of which there are many, in the Coalition led by the brainless Abbott would not accept any policy that contains new subsidies for renewable energy. They are the coal lovers who hate renewable energy.

Labor will rightly reject it out of hand.

The Government says new policy approach will have a more positive impact on power prices than the clean energy target, which Finkel said would lower energy prices compared with business as usual. Finkel did the maths for his argument but the Government offers no modelling.

The government is also expected to keep the emissions reduction fund and it flagged the potential use of international permits to help meet Australia’s emissions targets at lowest cost in its review of the Direct Action policy, launched. However it doesn’t say if it will use it to fund coal.

Yesterday’s Guardian Essential poll found a clear majority of voters support the now dumped clean energy target to help drive the transition to low emissions power sources. The new poll:

“… shows support for a clean energy target at 65%.

It also suggests Coalition conservatives who have campaigned against the Finkel proposal are out of step with the views of their own supporters.

While the total approval for the clean energy target is 65% in the new survey, 68% of Coalition voters in the sample of 1,845 voters said the government should implement a clean energy target.

And while Coalition conservatives have railed for months against subsidies for renewable energy – Australians are on a different page.”

On Tuesday during question time the opposition asked the Prime Minister why he had always supported a Renewable Target and why he had changed his mind. No reasonable answer was forthcoming. He often hand balled questions to Josh Frydenberg. We of course all know the answer but Turnbull’s were tainted with the guilt of hypocrisy.

When asked if they had done a regulatory impact statement I think they said no although the answer was so vague I couldn’t be sure. When asked what percentage of coal would be in the mix by 2030 Frydenberg said 63% which I found to be an extraordinary answer when so many old coal power stations are closing down and no one wants to build a new one. Although when asked to seperate gas from the equation they wouldn’t or couldn’t. They know that large renewable energy projects don’t attract investment without government support. That’s why they have subsidised the coal industry for so long.

And really, after all this concern about the cost of power, we are guaranteed a saving $100 per year by 2020 or 2030. You have to be kidding me.

On top of that they named the policy the “National Energy Guarantee.” I mean for this government to guarantee anything leaves one with a sense of gloom.

The Essential survey said 65% of the electorate supported an RET. Perhaps they should have put this out to a postal survey for the public’s opinion.

No one in their right mind would suggest that Turnbull really supports this policy. It reminds me oddly of Julia Gillard saying she didn’t support Gay Marriage. No one believed her.

In capitulating to the extreme right-wing conservative elements in the Coalition Turnbull has left himself open to being just another leader who cannot be trusted. Abbott could not be believed on anything he said. Turnbull on the current evidence cannot be either.

Sacrificing his views on so many policies has Turnbull on the wrong side of history after earlier being on the right side of it. It is embarrassing, to say the least, that this man has promised much but delivered little.

This policy doesn’t spell out how we are going to reduce our carbon emissions and is just a policy to hinder renewable energy and favour coal. It was determined by an internal bunfight within the Coalition. It is no way to form major policies.

My thought for the day

“In terms of the environment. I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today.”

What’s wrong with PM Turnbull?

By Ad astra

As a weary electorate approaches yet another holiday season, looks back over the year and asks: ‘How has our federal government improved life for ordinary Aussies’, the answer is depressing.

Our self-styled ‘adult government’ has achieved so little for so long. We have had to endure indecision, poor planning, stultifying policies, governmental chaos, the dual citizenship shemozzle, infighting, and worst of all, inept decision-making and ineffectual leadership.

While the members of the Coalition must take much of the blame, the one who must shoulder most is the nation’s leader – Malcolm Turnbull. What on earth is wrong with PM Turnbull?

The question is redundant – we already know what’s wrong. We have watched Turnbull for many years now, have written about him over and again, and have predicted just what we are now seeing. A review of The Political Sword Archive reveals over twenty pieces that have been penned about Turnbull with links to many more, dating back nine years to 2008. We ought not be surprised at the Turnbull we now witness and tolerate uneasily.

We had expected so much more from him. Memories of his earlier failures faded during the reign of the awful Tony Abbott. So gross was Abbott that when the intelligent, urbane, personable, cultured, well-spoken, well-presented, persuasive and credible Turnbull toppled him in a cleverly organized coup, the electorate breathed a collective sigh of relief, and, with high hopes, welcomed him warmly. Surely, anyone would be better that the nasty, combative Abbott, whose legacy of destruction lives with us still through the damage he did to energy policy, the NBN, the marriage equality debate, and the damage he still does day after day to the government of which he is a member, and to its elected leader.

The electorate was prepared to give Turnbull a ‘fair go’, hoping that having achieved his life-long goal of prime ministership, we would see a new side of him. We knew of his achievements in business as co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, his success with the ISP OzEmail, his brilliance as a barrister in the famous Spycatcher case where he defeated the UK government and when he defended Kerry Packer (the goanna), his record as a journalist, and his involvement in the unraveling of the corporate failure of insurance company HIH.

We also had memories of Turnbull’s devotion to the Republic, his enthusiasm for combating climate change, his support for marriage equality, and his intention to deliver fast broadband. Sadly he has let us down as Abbott slammed the brakes on these initiatives. You can read the gory details in Abbott’s legacy of destruction.

So let’s look back a while and observe how the Turnbull of today was completely predictable many years ago.

As far back as December 2009 The Political Sword featured a piece: Opposition ship docks for repairs that concluded: ‘A combination of lack of purpose, weakness of character, insufficient muscle and diminishing authority, and an ego-centric certainty of the correctness of his own position coupled with an unwillingness to listen, is lethal in a leader. How long can he [Turnbull] last before the murmurings among his crew and the critics begin to further erode his position’.

These sentiments echo still!

Even before that, in April 2009, in Why is Malcolm Turnbull so unpopular?, there were these words:

‘There’s not much need to emphasize Turnbull’s contemporary unpopularity – it’s all over the air waves and the papers. It takes only a few metrics to quantify it. He leads a Coalition that Possum’s Pollytrack currently shows has an average TPP vote of only 40. Pollytrack shows 60/40 in Labor’s favour across several polls, and Pollytrend shows a steady trend away from the Coalition.

The latest Newspoll PPM ratings show 67/18. As primary votes are running at 47/36, it means that half of Coalition voters don’t prefer Turnbull as PM.’

In June 2009, a TPS piece: Stop at nothing – Malcolm’s fatal flaw? reviewed Annabel Crabb’s Quarterly Essay about the ’Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull’ – Stop at Nothing. Referring to the 1984 Costigan Royal Commission convened to investigate the activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union, Crabb concluded:

From the Costigan affair we can draw some preliminary conclusions about the young Turnbull. The first is that he has no regard for orthodoxy,… and this refusal to ‘play by the rules’ is something of a lifelong pattern for Turnbull; it explains much of his success, but also accounts for the worst of his reputation…The second thing we learn from Costigan is that violent tactical methods are not just something which Turnbull will contemplate turning on if sufficiently provoked. It’s not enough to say that Turnbull is prepared to play hardball. He prefers to play hardball – that’s the point. It is impossible to rid oneself entirely of the suspicion that Turnbull enjoys the intrigue – the hurling of grenades…

It seems though as if Turnbull has lost his aggressive mojo when it comes to standing up to the ultra-conservative rump in his party that threatens his leadership if he does not comply with their every wish. So much for Turnbull’s desire to play hardball! He is unable or unwilling to risk his leadership by defending his long-held ideals. For him, survival always trumps principle!

After Turnbull, written in October 2009, begins: ‘Despite the caution implicit in Mark Twain’s statement about his reported death being an exaggeration, columnists are almost universally predicting Malcolm Turnbull’s political demise.’

They are still.

Way back in 2009, Andrew Bolt wrote: ‘No hope, no real leader, no real successor – could it get any worse for the brawling, broken federal Liberals?’

Today, nothing’s changed except the date!

The only factor protecting Turnbull now is the paucity of replacements.

Shock jocks Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Andrew Bolt would have him replaced in a flash by Tony Abbott, whom they believe should never have been upended as he was.

Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher too was predicting the end of Malcolm Turnbull. In a video he recorded he opined that Malcolm Turnbull “…is in a terminal condition as the Liberal leader”. Hartcher goes on to predict “…the inevitable collapse of the Turnbull leadership,” insisting that “…Turnbull is in the political killing zone.”

Remember, we’re harking back to October 2009, exactly eight years ago!

In July 2016, there was a piece on TPS written in the wake of the 8 July Federal Election when the result was still uncertain: How has it come to this? It began: ‘Far from fulfilling his oft-repeated promise of stable government and sound economic management; far from avoiding the “chaos” of a close result, Turnbull seems unlikely to achieve either. The consensus among those analysing the election results, the commentariat, and the social media, is that the outcome will be a narrow LNP majority.’

It turned out to be a majority of one! Turnbull’s attempt to regain momentum was a flop.

Image from thetownsvillegreens.org. Cartoon by David Pope.

The piece went on: ‘While acknowledging that multiple factors bring about any election outcome, I propose that this time five significant factors have been in play: the Turnbull character; Medicare; Inequality; Turnbull reversals on the NBN, marriage equality, global warming and the Republic; and insensitivity towards the Coalition’s constituency.” You can read the details here.

Has anything changed since then?

Again, going back to March 2009, in a TPS article titled The Turnbull Twist is this:

This piece proposes that forces within his party regularly pull and push him away from his own considered opinion. As he dances to others’ tune, we see him sometimes gyrating violently, sometimes swaying gently, and sometimes lurching precipitously – this is the ‘Turnbull Twist’.

Turnbull lacks nothing in self-confidence. It was he who said at the Federal Liberal Party Council meeting at the weekend “I am the man to lead Australia”. So why does he twist and turn so often? The answer seems to be that despite his unassailable self-confidence, he has less than supreme confidence in the loyalty and support of his party room. Persistently poor polls since his election to leadership six months ago, his disinclination to seek the views of the party room…and being unable to land many blows on Rudd and his ministers despite his splendid oratory, are among the factors that have eroded party room support.

Again, remember that this was eight years ago!

I have written many times that when Turnbull has his heart in a matter, he can speak eloquently and plausibly. When he has doubts; when he is trying to watch every word that his enemies might seize upon to berate him, he becomes hesitant to the point of being inarticulate, at times almost mute! This is his answer to Sabra Lane during a recent interview on AM about his proposed new laws on national security”

SABRA LANE: Why aren’t existing laws sufficient?

MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well, they just aren’t. There’s not the, you need, you also need very clear, clear laws. It’s, it’s important to make sure that you give the police a very clear offence that makes, so that there’s no ambiguity or grey area.

It’s hard to believe that a man whose ability to wax eloquently is widely acknowledged, could be reduced to such a stuttering, almost incoherent state.

Malcolm Turnbull is rattled. He clings by a thread onto his leadership. He is obsessed by the spectre of his conservative enemies, lead by the viciously vindictive Tony Abbott, the very one who, at the time Turnbull upended him promised: “There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping”, yet who thereafter proceeded to do all three, repeatedly!

In October 2009, as storm clouds became threatening, in What will Turnbull do now? you will read these opening words: ‘“Keep on punching Malcolm” is what his father advised. Malcolm Turnbull’s doggedness is legend, but so is his intelligence. Someone as intelligent as all his reviewers insist, must be smart enough to know when to throw in the towel, how to avoid a humiliating knockout. The key is to know when the knockout is imminent.’

The piece concluded:

Has Turnbull enough commonsense and political nous to see that all that lies ahead is more dissent, more corrosive comments,…more desire for another leader if only there was one around,…more media speculation about leadership, its favourite sport, more ridicule from Rudd and his ministers pointing to the rabble he’s trying to lead but can’t,…more poor polls, and almost certain electoral defeat and loss of seats? I suspect he has. His doggedness may well be tempered by an intense desire to ease the pain and call it quits. And if he can do that in a spectacular and relatively face-saving way, he might choose that out.

Here we are eight years later and nothing has changed. PM Turnbull is still the same old Malcolm we have come to know. His characteristics and behaviour are identical to those of eight years ago.

In Turnbull – Abbott from a better postcode? written a year ago, 2353NM concludes:

When Turnbull became prime minister, there was a hope that he would bring the claimed decency and ability to appeal to the middle ground that was so lacking with Abbott. After 13 months, it hasn’t happened. There are two possibilities: Turnbull is just as bad as Abbott (except for better clothing choices and living in a ‘more expensive’ postcode); or, to coin a phrase, Turnbull ’doesn’t have the ticker’ to promote and implement policy and legislation that isn’t approved by his conservative rump thereby ensuring his longevity as prime minister. Either way, the rest of us as Australian citizens will continue to suffer as a result.

We are a forgiving lot. We want to give everyone, even our politicians, a ‘fair go’. We have this pitiable faith that in the end they might come good. We want them to, as their decisions affect us all. Our scepticism about them is tempered by our good nature and our cherished hopes.

Yet they let us down again and again, as is testified in numerous pieces on The Political Sword, too many to enumerate in this single piece.

PM Turnbull came to office buoyed by a surge of goodwill from much of the electorate – we wanted him to succeed after the bitter experience of the belligerent and destructive Abbott. All he had to do was to ride the wave of electoral support and enthusiasm, and then perform. We would have cheered him on.

But once again he has failed, and does so day after day as he struggles to find coherence, flounders as he fights with his own backbenchers, tries vainly to plan effective policies to fill the legislative void, falters as he attempts to achieve anything positive, and makes hard work of improving his standing with the people.

He leaves the electorate gasping for relief from cost-of-living pressures, desperate for forward-looking policies that will enrich our society and each of us individually, all the time hoping for a government that looks as if it knows what it’s doing.

He has botched his leadership yet again. Looking back over the last decade we ought not to be surprised. Nothing has changed but the timeline. What’s wrong with PM Turnbull? Simply, whatever his other attributes, as a Prime Minister Turnbull is a disappointing dud.

We all should have realized that long ago.

Image from theconversation.com (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

What do you think?

Is that a fair assessment?

This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.

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A government not remotely interested in health. Nor human rights.

“It is hardly necessary to say that the court is aware of the need to give its answers to these references with or without reasons as soon as possible,” declares High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, Friday.

Kiefel is slapping down brash Matt Canavan’s barrister, David Bennett QC, whose client has changed his story several times after first blaming his mother for making him an Italian. Now expert esoteric Italian legal depositions are tendered.

Bennett, a former Solicitor-General has the chutzpah to remind the court of “the importance of an urgent decision”.

Snapping your fingers for service does not go well in The High Court. The lady’s not for churning, Susan Kiefel makes it clear. Nor is her court.

Ultimately, however, Kiefel succeeds only in bidding up the nation’s impatience in a political week filled with trepidation, the sick joke of Greg Hunt’s health policy “shake-up”, a capitulation to health insurance industry and the prospect of a national, Nationals New England by-election circus starring the incomparable, incomprehensible, Murray-Darling cotton-farmers’ darling Barnaby Joyce.

Politics could be put on hold for weeks, whenever The High Court gets around to delivering its verdict on seven little (alien) Australian MPs’ dual citizenship, should the PM finally decide to prorogue parliament while Barnaby Joyce is re-elected, a safe bet despite a Melbourne Cup field of candidates preparing to stand against him.

Centrelink clients, on the other hand, will be put through promptly, now that the government has outsourced its telephone calls to Serco, helping the international company rebuild trust after its 2013 scandal when it was discovered to have overcharged the UK government for electronically tagging criminals who were back in gaol, overseas or dead.

The government, meanwhile, brushes aside criticism of its Robo-call fiasco. It dismisses complaints made against the system as “third parties … aimed solely at scoring political points”. It’s a line it likes to apply widely to any call for accountability and thinking which informs a lot of its spin excusing its own lamentable failure in energy policy.

Quickly it scotches any suggestion it suspend its error-ridden data-matching Tuesday, while engaging an outside contractor with a dodgy reputation in the UK and in New Zealand. Chin up pensioners: what could possibly go wrong?

Left right, you know the drill. Look over there! Don’t you know there’s a war on? Or one about to go on in North Korea. What could break the Turnbull government’s log-jam of indecision and ineptitude better than a military adventure?

Abroad, in a scene worthy of Apocalypse Now, Julie Bishop jogs the DMZ dividing North from South Korea while urging an increasingly potty POTUS to declare war on North Korea as she dodges questions about Myanmar’s genocide.

Elected unopposed, Australia waits to play its part on the UN Human Rights Council which is waiting for us to condemn the human rights atrocities in Myanmar which Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists arise from a “security operation”.

The Rohingya are to blame. Look where their insurgency has led them. What bother they’re causing Bangladesh.

Refugees? Rohingya refugees? No here. Not us. 11,000 flee in one day? We “need independent, verifiable accounts”.

Bishop’s outright refusal to acknowledge the existence of the humanitarian crisis posed by the Myanmar persecution of the Rohingya is a shameful demonstration of the Coalition’s complete disregard for human rights.

The Turnbull government’s compassion bypass, its cruelty and its wilful abdication of responsibility under international refugee agreements are an indictment of its lack of moral compass and inhumanity. Instead, its foreign minister falls back on the best hollow clichés her staffers can provide for her.

“Australia will bring a pragmatic and principled approach to working with other nations to find real solutions to complex global challenges,” she says. Elsewhere she is fond of talking of rules-based global order, a catch-phrase of our 2016 Defence White Paper but one which is wretchedly vague and subjective. What if China has its own rules-based order?

In a revealing lapse into Newspeak, on SBS TV Sunday, Julie Bishop claims her government will offer “principled and pragmatic leadership” in the UN Human Rights Council, as if principled and pragmatic are not mutual contradictions. Easy to say. Is she unaware that our pragmatism is on open display in how we treat others such as Rohingya refugees?

“What will it take for our government to draw a line in the sand with the Myanmar military so as not be to complicit in crimes against humanity in our region?,” asks Diana Sayed, Amnesty’s crisis campaigner in Australia.

Bishop may commend her government’s new UNHCR role but nothing can hide our shame on boat turn-backs or atone for the inhumanity of our offshore detention; our neglect of Indigenous health, education and incarceration issues.

Worse, neither she nor Peter Dutton will comment on reports that Border Force is offering to pay Rohingya men on Manus to return to Myanmar and certain persecution. Yet one Rohingya detainee has already reported that he was offered $25,000.  Luckily, threat of war provides distraction. North Korea is not happy with Bishop or Australia.

Pyongyang’s news agency, which our ABC must remind us is “state-run” personally criticises Bishop; accuses Australia of joining the “frenzied political and military provocations of the US” against Pyongyang. It warns that Australia would not be able to avoid disaster if it continues to support the US stance on Pyongyang. Yet does she even know what that is?

Julie Bishop puts on her runners. She warns reporters “little rocket man” may launch a missile next week. Nuclear war could follow, she purrs, or worse, unless we drag Kim-chi Kimbo kicking and screaming to the negotiating table.

Negotiating? Donald Trump, the star of The Art of the Deal or “Fucking moron”, as secretary of state Rex Tillerson, tenderly refers to him, is sulking in his room. The President hates everyone. Another day. Another tantrum.

“We’re totally prepared for numerous things,” Trump baffles media, Friday, in a briefing that is pure Samuel Beckett.

“If something can happen where we negotiate, I’m always open to that. But if it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me we are ready, more so than we have ever been.” 

Apart from that, Trump won’t tell. Won’t give his game away. Especially as there is no game – a deception our government, Julie Bishop take a bow, enables. Jim Schoff, former senior Pentagon adviser for East Asia policy, tells The Washington Post that there are no signs that “U.S. policymakers think we’re on the brink of all-out war.”

Nor are there any signs of evacuation of the 28,000 US troops stationed in Seoul or any other civilians in South Korea while, over the border, Kim’s latest speech bags the US but is mainly about economics. North Korean soldiers are getting in the autumn harvest. Civilians are not mobilising. Only Trump and his Australian fan-club are talking up any war.

Long past the brink, mad-dog Abbott makes war on his boss from London. Experts detect another Newspoll in the field. Beyond barking, (Tel-Aviv) Dr Tony attacks his PM and all post-Christian, goat-sacrificing climate change god appeasers from The Old Dart. Climate change is crap. But, hey, if it really is real – and I’m not saying it is – it’s good for you.

Abbott makes a crap speech littered with falsehoods, a rant riven by tortured logic and inconsistencies to a bogus think-tank of coal industry puppets who clap politely in relief at the end. Bernard Keane carefully lists seventeen changes in the former PM’s position on climate change. Julie Bishop says he backed Paris; now he should explain his flip-flop.

Not a whisper from her of her former leader’s flip-flops on health, education or cuts to the ABC at the time.

The budgie-smuggler’s lunacy boosts an uneasy expectancy which falls upon us all, a wary national pessimism born of disappointment and exhaustion; boosted by the dance marathon of the postal survey on marriage equality and Josh Frydenberg’s super-elephantine four year-energy, bugger-the- climate to please Tony policy pregnancy.

In a world gone troppo, an uneasy, existential foreboding bedevils political life; the nation is waiting for Godot.

But no-one’s saying Chief Justice Susan Kiefel won’t put on a good High Court show. The odd cuckoo may even be thrown out of its parliamentary nest, or, indeed, all seven – after hearing One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts at length.

It would be un-Australian, the senator with the epistemological bent pleads, to discriminate between natural-born Aussies and “natural-born Indians” like himself.  It’s a welcome break from his party’s campaign slogans.

Oddly, the High Court expresses frustration with Roberts’ SC, Robert Newlinds, Justice Bell interjects testily: “It is unclear to me where this argument is taking you.”

If you were a betting man – and Malcolm Turnbull certainly is to have let his Deputy PM stay in parliament while disqualified – risking appeals on every decision he is party to, you would have to offer long odds on Roberts.

If Kiwi, Barnaby Joyce, were also deemed ineligible, he’d be a by-election shoo-in for his north-western NSW electorate of New England given his 58% of the primary vote last year. His anti-greenie electorate loves a water-rorting frack-champion, too.  Joyce is a huge SANTOS supporter. He hits the airwaves to plug coal seam gas extraction at Narrabri.

Joyce contradicts a federal government-appointed recent independent expert scientific committee which finds significant “knowledge gaps” in SANTOS’ local environmental impact study. And he does so with impunity. Why?

Is it self-interest? Narrabri is near Joyce’s property at Gwabegar. The Nationals’ leader forked out $572, 000 for two blocks of 1000 hectares in “mongrel country” , fit for goats, the odd migrant flightless bird and not much else, in 2006 and 2008. He had no idea that there was gas just begging to be fracked right under his property.  Amazing.

There’s no chance, he adds, any gas is going to come off his blocks. No chance his pal, John Anderson, gave him the nod – either. Anderson, a former Nationals leader, left politics, as you do, to become chairman of Eastern Gas in 2007, a firm which co-owned exploration rights to the block next door to Barnaby’s. Petroleum licences? You’ve got to be joking.

No chance of the pals’ gas-bagging about fracking. Nah. Goats and bloat mostly. Farm yarns. Land’s up for sale anyway. A  check with the agent reveals not a single enquiry. Joyce tells reporters he’s not going to make a “windfall” on the land.

Local activists say petroleum licences for the whole region depend on progress at Narrabri. Even with Barnaby’s spin, however, or with Fran Kelly’s “model corporate citizen” puff on ABC RN Breakfast, Santos has a poor record in the Pilliga. 20 toxic waste water spills at least have destroyed forest, one aquifer has been contaminated with uranium and other toxic heavy metals. Yet few gas wells have been sunk, so far; it’s the exploration phase of the project.

Mercurius Goldstein, a euphoniously named local high school teacher and The Greens’ anti-SANTOS candidate received 2.9% of the primary vote last election.  His party explains it is in it for the long haul and will contest any by-election.

Barnaby’s prospects will be boosted, also, by the fast-tracking of road projects which were funded by Labor in 2013. These languished under the Coalition which is now only too happy to discover some Opposition pork in the barrel.

A close relation to the pork barrel is the $6.25 billion taxpayers provide to subsidise private health insurance, an industry boondoggle introduced by the Howard government in 1999. Pivotal was Howard’s Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge, an entrepreneurial company director after politics, who in 2014 was subsequently fined $20,000 and banned from being a director of any company when a retirement company collapsed in 2011, owing investors $500 million.

Wooldridge was one of five former directors and did not benefit financially from the collapse. In 2016, the full court of the federal court overturned the ban, ruling that much vaunted corporate watchdog ASIC took too long to bring its case.

Preserving links with the top end of town, public health gets a soft spotlight Friday near the putting out the garbage end of this week as St George Hunt capitulates to the dragon; the government subsidised private health insurance industry.

Billed breathlessly as a “major shakeup” of healthcare policy – the biggest changes for fifteen years, the Turnbull government’s “sweeping changes”, offer a huge cut of 70 cents a week to the less than half of us who pay an average $1800 a year for private health insurance – on top of our Medicare levy.

Underwhelmed? Wait. There’s more. Policy holders may now also trade off a higher excess of $750-$1500, individual or family for lower premiums which will still rise by at least four per cent per year. Of course other savings are promised.

Instead of paying on average 119% more for having your cardiac device, for example, fitted in a private hospital, the cost of prosthetic devices to private patients will come down. That’s a promise.

Not only would private health insurers save $1 billion over four years on cheaper prostheses, Hunt claims, the saving would be passed on to customers.  It’s a trickle-down benefit, he’d like to pretend you get in the operating theatre. There’s no evidence of this ever happening. Every year, private health insurance premiums inexorably rise.

Clearly, the Coalition’s better health slogan applies only for the industry.  It continues to wage war on the planet and on public health in its four year failure to come up with an energy policy which even remotely considers public health.

Expect the next week in politics to be brimming with promises of affordable, reliable energy which is what the spin doctors hope will confuse punters who may want to know what we are really doing to meet our Paris targets, weak as they are or to curb the pollution that each year takes lives in towns that host coal-burning power stations .

Research estimates that 24 people die for every terawatt hours (TWh) of coal burnt.

Expect to hear nothing about health risks, or environmental costs or the fact that 95% of LaTrobe valley pollution is caused by coal. Expect to hear about the cheap cost of coal power and nothing about the health costs.

A 2009 Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering report put the health costs of coal-fired power stations at A$13 per MWh of electricity generated from coal (about $2.6 billion a year). Climate change and other environmental costs were not included.

Of course when the going gets tough, there’s always the diversion of North Korea’s threats to nuke us all now that Kim has displaced Bashar Al Assad as international evil monster du jour. Expect great celebration and self-congratulation now that we’ve been elected unopposed to a UN Human Rights Council, even though we’re not worthy of belonging.

Just don’t expect leadership. Or honesty or accountability. The week shows just how far this government will kowtow to vested interests; its great and powerful friends and their lobby groups.

Whatever the rhetoric, in the end, its “principled and pragmatic leadership” translates into the ruthless pursuit of power by any means; by the powerful for the powerful.

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and political storms

Last weekend, we saw the grand finals for both the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL). Coincidently it was also a long weekend in the Eastern States which probably allowed those with a particular allegiance to return to some semblance of normality before they had to go back to work on Tuesday.

There has been a week for all those who know something about football to comment on who won the finals, how well (or badly — depending on your opinion and if you supported the winners or the losers) they played and how this will translate into the 2018 season. Given that this is a political blog, rather than a sporting one, apart from not having a clue, the decision has been taken not add to the hysteria.

Over the years, there has been an increased amount of glitz and glamour at both codes’ end of season celebrations. A cynic could suggest that in part the additional ‘inducements’ such as half-time entertainment, aircraft flyovers and so on attempt to justify the high prices of admission to the MCG or Stadium Australia on the respective Saturday or Sunday.

It was hard to ignore that an American rap singer named Macklemore was booked to sing at the NRL grand final last Sunday thanks to self-appointed Prime Minister in waiting Tony Abbott again making a comment before putting brain in gear. Abbott’s twitter comment was ‘Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport’. Abbott was supporting a Change.org petition by a former NRL player Tony Wall (with a record of 12 NRL games) asking the NRL to re-consider their ‘political’ position.

The reason for the petition was that ‘half-time’ NRL final entertainer Macklemore released a song in 2012 called ‘Same Love’. Apparently it is about same sex marriage, and it was announced that he would sing that plus a couple of other songs in front of 80,000 people at the 2017 NRL grand final. It seems obvious that the NRL have some statistic to link Macklemore and those that are either attracted to (or the NRL would like to attract to) watching Rugby League on a regular basis. It would be standard practice that Macklemore was booked by the NRL after contract negotiations and some agreement on what each party (Macklemore and the NRL) would bring to the day and the decision was made a considerable time ago to fit the artist’s commitments. Considering Turnbull only called the plebiscite (oops! Survey) a few months ago, it stands to reason that the NRL booking was made considerably earlier than Turnbull’s announcement of the survey process.

So when Abbott was on the medal presentation dais (getting booed by the way) at the end of the 2014 NRL grand final he wasn’t politicising sport? OK, we’ll give him the exception that proves the rule. But on second thoughts, how about media interviews in football stadiums, at AFL presentations, at the cricket with then NZ Prime Minister John Keys, with the Australian Woman’s Cricket Team, the Indian Cricket Team, the Australian Soccer Team, when the Australian Rugby Union gave him a named jersey, or in the ABC Cricket commentary box. All of these ‘exceptions’ are lovingly detailed by Buzzfeed here, along with pictures and a link to Macklemore’s subversive and political song which was released five years before Abbott probably knew who Macklemore was.

Abbott’s problems don’t end there. As Attorney-General George Brandis pointed out, Macklemore (as well as the rest of us) have an implied right of free speech, while calling Abbott’s comment ‘bizarre’. Even Abbott’s daughter, Frances (who has appeared in pro same-sex marriage advertising) bought into the discussion

I still remember the first time I heard this song. I was sitting in my car, about to get out and go to work … but stopped and listened. And that same day I went and bought the album and kept it in my car and listened to it over and over again.

I can’t think of a better song for all the hundreds and thousands of people to listen to on Saturday. This is what we need right now.

Go harder @macklemore.

Go harder’ is another Macklemore song performed last weekend and Frances Abbott’s sentiment was supported by the NRL and the singer

Macklemore himself and the NRL also refused to back down. The rapper said he would “go harder” as a result of the criticism.

The myth is that a gold fish has a three second memory. The myth is wrong but Abbott must think that Australians can’t remember when he was trying to remove Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act a couple of years ago. The problem came about when fellow ultra-conservative and media commentator Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching the Act. Abbott claimed:

Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous,” he said as opposition leader.

If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.

The Guardian article linked above also reports a speech made by Abbott to the Institute of Public Affairs in 2012, while still Opposition Leader

[freedom of speech] is not just an academic nicety but the essential precondition for any kind of progress

A child learns by trial and error. A society advances when people can discuss what works and what doesn’t. To the extent that alternatives can’t be discussed, people are tethered to the status quo, regardless of its effectiveness, he said.

Going further, Abbott added that without “free speech, free debate is impossible and without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.

Freedom of speech is part of the compact between citizen and society on which democratic government rests, he said.

A threat to citizens’ freedom of speech is more than an error of political judgment. “It reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the give and take between government and citizen on which a peaceful and harmonious society is based.

Abbott in 2012 would not only support things being said that he agreed with:
“It’s human nature of course, to support free speech, as long as it’s agreeable. The trouble is deciding which opinions can be censored.”

Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked on Channel 10’s The Project for his opinion on the call to ‘ban’ Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’.

The Prime Minister described the American as a “great artist”, who should be allowed to sing all his hits at Sunday’s NRL grand final, despite calls for one song to be banned.

“He should perform whatever he wants to perform, I mean for heaven’s sake, it’s the half-time entertainment at the grand final,” Mr Turnbull told the Ten Network.

Conservative Tasmanian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz was on ABC News Breakfast last Sunday making the case that because the Australian Parliament couldn’t make the right decision (i.e. repeal of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act), it can’t be trusted to make the decision on marriage equity. What Abetz and Abbott, to name two, don’t get is that the discussion should be about equity, not equality or the current reality.

Meme from Twitter

As the graphic demonstrates clearly, there is a large gap between the concepts. Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, colour, ethnic or national origin. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with Senator Abetz because you have a different view of the necessity for the words ‘offend ‘and ‘humiliate’ to be in Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, but it isn’t acceptable in the eyes of the law to disagree with Senator Abetz solely because one of his ancestors had links to the Nazi Party in World War 2 Germany, and nor should it be. Abetz claimed that some of his Senate colleagues were discriminated against in 2016 as they were labelled with a number of uncomplimentary terms including ‘angry white males’ in a Fairfax media report written by Mark Kenny. They weren’t as it was the opinion of the writer being expressed based on facts (the Senators in question are male with white skin) — not a criticism of the respective Senator’s beliefs based on their race, colour or origin.

At least the conservatives are consistent on this. Both the marriage equity and Section 18C debates have been about equity — the concept that not everyone is equal and we as a society should attempt to redress this. The debate (thankfully lost at the moment by the conservatives) was to make it legal to humiliate or offend people solely because they had a different skin colour or came from a certain ethnic or national group. The current debate is to refuse to allow two people who love each other to marry, despite the couple not necessarily fitting into the traditional concept of marriage. In both cases, they are arguing for the entrenchment of the rights of ‘the angry white men’ to continue as the dictators of what is right and acceptable in our society. This is not equality, it’s certainly not equity and it’s also not fair to the people in our society that are not ‘angry white males’.

Not everyone is the same. If everyone had the same aspirations and beliefs, General Motors and Ford would still be rolling Commodores and Falcons down the production line and making squillions, there would only be three or four television channels and only the well-off would be able to travel overseas. Instead we have a large number of vehicle importers, there are numerous options to use various forms of electronic media for education and entertainment and there are full aircraft bound for New Zealand, Bali (volcanos permitting) and beyond daily attesting to the change in demographics of people that can afford to travel overseas.

It is easy to argue that Abbott and Abetz are wrong — the Parliament did actually comply with the wishes of the Australian people on the proposed removal of Section 18C and, based on the opinion polls, the Australian Parliament would have been correct in believing that the majority of Australians either want or don’t care about the removal of gender stereotyping in the Marriage Act. Should there have been a vote without wasting $122 million of your and my money in a non-mandatory, non-binding survey of voters? While the two gentlemen concerned are entitled to an opinion (and for the record I won’t be marrying someone of the same gender any time soon either), none of us have the right to attempt to restrict equity of our society as Abbott, Abetz and their fellow travellers seem to want to do.

Abbott said in 2012 while Opposition Leader, ‘without free debate, the democratic process cannot work properly.’

The NRL (and AFL) have declared that at a corporate level, their respective sports favour marriage equity and according to Abbott in the past, they have the right to proclaim that publicly. While he has the right to proclaim the concept that allowing marriage equity will result in a Pandora’s box of atrocity (which is factually wrong based on experience in any other jurisdiction that allows marriage equity such as New Zealand, the USA and Ireland), Abbott according to his own statement, doesn’t have the right to criticise anyone for publicising an opinion different to his.

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

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Day to Day Politics: Ideology versus the Common Good

Saturday 7 October  2017

In my view the common good should always take precedence over ideology. A case in point is the amount of sugar fat and salt we consume. Common sense suggests that if the government legislated to lower the amount of these substances in processed food we would end up with a healthier society with less financial pressure on the health system.

However, political ideology would have it that governments have no right to tell the public how much of theses substances people they can consume. If that is correct then society must also accept the bill.

For me it’s a no brainer. The common good should come first. Why should my taxes pay for the unhealthy lifestyle of others. If lives can be saved, they should be. Political philosophy shouldn’t play any part.

How About a Fat Policy That Saves Lives and Money?

FAT, SUGAR and SALT are the major contributors to obesity heart disease and many other health problems. These three ingredients kill more people than tobacco and alcohol combined. All three are found in fast and packaged food. In Australia obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Governments continually tell us about the spiralling costs of our health system and not to far into the future health will take up the largest percentage of the budget. If science tells us that these three ingredients are killing us at an alarming rate you would think it was only a matter of common sense to at least reduce the amount we digest.

Just to digress, I recently said to my daughter when one of her children was drinking a can of soft drink.

“Would you sit the child down and pour 13 teaspoons of sugar into his mouth?”

“Of course not,” she answered.

“That’s the amount of sugar in the can,” I responded.

A quote of mine (years old now) that leads into my argument.

It is only when the health bill of this nation reaches unaffordable proportions that the government will legislate for a reduction in the amount of salt, fat and sugar in processed and fast foods. But the conservatives will probably still oppose it on the basis of freedom of choice.

The Lancet in its latest publication reported on the “Most comprehensive global study to date shows obesity rates climbing worldwide.”

Here are some comments from the report.

The authors warn that the study presents a worrying picture of substantial rises in obesity rates across the world and say that concerted action is urgently needed to reverse this trend.

In high-income countries, some of the highest increases in adult obesity prevalence have been in the USA (where roughly a third of the adult population are obese), Australia (where 28% of men and 30% of women are obese), and the UK (where around a quarter of the adult population are obese).

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood has increased remarkably in developed countries, from 17% in 1980 to 24% in 2013 in boys and from 16% to 23% in girls. Similarly, in developing countries, rates have risen from roughly 8% to 13% in both boys and girls over the three decades.

There can be no doubting that the science is saying that the intake of these substances needs to be dramatically reduced. That concerted action needs to be taken now.

We propose, because we believe we have a duty of care of our people, to regulate the amount of sugar, salt and fat that is inflicted on the community in processed and fast foods. We don’t propose an immediate reduction but rather a gradual withdrawal to reasonable limits, as advised by science, over a five-year period. This will reduce the obesity and the mortality it brings with it. And with it reduce the pressure on our health system. We cannot idly stand by while companies destroy the health of our nation and particularly that of our children who if the current trends continue will have shorter life expectancy than their parents.

The objections of course would be twofold. One would be from the conservatives who would argue that there is too much regulation already and it takes away freedom of choice. But what is wrong with regulation if it serves the common good-by making people healthier. I struggle to think of a part of my life that isn’t regulated be it crossing the road with traffic lights, building a house, using a credit card or driving a car. There are literally thousands of regulations that I have to obey.

Two of course is the industries that profit from obesity. The companies that promote the consumption of salt, sugar and fat. It’s a capitalistic profit argument versus the health of people.My point though is that if these substances were withdrawn over a period of time consumption wouldn’t necessarily decline because people would adjust to taste. Voluntary withdrawal is not likely to work.

Therefore, it is a political problem that requires a political solution with government willing to show leadership on behalf of the people. Government simply cannot afford to hide from the science as it has with climate change.

The report interestingly doesn’t talk about reduction by regulation in the way I have, seemingly because it sees the wall of capitalistic intervention as being to high although Professor Klim McPherson from Oxford University in the UK makes this observation, “An appropriate rebalancing of the primal needs of humans with food availability is essential, which would entail curtailing many aspects of production and marketing for food industries.

Obesity in Australia

Australia is today ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. The prevalence of obesity in Australia has more than doubled in the past 20 years.
Here is a round-up of Australian obesity facts & figures:

Of great concern is the health consequence to Indigenous Australians, who are today twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to be obese and are ranked the fourth-highest population in the world that is likely to suffer from type-2 diabetes.

Fourteen million Australians are overweight or obese.

More than five million Australians are obese

If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2025, close to 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.

Obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia. Obesity has become the single biggest threat to public health in Australia.

On the basis of present trends we can predict that by the time they reach the age of 20 our kids will have a shorter life expectancy than earlier generations simply because of obesity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.

Secondary Complications

More than 900,000 Australians suffer from diabetes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the fourth highest rate of Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, or NIDDM) in the world and are 1.9 times as likely as non-indigenous Australians to be obese.

Australians reporting heart, stroke and vascular diseases aged 15 years and over were much more likely to be classified as overweight or obese than those without heart stroke and vascular disease (65% compared with 51%).

Health disorders in children like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, hypertension and sleep apnea can be directly attributed to childhood obesity.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) account for approximately quarter of the burden of disease in Australia, and just under two-thirds of all deaths. These three diseases often occur together and share risk factors, such as physical inactivity, overweight and obesity and high blood pressure.The growing curse of inequality.

Did you know that 10 per cent of Australians now hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined? Let me put it another way. The richest one per cent of Australians are collectively wealthier than the poorest 60 per cent. Or try this 62 mega-rich people across the globe now hold as much wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest. Try this. Australia’s richest person was worth $18 billion, equaling the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Aussies.

Here’s some more from an Oxfam report titled “An Economy for the 1%“:

The world’s richest 1% now hold more wealth than the rest of the planet.

The richest 10 per cent of Australians hold more wealth than the other 90 per cent combined.

The gap between Australia’s richest and poorest is accelerating.

In 2015, the wealth of Australia’s richest 1% outstripped the poorest 60%.

Australia’s richest person is worth more than all of the wealth held by the poorest 10 per cent of Australians.

Dr Szoke from Oxfam, the reports writer, said Australia must be part of a global solution to a global problem, and a renewed international focus on corporate tax avoidance would be critical to efforts to address wealth inequality.

So isn’t it odd that the Turnbull Government is contemplating increasing the rate of its consumer tax in order to give the same companies a reduction in the amount of tax they pay. Figure that out.

My thought for the day

“When talking about the cost of living I think people get confused. There is a big difference between the cost of living and cost of lifestyle. A recent survey found that 56% of those complaining about the cost of living had taken an overseas trip in the same year. And a further 52% had reduced dining out from three to two times a week.”

It’s not your call, Mark

If the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge thought he was going to make a definitive statement in the same sex marriage debate, he will have to do better than yesterday. “They don’t qualify for what we call marriage.” These were his words on ABC yesterday, describing same sex couples.

Bishop Coleridge’s argument is based on the principle that there is more than one kind of love. On that basic point he is right. The love between parent and child, brother and sister, for example is not the same as the love between a man and a woman who wish to marry.

But where Bishop Coleridge goes off the rails, is in thinking that same sex couples do not feel the same love for each other as do a man and a woman who wish to marry. He, as a celibate man, could not possibly know that.

Therefore, one can only guess that his comments reflect a theology carefully constructed by his Church to counter the same sex marriage argument. But such theology is flawed, and so is his Church.

Bishop Coleridge is careful to acknowledge that same sex couples are equal but claims that there is only one form of love for marriage and that is between a man and a woman. Nicely phrased but, simply not true. Society framed marriage. Society can change it.

To his credit, he refrained from quoting any perceived bible reference to the issue. That would have been too much. But he did suggest that equality has qualifications. “Every human being is equal, but not are all the same.” Really? Does that mean some are more equal than others?

He correctly notes that human society has always discriminated in deciding who can marry. Yes, that’s true, they have and in most cases, for good reason. There are biological reasons why brother and sister should not marry. Society, he says, has also ruled out marriage between people of the same sex. “That is not to say that they are not equal, but that they don’t qualify for what we call marriage,” he said.

Don’t qualify? In what way? Who decided what those qualifications would be? Over the past 2000 years governments around the world did. And they did so without recourse to the people. But this government doesn’t have the ticker for that, so they are asking us.

We have come a long way since the Stone Age. Human society has always made changes as it continues to evolve over time. When it decides certain long held views are no longer appropriate, society changes them. This is one such occasion.

In the end, we the people, will decide who can get married and who can’t. We the people have the ticker and will make the changes. This is just one of them. There will be others. That’s what the people do.

We have come a long way since the Catholic Church held sway over the decisions of governments across the western world. Their contribution to this debate no longer carries the clout it once did. In that sense their voice is just one more in the chorus.

The Catholic Church had to be taught that protecting paedophiles within its ranks was wrong. It has been forced to change whether it likes it or not. It is unlikely it will ever change its view on same sex marriage, but society has. It may not like it, but it must learn to respect it.

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