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If you had put money on the claim that ’sensitive new age’ Opposition Leader Peter Dutton would genuinely work co-operatively with others to actually improve Australia and the life of Australians until the next election, you would have lost your cash early in January. That’s when Dutton reverted to type as the feeder of red meat to his base constituency of right-wing conservatives by issuing a letter to the Prime Minister asking 15 questions about the proposed ‘Voice to Parliament’ referendum.

Like everyone else, Dutton has a right to ask questions about the proposed ‘Voice’, however he should also be looking for available information prior to making himself look silly. While he might claim he is making a valuable contribution to the debate, all he is really doing is spreading fear, uncertainty and deception; especially when he supplies a copy of his letter to selected (friendly) media outlets prior to the media announcement and sends the email to a generic email address in the Prime Minister’s Office afterwards, despite Dutton (you would imagine) having access to the Prime Minister’s official contact details.

It should be noted that the Federal Liberal Party Room has yet to formally commit to supporting or opposing the proposed referendum. The Federal Nationals have announced they oppose it, as a result Andrew Gee has decided to renounce his Nationals membership and sit as an Independent MP in federal parliament. No doubt the Liberal Party MP’s have a variety of views. Party ‘elders’ John Howard and Tony Abbott are publicly supporting the ‘no’ case. In Abbott’s case, he is an adviser to the conservative lobby group Advance who are promoting a ‘no’ vote using advertising material that has been banned from a social media provider’s products because it is false.

The fact is that Dutton and everyone else has access to the From the Heart’ website where there is a lot of discussion on how the voice is planned to operate. Unlike us, Dutton also has access to Ministers in both the current and former government who would be able to clarify and explain anything Dutton was unsure of. If Dutton hasn’t taken this step prior to releasing his letter of demands, it demonstrates that he is clueless despite having an array of party hacks and political staffers around him to ‘help’ him search out what he wants to know. If Dutton does already know how the process would work and still released his ‘questions’ – he is duplicitous at best. The information isn’t hard to find using your preferred search engine.

Dutton’s claim that the questions were relevant is frankly rubbish. The only certainty in life is change and uncertainty. Five years ago, Scott Morrison was publicly praising Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, saying that no one could do a better job a Prime Minister and Dutton was in charge of concentration camps (amongst other things) as Home Affairs Minister. If Dutton had told people in 2018 that in 2023 he would be Opposition Leader, Albanese would be Prime Minister and would take nearly a year between ordering some Toyota vehicles and ‘enjoying’ the new car smell they would have thought him mad. Dutton has no better idea of the future than anyone else – yet he is asking for specific detail of how the future looks from others. Of course there will have to be legislation and administrative arrangements that will need to be made for the ‘Voice’ once there is a direction from the Australian public that the Constitution should be altered. Parliament is the correct place to discuss the specifics of how the organisation operates once the time comes. It is pointless asking at this stage the name of the person who will answer the phone at 9.56am on the first Tuesday of May in 2028 at the ‘Voice’ office (assuming there is one) because no one, including the ultimate phone answerer themselves knows the correct answer. If Dutton is as good at predicting with accuracy specific details in the future as he expects others to be – he is wasted as a politician.

This isn’t to say that the Government has handled this well either. Fear, uncertainty and desperation only thrives in a vacuum. As discussed in The Saturday Paper, Dutton’s letter is effectively 15 ‘gotcha’ questions and Albanese should have been in a position to demonstrate the ridiculousness of Dutton’s attack,

Dutton had not one but 15 gotcha questions for Labor on the Voice this week. In response, Albanese waved garlic in the miraculously resurrected opposition leader’s general direction and volunteered his version of [Green’s Leader Adam] Bandt’s [at the National Press Club during the 2022 election campaign] “Google it, mate!”, except it was 41 words long rather than three.

“People can log on now,” Albanese told the ABC’s 7.30 on Monday night, “and look at the report of Tom Calma and Marcia Langton, and they can look at the interim report that the committee, co-chaired by Julian Leeser, who is now responsible for Indigenous Affairs in the Coalition.”

Some ABC viewers would, in fact, have done just that. They’d be a tiny sliver of the population willing to do so in these peak swimming, swilling and snoozing weeks of the January holidays.

There lies the problematic circularity in Albanese’s response. If widespread support for an initiative to ensure active listening to the voice of Indigenous Australians rests on voters being good-enough listeners to work out why it’s worth supporting, how likely is that to happen?

The Government has correctly determined that the introduction of a ‘Voice to Parliament’ for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is a worthwhile objective. The need for a referendum is to ensure that a future government can’t nobble or eliminate the ‘Voice to Parliament’ in the future. To get this done, they have to get a referendum passed by a majority of Australians and a majority in the majority of states of Australia. The government should have been far more prepared for a negative reaction from the conservative spear throwers of the Coalition ably backed and amplified by sections of the media. Adam Bandt’s ‘Google it. mate’ is a far better option that Albanese’s 41-word response to a question on ABC’s 7.30. Bandt’s response shows the questioner hasn’t done their homework and is looking for a cheap shot, Albanese’s doesn’t.

Albanese’s Government does show potential, Chris Bowen’s turning the Abbott era environmental ‘safeguard mechanism’ into something that actually works – gaining praise from industry participants in the process – is brilliance. Foreign Minister Penny Wong has managed to organise a number of discussions with other governments in our region that wouldn’t have been seen dead talking to the Morrison Government’s Ministers and Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt seems very capable in organising assistance in natural disasters in contrast to anyone in the former Coalition Government.

But every time a Government Minister forgets a statistic or fluffs the explanation of how a policy will work, some of the gloss rubs off the entire government. Crikey has published an article suggesting the Government will lose this referendum unless it develops a sentence that represents and explains why we need a ‘Voice to Parliament’ and uses it at every opportunity, which the current practice of rambling explanations and coming across as dodging the question doesn’t do. They should be doing better.

 

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Power corrupts …

We probably shouldn’t be too surprised when someone in the NSW Liberal Party floats a rumour of a misdeed 20 years ago when it suits their political agenda. You might recollect about 12 months ago, the New South Wales Liberal Party delayed the pre-selection of candidates for some electorates in the May 2022 Federal Election. There were all sorts of excuses thrown around at the time but most commentators suggested one of the factions of the Liberal Party was playing politics until they could massage the numbers to have their preferred nominees confirmed. Despite claims over the years, clearly, the Liberal Party has factions with operatives that seem to despise each other to a far greater degree than they detest members of other political parties. The ‘branch’ members of the Liberal Party that actually believe in the ideals and ambitions of the Liberal Party bear the brunt of the political machinations through more adverse publicity, declining membership, and potentially more time in opposition.

This month we find out that current NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet wore a nazi uniform to his 21st birthday party in 2003. We also find out that someone in the NSW Liberal Party was the one that told him there was some gossip on the subject, which led him to ‘self-report’ the insensitivity publicly, albeit 20 years after it happened. As ABC News suggests

At best, it’s a privileged private school graduate and Sydney University law student celebrating the traditional start of adult life with the ultimate cringe.

At worst, it shows a complete disregard for the mass murder of millions — the history, suffering and survival of Jewish people globally nothing more than collateral damage in the name of a costume.

Regardless of the reason for Perrottet dressing as he did 20 years ago, it demonstrates that education at a privileged private school and ‘sandstone’ university doesn’t necessarily give you an understanding of ethics and morals.

The same ABC News article goes on to suggest that the reason Perrottet’s insensitive actions from 20 years ago is revisited months out from a NSW state election is pure politics. Perrottet has announced a policy for gambling at NSW pokies will require a limited-value cashless card to use the machines, rather than feeding additional currency into the machine. Some Liberals with connections to the gambling industry believe the proposals go too far and will reduce revenue. Obviously, the NSW Liberal Party is not the cohesive and close-knit group that it claims to be. You have to wonder if the NSW Liberals want to win the March state election – or is settling scores more important? The apparently diminishing number of Liberal Party ‘branch’ members are being dudded by their leadership – yet again.

Some however may be more surprised there is politics in the Catholic Church. For centuries, Catholics have been told that the Pope is the representative of the Christian God on this planet. They are also told the Christian God chooses the Pope in the enclave process by directing the Cardinals in prayer and reflection on who to choose. The recent death of Cardinal George Pell caused justifiable angst for a number of different groups of people, not least some of his fellow Cardinals that believe the current Pope isn’t necessarily following the traditions of the Catholic Church. It has been claimed that Pell wrote a memo dictating his differences with the current Pope which has been leaked outside the intended audience. the author of the document makes a number of claims where the current Pope has not lived up to the expectations of Pell and apparently others who believe

“The first tasks of the new pope will be to restore normality, restore doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, restore a proper respect for the law and ensure that the first criterion for the nomination of bishops is acceptance of the apostolic tradition”

It seems the current Pope is also an accomplished political player. The ABC reports that

there are now also at least 83 cardinals appointed by Pope Francis (the majority out of 132). He chose them specifically for their pastoral expertise as opposed to their political nous.

So the numbers are not likely in favour of the Pell faction.

Like the Liberal Party elders, Pell is reputed to have actively campaigned for the status quo instead of change. He did campaign against a number of Australian social rights legislative programs both before and after the legislation went to Parliament. Some say he didn’t act upon the reports of moral and ethical failings of others in his span of control until his position became completely untenable.

Unfortunately, there are millions of people around the world that are doing good works in the name of the Catholic Church, whether it be assisting people to find food, clothing and shelter, providing health care and emotional support to individuals or communities that are in distress. There are hundreds of practical and genuinely helpful programs across countless communities around the world routinely organised in the name of the Catholic Church. Yet it seems that some of the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church are more interested in retaining the status quo and their power than adapting their organisation to be relevant to the commonly accepted standards of the communities the organisation is active in. The decreasing number of those that are actually doing the good in the name of the Catholic Church have been dudded yet again.

Dudding those at the bottom of the power pyramid seems to be a common trait of those in power. Maybe it’s true – power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

 

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The rise of the snowflake

According to conservative political lore, a snowflake is a person with progressive ideas who will melt when confronted with a bit of heat and pressure.

The script according to the conservative parties around the world is the ‘snowflakes’ of 20 or 30 years ago gradually become more possessive of the increasing value of property and belongings they have accumulated since they have ‘settled down’. The theory is that they realise rather than wanting to punish the rich, they are now the rich themselves and vote accordingly. The conservatives have a problem. The ‘snowflakes’ of the last 20 or so years aren’t following the script as they age.

The Australian edition of The Guardian noted this recently

According to data from the Australian Electoral Commission there are now four electorates where those under 40 make up more than 45% of the voters in the seat: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Griffith. Griffith is an inner-city seat in Brisbane. Both Brisbane and Griffith switched to the Greens, which means the Greens now hold three of the top four.

The Coalition lost 18 seats and government, with almost all the lost seats in the major cities. The one bright spot for the Coalition was that they lost no rural seats. Rural seats are older. The 10 electorates with the smallest proportion of people under 40 are all rural seats (with the National party holding five of them). These are the seats that will see the slowest impact from millennials.

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion than the generic employment insecurity and economic policies aimed at the young by conservatives over the past 30 or so years have created the political problems that the conservatives are suffering. The apparent lack of action on the world’s environmental crisis certainly hasn’t helped either.

As noted in an opinion piece recently in The Guardian

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan offered clear, coherent visions of society, even if their worship of free markets delivered economic insecurity and stagnating living standards. While today’s Tories and Trumpified Republicans remain committed to defending privileged interests, their driving ambition now seems to be deliberately provoking fury among the progressively minded, much to the delight of their supporters. It’s this tendency that led Donald Trump to denounce Mexicans as criminals and attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US; it’s the same tendency that drove the [UK] home secretary, Suella Braverman, to declare that her “dream” and “obsession” was to see a flight transporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. Cruelty is precisely the point

A number of the policies instituted by Australian Governments of both sides also conform to this ideology, including offshore detention, scaling of government payments to ensure they do not reflect the true costs of living in the community, punitive restrictions on accessibility to services and even more punitive ‘compliance’ activities such as robodebt.

People who aren’t necessarily voting conservative as they age is not solely a problem for Australian conservatives either, with American and UK media outlets observing similar shifts in voting patterns. The recent US ‘mid-term’ elections are another example. The ‘red wave’ towards the Republican Party promised by many failed to eventuate, despite the President’s political party usually suffering significant losses at the election halfway through the term of office. The brouhaha around the election of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives this month demonstrates the no compromise mindset of the conservatives – regardless of how silly it makes them look.

While the millennial ‘snowflakes’ seem to be bucking the trend of favouring conservative parties as they age, the ALP shouldn’t necessarily be relaxed and comfortable with the result either, Griffith was Kevin Rudd’s seat.

It is not enough to promise action that will improve the living standards of millennials. They must fix these problems. If millennials come to believe that neither major party will make any real difference, then they will start to look elsewhere.

The teals took advantage of this at the last election, running on stronger action on climate change than either of the major parties. Some of the teals, like Sophie Scamps in Mackellar, also ran on affordable housing. The Greens ran hard on all three in the inner-city Brisbane electorates they had such great success with.

While they are nominally separate groups, have the Australian conservatives learnt from the recent election and the Liberal Party’s review of their performance? Probably not. It seems the ‘no’ campaign for the proposed Voice referendum is not even trying to convince the millennials of the worth of their argument. The ‘worth’ of the campaign is probably also an overstatement as Facebook has already banned some of the ‘no’ campaign’s advertising. The advertisements in question have been deemed false by an independent fact checking organisation contracted to Meta, Facebook’s owner.

Nature and the environment can teach us a lot of lessons. In areas around the world that have been permanently evacuated by humans, nature gradually reclaims the space, plants grow over buildings and animals roam in search food and shelter. There is a point where conservative practices won’t work anymore in a similar way to the need to invent and commercialise increasingly powerful insecticides, weedkillers and medicines to retain the status quo. In contrast a ‘snowflake’ is made of water which can be reformed by nature time and time again, given the right circumstances.

 

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Fear is so 20 years ago

It wouldn’t be that hard to take yet another potshot at the conservative side of politics given some of the revelations at the traditional release of ‘Cabinet in Confidence’ documents on New Years Day 2023. It’s probably more realistic to suggest that what was done 20 years ago is done, all the ranting and railing in the world now won’t make any of the decisions more palatable.

As is the National Archives tradition, they invited a former Cabinet Member to be present when the Cabinet Papers were released – which is actually done earlier in December. This year, the former Cabinet Minister was Amanda Vanstone. According to media reports, Vanstone claimed decisions made at the time withstood scrutiny in her view and she is confident that the same decisions would have been made today by the same people in the same room with the same political ideology, without the benefit of retrospect. She has a point

Vanstone called on people judging the actions of governments to try to put themselves in the cabinet room, where nuanced debates were had and making a submission could be all consuming.

What we should be looking at here is the ideology of the people making the decisions. The group making the decisions were richly rewarded for their now discredited claims that children were being thrown overboard a few years earlier and the leadership enjoyed a degree of popularity based on ‘national security’ fears. Arguably, the concept served them well for the subsequent 20 years.

As The Guardian points out, since September 11 2001, 96 new pieces of ‘terrorism related’ legislation have been passed by the Australian Parliament. As recently as December 2022 some were asking if additional laws were required to address concerns with right-wing extremism. They aren’t.

Most of the offences and powers rely on a broad statutory definition of terrorism. A “terrorist act” means harmful conduct or a threat that aims to: (1) advance a political, religious or ideological cause; and (2) intimidate a government or section of the public.

Importantly, this definition is ideologically neutral – as are all the laws. They do not mention Islamist or right-wing terrorism.

The laws apply equally to these and other terror threats, no matter the ideology. A white supremacist who prepares or commits a terrorist act faces life imprisonment in the same way as a religious fundamentalist.

Current Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill suggested at the National Press Club that while the current laws seemed to be sufficient, there might be some tweaks to definitions and various offences under existing laws to counteract the different methods of operation of right-wing extremists.

We should however remember that those that do not remember their history are destined to repeat it. (As an observation on the way through, The National Library, National Gallery and National Archives are also severely underfunded, which doesn’t help us properly retain our history.) While we all shouldn’t be given all the details of perceived threats to ‘national security’ there is a need for the claimed concerns to be proven as genuine.

Arguably, the classification of those claiming asylum as illegal ‘boat people’ and their implied characterisation as potential ‘terrorists’ who need to be taken to ‘detention centres’ located in foreign countries increases the fear and potential hatred for political purposes of ethnically similar people in the community. It was never about ‘national security’. There is nothing in the UN 1952 refugee agreement that states how a person should travel to a place of asylum. The behaviour of both sides of politics in singling out people by ethnicity or nationality as potential ‘terrorists’ together with the concept of indefinite detention is another stain on our history that Australians need to apologise for. Refusing to discuss ‘on water’ matters and a compliant media company only amps up that fear. As recently as November 2022, the Coalition were still ‘trying it on’ equating people from the middle east with ‘terrorism’ with circumstantial evidence at best to support the argument.

In May 2022, the Albanese Government came to power and actually achieved something the Coalition Government claimed it was going to do – get the federal government off the front page of the paper. Despite the desires of a former US President who incited a failed coup in January 2021, the population of the USA didn’t follow their normal practice of punishing the current President’s political party in their ‘mid-term’ elections. Despite going to the ‘run off’ election, serial candidate and fundamentalist right-wing conservative Marie Le Pen wasn’t elected as French President – again. Both events were a ‘surprise’ to the media reporting.

Perhaps there is a change in the air. The politics of fear and loathing seem to be far less certain of a win than they were a few years ago. In the US anyway, electors have had two years of President Biden and while his televised speeches don’t have the same pizazz as his immediate predecessor, Americans chose to remain close to the status quo. In Australia, according to the political insiders, Albanese stuffed up the election campaign on Day 1 when he couldn’t recount a statistic off the top of his head. By contrast, it seems that more Australians chose to give him a shot (maybe because he came across as a human and capable of saying he didn’t have instant recall of everything) than the incumbent at the time who was trying to be ‘Presidential’, even though the Liberal Party admitted in their election review he didn’t have the popularity to ensure the plan worked.

Generally, traditional media’s (newspapers and TV news) importance is also declining in popularity and relevance. If you believed the media, Dan Andrews wasn’t going to be re-elected as Victorian Premier either. The Liberal Party opposition and a certain media company ran a pretty negative campaign – stopping just short of interviewing the steps that Dan Andrews tripped down, severely injuring his back some time ago.

The next Australian test for the proposition that people are over the fear and nastiness of election campaigns in the New South Wales state election in March. Let’s hope the majority of the campaigning and advertising is designed to build the respective political parties up rather than tear the ‘other guys’ down. If so, the change of mindset will lead to outcomes where people are respected and opinions are considered regardless of who wins – which is a good result for all.

 

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Blame them – not us

In the week before Christmas, most people are trying to remember if Uncle Mark and Uncle Barry can be seated close to each other without arguing about ‘the incident that ruined Christmas’ (which shook the family to it’s core in 1996), joining the crowds in the local shopping centre, checking the car for the ‘road trip’ to see the rellies or laughing at those doing any of the above because they are super-organised and had everything ready to go by December 1. The week before Christmas is also a good time for politicians to ‘bring out the trash’, better known as provide information that was promised but they really don’t want people to think too much about.

And so it was the week before Christmas in 2022. The Liberal Party released it’s review of the 2022 election campaign on 22 December. The reviewers, shadow Finance Minister Senator Jane Hume and former Liberal Party Director Brian Loughnane, who also happens to be married to ‘Sky after dark’ presenter Peta Credlin. identified one of the significant negatives was Scott Morrison, noting

“The prime minister’s standing with voters deteriorated significantly through 2021 to become a significant negative. The prime minister and the party were seen as ‘out of touch’,”

The Guardian reported

The review noted that “deep frustration among party members” about being locked out of preselection processes made them “reluctant to volunteer”.

The Coalition was forced to fight on multiple fronts: in teal seats where voters “had a different set of election priorities”, making a national election message difficult; while also losing votes to minor parties and independents who “broadly could be considered rightwing”.

Although the primary vote of both major parties decreased, Labor was able to benefit from a higher flow of preferences from minor parties both from its left (the Greens) and its right, with 35.7% of One Nation preferences flowing to Labor and 38.14% of United Australia votes.

The review called for greater outreach to culturally and linguistically diverse communities, particularly Chinese-Australians. It noted that in the top 15 seats by Chinese ancestry, the two-party preferred swing against the Liberals was 6.6% compared with 3.7% in other seats.

However the Liberal’s review also attempts to prosecute the case the reason Morrison’s standing with the public was reduced was a damaging marketing campaign against the former Prime Minister, which allowed the ‘teal independents’ to outspend them and take votes. The Liberal Party review authors also claimed their ‘It won’t be easy under Albanese’ marketing campaign created good market recall (which might be fine for a soap powder – demonstrably less so for a political party). as well as stating their internal polls suggested a 3 to 4% increase in the Coalition voting intention over the course of the election campaign.

With that, we’ve found something that the Liberal Party and the Labor Party agree on. The ALP election review, released earlier in December notes

“The focus on Morrison’s character was highly effective. Morrison’s unpopularity is the single-most-significant factor in Labor’s victory,”

The ALP review identified a number of weaknesses and opportunities for improvement with their campaign. Labor identified that votes leaked from the ALP to the ‘teal’ independents and The Greens. their nationwide direct vote was the lowest since 1934 and despite a Labor state governments in Queensland and the re-election of a Labor government in Victoria, there is significant work to attract voters back to the ALP in those states.

It’s interesting to look at the language here as well. The ALP recognises it has problems in attracting voters to directly support them while the Liberals are looking for excuses for pretty well everything except a marketing slogan.

The ALP review was publicly released after the Victorian State Election, we can’t be certain that any of the review’s suggestions were ‘trialled’ in Victoria. We do know that the ALP won the election with a similar majority to the previous state election, despite parts of the media looking for opportunities to portray the Victorian Premier as the leader of a fascist or communist state with mobility issues due to a failure to negotiate a small set of stairs while on holidays some time ago.

Meanwhile in the blue corner apparently everything is someone else’s fault. Yes, they observe that gender quotas are a good idea, that the ‘teal independents’ generally received some financial backing but neglect to suggest there were individuals who created the groundswell of support for all the independents before anyone offered to donate wads of cash to them, even suggesting

The standing of a number of incumbent MPs in key seats was not what should be expected leading into a campaign,

If that is the case, you would think the Liberal Party would have identified the knowledge and behaviour gaps in the year or so prior to the election and put measures in place to mitigate or train the MP’s to meet the required standards. Even though they were incumbent it shouldn’t automatically guarantee pre-selection.

It should be noted that the ‘teal independents’ weren’t the only group that took seats from the Coalition. Despite the risk of flooding, some of the most expensive land in South East Queensland is adjacent to the Brisbane River, as are the federal seats of Ryan and Brisbane which have a history of Liberal and more recently LNP representatives. Both seats turned to the Greens as did former PM Rudd’s seat of Griffith in the 2022 election. There were no ‘teal independents’ running for election in Queensland, which could be partly the reason why the ALP or Greens now represent all the federal seats along the river through the Brisbane metro area. This area used to be conservative heartland.

To address a problem, the first thing you have to do is realise you have a problem and acknowledge it. Have the Liberal Party done this? Apparently not as just prior to Christmas. the deal in the New South Wales Liberal Party to institute gender parity in the forthcoming state election was scrapped – because one of the factions felt they would lose influence. The deal was finally stuck just after Christmas however if it made the media it is a messy outcome demonstrating some are more worried about influence than gender equality.

To keep a good government to account, you need a good opposition. Hopefully The Greens, micro parties and independents are willing to step up to the mark as the Liberal Party haven’t worked out they have internal problems to solve before they represent Australia’s ‘conservative economic and liberal social values’ rather than their own sectional interests. We all deserve better.

 

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Go outside and smell the roses

Most of us don’t like going to the dentist, asking the electrician to repair something at home or taking the car to the mechanic. There is an obvious benefit to completing the action – such as when the toothache goes, when you turn on the lights you won’t get zapped or the car now starts first time and runs well. The discomfort of paying the bill is temporary and while you might say that you hate doing it, you don’t wish any ill will on the dentist, electrician or mechanic, assuming they do their job well.

It’s not hard to understand why victims of crime and their families could express feelings of ongoing and deep seated hate towards the perpetrator of the crime, as the victims lives have been irrevocably changed. From psychological problems through long-term injuries to the untimely death of a loved one, the victims of crime have to make adjustments that can be blamed on the criminal. There is no ‘coming back’ to a prior state here either. Six months after you get the car fixed and it’s still running well you’ve probably forgotten about the temporary hole in your bank account. Those who have been victims of criminal actions don’t have that luxury.

ABC News recently published an article about a restorative justice program in Victoria. In the program and after assessment by trained councillors, victims of crime and the convicted criminal meet in controlled circumstances to talk through their feelings. The article gives some examples of meetings that have occurred where both parties spent hours together, crying and resolving a lot of the anger and hate they had been carrying for years. Both the victim and the criminal usually benefit. The Victorian Law Reform Commission has recommended that there be a legislative basis for restorative justice be considered as an alternative to criminal trials as

“The criminal justice system often doesn’t give justice to victims-survivors, not every victim-survivor wants the perpetrator to go to jail – particularly where the perpetrator is a family member,”

While some may want some members of the former government to go to jail for perceived failures, that’s not going to happen. Neither is the opportunity for restorative justice where you might sit down with a former minister in a controlled environment and talk about how their decisions affected and hurt you. Luckily, there are alternatives to holding onto the feelings of hate which will probably help make you a better person.

The residents of Lismore in Northern New South Wales have had a pretty rough year. Multiple floods have destroyed a considerable area of their community, disrupting lives in all sorts of ways. One of the three high schools in Lismore was flooded and Year 12 students lost a lot of time and material that would have been used in the usual course for assessment. It didn’t stop them excelling in their final school results or having the rite of passage that is the school formal.

A hard-working group of teachers sought out a venue, decorated it, arranged catering and made sure families were able to afford tickets, while the charity Thread Together ensured every student had a brand new dress or suit to wear.

Over 60 students were outfitted across the three schools. The month before the formal, a styling session was held with dresses from Bec and Bridge and suits from Tarocash, while RM Williams and Wittner provided boots and heels, respectively. This meant each student could find an outfit to suit their personal taste. “The quality is so nice,” said school captain Connor McDougall. “It was really, really generous of Thread Together to do this for us.”

John Eakin, the year 12 adviser at Richmond River High, says his cohort are “kids that just missed out on so many enjoyable parts of school”. So it was particularly special to see them have, “a night they deserved”.

Also recently on the ABC News, there was an article about a young woman who had achieved what she thought was going to be her dream career as a F1 engineer. All it really did was give her depression and anorexia. Her father flew to Europe to bring her home and she sought treatment. The young woman now owns a chain of croissant bakeries in Melbourne and Sydney where customers queue out the door on a daily basis and her story is here.

Finding a new path and helping others isn’t solely a thing for individuals, large corporations practice giving to others as well. A number of organisations will contribute paid time for their staff to work with a non-profit organisation that gives to the community. Kmart has a ‘Giving Tree’ in every store for the public to donate a present to those that are less fortunate at Christmas. Across Australia, Bunnings donates infrastructure to community organisations as diverse as dance schools and Lions Clubs to make money from the ‘traditional’ sausage sizzle. Giving isn’t solely an Australian thing either, Canadian airline Westjet has been organising “Christmas Miracles” for a decade and publishing them on their Youtube Channel – the latest one is here.

Whether it be helping to organise a rite of passage for flood affected Year 12 students in Lismore to donating a lot of Canadian Dollars to various charities, there is a lot of good in the world. The people standing behind the BBQ at your local Bunnings next weekend aren’t making a cent for themselves from their labours, neither are those that volunteer to serve Christmas dinners to the residents of homeless shelters, run the local school’s swimming club or those who patrol our beaches for Surf Lifesaving Australia. Yet they come back to do it, time and time again. They must get some satisfaction and joy from helping others.

Which is far more than those who hate. The recent event at Wieambilla on Queensland’s Western Downs shows us again the dangerous behaviours that come from hatred. Sadly, it was not an outlier. While there will be a small percentage of people who choose to hate, you and I don’t have to be amongst them.

Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant. Rather than sitting behind a computer screen going down obscure rabbit holes on the dark web looking for evidence to support a conspiracy theory or doomscrolling news and blog sites on the internet, go outside and walk the dog, go for a drive, join a community organisation or occasionally just take time to smell the roses. Your life and community will be better for it.

 

Image from growthengineering.co.uk

 

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Is the LNP nasty?

The recent Victorian State Election saw plenty of malice from both sides. It seems that the ALP started off by promoting their achievements but ended up in the gutter with the Liberals who seemed to be (from someone that lives outside Victoria) playing the man, not the ball, from prior to the election being called until election day. The Coalition’s Federal Election pitch in May was effectively ‘you can’t trust the other bloke’ while Morrison was secretly collecting Ministries, pork-barrelling where he though he might get an advantage and dog-whistling around the country by supporting a divisive candidate in a Sydney metropolitan seat – losing the seat in the process. A Victorian Liberal Upper House Candidate was barred from sitting in the party room (later overturned) before she was even elected because of her professed views and one Liberal candidate was claiming that Premier Dan Andrews should be made into a red mist – apparently a dog whistle to hunters and the ultra conservatives that suggests he should be shot with a high powered gun.

David Littleproud (a member of the LNP as he comes from Queensland) and his Nationals have already decided that they won’t support the upcoming ‘voice to parliament’ referendum. As Michael Pascoe suggests in The New Daily

David Speers posited that: “The real, unspoken reason for the National Party shift was to put more pressure on a weakened Liberal Party to follow suit.”

There will be plenty of grubby politics to play out leading up to the referendum, plenty of strawman arguments. Michelle Grattan believes votes will be lost if the “debate becomes dominated by the negative aspects of identity politics”.

It’s a safe bet it will be.

Pascoe also questions Nationals Senator Jacinta Price’s statements in relation to ‘the voice’ as she has worked in the past for a right-wing ‘think tank’, sharing bylines on opinion pieces with Tom Switzer defending ‘white history of Australia’ practices such as erecting statutes of Captain Cook.

The Liberals and the Nationals both suggest they are only responding to the taunts of others. They aren’t. If the Coalition hadn’t stuck their head in the sand over climate change, ensured all Australians had a living wage that kept up with the cost of living, if Morrison hadn’t accumulated secret ministries, if the Liberals and Nationals around Australia had selected candidates their local communities could relate to rather than those with divisive opinions they might stand a chance. While individual members of the LNP are probably nice people if you meet them, collectively they seem to be on a ‘winner take all’ crusade where taking prisoners is too kind.

Here’s an example of their attitude. The Brisbane City Council is probably the largest municipal body in Australia. The Council controls 1342.7 square kilometres of South East Queensland with a population of 1,242,825 which is larger than the state of Tasmania; as is the Council’s annual budget. By comparison the City of Sydney covers 25 square kilometres and has a population of 211,632. Brisbane City was formed in the 1920’s by the amalgamation of a number of smaller ‘town’ and ‘shire’ councils and is one of the few Councils in Australia where prospective Councillors run for election under the banner of a political party. The LNP, ALP and Greens all have representation. The Lord Mayor since 2008 has been a LNP candidate elected by general vote across the City of Brisbane.

There is one Independent Councillor in Brisbane’s Council Chambers. Nicole Johnston represents the ward (electorate) of Tennyson, an area that real estate agents generally use phrases like a leafy and quiet area, along the southern bank of the Brisbane River, close to services and the City. Property values in the area are what you would expect with such an idyllic descriptions. Johnston was elected as a Liberal Party Councillor in 2008, the same election that Campbell Newman – also representing the Liberal Party at the time – became Lord Mayor of Brisbane. The amalgamation of the Queensland Liberal and National Parties occurred later in 2008.

Johnston and the other LNP councillors had a fractious relationship between her election in 2008 and her suspension from the LNP in 2010. She resigned her membership of the LNP in May 2010, a day prior to an expulsion hearing was to occur. According to reporting at the time in The Brisbane Times

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said the resignation ”provides a new way forward for the LNP council team”.

”All 16 members of the LNP council team have believed for some time that Cr Johnston has not acted as a member of the team,” he said.

”At the most recent council meeting, out of 13 votes taken, Cr Johnston voted with the ALP seven times, the LNP four times and abstained twice.”

Cr Johnston was suspended from the LNP in March until the end of the year for “bringing the party into disrepute”.

Johnston went on to record victories in Brisbane City Council elections in 2012, 2016 and 2020. Newman resigned as Lord Mayor in 2011 to contest a State Election as the LNP’s party leader and won a massive majority. Annastasia Palaszczuk became opposition (and leader of the ALP) with a party room of 7 out of 89 Members of Parliament. Newman was such a divisive Premier that not only did the LNP lose the next election, Newman lost his seat. Following the rout, Palaszczuk and the ALP were elected to government. She is now in her third term as Premier of Queensland. Newman ran as a Queensland Senate Candidate in the last Federal Election under the banner of the LDP, and probably didn’t even get his deposit back.

You would think that after 12 years, the LNP would have better things to be doing than continuing to hold a grudge against Nicole Johnston. Sadly, you would be wrong. In December 2022, Johnston made a complaint in a Council meeting that members of the LNP were turning their back to her when she was speaking.

While Johnston has been quite outspoken over the years, she deserves the opportunity to represent the views of her community. Her community obviously support her – they keep on electing her. The LNP dominated Council should respect those views even if they don’t agree with them. One of the LNP Councillors who turned his back repetitively then claimed bullying when Johnstone made her speech in Council. Johnston has also made a number of claims that funding for projects in her ward is considerably lesser than surrounding Wards that have Councillors with an allegiance to the LNP. The LNP Council refuses to accept any of the responsibility for the funding difference. The LNP dominated Council Ethics Committee hasn’t met for 18 months despite some referrals to assess and somehow it’s the ALP Councillors’ fault. The Council’s Ethics Chairperson

in a statement blamed Labor for the ethics committee’s inertia, rather than any failure of systems as he had outlined in his parliamentary inquiry.

“Unfortunately, Labor councillors childishly quit Brisbane’s ethics committee as soon as one of their colleagues was referred,” Cr Allan said.

“Unless Labor councillors grow up and participate as required, we may soon have to consider an alternative approach.”

You can’t call holding a grudge against Johnston for 12 years of childish as a playground grudge that formed when a child was 6 would normally be forgotten (or a fond memory told over a drink) by the time the participants turned 18. The action is far more serious than that. There is absolutely no benefit to any of us when politicians disrespect each other in our council chambers and parliaments, as the politician is also disrespecting the thousands of people that are represented by each elected politician across the country. The LNP might believe they have better policies than their political opponents, but we’ll never know unless they stop holding grudges, playing political games and complaining when an opponents political promise is not implemented according to a manufactured LNP timetable (as the current debate around power prices demonstrates).

In short – like their conservative counterparts in the UK and USA, the LNP have little concern for the population generally; they are more interested in political games. That’s just not nasty; that’s immoral.

 

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Coming back to haunt you

In his recent Budget reply speech, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton laboured (pun intended) on the increasingly difficult to achieve promise by Prime Minister Albanese that power bills will be $275 less in 2025. While the government is claiming the modelling done in 2021 supports the accuracy of the promise, 2021 modelling doesn’t account for changes in circumstances since then.

Technically, the Coalition has a point. It is hard to see how a substantial reduction in power bills in comparison to 2021 prices can be achieved anytime soon. It also shows the inherent risk in predicting certain outcomes into the future. While a ‘guaranteed’ reduction in costs sometime in the future when we are in an environment of rising prices, rising interest rates and wages falling in real terms sounds appealing, it’s policy shorthand like this that has a habit of coming back to haunt you.

There seems to be two problems here. The first is the marketing around election coverages. In the case of the power bill promise, either the promise was completely made up which is unlikely given the apparent care Albanese has taken with the implementation of his other policies, or secondly the power bill reduction was deemed to be too complicated to sell any other way in 30 seconds on the nightly news.

Renewable generation capacity has a far lesser variable cost than traditional coal/gas power generation. The inputs that create the power in renewable systems are sun, water and wind. All of them are free unlike the coal or gas used to generate energy in ‘traditional’ energy generation. While both systems have costs for capital, labour, materials, distribution and administration, a large component of the rapid increase in energy costs is due to the current demand for fuel. Assuming the government’s 2021 modelling relied on implementing increased renewable generation and their discussion about rewiring the nation, it is reasonable to expect the cost of inputs would fall before 2025, resulting in cheaper power.

Australians accept uncertainty in other areas of their life. For a start, anyone that backs a horse or enters the Lotto would like to claim a financial victory – alas most don’t. Your car probably doesn’t get the exact fuel consumption gained when tested to the applicable standard, at best it is a guide that your vehicle is better or worse than a similar sized and specified vehicle driven the same way. Arguably anyone that uses public transport would be used to the service turning up some time after the time published in the timetable. Most take out a loan to buy a house, promising the lender that you will be able to make payments up to 30 years into the future come what may. Unfortunately in some cases, that just doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons.

So why can’t we accept uncertainty in political promises? For example, would the person that has no solar panels or battery save $275, or would it be a person with a large solar system and batteries that may be almost completely off the grid be the beneficiary of the claimed amount? Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard fell foul of the same problem when claiming the Carbon Emission Reduction Scheme implemented by her government was not a ‘carbon tax’. Technically it wasn’t, however the political shorthand over the branding eventually caught up with her.

It’s a similar predicament to that faced by Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg when they promised that next year’s budget would be ‘back in the black’ – it wasn’t. Morrison and his Cabinet prior to the 2022 election were fond of suggesting that EV’s would destroy the weekend because the electric ute hadn’t been invented – well it has and one is available for sale in Australia this month. The ALP is just as ‘clever’ as the Coalition in pointing out when promises haven’t been achieved when it suited their marketing program.

As Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton doesn’t have to deliver anything until the next election. He has plenty of time to seek information, take advice, form a considered opinion and explain how his proposals would benefit Australia and Australians into the future far beyond the potential timeframe of either an Albanese or Dutton government. Pity he seems to be not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

As The Guardian reported recently

Giving his budget reply speech, the opposition leader said the Coalition wanted more renewable energy, but it just wasn’t possible yet, and it was a mistake for the government to allow ageing and expensive fossil fuel power to be phased out now.

More specifically: “The technology doesn’t yet exist at the scale that is needed to store renewable energy for electricity to be reliable at night, or during peak periods. That is just the scientific reality.”

So on Dutton’s reading, the International Energy Agency is not an expert in the energy field

The IEA said in the most affected regions “higher shares of renewables were correlated with lower electricity prices, and more efficient homes and electrified heat have provided an important buffer for some – but far from enough – consumers”.

Russia is the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporter. As countries looked to source oil, gas and coal from elsewhere, this caused a huge spike in costs that continues to reverberate around the globe.

But costs had been rising even before Putin’s invasion.

“Climate policies were blamed in some quarters for contributing to the initial run-up in prices, but it is difficult to argue that they played a significant role,” the IEA report said.

“In fact, more rapid deployment of clean energy sources and technologies would have helped to protect consumers and mitigate some of the upward pressure on fuel prices.”

The report listed a host of factors contributing to rising prices, including the speed of the economic rebound from the pandemic, droughts in Brazil cutting hydropower, heatwaves in France cutting nuclear output, flooding affecting Australian coal production, and failures by governments to introduce policies to increase clean energy investments.

Dutton isn’t even correct when it comes to Australia’s electricity system. On the basis that everyone has to have a hobby, David Osmond, a Canberra based engineer with a global energy developer, has been recalculating Australia’s weekly energy usage based on a hypothetical grid that relied primarily on renewable energy with a five hour, predominately using large batteries, storage capacity. His Twitter reports seem to contradict Dutton’s claim that renewables cannot power Australia. Rather than taking their word for it, maybe the news media should be looking at claims of politicians and challenging the marketing and spin. It’s not that hard to find the evidence.

 

 

Absolute certainties have a habit of not being so absolute or certain given time, events or changing parameters. It would do politicians well to remember this. Rather than falling into the trap of promising absolutes when asked, maybe it’s time for a discussion on why the plan or program will benefit the community instead.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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