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Election 2022: From ‘Return to Normalcy’ to Real Debate on Fair Wages and Living Standards

By Denis Bright

Hoping a smooth campaign of boring photo opportunities, LNP insiders were obviously shocked by negative reactions to its Return to Neoliberal Normalcy Strategies. The leadership and policy vacuum generated by the LNP has generated unexpected focus on real policy issues which the latest round of pork-barreling has not arrested.

There was real wisdom in Labor’s small target response to the LNP’s bid for re-election. Negative reactions to falling real wages in the context of exploding housing and rental costs are giving new momentum to Labor campaign to achieve government with a substantial majority.

In the once marginal Labor seat of Griffith in Brisbane from the LNP’s 2019 campaign, the Liberal Party accepted the trends in polling by allocating preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens. On the latest YouGov polling, Griffith is now the safest Labor seat with 60 per cent of preferences going to Labor after preferences.

The groundswell for a change of government has built up during the past two years as more working poor and really disadvantaged constituents head to the weekly food distribution at a park near the West End CBD.

This is the darker side of neoliberalism which Scott Morrison refuses to acknowledge in his ideological commitment to the current economic system.

Such heartless attitudes prevailed in the discussion of fair affordable wage policies which have surfaced in the latter stages of the LNP’s plans to return to normalcy by provoking slip ups in those gotcha questions from the assembled media to Anthony Albanese.

Anthony Albanese in government can support +5 per cent increase in the minimum wage through the deliberations of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on 7 June as promised without compromising any political conventions.

Labor is not attempting to control the deliberations of the FWC which was established during the Rudd-Gillard years to end the excesses of John Howard’s Work Choices. John Howard lot his own seat in 2007. Perhaps the precedent can be extended to Scott Morrison’s own seat of Cook which was temporarily won by Labor in 1972.

A federal government does not have the constitution powers to set wage rates in peace-time. Even the heroic Harvester Judgment of the Arbitration Court of 8 November 1907 was successfully appealed against in 1908. However, it was a moral victory for wages justice through the Arbitration Court and more recently through the Fair Work Commission (FWC) which was established in the Rudd-Gillard years to end the excesses of Work Choices: In the Harvester Decision, Justice Higgins of the Arbitration Court decided that 7 shillings a day, or 42 shillings a week, was fair and reasonable wages for an unskilled labourer. This became the basis of the national minimum wage system in Australia.

It was a ‘living’ or ‘family’ wage, set at a level which would supposedly allow an unskilled labourer to support a wife and three children, to feed, house, and clothe them. By the 1920s it applied to over half of the Australian workforce. It became known as the ‘basic wage’.

Additional amounts were paid to more skilled workers, for example an additional 3 shillings to a fitter or other tradesperson. These additional amounts were known as ‘margins’. In the Harvester Decision, a fair and reasonable wage for more skilled employees was for example 10 shillings a day for ‘journeymen’, or tradesmen.

Visiting the Transfield Factory in Sydney’s Seven Hills in 1986, Pope John Paul II commended Australia’s wage determination system which offered a fairer but not perfect deal for Australian workers. Having worked in a quarry near Nazi occupied Krakow, Pope John Paul was aware of the horrors of degrading workplaces.

Despite all the sweet rhetoric, Australians soon experienced horrors of that neoliberal recession We had to have in the early 1990s (Image Catholic Outlook 2016):

 

Image from caffestoria.it

 

Just 2 per cent of the workforce subsists on minimum wages. It is up to the FWC to deliberate on the flow-on effects of minimum wage increases to other awards.

The LNP is clearly divided on wages policies. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce indeed claims to be on Struggle Street. He is well aware of the extent of income and social disadvantaged in every country town. National Party votes there rely on persistence of the Joh era populism to keep disadvantaged voters in the fold.

 

Strutting Out from Struggle Street at Canberra Airport

Barnaby Joyce with partner Vicki Campion

 

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce often complains about his own financial circumstances as noted by Samantha Maiden on news.com.au (21 June 2021):

Resurrected Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce once complained he was so skint he was forced to kill his own meat – but he’s now doubled his pay by returning to the fold as Deputy Prime Minister on $433,575 a year.

The father of six will secure a whopping pay rise in his next pay packet that will increase his pay from his current salary of $211,500 as a backbencher.

Two years ago, the MP revealed he was doing it tough and was slaughtering his own farm animals to help reduce his grocery bill.

Scott Morrison’s warnings against supporting the maintenance of the purchasing power of minimum wages is regarded as one of the worst slips of the government’s re-election bid according to Economics Editor Ross Gittins of The SMH (13 May 2022):

At last, as the election campaign reaches the final stretch, we’ve found something worth debating. Anthony Albanese has found his spine and supported a big rise in award wages, while Scott Morrison says a decent rise for the masses is a terrible idea that would damage the economy.

First the politics, then the economics. My guess is history will judge this to be the misstep that did most to cost Morrison the election. Successful Liberal leaders – John Howard, for instance – knew never to be caught within cooee of a sign saying “wages should be lowered”. It’s not the way to woo outer-suburbs battlers to the Liberal cause.

Perhaps the plight of self-funded retirees will surface during the final week of the campaign. The trend lines in returns from some of the best superannuation funds like Q Super is not very encouraging as shown by the latest performance data to 13 May 2022.

As the latest YouGov polling shows a definitive swing to Labor outside some rusted-on LNP regional seats, the LNP has become an ideological captive of far-right minor parties as in the allocation of preferences to One Nation on the senate ballot paper across Queensland.

 

Desperate Preference Allocations for the Queensland Senate to Protect One Nation and the Other Maverick Parties

 

A lot can happen in the final week of campaigning as Australia finally returns to that Change of Government era which gave Labor control of both houses as early as 1910 and 1914. As self-proclaimed lovers of traditions the LNP should be pleased that social democracy is working again and finally extending to some of the most marginal regional LNP seats in Queensland.

A majority Labor government with ninety seats in the House of Representatives is still a possibility to achieve a long-term Labor government that is not dependent on constant negotiation with cross-bench members as in the Gillard-Rudd years after the 2010 elections.

Advocates of change should be campaigning until the final vote is cast in this still rampant COVID-19 era when it is still possible to chart a less colonial direction for our country.

 

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

 

 

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Election 2022: From Vacuous Photo Opportunities to Final Swipes at Albo

By Denis Bright

The LNP probably hoped to creep back into government by a series of strategic photo opportunities and staged events like the Regional Forum in Rockhampton. Just what is the state of play in those 23 seats in Queensland which could make the differences between a real Labor landslide as in 1983 and a quite modest majority?

Even the staged release of the LNP’s plan for Regional Australia in Rockhampton became a flat and divisive event for the Coalition. Its rhetorical superlatives were summarized on the National Party’s Queensland site:

  1. Strengthening the economy to deliver more jobs, more apprentices and working towards unemployment below four per cent.
  2. Tackling cost of living pressures through a reduction in fuel costs, increasing housing affordability and reducing tax for regional workers and their families
  3. Greater investment in regional infrastructure that will create long-term opportunities and growth to underpin regional prosperity
  4. Building a better health system that will provide more GPs and health specialists in our regions and towns where they are needed.
  5. Bringing back manufacturing to Australia that will reduce Australia’s reliance on others while creating local jobs in regional communities.

Even these motherhood statements were offset by differences between Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan on the issues of climate change as reported on Channel Nine News on 27 April 2022.

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan has been ordered to “pull your head in” by a colleague as Prime Minister Scott Morrison worked the campaign trail in Queensland this morning.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry rebuked Senator Canavan as she spoke alongside Mr Morrison in Rockhampton after the Queensland Senator suggested net zero targets were “dead” and should be abandoned.

Ms Landry said Capricornia was “one of the biggest coal mining electorates in the country” and claimed energy and farming industries in Far North Queensland were behind Mr Morrison’s carbon reduction goals.

When asked if Senator Canavan was being unhelpful, Ms Landry quipped: “Pull your head in, Matt.”

The Coalition appears to be splitting on climate change, with Senator Canavan describing 2050 net zero targets as dead” just hours after Mr Morrison was forced to defend his government’s “absolute” commitment to it.

Large parts of regional Australia are now protected by those substantial majorities from the 2019 election result after distribution of preferences from far-right minor parties.

This election’s focus on wages and living standards might restore some normalcy to our electoral geography. However, these trends maybe offset by the diversionary politics of the far-right parties in Regional Queensland. Of the Queensland regional federal seats, Leichhardt (4.17 per cent margin) is currently the most marginal followed by Flynn (8.66 per cent margin).

The selective release of YouGov/Newspoll data keeps everyone guessing until the Murdoch press releases marginal seat data to sell papers during the final days of the campaign after Scott Morrison’s campaign launch in Brisbane on 15 May 2022. Brisbane is an obvious location for the campaign launch with the LNP currently holding 23 seats across Queensland and six near Brisbane seats. Voxpop which monitors the ABC’s Compass election surveys has not been able to supply details of trendlines in regional seats.

The state break-down of seats is a fairly meaningless figure because it misses out on the state of play in the marginal regional and outer metropolitan seats. The most recent Morgan poll offers a state-by-state breakdown:

The state breakdowns, which cannot be directly compared to last week’s due to the change in the preference calculation, have Labor leading 51.5-48.5 in New South Wales (a swing to Labor of about 3.5%), 61-39 in Victoria (about 8%), 57.5-42.5 in Western Australia (about 13%) and 62.5-37.5 in South Australia (about 12%). The Coalition leads 53.5-46.5 in Queensland (a swing to Labor of about 5%) and 60-40 from the tiny sample in Tasmania. The poll was conducted Monday to Sunday from a sample of 1401.

Hopes of wedging the regional electorates of Queensland in support of new coal mining projects, may have been dashed by the sudden rise to prominence of cost-of-living issues. The LNP’s best offsets against political change come from the diversionary politics of those far-right parties.

Great rhetorical emphasis is placed on neoliberal folklore about the importance of corporate giants for regional development. Waiting for the capital to trickle down to the regions from corporate giants has not occurred on Scott Morrison’s watch according to the latest Reserve Bank (RBA) charts on the multiplier effects of net capital flows into Australia:

Declines in the rates of net capital inflows into Australia occurred well before the COVID-19 crisis.

The LNP’s interference with capital flows on strategic defence grounds has not assisted. It has forced Pacific countries like the Solomon Islands, PNG and Timor-Leste to seek alternative sources of capital investment.

Here the LNP continues to reply on that accumulated trillion-dollar budget to massage economic indicators until after the federal elections when a return to normalcy will eventually prevail.

Across the three LNP electorates of Central Queensland in Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn, mining accounts for less than 12 per cent of overall employment on the Queensland Government’s regional profile. However, the LNP is depending on disciplined preference flows from far-right parties to compensate from the absence of an absolute majority in all three Central Queensland seats.

Paul Murray’s Pub Forum offered a talking point to promote the far-right of Australian politics.

 

 

Back in Central Queensland, the achievements of the corporate resources sector, coexists with appalling levels of disadvantage which are evident on recent social security data released through Centrelink to December 2021.

The extent to which social demography can trump the bizarre appeal of the Maverick Three has yet to be tested. Dog whistles from the Mavericks have a record of diverting the attention of voters in the regions away from unresolved local problems.

The Central Queensland seats of Dawson, Capricornia and Flynn host high rates of social disadvantage and dependence on social security particularly in the City of Rockhampton.

 

 

In 2019, inner-city booths in Rockhampton like Berserker swung strongly to the far-right. Labor won this booth after preferences despite a 16.77 per cent swing against Labor in 2019.

Some inner-city precincts in Rockhampton with twice the Queensland levels of social disadvantage from the 2016 census have been largely overlooked by years of populist rhetoric on Scott Morrison’s watch.

In Flynn, the LNP is promoting a new candidate who will face the Labor’s Matt Burnett who was a popular Mayor of Gladstone. The margin from 2019 is 7.62 per cent after preferences. This is one electorate which should respond to Labor’s current emphasis on living standards, protection of real wages and criticism of casualization of employment. However, the electorate includes many scattered urban and rural communities which have traditionally supported National Party candidates as shown in the AEC Electorate Map.

 

 

Expect YouGov/Newspoll to release its detailed local polling from regional seats closer to election day or even to conceal them from readers of the Murdoch press if the results are too unfavourable to the LNP. Meanwhile, many votes in Regional Queensland continue to be diverted by preference allocations from minor far-right parties who mobilised 26.4 per cent of primary votes in Capricornia in 2019 to ensure a record majority for Michelle Landry MP who is one of Scott Morrison’s local stalwarts.

Let’s hope that more volatility returns to Regional Queensland as in those landslide swings which brought double-digit swings to Labor after years of conservative populism in the past during the political high water marks achieved by great Labor luminaries since the Federation era when North and Central Queensland opted for federal Labor members and senators.

The Sportbet odds are less hopeful with photo finishes in Leichhardt, Longman and Brisbane and a close result in Flynn where both major parties are fielding new candidates.

All ten regional LNP seats except Groom have been held by Labor since John Curtin’s days as Opposition leader in the hung parliament of 1940. Restoring the Regional Labor heartland with needs-based policies will be an ongoing challenge after the election of Anthony Albanese as Prime Minister.

 

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

 

 

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Democracy forum: Aston

Organised by Voices for Aston on Twitter @Voices4Aston

This is your opportunity to meet your candidates.

Every candidate standing in the seat of Aston in the federal election has been invited to attend.

Each will be given an opportunity to make a five-minute speech.

Then we will open the forum to voters to ask questions.

When: Saturday 14th of May, 7pm – 8pm.

Where: Bayswater Scout Hall; corner of Station St and Scoresby Rd, Bayswater (200 metres from the Bayswater Railway Station).

A small donation $5.00, $10.00 …. towards the cost of hall hire and nibbles provided by Voices for Aston would be greatly appreciated.

We are a community group made up of voters in Aston who want to see better political representation.

  • People focused Economic management.
  • Integrity and Accountability in Politics
  • Action on the Climate Crisis

Hall seats a maximum of 100. If you wish to attend, please RSVP to voices4aston@gmail.com

Please note:

Labor candidate Mary Doyle has caught Covid and is unable to attend. Labor is sending proxies.

Greens Asher Cookson and Ryan Bruce of The New Liberals (TNL) are attending..

The UAP’s Rebekah Spelman, PHON’s Craig Ibbotson One Nation, and Liberal Democrats’ Liam Roche will not be attending, though all have been invited.

No reply yet from Mr Tudge’s office as to whether he will attend.

 

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Democracy in decline: Australia’s slide into ‘competitive authoritarianism’

By Lucy Hamilton

Australia is at a critical point. A government that would cling to power to impose unpopular policy threatens the very nature of our democracy.

It is common to refer to countries that were “consolidated democracies” as corroding to “illiberal democracies”. Hungary is the most notable example. If, however, the term “competitive authoritarianism” is employed to describe regimes instead, it becomes clear that the danger for Australia is just as strong as it is for the USA and the UK, as well as for Hungary.

Levitsky and Way coined the term in 2002 to describe states where the democratic process still appeared to function but where the incumbents had nearly insuperable advantages. The main strategies described are the misuse of government funds to swing elections, disinformation, the distorting complicity of the most prominent media and the placing of partisans in key “referee” roles.

Levitsky and Way chose to use this term, because they felt that “illiberal democracy” placed these regimes within the array of democratic nations. “Competitive authoritarianism” by contrast shows that these governments no longer seek to honour the democratic tradition for which our societies have aimed.

The misuse of federal government money to distort electoral outcomes has been documented in startling detail in Morrison’s Coalition government. Professor Anne Twomey recently described the growth in money wasted this way as “exponential”. From sports rorts to car parks, the “pork barreling” is estimated to amount to billions of dollars so far.

Scott Morrison’s “miracle” victory in 2019 was as much about the misuse of taxpayer money, amplified by Clive Palmer’s $83 million disinformation campaign, as any divine intervention.

It is hardly surprising, in light of this, that the Coalition is adamantly opposed to a functioning federal anti-corruption commission. Unlike Labor’s preferred model, the government’s “Commonwealth Integrity Commission” actively shields politicians and public servants making it almost impossible to begin investigations and shrouding the results in secrecy.

The shameless lies and empty announcements that make up much of the Coalition government’s activity have been partially documented in Crikey’s “A dossier of lies and falsehoods”. Crikey believes itself driven to act because of the regularity of Morrison’s lies, the brazenness and the lack of accountability.

Morrison’s ministers have also been tracked over the years misleading the public regularly over climate issues, human rights and their own integrity.

The lack of transparency and accountability in the government is in part possible because Australia has the least diversity in its media ownership of any ostensibly “developed” nation. While the government has not confiscated opposing news outlets like Orban in Hungary, the ability for Australians to hear contrasting interpretations of government action is limited. News Corp owns approximately 100 physical and digital newspapers. Former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have been speaking urgently in recent times about the toxic impact that Rupert Murdoch’s interventions have on Australian democracy.

Add to News Corp the shift in former Fairfax outlets’ reporting since it joined the Nine group. Former Liberal treasurer and Nine chairman Peter Costello has reportedly “assumed a greater role in the day-to-day running” of the media corporation this year and Nine never signed the Fairfax charter of editorial independence. Kerry Stokes at Seven West Media is reportedly happy to run sections of his media empire at a loss in exchange for political power.

Murdoch has long stated that the internet allows enough diversity of voices to counter his extensive control over traditional media platforms in Australia – including Sky’s expansion into country Australia with its recent free-to-air deals – but the pandemic era has made very clear the limitations of the internet in privileging reliable information over radicalising conspiracy theories.

Between the continued threat of further funding cuts, political pressure, legal action and politicised board appointments, the ABC is experiencing constant intimidation and crippling undermining of its independence. Schwartz Media’s The Saturday Paper and other online outlets have limited capacity to counter the narrative carried by the corporate platforms.

These distortions are amplified by the horrifying impacts on reporting that Australia’s secretive national security state is enforcing. In a report released this week by Get Up, academics Hardy, Ananian-Welsh and McGarrity document in chilling detail the “5000 pages of powers, rules and offences” that have been imposed on the nation since 9/11, markedly more than our Five Eyes partners.

The most startling public manifestations of these laws took place in Australian Federal Polic raids on reporters homes and work places, as well as the secret trials taking place of whistleblowers witnesses K and J, and lawyer Bernard Collaery. The government’s counter terrorism powers and “a growing culture of government secrecy” strike at the ability of journalists to report and the public to understand the nature of the government for which we vote.

It was under Peter Dutton and Mike Pezzullo’s super department Home Affairs that the most troubling repressive regulations escalated. In 2019, the Civicus Monitor downgraded Australia’s civic space and its “respect for fundamental freedoms” from “open” to “narrowed”.

Now the Coalition is imposing regulations to prevent charities from speaking out too, in a move reminiscent of Putin.

A key strategy in a “competitive authoritarian” regime is placing partisan figures in key roles. In public service, the courts, statutory bodies. Professor Glyn Davis in his 2021 Jim Carlton Lecture documented the crucial work needed to restore senior public servants to the role of respected independent authorities in developing policy. Jack Waterford detailed the fact that even on critical pandemic decisions, Morrison has steered decision making to achieve his own goals rather than recognising epidemiological best practice.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has stacked the bodies in charge of transforming Australia to a post fossil fuel economy with sector lobbyists and executives. The Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO are both compromised by lobbyist appointments. The various “pork barrelling” scandals have further revealed the poor state of our statutory bodies’ independence. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which has power over 400 Commonwealth acts and legislative functions in a vast array of fields, has been stacked over the decade with “failed Liberal candidates, unemployed political staffers, and party donors”. The new human rights commissioner is another IPA figure, appointed without a transparent selection process, threatening our standing with the UN.

In 2020 comments, Levitsky and Way observed their shock that the oppressive regimes the West fought to bring into the “free world” had infected us with their oppressions rather than bringing our “freedom” to their borders. They also expressed their surprise that so many voters in democratic nations were calling for an end to the contest of platforms that elections are supposed to represent.

The Coalition government is clearly not interested in implementing their own rotten model of a federal anti-corruption commission. Change is going to take a Labor election victory with a commitment to overhauling the ways that Australia has slid so far down the path towards a “competitive authoritarian” regime.

Labor’s ICAC model is an excellent one and must be implemented in full on an ALP government taking power. It must be accompanied by a stronger code of conduct that shuts down the revolving door between the private sector, lobbyists and government. We need a thorough overhaul of our political donations arrangement: they should be limited to $3000 with backdoors like the parties’ “corporate memberships” and grandfathered exemptions closed.

We need the findings of the Thodey report into restructuring the public service implemented.

Zali Steggall’s Climate Change Bill also works to limit the degree to which the fossil fuel sector overrides the voters’ will in Australia’s critical energy decision-making.

Home Affairs’ steps towards a police state with increasing surveillance powers, attacks on transparency and efforts towards limiting public protest mean that citizens can no longer trust that our “rights” will be protected without an explicit bill to codify and defend them.

While it is undoubtedly too difficult to reinstate media diversity restrictions, we must debate the ways the nation strengthens balancing voices to the overwhelmingly dominant duopoly of News Corp and Nine.

Australia’s future hangs in the balance: the struggles facing us over climate crisis directions in particular endanger our ability to vote out a government determined to crush transparency and protest. It is by recognising the concept of “competitive authoritarianism” that we can truly see the breadth of the risk we face and the urgency of addressing the threat.

This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations.

Lucy Hamilton is a Melbourne writer with degrees from the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

 

 

 

 

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Political and Media Contests: Which Side (Eye) are YOU on?

By Melissa Marsden

A photo says a thousand words, and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s decision to appear alongside Alan Jones has brought about an onslaught of questions about where Albanese’s priorities ought to be.

The fiery discussion ensued following Albanese’s Twitter post of a photo alongside outspoken and controversial radio commentator Alan Jones.

Child abuse survivor and advocate Grace Tame set social media on fire for a comment aimed at Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Tame had only to caption the image “Side eye SIDE EYE” for a wave of comments to appear criticising Albanese for the photo.

 

 

One Twitter user posited

“I find it hard to understand why Albo would post this picture on Twitter. Surely he knows that his supporters on here are not exactly big fans of Alan?”

Another argued

“You don’t include male abusers and abuse enablers in any plan that involves the betterment of women.”

These comments were to be expected, given the toxic language Jones has utilised over the years. However, some commenters were more forgiving of Albo, arguing that the appearance was necessary.

The broad-church argument has often been invoked by both political sides in order to convince the public that neither the left or the right takes priority.

One user argued that

“To achieve your plans for the betterment of women, sometimes you have to use all the media outlets you can just to persuade that particular audience to vote for you! Forget the face, it’s listeners you need for their vote. Albo is on your side but he needs to work audiences”.

The both side-ism argument when entering into debate, whether it be through journalism, politics or activism is all too often relied on in instances when seeking power.

Yet, when power is achieved, a side is taken and a strong stance on an issue is often cemented.

Here we have a prime example of a progressive Labor leader attempting to remedy the mistakes of the last election by leaning towards so-called moderate campaign strategies.

Bill Shorten’s failed 2019 election bid saw a bold, progressive and fair policy platform rejected by voters.

Media and political commentary will have you believe that this rejection was in response to the policies themselves. Therefore, Labor’s shift in discourse and attempt to appease more moderate and conservative voices is surely an effective way to ensure election victory.

However, the issue is far more in the delivery of the message than the policy themselves.

Labor could have won the last election with a better strategy, not weaker targets and policies that are currently promoted.

But they faced a wave of media bias and attack dog politics consumed by voters.

So maybe Albanese’s cosying up to Jones can be seen as a method for Labor to get media onside, to promote their agenda in an increasingly monetarised political sphere.

Let’s suppose that line of argument has significant merit. It would need to rely on a number of factors.

Firstly, that conservative media will bend to support the left if their ideological beliefs are supported.

Secondly, that voters who consume conservative media have the potential to be swing voters and vote Labor at the ballot box.

In an ideal world, where the media represent the Liberalism ideal of a ‘marketplace of ideas’, this would be an excellent line of campaigning to pursue.

However, media-public relationship does not actually work like this.

Swing voters are unlikely to consume media from primarily right or left-wing mediums.

Indeed, these voters are often more inclined to gain their election knowledge from the more nuanced bias of commercial news and media outlets.

Albanese’s decision to appear with Jones therefore does not demonstrate Labor’s seemingly new stance of supporting the ‘marketplace of ideas.’

Indeed, the very argument is far more aligned with that of the Liberal party and their fellow free-speech warriors.

Labor supports fair, honest media, however as many interested in political communication and media bias are aware, this has not generally equated to having photo ops with media who back the opposing side.

As journalists (or budding journalists like myself), we must strive to be unbiased and fair in our reporting or commentary on news and current events.

However, to suggest that there is no ideology behind our words fails to take into account the simple fact that everything is political.

Jones and even the ABC have demonstrated this, having campaigned for and against government policies.

For Albanese to appear alongside a media personality who has promoted ideals in complete opposition to what he says are his core ideals could be an attempt to persuade undecided voters.

Melissa Gillian Marsden is a passionate advocate for social justice and a self-confessed political junkie.

It was almost destined that from the moment I was born I would forever have a lot to say. The Granddaughter of a proud Yorkshire woman and fellow Leo zodiac, I would always retain the ability to “talk under water with a mouth full of marbles”. Likewise it was unsurprising that from an early age I was instilled with a fierce sense of loyalty, protectiveness of loved ones and a love of arguing my point (even if it ended in tears).

After being diagnosed with a life long, life threatening medical condition six weeks after my birth and suffering a traumatic brain injury at the age of six years old leaving me with low vision and short term memory loss, I suppose I knew from the beginning that fairness and equality are notoriously contested and complex issues. I was also taught that not everyone views people with disabilities as ordinary people- capable of great success and failure, strength and weakness that can be (although admittedly not always) completely irrespective of that disability.

Now as a 25yr old university student with degrees in politics, international relations, history and currently journalism I have come to the conclusion that perhaps my love of understanding why the world is the way it is and the tools I have developed whilst at university can be used to shine a light on issues of injustice whilst allowing me to have a good rant at the debates raging in public and political discourse.

* * *

Melissa runs her own blog, Framing the Narrative, and can be followed on Twitter @MelMarsden96.

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Do your job competently

By 2353NM

Finland and Sweden are currently exploring joining NATO. The about face from long term neutrality has come about because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ABC reported recently that there has been a significant shift in the attitude of the Finnish and Swedish Governments from ‘don’t poke the (Russian) bear’ to a position of seeking allies for protection should Russia do to them what it has done to Ukraine. It could be Putin’s largest mistake as his border with NATO aligned counties doubles assuming Finland and Sweden apply for NATO membership and the applications are accepted.

So what does this have to do with Australian politics? Good question.

When the last elections were held in Sweden and Finland, the candidates for the leadership role, cognisant of the opinion of a majority of their communities would have probably rebuffed the idea of NATO membership if the question was even raised. Circumstances have changed – as has the opinion of the majority of Finnish and Swedish people. Their governments have reacted accordingly.

Australians only get one chance every three years to make a judgement on the capability of our federal political leaders. To make the best decision, we need to be aware and make a judgement on the potential leader’s vision, ethics and moral judgement. To borrow a phrase from the movie ‘The Castle’, ‘it’s the vibe, your honour’ because the things that will test us all are the things we have no idea about until they eventuate. This is far more relevant to our future than if an Opposition Leader forgets a statistic or a Prime Minister forgets where they are in a press conference.

The Coalition and some media are arguing that Albanese’s ALP doesn’t have the knowledge, skills or abilities to form a government, an illogical argument as the only way to get direct and recent experience is to do the job. When Morrison started work in the Prime Ministerial office, we didn’t even get a say in his elevation, as the only election he won was one of his political party’s Members of Parliament. At that time, he too had none of the experience in the job that he now claims is mandatory.

In addition, Albanese and a number of his ‘shadow Ministers’ were Ministers in the last ALP Government, a minority government that had to form a consensus with independents in Parliament to get anything through both Chambers. Current member for the seat of Kennedy, Bob Katter recently observed on the ABC’s ‘Q&A’, he was one of those independents and the Gillard Government never lost a legislative vote in Parliament, unlike the current Coalition Government. Albanese, as the then Leader of the House, was responsible for working to get the consensus.

So how is our media helping us get an appreciation of the ‘vibe’ of the two potential Prime Ministers? Generally they aren’t. If political rivals such as Bob Katter are happy to claim Albanese is willing to listen and compromise (which usually produces a better outcome anyway), surely the media should be discussing it – as it gives the rest of us some idea on how Albanese is likely to operate, should he become Prime Minister.

We also know that Morrison certainly changed his fiscally conservative tone during the early days of the COVID pandemic where his government aped the Rudd ALP Government of 15 years ago and effectively wrote cheques for everyone to keep the economy ticking over, albeit at a reduced rate. But the actions weren’t of his own doing, he was generally dragged kicking and screaming to the correct place by public opinion, state premiers or even at times his own MPs. Even then, according to Morrison, at various times he wasn’t responsible for holding a hose, giving an injection or ensuring there was a qualified person in the Happy Memories Aged Care home to provide care, empty the bedpan or provide adequate nutrition.

Someone who might be accused of having too much time on their hands has produced a cross referenced and attributed list of 995 ‘achievements’ of the current Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Coalition Government, none of which are flattering. Yes, it includes the lack of action on climate change, the lack of creation of a federal anti-corruption commission with ability to investigate all federal workers using the same process and appointing political mates to government boards and tribunals. If ‘someone on the internet’ can produce a list like this, it can’t be that hard for the media to find out the information and report on it.

If the media in this country was doing its job properly, Albanese would be asked questions about how he managed the ‘Leader of the House’ role in the Gillard government, his skills and experience, vision for the future as well as the skills and experience of those around him.

We have some experience of Morrison’s management of government, his skills and experience as well as the skills and experience of those around him. The media should be asking Morrison his vision for the future, why his record doesn’t demonstrate his lack of accountability, ethics and morals and how he would do better if re-elected.

 

 

Instead, most media is letting bare faced lies (or strategically chosen statistics if you’re feeling generous) such as the Liberal Party’s recent social media ‘Look at the Facts’ advertising go straight to the keeper. Fortunately Crikey didn’t (paywalled).

Parts of the media are asking why there is an emphasis on dog whistling and gotchas in the current election campaign. As Laura Tingle recently wrote on the ABC’s website

In such times, perhaps the most interesting thing to emerge from our own leaders debate this week wasn’t what leaders said, but what a room full of uncommitted voters were asking about.

They didn’t want to know about trans people in sports or, for that matter, China or the Solomon Islands. They wanted to know what the two parties were doing about housing affordability, and nurses in aged care, and the NDIS, and electric batteries and vehicles, and what plans there were for dealing with disasters, and funding recovery from them, in the future.

In other words, they just wanted governments to do things. And to do them competently.

Maybe the same reporters complaining about the lack of discussion around experience and vision for the future should realise they are contributing to the general lack of knowledge around politicians’ experience and vision for the future. Their part of the solution should be to ask the questions people want to know about and report the responses without fear, favour or bias. It’s not that hard.

What do you think?

 

 

 

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
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Who is the autocrat?

By David Solomon

Autocracy: ‘a system of government by one person with absolute power’.

Public autocracy? There’s no such thing, according to my dictionaries, or indeed, Google. It’s a contradiction in terms.

But what I think Prime Minister Scott Morrison meant when he declared (in an interview reported in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald) that Australia could become a ‘public autocracy’ if a national integrity commission had too much influence over government thinking was that absolute power would be exercised by public servants, rather than by politicians such as himself.

It is a nonsensical suggestion, that deliberately, falsely, misrepresents the power any prospective national integrity commission might have, and the way the public service does, can or even might operate. But it says a lot about the unconstrained powers that the Prime Minister considers are appropriate for him and his ministers. Indeed, about the way he and his government have sometimes acted.

Integrity commissions don’t tell governments or public servants what to do. What they do is forensically examine complaints that individuals involved in government have behaved corruptly. For ministers and MPs that corruption might involve a breach of the criminal law, or a substantial breach of a code of conduct. The commission may make findings, but any penalties would be imposed by a court after a successful prosecution where the evidence obtained by the commission may not always be admissible.

It is utterly false to describe any such integrity commission as a ‘kangaroo court’. It is not a court. It is true, however, that if it holds public hearings (and it may be restricted as to when or if it can hold such hearings) the evidence that emerges, which may have been discovered by the commission itself (perhaps through phone taps) or which is provided by witnesses, may be damning of the person under investigation.

But the commission cannot declare someone guilty of a crime, nor can it impose any penalty. Nor can it require ministers or public servants to do anything – other than give evidence, truthfully. Some current Liberal ministers, who in the recent past have refused to provide evidence to police, might be fearful of that.

In the interview, the Prime Minister said members of parliament were accountable to voters and should be able to allocate funding for community grants and infrastructure without undue fear of being investigated by public servants.

“If we are going to so disempower our elected representatives to do things about what is needed in their communities, then what is the point?” he said.

“We can’t just hand government over to faceless officials to make decisions that impact the lives of Australians from one end of the country to the other. I actually think there’s a great danger in that. It wouldn’t be Australia anymore if that was the case, it would be some kind of public autocracy.”

Morrison stressed that a national integrity commission should focus on identifying criminal behaviour rather than more subjective questions such as whether marginal seat spending amounts to pork-barrelling. ‘No-one is suggesting anyone has broken any law are they?’

Well actually, they have in relation to the sports rorts affair. It is a fundamental principle that government can only spend public monies in accordance with the laws passed by the parliament. The laws set out what grants can be made, what criteria have must be applied, and who makes the decisions. The money isn’t there for ministers to dish out at their whim.

The grants in the sports rorts affair were made under legislation which gave the power to determine which organisation could get grants to particular public service entities. The Minister could only make grants in circumstances which did not arise. Nevertheless, she did intervene and make the grants overriding the legitimate decisions of her officials.

Additionally in that case as in most of the other rorts that have become public knowledge, ministers made decisions based on political considerations – political, meaning that the decisions were influenced or wholly determined by the partisan political advantage the government parties would gain from the decision, i.e. getting more votes.

Decisions were not made ‘in the public interest’ as the Prime Minister’s ministerial code and the common law require.

No wonder the Prime Minister objects to a federal integrity commission with power to look at government decision-making – these rorts would be investigated and exposed for what they were. Prosecutions might follow, but not necessarily.

It is fatuous for the Prime Minister to suggest that because members of parliament are accountable to the electorate they should be able to allocate funds without fear of being investigated. If ministers are accused of breaking the law or a code of conduct that is supposed to govern their behaviour the accusation should be investigated. Ministers shouldn’t have a free pass to escape scrutiny for their actions just because they come up for election every three years.

Elections are just a small, but obviously very important, part of accountability.

The Prime Minister’s defence of his government’s refusal to enact an effective anti-corruption body has been so over the top that it was rejected by the NSW Liberal Premier. Mr Perrottet said he thought the ICAC played ‘an important role in upholding integrity and confidence in politicians and public servants’.

Note the Premier’s reference to politicians coming with ICAC’s ambit. The Prime Minister’s proposed integrity commission would have essentially prevented it from examining the misdeeds of politicians and ministers.

David Solomon is a former legal and political correspondent. He has degrees in Arts and Law and a Doctorate of Letters. He was Queensland Integrity Commissioner 2009-2014.

 

 

This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations.

 

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The battle for Flinders

By Voter G.

As employers, the people of Flinders (my electorate) are going to be effectively hiring someone and giving them close to a million dollars to look after our interests for the next three years in Canberra.

There are 10 applicants for the job and according to the bookies it’s a shortlist of four: Liberal Zoe McKenzie, ALP Surbhi Snowball and Independents Despi O’Connor and Sarah Russell.

But I want to focus on the Liberal candidate, Zoe McKenzie.

The Liberal quasi-incumbent is the favourite to win the seat so let’s take a look at her resumé and see what qualifications she brings to the job.

For someone we’re going to be paying $211,250 a year plus expenses to, her CV is disappointingly light on detail.

Regarding her previous work experience, this is all it says on her Meet Zoe page:

“… worked in the education and training sector, served on the boards of the NBN and Australia Council for the Arts and has worked at the highest levels of government.”

Fortunately for the enquiring mind she has been on the taxpayer payroll since at least 2007, so it wasn’t difficult to unpack that rather vague sentence.

Online searches show a 15-year history of work for and connection to the Liberal Party, a long-time relationship that has landed the Flinders hopeful millions of dollars of taxpayer funds:

2007: Chief of Staff to Federal Liberal Senator George Brandis.
2010-2013: Policy Advisor to former Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Bailleu.
2013-2016: Chief of Staff to Federal Liberal Trade, Investment and Tourism Minister Andrew Robb.
2016-2021: Appointed to the board of the Australia Council for the Arts, receiving over $200,000 in taxpayer funded remuneration during that time.
2018-21: Appointed to the Liberal Government’s NBN Co Board as a non-executive Director and received $361,839 in taxpayer funded remuneration over that time.
2019: Unsuccessfully sought Federal Liberal Party pre-selection in the inner city Melbourne seat of Higgins.
2020: Moved principle place of address to Sorrento.
2021: Successfully sought pre-selection in the Liberal held seat of Flinders to replace the retiring Greg Hunt.

 

 

But just like Shrek and onions, all resumés have layers, so as we took off the outer skin and started to peel away, there was a lot more interesting information which paints a clearer picture of the candidate and her deep connections to the Liberal National Party machine.

She is a Melbourne University educated lawyer who has worked for the Liberal Party in a variety of high level capacities since at least 2007.

She was Queensland Senator George Brandis’ first Chief of Staff when he was a Minister in the Howard Government in 2007. As the retired Senator said in his valedictory speech on February 7, 2018:

“Zoe McKenzie was my first chief of staff. She is a dear friend who decided to take me in hand, as the Howard government’s newest and most unexpected minister, some 11 years ago.”

You may recall that Senator Brandis infamously stood up in the Senate and said: “People do have a right to be bigots, you know.”

When the LNP Coalition under Tony Abbott won the 2013 election, she served as Chief of Staff to Trade, Investment and Tourism Minister Andrew Robb from 2013-16.

During this time the NT Government signed a 99 year deal to lease the Port of Darwin to a Chinese Company with close links to the Communist Party. While the current Prime Minister has abrogated any Federal responsibility for the deal, a 2015 photo of Trade Minister Andrew Robb and Treasurer Josh Frydenburg with Chinese Billionaire and Landbridge Chairman Ye Cheng in Darwin would indicate otherwise.

The day after Andrew Robb left Parliament, he took an $880,000 annual ‘consultancy’ salary from the CCP linked Shandong Landbridge Group – the same company who leases the Port of Darwin. He quit the consultancy position in 2019, right before the cut-off to be placed on the foreign influence register.

There is no suggestion that Ms McKenzie was involved in any wrongdoing with the Chinese Communist Party or the financially troubled Landbridge Group.

Former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Ms McKenzie also played a significant role in finalising the Free Trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, a deal which has been described by Brian Feeney in Parliament submitted documents as “a threat to democracy.”

Feeney said:

“… the TPP is potentially a danger to public health, workers conditions, local media content, food labelling and pollution standards.”

However, the TPP deal has been viewed as being of benefit to multi-national corporations and some LNP aligned big businesses in Australia.

Before moving to Flinders a couple of years ago she unsuccessfully stood for preselection as a Liberal Party candidate in the wealthy inner city electorate of Higgins prior to the last Federal election in 2019. She was considered a short-priced favourite for the position and had the endorsement of Liberal Party heavyweights in her candidacy.

The seat of Higgins, formerly occupied by Howard Government Treasurer Peter Costello is home to such suburbs as Toorak, Malvern, Prahran, South Yarra and Windsor.

Following the failed preselection attempt she moved to Sorrento to a house she had purchased some years previously.

It mentions in her bio that she held a non-executive Director role on the board of the National Broadband Network from 2018 – 2021 a project that has been described variously as a “worldwide embarrassment, a national disgrace and horribly over budget and over deadline.” The NBN Co is a wholly Government owned and funded corporation.

In 2019, 2020 and 2021 she was paid $113,231, $124,304 and $124,304 in remuneration and superannuation for her role on the board. That is a total of $361,839 of taxpayer funds over a three-year period.

She was a board member of the Australia Council for the Arts from 2016 to 2021, an appointment which netted her $46,923 of taxpayer funds in the 2020/21 Financial Year alone. Since 2016 she has received over $200,000 in Taxpayer Funds plus Super for her role on the board.

She has conservatively received over half a million dollars of taxpayer funds just for sitting on these two boards.

And while the specifics around Chief of Staff salaries can be a bit hazy for those of us who aren’t across the relevant pay bands, drilling into the 2020-23 Parliamentary Staff Enterprise Agreement as well as knowing that Peta Credlin was paid $394,487 a year plus allowances when she was Abbott’s Chief of Staff, there’s no doubt she was on very good coin. Taking a conservative option, adding in her stints as Chief of Staff and time served on the boards, including super and expenses, Ms McKenzie has easily pocketed over $2.5 Million in taxpayer funds for her work.

And this is just what we know about. This figure may well be much higher if other unknown or undisclosed consultancy and advisory work was added.

There’s no suggestion that she wasn’t worth the money for the work she did.

She resigned from the taxpayer-funded positions she held in December 2021 to avoid any conflicts with section 44 of the constitution before declaring she would contest the preselection in Flinders.

Zoe McKenzie has been part of the Liberal Party machine for at least 15 years and has given loyal and dedicated service to the organisation. She has received ringing endorsements from past Liberal Prime Ministers as well as current and former Liberal Ministers on the back of this service.

So some questions to ponder:

  1. While her impressive government resume and taxpayer funded bank balance might encourage some of you to vote for her, it’s well worth asking the question – why choose to not include any of that significant information in her campaign literature? It is entirely relevant to the job and in the interests of transparency it should be made known.
  2. Is Flinders just a means to an end for entry to Parliament after her failed attempt at pre-selection three years previously in the super-wealthy inner city electorate of Higgins?
  3. Is her preselection a reward from the party for years of loyal service?
  4. What was listed as her primary place of residence when she unsuccessfully sought preselection in Higgins?

If you were a Flinders resident, would you vote for her?

I know that I won’t be.

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What is The Handmaid’s Tale?

From one of our American friends…

By Tales & Typos

I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood when it was first published in 1985. I thought it was brilliant then, and now it’s resurrection as a television series is even more eerie – eerily realistic.

When I began watching the Hulu television series, I was riveted from the very beginning. It had my attention from the very first scene. After watching a few episodes, I got uncomfortable with what I was watching, not because it was bad, but because it was so realistic and frightening.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, Gilead is the name of the totalitarian society that used to be part of the United States. It treats women as property of the state while dealing with climate change and environmental disasters, all causing the birth rate to drop. Desperately trying to repopulate their world, the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude. The main character is determined to survive the horrifying world she lives in and makes many discoveries along the way.

The Handmaids are prisoners of the State. They are denied the right to liberty and freedom. In “training” to adjust to their new lives, the Handmaids are threatened with violence and physically abused if they don’t submit to the ways of Gilead.

Women in Gilead are forbidden from reading and writing – the punishment for a first offense is having one’s hand cut off which enables the authorities to more easily maintain control over them. The Bible is banned. All citizens must follow Gilead’s own official version of Christianity. The ban of abortion in Gilead is a retroactive, meaning all who have performed abortions prior to the rise of Gilead are put to death or even sent to the Colonies.

What does Gilead remind you of? It reminds me of the state of Texas. Strict laws and rules unfavourable for women and minorities. Here are some similarities: Men controlling women, banning of abortion, banning of books, banning of voting rights, banning of freedom and liberty.

Although this is a fictional society, it has eerie similarities to our own society. It may be more extreme than our society, but the similarities are absolutely apparent.

So what do we do? We keep fighting for our freedom, rights, and democracy. Good vs Evil. Positive vs Negative. I’d like to think good supersedes evil. Voting is our superpower. We have to vote out evil because it is poisoning our country to death.

Link to the original article.

You can reach me on Twitter @kathrynresister.

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The LNP exists to serve the rich. Everyone else gets “thoughts and prayers”

By Lucy Hamilton

The recent budget has underscored that the Coalition government has abandoned the needy, and the nation’s future. Whether an Australian is hunting for a job or displaced from a disaster-wrecked town, they should expect almost nothing from our leaders.

The budget’s lessons should remind us that “conservatives” see themselves as representing the self-sufficient. Anyone unable to fend for him or herself is acceptable wastage. The tin boat heroes of Lismore are perhaps the model. Lismore largely took care of itself as underfunded emergency services struggled to cope. Without those brave rescuers in their tinnies, many more would have died. Future deaths will be met with hollow “thoughts and prayers” and a shrug by “conservative” politicians.

This is the implicit message from the government. The unreckonable harm of their policies – including the funding of new and bigger fossil fuel projects – will be communities’ to bear.

Instead of looking at the systemic crises facing the precariat, the splashy election budget threw it spare change in the hope that voters might be dazzled enough to reelect the incumbents.

Ultimately Australia’s battlers are on their own. JobSeeker payments have gone from 43.9% to 43.1% below the poverty line. A $420 tax break for a single year hides a tax increase for low and middle income earners. A gift of $250 to pensioners will do little to cover even the additional bills as Medicare’s coverage shrinks. Meanwhile the tax strike of the rich continues
unchecked.

As rent challenges those battling to make ends meet, Scott Morrison’s only solution was that renters should buy property, the price of which has been inflated out of reach by government policy that benefits the wealthy investor. The government program he referred to there will be another announceable that ends up helping only a handful. His flippant statement was little more than cover for a party that panders to donors at the expense of the rest of us.

Low unemployment rates mean little when a single hour of paid work places the individual in the employed category, and too many are under-employed. That’s with the backpackers and foreign labour who do so much of our low-paid work yet to return in force.

This makes even more nauseating Scott Morrison’s constant disingenuous roleplay as tradesman and labourer. It reflects, however, the inversion that has taken place in right wing politics. The Coalition no longer portrays itself as the party representing its investors. Instead it enacts a shadow play pretending to be the party of the working man, even while it strips back the services it provides him and his family.

Wendy Lovell, Victorian Liberal former Housing Minister displayed the superficiality of this clash of interests when she spoke of there being no use placing low-income families in “the best street in Brighton where the children cannot mix with others or go to the school with other children…” There is no questioning of the policies that create the gulf between rich and poor in the current Coalition.

Meanwhile “highly regressive” tax cuts for mainly rich men continue unchallenged. Combined with no interest in preventing the siphoning of wealth offshore, this strips the treasury of the funds the nation needs to address our challenges. Largesse for fossil fuel projects and military spending was promised by Frydenberg without any sense that it needs justifying. The spin that complements this generosity has convinced us, however, that spending on the community must be begrudged and scraped and costed at length.

The endorsement of the self-sufficient and the abandonment of the needy is not limited to Australian right wing politics. The increasingly extreme politics of the Coalition, echoing their role models in the Republican Party, trumpets an allegiance to free market libertarianism. Richard Denniss has pointed out with great clarity that they actually have willingness aplenty to tilt the market in favour of their donors and favoured economic interests. Their libertarian credentials are as shallow as their working man tableaux.

This government is authoritarian in tendency rather than pursuing freedom. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’s expose of the highhanded treatment of NSW preselection procedures is only a fraction of the problem. The persecution of whistleblowers, secrecy, surveillance and suppression of protest are deeply concerning.

And part of an authoritarian trajectory is the dehumanising of a group of “outsiders.” By uniting the community of the nation against a common enemy, “culture war” battles can be used to distract from the diminution of living standards of the percentage of population needed to hold power.

For much of the last 20 years, it has been the refugee that came by boat who has served as the Coalition’s threatening “outsider” for this gambit. It is reprehensible enough. How much more disturbing might it be if the Coalition is to continue its demonisation of Australia’s “needy” until they are seen as more troublesome than they are worth.

Part of that dismissal conflates them with loathed progressives or greenies. Barnaby Joyce illustrated these ideas when he dismissed two bushfire deaths in his electorate as likely Greens voters. The Liberal Party functionary, Shane Stone, who now acts as the coordinator general of our National Recovery and Resilience Agency dismissed those who lived in flood-destroyed areas as people who wanted to “live among the gum trees.” Republican rhetoric is much further down the path of depicting progressives not just as a nuisance but as a literal threat to the lives of conservatives. This gambit is named “accusation in a mirror” and is part of the process of creating the fear to foster awful acts of violence.

Stone’s claim that “the taxpayer and ratepayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for these huge catastrophic, damage events” is not true unless we make it true. Richard Denniss’s Big is a challenge to us to confront the accepted mantra on where national income can be gleaned and how it can be spent. The climate crisis will be an area where unthinkable amounts will need to be spent, and those decisions need making now.

In one term of a government, Australia has begun to see the death, destruction and financial cost of the climate emergency in stark relief. Frydenberg’s budget has promised a combined $3 billion to both renewables and disaster preparedness but the spending on climate change measures is intended to decline every year in the coming term. Meanwhile more than ten times that amount has been promised to fossil fuel corporations.

The government not only plans to exacerbate the impact of the climate emergency, but continues to play games with the impact it will have on Australians. Every degree the climate increases in heat, for example, adds an extra 7% of water to the flood that follows.

One can only judge that the Coalition perceives the poor who are more likely to live in climate disaster zones because these are more affordable (and the progressives who often live in threatened areas) as disposable. In an era when we no longer need mass labour in industry and the military, are these plutocrats to some degree shrugging their shoulders about the inevitable losses?

Whenever opposing politicians draw attention to the deep injustices at the core of modern right wing politics, they are shut down with cries of spruiking, ”The politics of envy. The politics of the class war”. Warren Buffett admitted, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.

We must decide now, before the crises become more overwhelming, whether we are going to accept the abandonment of those most wracked by rising costs and catastrophes. Right wing pretence of being the working man’s party will not address the fact that they are happily allied with the aspiring oligarchs, and plan to leave us to our fate.

This article was originally published on Pearls and Irritations as Scott Morrison’s constant disingenuous role play as tradesman and labourer

Lucy Hamilton is a Melbourne writer with degrees from the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

 

 

 

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Clinging on to power

By 2353NM

You should feel a bit sorry for Tim Banfield. While he did choose to become a member of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, then put his hand up to be the UAP candidate for the Illawarra based seat of Whitlam at the upcoming federal election, he didn’t deserve to be sacked as a candidate 24 hours after giving a ‘wide ranging’ interview to a local ABC journalist in February. He claims that candidates are only allowed to speak to other UAP members rather than the people they are proposing to represent.

“Because really, at the end of the day, what’s a politician there for? It’s to serve the local community and to serve the public.

“If you can’t do that then what’s the use of being in there.”

Mr Banfield, who is a founder of the Destiny Alive Church, said the party was run like a “communist party” with all control centralised.

Palmer’s UAP seems to have a problem communicating with those outside the party. The yellow and black advertising around the country promises ‘freedom forever’ but doesn’t even attempt to explain what the ‘freedom’ is and how they aim to get us there. Some time ago, we ventured onto their website and asked for some information on why we were lacking freedom, how the UAP was going to implement it and what benefits there were to the rest of Australia should Palmer’s UAP gain enough seats to form a government. Despite concerns about getting large quantities of spam email – we actually got nothing, not even an answer to the question.

Palmer is also known for his views on COVID vaccines. At the end of February, Palmer was rushed to a Gold Cost private hospital after contracting the Delta version of COVID and double pneumonia. According to a report on several websites, Palmer refused ICU treatment at the hospital and discharged himself. He then

called specialists in the US who treated former President Donald Trump …

where he was fast-tracked into a drug trial where they pumped a cocktail of five antiviral drugs into him.

Two of the drugs included ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which have not yet been approved by the Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA).

Palmer’s senior management contacted American gastroenterologist and Ivermectin advocate Professor

Thomas Borody along with a team of US specialists.

The US doctors worked with Palmer’s doctors to monitor his treatment at home, including having an ambulance waiting outside in the event he needed to be rushed back to hospital.

“I would have died otherwise, without doubt,’’ Palmer told Sky News.

It does seem to be Palmer’s way or the highway. What chance is there of any MP reliant on Palmer’s patronage representing the views of their electors rather than Palmer’s? Representing views other than Palmer’s worked so well last time – just ask Jacqui Lambie, who lasted all of 6 months as Senator reliant on Palmer’s patronage about a decade ago.

Are the two major parties any better? The ‘traditional pre-election budget wisdom’ of throwing truckloads of cash to interest groups hasn’t overhauled the government’s perceived popularity. It probably didn’t help that the night Prime Minister Morrison was slapping his mate Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the back and congratulating him on delivering the best shot at an election winning budget, retiring Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was in ‘the other place’ laying into Morrison for alleged bullying and autocratic behaviours.

At the end of March, Morrison and NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet ratified a number of candidates for the federal election, rolling the State Executive in the process. The State Executive had been attempting to establish candidates in a number of federal NSW seats for months with a lack of support or assistance from Morrison and his supporters. The battle has turned legal with various groups arming themselves with lawyers and going to court – then appealing decisions that go against them.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells retired as her other option was to be placed in an unwinnable position on the Liberal Party’s NSW ‘Senate ticket’ as an outcome of the bickering. Fierravanti-Wells certainly isn’t the first to suggest that Morrison is not the ‘good Christian’ that rode in on the white charger to save the Liberal Party when Turnbull was deposed, and there could be just a little ‘spite’ in the timing and verbiage. It certainly was timed well enough to keep the discussion going around Morrison’s reported ‘his way or the highway’ behaviours.

Later the same week, NSW Upper House MP Catherine Cusack joined the fray. Cusack, who lives in North East NSW and announced her resignation from the NSW Upper House two weeks earlier over the lack of flood relief, stated she was a Liberal Party MP who would not be voting for the re-election of the Morrison Government. She went on to accuse

Morrison of having “ruined” the Liberal party and said he had “trashed” its values over two decades, as state director, “then as a scheming MP and now as prime minister finding loopholes in our constitution to delay preselections in order to get his way”.

She criticised Morrison for “forcing moderates to vote for [former Liberal and now United Australia party leader MP] Craig Kelly” when his preselection was under threat before the 2019 election.

She has warned she will vote against the prime minister over factional “scheming” and politicised allocation of flood relief.

“But he has outdone himself engineering a federal intervention to jump over the organisation all together.

“He got what he wanted at the expense of destroying our rules-based selection system and disgusting virtually every member of the NSW division.”

Crikey recently discussed the current war in the NSW Liberal Party and claimed that Morrison is up to his neck in the political intrigue. It seems the traditional mum and dad business owners that have supported the Liberal Party for decades are being pushed out and replaced by fundamental Christians, who are more interested in power for power’s sake than promoting a (small “L”) liberal philosophy. As Crikey suggests

It’s a situation as self-destructive as anything that’s going on in Labor – but you won’t read about any of it News Corp, not in any depth. Thank God they’ve decided to stay away from cheap political sensationalism at last!

What is it about conservatives and clinging to power?

What do you think?

 

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Hydroponic native plants to detox PFAS-contaminated water

University of South Australia Media Release

They’re the non-stick on Teflon cookware, the stain resistance in Scotchgard, and the suppression factor in firefighting foam, but while the staying power of PFAS chemicals was once revered, it’s now infamous as PFAS substances continue to infiltrate the environment and affect human health.

Now, new research from the University of South Australia is helping to remediate the ‘indestructible’ PFASs as scientists show that Australian native plants can significantly remediate PFAS pollutants through floating wetlands to create healthier environments for all.

Conducted in partnership with CSIRO and the University of Western Australia, the research found that PFAS chemicals (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) can be removed from contaminated water via Australian native rushes – Phragmites australis, Baumea articulata, and Juncus kraussii.

Phragmites australis, otherwise known as the common reed, removed legacy PFAS contaminants by 42-53 per cent from contaminated surface water (level: 10 µg/L).

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to PFAS may lead to a range of health issues including a decline in fertility, developmental delays in children, increased risk of some cancers, a reduced immune system, higher cholesterol, and risk of obesity.

UniSA and CSIRO researcher Dr John Awad says that this research could alleviate many of these environmental and health risks by providing a clean, green, and cost-effective method to remove PFAS from the environment.

“PFASs are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down, instead accumulating in the environment and in our bodies where they can cause adverse health effects,” Dr Awad says.

“In Australia, PFAS concerns often relate to the use of firefighting foam – especially legacy firefighting foam – which accumulates in the surface water of our waterways.

“Our research tested the effectiveness of Australian rushes to remove PFAS chemicals from stormwater, finding that Phragmites australis was the most effective at absorbing chemicals through its roots and shoots.”

The study used constructed floating wetlands as a mechanism for plants to grow hydroponically. Dr Awad says floating wetlands present a novel and flexible way for natural remediation systems.

“Constructed floating wetlands can be readily installed into existing urban environments, such as holding reservoirs and retention basins, making them highly manoeuvrable and adaptable to local waterways,” Dr Awad says.

“Plus, as this innovative water treatment system does not require pumping or the ongoing addition of chemicals, it is a cost-effective remediation system for PFAS removal.

“Add native plants to the mix and we have delivered a truly clean, green and environmentally-friendly method for removing toxic PFAS chemicals from contaminated water.”

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Christian Woke in Politics – Injustice, Persecution, and Freedom

By Brian Morris

We should prepare for the mantra of ‘Religious Freedom’ to arise once again – with a freshly engineered version of the Religious Discrimination (privileges) Bill. That is, of course, if our Pentecostal prime minister is returned at this election.

In that event it will simply be more PR and spin from the Christian Churches and politicians, despite Philip Ruddock’s 2018 Religious Freedom Review showing there was “no impediment” to religious freedom in Australia.

But the Review made concessions to religion which – with the help of Christian Porter and the Morrison government – morphed into several troubled versions of the Religious Discrimination Bill (RDB). In February 2022 the Bill was “shelved”, but it was not defeated.

Its failure to pass into law, however, did create even greater angst for the religious right. There was already a form of ‘Christian Woke’ – or claims of religious racism – which arose from the sense of injustice and persecution when Same Sex Marriage was legalised.

The RDB remains a means to re-establish Christian authority for religious fundamentalists – especially on the LGBTI issue. They still wish to impose their religious “ethos” within education, together with the ability to hire and fire teachers and reject students purely on the basis of their sexuality.

While mainstream print and electronic media have reported widely on Religious Freedom – since the Ruddock Review – it has been almost exclusively based on the religious and political aspects of the proposed legislation.

Missing in this entire four-year debate has been the secular and ‘A-theist’ (footnote) argument. It’s not just in the political and social justice context (of banning LGBTI teachers and students) – but also a need to question the vagaries of fundamentalist Christian doctrine that has dominated media commentary.

And that includes the broad swathe of secular policy – well beyond RDB and religious education with its ultra-Christian sensibilities. There is an upsurge of evangelical self-righteousness which seeks to further entrench its influence in the media and in state and federal politics.

We have at least one federal candidate who says, “I want God’s kingdom to penetrate the political mountain.” This sounds very much like the very far right religious philosophy of “7 Mountains Mandate” that seeks to dominate the whole of society. And Kimberly Horn is not alone in her quest. It’s well worth watching the Lance Wallnau video.

So too the hundreds of Pentecostals who have joined the Liberal Party – and there’s a strong argument why undeclared evangelicals in parliaments further weaken our badly compromised “Separation of Church and State” which has gradually been whittled away.

And, of course, we have a Prime Minister who says he was “called to do God’s work.”

It’s not sufficient that print and electronic media merely report these facts – the problem here is that there’s scant secular or A-theist commentary on WHY a growing religious influence in politics and the media is socially regressive.

What ever happened to the media code of, “without fear or favour”? Is it just easier to ignore every aspect of the A-theist argument for fear of a Christian backlash – a reprimand from the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, or simply a flood of cranky Christians flooding the switchboard?

The devoutly religious have two well-practiced clichés that they roll out to combat a rare challenge that gets run by the media. Invariably it’s to dismiss comments that come from ‘communistic atheists’ or ‘militant secularists’. No debate is needed!

It’s the secular and A-theist majority that need to be calling for more ‘freedom’ in mainstream media. When was the last time we heard or read any substantial challenge to the flawed foundations of fundamentalist Christian doctrine that constantly undermines the progressive secular agenda?

And surely it’s high time that all federal candidates – including current parliamentarians – were made accountable to the electorate. We really do need to know how their religion, or lack of faith, will influence their party’s position on a raft of social legislation.

An IPSOS poll showed 78 per cent of the public want religion separated from the business of government, yet we continue to see a sharp upsurge of politicised Christianity. Australia is already regarded as a ‘soft theocracy’ with far too much religious influence in government.

So it really is time to dispel this myth of ‘Christian Woke’ – they are not a persecuted cohort by any stretch of the imagination – on the contrary, their political and media influence is extensive.

Aided by Scott Morrison, politicians, and a raft of Christian lobbies religion has been placed on a pedestal by most of mainstream media. They appear captivated by the pomp and ceremony, and by the authority a very remote and out-of-touch Christian hierarchy.

And it has become a media taboo to question that authority. And not least the apparent veto to challenge the flawed foundations of Christian history that underpin the doctrines and dogma which for centuries have thwarted progressive social policy.

So it would be politically relevant for the public to regularly hear the secular and A-theist voice – those who speak for the 78 per cent of citizens who oppose politics being driven by religion.

And there is no shortage of topics that challenge the illusion a ‘Christian Woke’. Their claims of injustice and persecution are merely elements of shrewd marketing to maintain a consistent religious PR and media relations profile.

Footnote: A-theism is not, per se, “anti-religious” – nor does it malign people of religion. Rather, it is free to question the religious doctrines that underpin fundamentalist views on all contemporary social and secular issues.

 

Brian Morris is a former Journalist and Public Relations professional and the author of Sacred to Secular, a critically acclaimed analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm that it does. You can read more about him here.

 

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The Risk of the Religious Right: Christian Libertarianism

By Lucy Hamilton

It arguably took one presidential term in America for the nation to move from a modern nation with a loud Religious Right, to one where in 9 states a woman enduring a miscarriage will fear arrest for the charge that she caused it.

She is also likely to lack a swift end to her tragedy because doctors will be too frightened (or lack the training) to proceed with a D&C (dilation and curettage). This grieving woman will then be susceptible to septicaemia as the pregnancy ends, potentially over the course of weeks. Across 42 states, 536 pieces of legislation have limited access to abortion.

At the same time, LGBTQI Americans are suffering a concerted attack on their rights and safety. Idaho, for example, is threatening life sentence felony charges to parents or doctors who prescribe puberty delaying treatment, even if they leave the state.

It is hard to imagine Hillary Clinton allowing this Religious Right minority takeover without a monumental battle. Not least because up to 84% of Americans still support some access to abortion, and 67% of Democrats actively support trans rights.

Australia is a little further behind in the political power of our Religious Right, but it is growing. It is not regular religious faith that is troubling, but the political intentions of an immoderate faction. The philosophy underlying their agenda is “Christian Libertarianism,” even if many will not have heard the term. It explains this minority imposing its harsh definition of Christian morality on their nation at the same as the cruelty of Religious Right politicians’ policies towards the poor and vulnerable.

As our nation has embraced progressive positions, such as legislating to enable marriage equality, conservative religious groups are putting more pressure on the Coalition government to be their voice. With roughly 9 American-style Evangelicals (Pentecostal) and conservative Catholics in the federal cabinet, there is only limited resistance to the lobbying.

The trajectory looks likely to become entrenched as galvanized Christian groups branch-stack traditionally “conservative” seats. A recent article suggested that the Coalition might be willing to abandon progressive seats like Kooyong, hoping to hold power in the more conservative outer suburbs and rural areas. The National Party candidate for Richmond, Kimberly Hone, is such an Evangelical, with a social media history that echoes Katherine Deves’ controversial opinions.

A 2018 investigation exposed the Mormon and conservative Christian campaign shaping the Victorian Liberal Party. As the authors note, their impact outweighs their – as yet – minority numbers: “they are well-organised, they turn out to vote, and they are coalescing against rapid social change.” They compound that impact by targeting secular candidates such as the IPA’s James Paterson; his defence of his seat drives him to promote their religious agenda.

Deriving from the American Religious Right is the sense that conservative Christians are beleaguered. Progressives, they believe, have conquered education, entertainment and much of government. Rainbow flags on logos on social media suggest to this group that they have also lost commerce to the Left.

Perceiving themselves as embattled underdogs, rather than the fringe of the establishment with all the associated protections, they are fighting hard to keep their belief systems central to conservative government.

Rather than the conservative private religion of the Australian tradition, however, these new branch members and their selected candidates are introducing American religious Right tenets to the mainstream of Australian “conservatism.” With that pressure, it is becoming ever less conservative and more extreme.

The Religious Right in America has moved from the fringes of Republican thought after the Great Depression to being its driving force in 2022. Government programs were the province of communist Iron Curtain countries and welfare was socialism. Man should have the freedom to be poor. Vast sums from enthusiastic businessmen funded the Evangelical propaganda units tying freedom and God to American identity. It created the philosophy that has pervaded the Religious Right, Christian Libertarianism.

Libertarian political ideology demands freedom from government, tax, and regulation. It also asserts individuals’ right to determine their private morality provided they do not harm others. “Christian Libertarianism” by contrast, rejects the individual’s freedom of conscience and demands government impose their particular religious morality on the nation. This is partly because the dominant Evangelical majority in the Religious Right believe in Millennial prophecies where the nation must be moral under God’s law to ensure Christ’s return. Christian Nationalism – where the religious elect must control the nation – is a belief held by 20% of Americans.

This theocratic thinking is represented in Evangelicals here too. One example is National Party candidate Hone’s description of her mission: “I want to bring God’s kingdom to the political arena. And I want God’s kingdom to penetrate the political mountain.” David Hardaker, in his series investigating the growing religious impact on Australian politics, suggests part of Scott Morrison’s rejection of accountability might lie in his sense of himself as a divine agent “truly accountable only to God.”

 

Image from newprophecymovement.com.au

 

Outgoing NSW Liberal MP Catherine Cusack has endorsed the federal Greens candidate for the region, in outright rejection of the “wrecking ball” these Religious Right candidates are “putting through the Liberal and National parties.” She despaired: “They destroy moderates who cross the floor, they destroy trans people, and they do it in the name of God. It’s so destructive. It’s not liberal values, but it’s also not Australian values.”

The seeping of Republican ideas and strategies into our own conservative politics means the underlying Christian Libertarian philosophy is increasingly powerful here. On one hand the ideology is utterly committed to the freedom of individuals and businesses to operate without interference, as well as the intrusive public programs that might limit the suffering of the poor. Scott Morrison’s prosperity theology faith where wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and poverty a sign of his condemnation is emblematic. Intervention for the poor is against God’s will, and the Morrison government’s harshness to the needy is obvious. Paradoxically though, this freedom stops at the bedroom. Morrison’s support for Katherine Deves in her attacks on trans rights bows to this strict morality. Dominic Perrottet may not claim the label Christian Libertarian, but it describes his expressed beliefs with precision.

Part of the strength of this small demographic is the forging of a broader “conservative” identity against the progressive ideas represented by the Greens and the teal indies which they label socialist and an existential threat. The Coalition faces competition for these votes from the United Australia Party and PHON. They share the “freedom” rally anti-vaxx sentiment, and opposition to Covid health measures; the online Qanon/conspiracy network responsible has been absorbed into the Evangelical worldview. The Religious Right is also deeply sceptical of climate science. Coalition politicians around Australia have worked to avoid alienating Clive Palmer’s ralliers. Labor is treading a cautious path aiming to continue supporting both their traditional centrist religious vote as well as the progressive social vote.

Australia is echoing the American attack on trans people with other campaigns yet to follow the predictable American models. Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister for Women, has been beginning to mainstream anti-choice arguments, and George Christensen introduced an anti-abortion bill to parliament last year. The Australian Christian Lobby is not only attacking Liberal candidates who crossed the floor to demand amendments to the religious discrimination bill, but is also campaigning against candidates who support late-term abortions (which are basically an emergency medical procedure).

These are the steps towards the cliff over which the US is now, suddenly, tumbling. Australians need to approach this election with full understanding of what a Coalition under siege from religious extremism means for us. The American model should scare us.

 

Lucy Hamilton is a Melbourne writer with degrees from the University of Melbourne and Monash University.

 

 

 

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La Trobe meets regional Net Zero targets

La Trobe University Media Release

La Trobe University’s Mildura and Shepparton campuses are officially Net Zero – the first Victorian university campuses to achieve this important milestone.

The announcement comes as part of the University’s $75 million commitment to become carbon neutral across all its campuses, including Bundoora in Melbourne, by 2029 – with all of its regional campuses expected to reach the target by the end of 2022.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said he was proud of what the University had been able to achieve in a short timeframe.

“We announced our ambitious plan less than three years ago, in August 2019, because not only was it the right thing to do, it also made good economic and environmental sense,” Professor Dewar said.

“I’m thrilled to announce today that – through good planning, innovative thinking and a firm focus on achieving our goals – two of our regional campuses have achieved their target several months ahead of schedule.”

Professor Dewar said that as a University focussed on building a better world, it’s important that La Trobe leads by example on critical issues like climate change.

“Many organisations have bold targets for reducing their emissions – but moving from ambition to action can be where the real challenge lies,” Professor Dewar said.

“We’ve set very specific goals, and we’re achieving them through timely actions – and now our staff, students and communities will benefit for years to come,” Professor Dewar said.

Greater Shepparton City Council Mayor, Councillor Kim O’Keeffe, said the achievement was a positive step for the region and worked to support the need for urgent climate emergency action.

“Greater Shepparton City Council are working consistently to help promote and improve the climate and sustainability of our region and it is fantastic to see organisations across the municipality understand this need for change to maintain a safe climate for all,” Cr O’Keeffe said.

Councillor for Environment and Sustainability at the Mildura Rural City Council, Jason Modica, said the achievement is a significant step forward for the broader community in its ongoing work to slash the region’s carbon emissions.

“It’s great to see other large and respected organisations in our region doing great work in this area, and along with our own response to the climate emergency, I think we’re really putting our region on the map in terms of creating a more sustainable community,” Cr Modica said.

A range of projects have been implemented on each campus, including the installation of rooftop solar panels, energy efficient LED lights, mechanical system efficiency upgrades, and batteries to store solar energy.

In 2021, La Trobe generated enough renewables across all campuses to power all regional campuses for the entire year. Today in Mildura, 78 per cent of the campus is self-powered during the day. In Shepparton, the solar panels alone supply 36 per cent of the campus’ daytime energy use.

La Trobe’s Shepparton and Mildura campuses received their certification through Climate Active – Australia’s collective action. The campuses are the first Victorian ‘precincts’ to achieve certification.

In addition to the implemented initiatives, La Trobe University has partnered with Greenfleet on a local revegetation project to offset the small percentage of emissions not reducible through on-site interventions.

La Trobe’s Nangak Tamboree Wildlife Sanctuary is providing 5,000 seedlings to a revegetation project in Kinglake, Victoria. The land is traditionally owned by the Taungurung and Wurundjeri Peoples, and will become home to an ecosystem for a variety of native birds in the area.

A breakdown of initiatives implemented on each campus include:

In Mildura:

  • At peak operation the campus is 100% powered from onsite renewables
  • Installed a 130 Kw solar system, enough to power 25 houses
  • Replaced 800 light fittings with energy efficient LEDs – 100 per cent of campus lighting is now LED.
  • Installed Tesla Power Wall System to store solar generated on-site
  • The campus is currently over 65 per cent powered from onsite renewables
  • Chiller replaced with energy efficient chiller
  • Installed high efficiency chilled water pumps and Variable Speed Drives.
  • Heating, ventilation and cooling Building Management System optimisation

In Shepparton:

  • Installed 115 solar panels, which is enough to power over 20 hours
  • Replaced 807 light fittings with energy efficient LEDs – 100% of campus lighting is now LED.
  • Has an organics pick-up and processing system, which benefits local farmers
  • Heating, ventilation and cooling Building Management System optimisation

 

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