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Not so Covid Safe

By John Haly  

The CovidSafe app has triggered innumerable privacy and security concerns amidst the public, who are already deeply suspicious of a government that has eroded public trust. Amongst recent instances of the diminishment of our trust are:

Despite the trust deficit, the Australian Government has spent $1.5m on CovidSafe, including over $700,000 for Amazon to host the data.

But is the issue Trust or Competence?

The lack of trust in this Government’s promotion of this CovidSafe App may be justifiable on their record on privacy and security. Still, you have to keep in mind their frequent displays of incompetence in science and technology. Remember Abbott and Brandis trying to tell the public what metadata was? Remember Malcolm Turnbull trying to come up with a better NBN? Recall both the Australian Census online or the Centrelink portal failures were falsely blamed on convenient DOS attacks? Attacking them on untrustworthiness can be done. Still, it is easier to criticise the App’s lack of suitability both technically and statistically. So I am going to stay away from the privacy and security issue and ask the question, is the CovidSafe App fit for purpose?

The Physics of Radio Signals

My analysis begins with a comment in a recent ABC article concerning the software bugs and issues of the COVIDSafe contact-tracing app:

“ … “Because mobile phone device models are different in Bluetooth strength and how they operate, all contacts within Bluetooth range are noted on the user’s device,” a DTA spokesperson said. …”

Bugs and issues can be fixed (although not in time before lockdown lift begins), but there are limits to what our science can discern about the physics of radio signals, like Bluetooth.

Let me ask you, dear reader, a few questions.

Do you live in the country, city, an apartment or have anyone who lives within 10 metres of you? Do you stand in a social distancing line keeping the required 1.5m while waiting to get into a shop? The answer to the last question ought to be yes, but bear with me. If you are within 10 metres – or in right circumstances, perhaps twice that – then you and a stranger or a known neighbour can be tagged with “associating” because this App uses Bluetooth to detect other phones.

Before you protest that it is supposed to be when you are within 1.5 metres, keep in mind using BlueTooth for localisation is a very well researched field of study. Bluetooth and other narrowband radio systems can only reach an accuracy of several metres at best without accompanying geolocation or triangulation of wifi data (a strategy later IEEE papers raise as attempts to overcome localisation inaccuracies). Naturally adding geolocation data, raises all the apparent privacy and monitoring concerns (which I said I was not going to go into). This App, for now, doesn’t use geolocation except on the Android/Google version of the App in a limited capacity.

Bluetooth Ranges by class dependancies

 

Signal strength isn’t a good indicator of distance between two connected BlueTooth devices, because it is too subject to environmental conditions. Is there a person between the devices? How is the owner holding his/her device? What is its proximity to metal plates that impede the signal path? Are there any other radio frequency reflecting surfaces? Is there a wall? Concrete walls will attenuate the radio signal. Using BlueTooth is essentially wholly inaccurate, and it has absolutely no sense of direction. Much like our Government, but I digress. Whereas the virus can’t traverse walls and floors (unless it is brought into enclosed spaces by people), Bluetooth can. Generically for a distance of approximately 10 metres. Although my testing on a five-year-old iPhone 5 running iOS 9 can make a connection from nearly 20 metres through two building walls or doors. So Bluetooth can’t tell when you are 1.5 metres away.

Bluetooth Ranges are extending not contracting.

 

Meaning two neighbours sitting alone watching TV in their lounge room – according to their respective phones running the App – have been in close contact for hours if your binge-watching a good series. Let’s not even discuss how long you and your neighbours have spent “sleeping” together, while alone in your adjacent houses or apartments with your phones on the charger by your beds. For all you know, anybody’s phone might be standing in the adjacent store, approximately ten or more metres away but with whom you never interact. The Government App will be rife with false positives without you even knowing who these “contacts” are.

Google Phone providing geolocation permissions

But alternatively, a passing stranger’s viral cough load, can in seconds, infect you. So can contact from a surface contaminated with coronavirus. Someone coughing into your face is undetectable by your mutual phones, unless he spends 15 minutes in your proximity, apologising. At least if that happens, you have plenty of time to ask for name and contact information for the contact tracers, when one of you gets unfortunate news after being tested. Touching an infected surface and forgetting to wash your hands before shovelling food into your mouth, means the time between contact and infection, can be hours, but either the wrong or no phone, might be blamed.

The App can detect none of these scenarios that tell you when another person with the same App, has a phone. None of these things will trigger a 15 minute Bluetooth alert. It is not just false positives that it will generate, but it simply can not detect anything other than another phone. Let me reiterate. It is a Phone detection facility, not a virus detection facility!!

The Lottery Probability

Now let’s discuss some numbers! The ABC reported on the 6th of May, that 5 million phones that had uploaded the App. The Government reported on the same day we had conducted 688K tests Australia-wide for the virus. This lifted our testing stats to 2.6% of the population, presuming not too many people have gone in for repeat tests.

Our consequent testing regime has risen (as of 21st of May) to 1,137,684 tests or 4.4% of the Australian population of 25.695 million. Simultaneously, the upload of CovidSafe has slowed to only 5.87 million by the 19th of May. So 22% of the population (a long way from Morrison’s desire for 40%) with an App that can only potentially detect 4.4% of the population, and a lot of these tests will be negative – for now. Only 0.65% of all those tests have been positive.

The Covid infection Status in Australia as of 6th of May

 

So let’s rephrase that.

So 22% of the population – if paired with mutual phones running a working version of the CovidSafe App – can confirm the 0.65% of 4.4% of our population, has coronavirus. To be fair, it might have a remote possibility of identifying someone with an infection, but the probability of my winning the lottery has a better chance. Let’s not forget the only alert the App – in theory – sends, is AFTER someone has been infected and have informed authorities and a tracing team has triggered the alarm, which, if they have infected you, is a little too late. Note I used phrases like, “might have” and “in theory.” Sadly as of writing this, the capacity of the App to do any of this is non-existent.

The Covid infection Status in Australia as of 21st of May

Operability

As of the 19th of May, no State in Australia has reported any use of the CovidSafe App data, and the State with the most substantial documented infection rate (NSW) “has had issues integrating it into the existing contact-tracing method.” In addition to the incapacity of States to process the data, many smartphones can’t run the CovidSafe App.  The Guardian reports, “there are no plans to make it work on phones operating older software than iOS 10 and Android 6.0.” This is not a recent discovery, as we have known for some time that the tracing capacity is inoperative.

Risk Factors

The most significant risk is the public’s misunderstanding that it will keep them safe. That leads to complacency, which means people may ease their due diligence and not be so cautious about social distancing and washing their hands regularly. That is where it becomes dangerous.

To quote one woman I interacted with recently on social media said, “I have the app because l want to be notified if l have come into contact with a positive person and get tested ASAP.” The App was never even conceived to be a buzzer that alerts you to positive people nearby. Perceptions like that actually make it dangerous! Not only does it not keep you ”safe,” but it also has the potential to increase the risk of infection through complacency. The Government has been negligent in educating the public not only to what it is supposed to do, but what are the limits of the physics of radio waves and statistical probability.

People’s misunderstanding of how the App works leads to risk taking.

Alternately?

Instead of focusing on a dysfunctional App, perhaps we should be following the examples of IcelandSouth KoreaGermany, or our neighbour New Zealand and upscaling randomised asymptomatic testing or regular testing for critical workers. All the success stories of countries handling the virus have the common thread that testing was crucial.

Conclusion

The App is not a panacea for tracing infection. It is a placebo to placate the masses who are too technically illiterate to understand the nuances and limitations of technology, by an incompetent Government that focuses on misunderstood technology at the expense of more robust asymptomatic testing of Australians.

Unfit for purpose? Gov’t or App?

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches.

 

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Time to Turn Consensus from the W.H.O. Assembly into a Political Charade?

By Denis Bright  

The W.H.O. Assembly reached a remarkable consensus on the need to investigate the spread of COVID-19. Australia co-sponsored the initiatives at the Assembly as part of a team effort by thirty-five other players, including the European Union with its twenty-seven additional states.

Regrettably, this achievement received far less attention than the evolving war of words between Australia and China. Australia was a loyal player in the Trump Administration’s efforts to marginalise Chinese influence across the Indo-Pacific Basin.

Australia’s Defence Connect (20 May 2020) called for even greater loyalty to the US Global Alliance from Australia in this time of crisis over the spread of COVID-19:

“It is Australia’s indispensable relationship, the core of our national security and the key enabler, that has allowed Australia to freely engage and prosper within the post-Second World War order. However, in an era of mounting great power competition and disruption, the US-Australia relationship will become ever more important, explains retired Army officer Jason Thomas.”

Now to earlier reports in Defence Connect (24 April 2020) on Australia’s involvement in joint patrols in the South China Sea with US naval vessels.

“The Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFG 154) began sailing with Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) then rendezvoused with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) and Arleigh-Burke Class guided missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) on 18 April.

Their combined operations started with force integration training and manoeuvring exercises between Parramatta and Bunker Hill.

Captain Kurt Sellerberg, Commanding Officer of the USS Bunker Hill, welcomed the opportunity to operate with the Royal Australian Navy again, saying, “It is great to be operating with the Australians again. Every time I have deployed to this region, and to the Middle East, I have had the good fortune to operate with the Royal Australian Navy.”

Operations with USS America started with a precision manoeuvres that included Barry in the South China Sea.

Rear Admiral Fred Kacher, Commander of the America Expeditionary Strike Group, said, “We look forward to every opportunity we get to work with our stalwart Australian allies at sea.

“To bring this much combat capability together here in the South China Sea truly signals to our allies and partners in the region that we are deeply committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Operations with Parramatta have included integrated live fire exercises, co-ordinated helicopter operations, small boat force protection drills, command and control integration, and manoeuvring interoperability.”

Only political insiders could explain the apparent contrasts between operations on the high seas and the productive diplomacy at the W.H.O. Assembly. Here are key clauses from the resolution which was carried unanimously and without amendment.

OP9.10  Initiate, at the earliest appropriate moment, and in consultation with Member States, 1 a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms, 2 as appropriate, to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19, including:

(i) the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO’s disposal;

(ii) the functioning of the IHR and the status of implementation of the relevant recommendations of the previous IHR Review Committees;

(iii) WHO’s contribution to United Nations-wide efforts; and (iv) the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, and make recommendations to improve global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response capacity, including through strengthening, as appropriate, WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme;

OP9.11 Report to the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly, through the 148th session of the Executive Board, on the implementation of this resolution.

OP9.9 Ensure that the Secretariat is adequately resourced to support the Member States granting of regulatory approvals needed to enable timely and adequate COVID-19 countermeasures.

How can Australians understand the gyrations in our defence and foreign policies? Here are two contradictory explanations.

Tentative Explanation 1:  Australia wanted to act as an honest independent country in coming to terms with the horrific spread of COVID-19 as the number of cases approaches 5 million with an extra 4,500 deaths each day recently and a total death toll of almost 350,000. It was clearly within Australia’s strategic and commercial interests to cool the war of words between the Trump Administration and China. So much of Australia’s recent prosperity since the election of John Howard in 1996 was indeed due to the rise of China with its positive benefits for Australia from profitable trade in commodities and services with China as well as substantial net investment from China in the Australian economy:

Tentative Explanation 2: Australia was acting as a staunch ally of the Trump Administration to fester the war of words between the USA and China in the longer-term. President Trump would indeed use this war of words to appeal to his support base across the USA to maintain his hold on the votes from the Electoral College on 3 November 2020 as in the previous presidential election in 2016:

The two Tentative Explanations are of course not mutually exclusive. Should President Trump gain his cherished second term, his administration will certainly be on the offensive against a rise in the global strategic influence of China.

Reporters Julian Borger and Alison Rourke in The Guardian (19 May 2019) support this foreboding about our future in such a staunch political, economic and strategic alliance with the USA under current Australia United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) protocols which make Australia a virtual 51st state:

“Donald Trump has threatened to cut funding to the World Health Organization permanently and even pull the US out of the global body altogether unless it makes “major substantive improvements” which the president did not explain.

In a four-page letter to the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump claimed the organisation had shown an “alarming lack of independence” from China and accused Tedros of presiding over “repeated missteps … that have been extremely costly for the world”. The letter, he said, followed a US investigation into the WHO’s “failed response to the Covid-19 outbreak”.

Trump’s threat came on the day the WHO member states met for the first day of a two-day virtual assembly. Tedros had invited both Trump and Xi Jinping to speak, in the hope of resolving differences between the two leaders on handling the outbreak, but Trump did not take part.”

Commitment to a Space Warfare Agenda will be a crucial strategic initiative if President Trump is re-elected. This will require a network of ground stations in both global hemispheres including parts of the expanding NATO network across Europe where ties are being strengthened with countries like Georgia, the Ukraine and Poland.

Our own Pine Gap Base near Alice Springs will have a vital role to play in President Trump’s Space Warfare Agendas after 2021.

Sustainable peace across the Southern Hemisphere is still compromised by blind-spots in the UN Treaty arrangements to promote collective peace and security for our Indo-Pacific Basin. Can submarines bearing nuclear weapons transit across the oceans from Atlantic Ports in the USA to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and then move through the stormy waters of the Southern Ocean to cross the Pacific Ocean?

Although most countries have ratified the Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967, there are still grey areas in the protective cover available. This permits accurate targeting of military vessels in transit across the various Southern Oceans from surveillance bases like Pine Gap in Australia.

Monitoring of expanded geospatial surveillance is surely consistent with the need to monitor pandemic threats with power to assess new initiatives in surveillance from satellites in an era of renewed great power rivalry.

The Cold Fleet Report from the Royal Navy has been around for four years. There has been little discussion of the cost of Australia’s involvement in military initiatives to support geospatial surveillance of the windswept and dangerous oceans to the south of Australia.

A future federal LNP national government is likely to be highly enthusiastic about Australia’s involvement in US Space Warfare Programmes.

The appeal of a return to our traditional role as the Deputy Sheriff to any Republican Administration in the White House will be almost irresistible to future LNP Governments seeking a higher profile for Australia in the global strategic profile of the USA.

However, the possibilities of a more independent role for Australia in the Indo Pacific Basin should be just as irresistible. The surprising level of consensus-building at the W.H.O. Assembly could be extended to strategic policies. Trillions could be saved in expenditure on future space warfare programmes if nuclear weapons free zones were extended and perhaps the role of the Pine Gap Base transferred to the protection of these new treaty obligations.

Ironically, it is the US which is ready to take advantage of Chinese embargoes on the export of Australian commodities, services and more open Chinese investment (AFR 15 May 2020):

“China is preparing to slap steep tariffs on Australian barley imports after an 18-month anti-dumping investigation. China also this week suspended beef exports from four Australian abattoirs.

“US barley products have similar quality levels to Australian barley which is replaceable. It is a shame that Australia is losing its competitive advantage in beef and barley,” said Lin Guofa, an analyst with consulting firm Bric Agriculture Group.

“The suspension of the four abattoirs is designed to send a strong signal to deter Chinese traders to import beef from Australia. Most buyers will be fearful now about continuing their business with Australia.”

Commodities traders and state media played up the barley announcement, saying it highlighted China was less dependent on Australian agricultural imports than it used to be.

China has indirectly threatened to punish Australia economically after the Morrison government called for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus pandemic.

One trader quoted a Chinese idiom “Kill the chicken to scare the monkey” which means making an example out of someone to threaten others. “With barley and beef, China is now using Australia as an example (to threaten other countries),” he said.”

However, on a positive note in the interests of our commercial and strategic relationships with the USA, there is a possibility that the USA will want to raise the banner of modernism to overcome the excesses of the Trump era. I am too remote from the USA to call the outcomes of the presidential elections on 3 November 2020, still several months before the actual event.

With Bob Dylan’s 79th Birthday approaching on 24 May 2020, Australians need to ask for  real paradigm changes that distance our country from the eccentricities of the Trump Administration relating to both global action on COVID-19 and his future strategic plans to involve Australia in future space wars programmes.

The old folk song for more peaceful agendas is even more relevant today than in 1963 when it was recorded before President Kennedy’s assassination and released the following year.

Australia is being hurt commercially by its growing antagonism towards China, our best and most profitable trading partner. What is going on behind the scenes in the corridors of power in Canberra in the halls of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Departments to justify this wanton folly to protect US interests across the Indo-Pacific Basin?

Surely, the Trump Administration with the support of the Department of State and the Pentagon can fight their own battles with China. So, what is the real payoff for Australia in these difficult times? And if the war games in the South China Sea go astray, are Australians instantly at war with China through the chain of command in these joint patrols?

Denis Bright (pictured) 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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Slippery Scotty and the Corona agenda

By Grumpy Geezer  

Scott Morrison is not my favourite person. I’m not alone:

“Mathias (Cormann) regarded Scott (Morrison) as emotional, narcissistic and untrustworthy” – Malcolm Turnbull.

“An absolute arsehole” – former Justice Minister Michael Keenan describes Morrison.

* * * * *

One year after Scott Morrison’s purchase of the election with hundreds of millions of dollars of quietly-found money Australia’s COVID-19 death toll hit 100 when great-grandmother Fay Rendoth succumbed to the virus at the Newmarch Home For Sitting Ducks. Did any Tories celebrating the anniversary of Smuggo’s election artifice give Fay a second thought over their celebratory flutes of Pol Roger Brut and mascarpone sprout canapes with black truffles, smoked sesame seeds and wine salt? How many dead grannies and nurses does it take to dampen the self-congratulatory party mood of born-to-rule Tories? I suspect it is many, many multiples of 100.

Over in the RWNJ’s Randesque nirvana of neo-liberalism, the USA, the death toll is quickly heading to 100,000.

On a per capita basis that is:

Aus: 1 person in 260,000 has died.

USA: 1 person in 3,280 has died.

At this point in time an American resident has 80x the chance of dying from the virus as does a resident of Australia. Eighty times!

While Australia’s infection rate has trended downwards the rate of infection in the US continues to climb so that inevitably the contrast will become even starker.

There are, of course, many variables that account for the stunning contrast – not least being the bloated, syphilitic, dysfunctional, gibbering rapist and crime boss that is the US’s Individual 1 (Septic Tank 1, if you prefer).

Despite superficialities and our embrace of much of their culture we’re not like Americans, and so we’re not in thrall to a discoloured, deranged degenerate – a soulless sinkhole of avarice, a mangy, yellow cur, a cartoonish effluvium of every flaw and vice whose positives are limited to his syphilis test results, a globular travesty so ridiculous as to be unimaginable as a fictional life form.

In Oz we’re lucky that our government is merely corrupt, incompetent and ideologically bankrupt. Our own imbecilic madman Friar Abbott and his personal monkey trainer Cruella DeVil had their Trumpish attempts to fuck over the country rudely interrupted by the realisation that no, we are not as susceptible to blatant fuckwittery as are the Yanks. And so by happenstance we now find ourselves with a smug, Machiavelian liar and charlatan at the helm, someone who cannot default to an insanity plea should karma prevail and he finds himself fronting a corruption enquiry.

Smuggo’s standing on the shoulders of far more capable state leaders as he struggles with concepts that are typically anathema to himself, his party and their paymasters – the helping hand, social cohesion and looking after everybody is what has saved us from the  worst affects of the contagion and the worst excesses of the herd-thinners. Could it be that while Flim Flam Man seeks to hide his true self from scrutiny he is capable of self-reflection and understands his own significant limitations and unpalatability after his contemptible behaviour during the fires? It seems that the public is prepared, so far, to give him a pass on that basis.

In the face of a crisis that cannot be dismissed with spin, a slogan or a smirk and that cannot be lamely blamed on Labor has Smuggo changed? Has the L/NP? The new and improved ScoMo, wartime leader? FFS! And lonely Jen, sans her self-pity coach, locked away in iso at The Lodge where the butlers and the maids can’t hand deliver the hot towels. Behind the media puffpieces they’re all still there – complaining about the bald kids in wheelchairs getting priority in the queue at SeaWorld, the seal clubbers, the granny killers, the grifters and the shonks.

The cult of the profit t/a the Coalition have been as busy as Barking Barmy Joyce’s designated driver – there’s a national crisis to monetise. The Tories are not returning to type. They never changed, as evidenced herewith.

* * * * *

The worthy unemployed and the unworthy unemployed – JobKeeper and JobFinder. Only the twisted brain of a Tory could conceive such punitive poppycock.

* * * * *

Snapback – the return to a trajectory that flew us into this building in the first place. “There’s not enough money – people will have to starve” so that the money can still be shovelled to the mates, the family interests and themselves. Why shouldn’t nurses cop a pay cut to cover the cost of the L/NP cronies’ lobster lunches?

* * * * *

CO2 is good for you. Senator Concertina Ferrari-Wheels is the homophobic Duttonista from Wollongong who uses her tits as a travel pillow and who was barred from her pilates class when the other members kept checking the velcro on their gym shoes every time she did a squat. But you can’t keep a good nutter down – Connie has been speculating on how more verdant her coriander, bok choi and lemon basil would be if we pumped even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Perhaps she was chosen to be the champion of CO2 by her fellow vegetation.

* * * * *

It’s always a crowded field when it comes to nominating Tory whack-job of the month and always in contention are fellow yokels Barking Barmy Joyce and Gorgeous George Christensen, both opining on the appropriate ways to keep China in line. No doubt Gorgeous thinks that his familiarity with the seedy dives of dodgy Filipino neighbourhoods equips him with the diplomatic skills necessary to bloody the noses of the Chinese Communist Party but his belief that Lapland and Poland are S.E. Asian nudie bars probably disqualifies him from further consideration as our next Minister for Foreign Affairs.

* * * * *

The ability to fuck up everything you touch seems to be one of those Essential Skills on many a Tory MP’s job description. So, step forward Stuart Robert, Minister assisting the Pime Minister for fusterclucks. Robodebt fiasco – check. MyGov DDoS attack that wasn’t – check. Autistic kids waiting hundreds of days to access NDIS – check. Outrageous home internet bill – check.  Shares in a trust linked to the mining company of a Liberal donor – check. Gold Rolex – check. Sacked from the ministry for dodgy Chinese trip – check.

Brother Smuggo: “Brother Stuart, praise the Lord – how’s the rollout of the BigBrother app going? Spud wants to know when he can get to insert a backdoor so he can track those lefty journalists and the 14 y.o. terrorists from Extinction Rebellion.”

Stuie: “FUBAR!” (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition).

What Stuie needs is a different app – let’s call it e.coli. To tell him how shit he is.

* * * * *

These are but random examples of recent Tory dysfunction and nastiness that come readily to mind. We could fill a book if we tracked every example – including such disasters as Greg Yorrick Hunt ordering huge batches of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment following Deranged Donny’s grasping at poisonous straws and the millions of wasted dollars paid to Lib pal Twiggy Forrest for useless PPE.

It’s the standard, expensive Tory farces from the “better managers.”

Cartoon by Alan Moir (moir.com.au)

Much of this will be forgotten, as Smuggo believes it will. The lumpy carpet in the PMO covers Fingers Taylor and his #grassgate, #watergate and the doctored documents scandal, Bam Bam McKenzie and the sports rorts scandal and the PMO’s piracy of Malcolm Turnbull’s book etc etc etc.

We’ve been lucky with the coronavirus so far and we’ve seen some sterling leadership from the state premiers. Smuggo is back to his smirking self, fronting the media with his freshly crafted persona of man-in-charge while stealing the limelight but pirouetting and exiting stage left when subjected to uncomfortable questions.

We are confronting a climate catastrophe of far greater consequences than COVID-19 yet we have a collection of disaster capitalists who seem determined to accelerate it. Smuggo hasn’t changed, the Tories haven’t changed and the RWFWs of the IPA monkey typing pool, the Murdoch propaganda machine, the MCA and the BCA haven’t changed. They are using the cover of COVID-19 to sneak through climate wrecking legislation, worker exploitation, evasion of scrutiny and accountability and erosions of our freedoms.

The main thing that is changing is the climate – polluted and vandalised and monetised by the Tories who are not a part of the cure. They are the disease.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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UniSA research shows promising signs in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs

University of South Australia Media Release

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, effective medical treatment against bacteria and viruses has never been more important. But society is running out of antibiotics.

Bacteria are becoming resistant to treatment faster than new antibiotics are being developed, causing experts to fear there could be a slower pandemic — the drug-resistant superbug.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the World Bank recognise drug-resistant superbugs (also known as antimicrobial resistance) as a potential public health and economic disaster.

Now, researchers from the University of South Australia, as well as collaborators from The University of Melbourne, Monash University and Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, may have found an effective treatment to combat this health challenge.

Lead author of a new paper published in Acta Biomaterialia, UniSA Research Fellow, Dr Thomas Michl, has been researching antimicrobial polymers, an up-and-coming new class of anti-infectives that can be used as an alternative to antibiotics.

“For a long time, it was assumed that antimicrobial polymers worked the same way as antimicrobial peptides, so we put this theory to the test using high-resolution fluorescent microscopy,” Dr Michl says.

“To our surprise, instead of just attacking the cell wall of the bacterium, as is the current understanding in the field, the polymers went into the bacterium.”

Building on previous work between UniSA and CSIRO, the team worked to create polymer mimics of antimicrobial peptides — a diverse class of naturally occurring molecules that act as the first line of defense for all multicellular organisms.

As peptides are easily broken down by the body, they don’t last long enough to be effective and are difficult to translate into new antibiotics, however the synthetic antimicrobial polymers can be made cheaply and easily on an industrial scale, and maintain their activity for longer periods in the body.

Dr Michl says this makes them a promising lead for the development of a new type of antibiotic.

“The mechanism of how these polymers kill bacteria is more complicated than we first thought,” he says.

“By understanding better how the polymers work, researchers can design them to be even more potent, opening up the potential for new and highly effective treatments for bacterial & fungal infections.”

Co-author and senior research scientist at CSIRO, Dr Katherine Locock, has already worked on translating these polymers into a novel thrush cream which may offer new hope for women who suffer from recurring thrush.

“Although vaginal thrush affects up to 75 per cent of women of reproductive age, treatment options are fairly restricted,” Dr Locock says.

“There are currently only three classes of anti-fungals on the market, the last of which was discovered in the 1970s.

“It turns out it is very difficult to come up with a new anti-fungal, given how closely related human and fungal cells are.

“The fact that we’ve managed to produce a whole new type of anti-fungal that is safe and effective in models of vaginal thrush is very exciting.”

Dr Michl says that another exciting aspect of antimicrobial polymers is that they can be also used outside of healthcare.

“There is scope to use antimicrobial polymers in any setting to suppress unwanted microbiological growth,” he says.

“One possibility, for example, would be as an alternative to fungicide to control mildew in plants, such as in vineyards or barley crops.

“Another opportunity would be in combatting microbial infection in livestock.”

All taken together, these new and exciting insights, demonstrate the potential of antimicrobial peptides and their use in combatting undesired microbes in a variety of settings.

Notes:

  • Bacterial membrane permeability of antimicrobial polymethacrylates: Evidence for a complex mechanism from super-resolution fluorescence imaging is available at Acta Biomaterialia.
  • The research paper was co-authored by Ben Hibbs and Dr Lauren Hyde from the University of Melbourne, CSIRO Senior Research Scientists Dr Almar Postma and Dr Katherine Locock, Prof Hans Griesser, Dung Thuy Thi Tran, and Prof Krasi Vasilev from UniSA , and Prof Laurence Meagher from Monash University.

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People that live in glass houses

By 2353NM  

You may have seen Federal MP Andrew Laming’s comment in the media recently suggesting that parents send their children back to school, regardless of the recommendations of the various Education Departments around Australia. The ABC’s version of the story is here.

“Essential workers are being second-guessed, cajoled and in some cases bullied by principals who are interrogating other parents, sometimes talking to children, to establish what hours families are working,” Mr Laming said.

“This is completely unacceptable.”

He said parents facing that sort of pushback should call the police to ensure their children received an education.

This certainly isn’t Laming’s first attack on teachers. Here’s one from May 2018:

Mr Laming said teachers would have a stronger negotiating position if they “regularised” their working week to 38 hours and their holidays to four weeks per year, like most other workers, reported Fairfax

“Teaching needs to operate like other jobs, with the same hours, days and weeks as the rest of the economy, rather than cluttered school hours where there it is little beyond the face-to-face time,” he said.

They shouldn’t work from home unless they are paid to do so, he said. But critics have said the MP has no idea about the realities of the working life of a schoolteacher.

Which just goes to show who really inhabits the ‘Canberra bubble’. It isn’t the school teachers who spend considerable time when not in the classroom doing professional development, marking exams, attending parent teacher interviews, extracurricular activities, school camps and the multitude of other things that teachers are expected to attend such as school fund raisers, school discos and formals without payment.

Laming is a member of the LNP and, like Home Affairs Minister Dutton, represents areas that are considered to be outer suburbs and adjacent rural/residential areas around Brisbane. Laming represents Bowman on the south east of Brisbane; Dutton represents Dickson on the northside. Dutton, who for some reason demanded to be given information the Queensland Government used to justify a partial school closure during April and May (he might have a reason if his portfolio was Education), leads us to the crux of the matter:

“I think it’s all about the Teachers’ Union playing the hand, trying to leverage some industrial relations outcome. They’ll try and squeeze some concession out of the State Government.”

For the record, the same report advises

[Queensland Teachers Union President Kevin] Bates said the union had concerns about the safety of staff and students but had no formal position, and had not put any case to the State Government on when all students should return to school.

If we’ve found out nothing else in the current pandemic, it is who our ‘essential workers’ are. Compare and contrast cancelling Parliament with the public servants who burnt the midnight oil to get the ‘JobKeeper’ and ‘JobSeeker’ packages together as well as contact tracers locating close contacts of those suffering COVID19, the people driving the delivery trucks and the people stacking the shelves in supermarkets, the people who are keeping the power grid and water supplies working and all those keeping the wheels of society operational as far as possible. And lets also include teachers who have been forced to completely redesign the way they work while delivering relevant and appropriate material to their students over the past couple of months. On the surface, each federal politician was told by their boss to go home and look busy until August, while keeping their $200,000 plus per annum salary, plus allowances — no JobKeeper for MP’s.

It’s very easy to make similar comments to Laming’s about the work habits of politicians because they are certainly not required to be in their respective Parliaments every day working a 38-hour week even when Parliament isn’t cancelled.

You can find the timetabled sitting dates for Federal Parliament here. Even if teachers only worked from 9 to 3 on school days, they are overworked in comparison to the number of days per annum Members of Parliament have to be in Canberra representing their communities. Recently there has been a few days of sitting under ‘social distancing’ rules to pass legislation for JobKeeper and so on, however not all Members of Parliament were required to attend. Don’t forget federal Parliamentarians collect a ‘living away from home allowance’, currently $291 per night (which is over 7 times the daily rate of the pre-COVID19 JobSeeker allowance) on top of their salary, just for doing something they knew they would have to do when signing up for the job.

Politicians do work far longer than the sitting days in Canberra suggest, as they (to a varying degree) get out into their community and ‘represent the Government’ in a number of ways at irregular hours. Constant travel is part of the job and is physically and mentally draining — just ask anyone who has done it for a period of time. In the past couple of months. politicians have probably been in their offices directing those needing assistance to the current additional support available, probably burning the midnight oil to keep up with the latest stimulus measures and the demand for information. So like teachers, politicians do a lot of work that is not seen by the majority of the community they live in.

Really, Laming and Dutton’s attacks on schoolteachers are purely and simply bashing the unions — a favourite conservative pastime. There is also a state election due in Queensland later this year, fodder for conservative ideological warriors trying to link the actions of a union to that of a political party in what is really a cheap but inaccurate shot.

Cheap shots against ideological enemies is never a good look, especially when it certainly isn’t business as usual. Hopefully in the ‘new normal’, those who frequently engage in the cheap shot to ‘score points’ will be told very quickly by those they ‘report to’ to desist. In this particular case, you can easily make the same argument about the time politicians spend at work as they attempt to make about teachers; a demonstration of the adage that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Why can’t my carer get a visa?

Attention Llew ‘Obrein, LNP MP for Wide Bay and Andrew Wallace, LNP MP for Fisher.

It is now two years since I first requested your help to acquire a visa so I could bring my Pinay lady friend to Australia as my carer.

I now understand the run-around you have given me is more than likely because your government is receiving donations from Aged Care providers to keep the blood relative restriction on the Australian Carer Visa. Businesses need and do access foreign workers respectful of old difficult people with work visas but individuals cannot.

Last year I tried to get a 12 month Visitors Visa for my would-be carer, but it was declined in two weeks on the basis that because the applicant had applied for 12 months she would try to stay in Australia, and also because there was insufficient evidence of work record: she has three children, a shop, a tree plantation and her own home and parents happy to look after children. My visa review requests to Home Affairs, Immigration and Aged Care Ministers were declined.

Expecting that the visa could be for a lesser period but not that it would be declined all together. I lost the fare and the Visa Application fee.

At 80 years, living alone in my own home I find myself with carpel tunnel in both wrists, chronic bronchitis on the lung and chronic heart disease, and with considerable unknown time for surgery on my wrists.

Previously, I was prepared to fund my own care, with the carer of my choice, now needing two hands to hold a cup of coffee and unable to open a tin of fish, I have now made application to MyAgedCare for help which will add to the already overwhelmed sector and the taxpayer, and to the danger of having people in Aged Care Homes and to old people at home having carers calling.

Don Stewart

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Seeking That Post-COVID Sunshine: Treasurer Frydenberg’s Economic Statement

By Denis Bright  

My Preface

As a financial member of the MEAA, I am always on my best behaviour when interacting with representatives of the LNP at all levels.

Occasionally, I have phoned Josh Frydenberg’s electorate office in the Melbourne electorate of Kooyong or to his staff members in Canberra. Despite the high profile of Josh Frydenberg’s portfolio, his staff team is always polite and helpful. Some point of clarification maybe required relating to budget papers or related documents for articles later published on The AIM Network. Getting the facts straight is a Win-Win Exercise.

A busy staff member at the office of Senator Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Security, gave some polite clarification about aspects of the Corona Virus Supplement payable to university students in the preparation of this article. This clarification saved errors of interpretation.

Our representatives serve the entire electorate and not just their own support base. Courtesy should be the norm in Australian politics.

Foreign shores, past and present, offer alternative models of leadership styles.

Long before the modern era, audiences were enthralled by the fictional antics of Sir Joseph Porter in Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore from its initial performance in Queen Victoria’s Britain in 1878.

Sir Joseph’s promotional trail commenced by shining up the button on the big front brass door at an obscure legal partnership. Is there some Freudian imagery in the choice of the imagery in the musical repertoire long before psychoanalysis was born?

YouTube offers some entertaining variations on Sir Joseph’s career which always assist with my understanding of contemporary politics.

I commend Josh Frydenberg’s commitment to a preface to his economic statement on 12 May 2020. It contained a kind remark to the family members of Ged Kearney who is currently Labor member for an adjacent federal electorate of Cooper in Melbourne and a former ACT President. The Treasurer’s economic statement can be read in full here. Here is an extract from the preface to the document.

Australia finds itself at war against a faceless and flagless enemy.

The coronavirus has created a one in a hundred- year event.

A health and economic shock the likes of which the world has never seen.

So many of our fellow Australians, through no fault of their own, are struggling and doing it tough.

Be they battling the virus, separated from friends and family or worried about their job security and economic future.

Tragically, 97 Australians have lost their lives with many more people, including in this Parliament, directly affected.

Our thoughts are with the Member for Cooper and all the other families across the country who have lost loved ones.

A short preface is often appropriate. Audiences welcome such a statement of intent before moving onto the details which must still be evaluated objectively. Today’s political players sometimes make the mistake of going straight to the boring details. However, dwelling on the Preface at the expense of the details is also hazardous to audiences. It can also mean that confusion exists within the federal LNP caucus about the longer-term agendas.

Let’s move on through the document.

Shorter-Term Economic Stimulus Measures in the Treasurer’s Statement

The Treasurer’s Economic Statement proceeds to the grim economic statistics which were taken up by eyewitness news bulletins on 12 May 2020.

The ABC news coverage offers a summary of the details with an embedded video extract. Why compete with that splendid coverage, I ask?

My previous article for The AIM Network covered some aspects of the grim times faced by my parents during the slow recovery from the Great Depression at the behest of LNP governments at Queensland state (1929-31) and federal levels of government (1931-41) prior to the ascendancy of John Curtin as our wartime leader.

Tuesday 12 May was also my deceased mother’s birthday. I am sure that Kathleen Bright would be taking note of events in Canberra from a heavenly perspective. My mother joined the Ipswich Central ALP Branch during her latter years. Does she have a metaphysical extension to her membership after death and all those years of commitment to family, work and involvement in the Labor Movement.

In these times of new wave theology, I have no doubt that the energies and momentum of earlier generations can be mutated and perfected. Democratic politics can perfect baton changes in the interests of the nation and a wider humanity.

So how far has Josh Frydenberg moved away from the federal LNP’s cherished commitment to neoliberalism in its more virulent phase since 1996 when the days of the corporate state were still riding high?

The Treasurer’s statement proceeds from the current economic gloom to focus on practical solutions to the most significant challenges which will be front and centre in the post-crisis world.

Even the local Suburban Social Bar in Chapel Hill within the Ryan electorate got a mention in the economic statement:

Our economic measures fall into three categories: support for households; support for business and employment; and support for the financial system.

For households, our actions are designed to “cushion the blow” from the income shock and support consumption across the economy.

Given the level of uncertainty, our economic measures provide more than financial relief.

They provide a psychological boost as well.

There are so many stories from across the nation about how our measures provided an economic lifeline to people in their hour of need.

Like Luke, the owner of a local restaurant and bar in Chapel Hill, Brisbane, who said JobKeeper “saved our bacon” and Adrian, owner of an auto business in Moonah, Hobart, who said JobKeeper has “turned out to be a saviour.”

We effectively doubled unemployment benefits with the introduction of a temporary $550 coronavirus supplement for jobseekers.

We waived the waiting period, adjusted mutual obligation requirements and expanded the partner income test to ensure it reached those in need.

With over 1.4 million Australians now receiving the payment, it is providing critical support.

The Treasurer’s Long-Term Vision?

The Treasurer’s economic statement was a little scant on long-term vision. Perhaps there is always the fond hope that the old globalised neoliberal economy that has prevailed since the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 might be resuscitated:

On the economic front, we have put in place a comprehensive range of measures designed to keep people in jobs and to build a bridge to recovery.

Our measures are working, protecting lives and livelihoods. 

We can be confident about our future. 

This virus will not defeat us.

We must stay strong.

We must stay together.

We must maintain our resolve.

The fighting Australian spirit will see us come through stronger than ever. 

The Churchillian rhetoric in the Treasurer’s Statement sounds great. However, the emergency response measures carry some short-term flaws through anomalies in the fine print of the Coronavirus Supplement, the Stimulus Payments, emergency taxation assistance to the business sector and of course support for self-funded retirees in a virtually zero interest rate environment.

Let’s take feedback from a staff member at one of my favourite Woolworth’s supermarkets in Brisbane where most casual and permanent staff members are SDA Members (SDA Queensland).

After the initial rush to buy toilet paper and foodstuffs in late March 2020, business has now plateaued. Hours for casual staff members have been reduced at this store. Many of these casuals are also students who are in receipt of student youth allowances to cover their long years at university. The student and casual worker who I spoke to at Woolworths is an architecture student who had already completed a degree in town planning. It is indeed a long road on low income before career goals are attained. Every shift counts.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston, assured me that recipients of student youth allowances would be in receipt of the additional coronavirus supplements of $550 per fortnight to complement the basic allowance available to all students but subjected to means testing for students who are living with parents/guardians. However, there were no guarantees on just how long this support could be extended from a government that believes in the power of the corporate market over the social market.

Basically, the Churchillian rhetoric seems to be a support of a return to the normalcy which has prevailed under neoliberalism since John Howard was elected in 1996.

Under this normalcy, official unemployment levels have been massaged to exclude anyone working for an hour per month or on job-seeker training programmes. Access to Job Seeker Allowances is also means tested for young people living at home with parents/guardians.

In over thirty years since the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a more aggressive form of capitalism has emerged which will ultimately have to be challenged by the election of a majority Labor governments with a strong social market agenda. Constituents expect to know more about the longer-term goals of the government in these difficult times. Our gravest errors since 1996 is an assumption that the macroeconomics of US Administrations should be applied here when our own economic and financial ties are increasingly with the South West Pacific and Asia.

The old school financial leaders got things badly wrong as they smoked away to forget the excesses of the First Abbott Budget in 2014. Both Mathias Cormack and Joe Hockey were astute enough to expect some real flack from the cutbacks dished out to Australians.

It’s surely time for Australian youth to mobilise again in the spirit of Bob Dylan’s rhetorical challenge to the status quo expressed in a recent release in March 2020 to honour of the late President John F. Kennedy.

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’

The future lies with the change strategies embedded in a commitment to people’s capitalism in a future social market as opposed to the corporate agenda which is coming out of US firms like Amazon (CNBC) and perhaps the federal LNP itself. This article is worth reading in its entirety.

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. Make yourself an instant political player. Telling your story will also relieve some of the psychological health risks associated with financial insecurity. Full names are not required if you wish to make comments through the Replies Button. Only a valid email is required which will not be distributed online.

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The Trump Dx – Have we seen the clincher?

By Ad astra  

Code: Dx = diagnosis. ‘The clincher’ = a fact, argument, or event that settles a matter conclusively.

How many times have we questioned the mental status of POTUS Trump?

It was as far back as November 2016 that we began to do so with Let’s welcome President Trump. Even then, Michael Moore expressed his doubts about Trump’s surprise election and predicted, albeit incorrectly:

This is why we’re not going to have to suffer through four years of Donald J. Trump, because he has no ideology except the ideology of Donald J. Trump. And when you have a narcissist like that, who’s so narcissistic where it’s all about him, he will – maybe unintentionally – break laws. He will break laws because he’s only thinking about what’s best for him.

In May 2017 we began to ask questions about Trump’s competence and performance in 100 days of President Trump.

In June 2017 we were already asserting Trump becomes irrelevant.

In July 2017, just a few months after his election, we first asked: Is Donald Trump Mad?.

In October 2017, even more alarmed, we posted: Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse? 

In March 2018 there was an anguished: What can be done about President Trump?

In April 2018, already convinced of his unsuitability as POTUS, we wrote: Morally unfit.

In July 2018, somewhat desperately, we wrote: The folly of trying to comprehend Trump.

Seeing the end possibly approaching in November 2018, we posted: Is Donald Trump Crumbling?

Last October we asked the question again with: Is Donald Trump Mad – Revisited?

It concluded with:

What a dilemma Trump is for international statesmen and ordinary folk the world over, all of whom fear what this erratic, unpredictable, unbalanced, loud-mouthed, egocentric man will do next. Just listening to his daily harangues from the White House forecourt, and reading his endless Tweets, is enough to alarm any sensible observer. Time and again his pronouncements on trade and economic issues have confused the stock market and sent it into disarray.

Which is why we ask once more: Is Donald Trump mad? Let us have your opinion.

Finally, that piece extended an invitation: If you still have lingering doubts about Donald Trump’s mental state, take a look at this YouTube videotape from MSNBC: The Dangerous case of Donald Trump; 27 Psychiatrists Assess. You may care to review it.

All of the above may evoke readers to ask: “Why then do you seek to provide still more evidence about Trump’s mental state? Haven’t we seen enough already? In medicine, when we believe we’ve nailed the final diagnosis, we declare we’ve got ‘the clincher’, a fact, argument, or event that settles the matter conclusively.

I use ‘clincher’ here since Trump’s performance in recent weeks sounds like one to me. He has sought to give advice about the treatment of people suffering from COVID-19, which has been not only uninformed and stupid; it’s been downright dangerous. You’ve heard his suggestions, reported by SBS News

Medical authorities should look into whether injecting disinfectant into people’s lungs and exposing them to a “very powerful light” could cure coronavirus. These comments that came after Department of Homeland Security spokesman William Bryan, told the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House that early research was indicating the coronavirus dies faster in warm and humid weather than in cold and drier conditions. “Increasing the temperature and humidity … is generally less favourable to the virus,” he said. He also said common disinfectants and bleaches were also extremely effective in killing the virus. This evoked Trump to ask: “Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light … and supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re gonna test that,” Mr Trump said, gesturing towards Mr Bryan.

“And then I see disinfectant, where it knocks coronavirus out in a minute; is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.

“So, it’d be interesting to check that. So, that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds interesting to me.”

Since mid-March Mr Trump has advocated the use of chloroquine to treat COVID-19 infections, with scant evidence of its safety or effectiveness. Now medical experts are warning the dangers of this drug, which they fear might make matters worse. Earlier this week the head of the US agency in charge of developing a vaccine against coronavirus said he was removed from his job for questioning chloroquine.

Yet all this rhetoric has been offered by Trump in the face of 13.8 million more Americans losing their jobs, and an unprecedented 30 million seeking unemployment benefits during the last six weeks.

That’s not all: he has to contend with the fact that the US economy is shrinking at the fastest rate since 2008, as reported by the BBC.

The Commerce Department reported that consumer spending – which accounts for about two thirds of the US economy – dropped 7.6% in the first three months of the year. Spending on food services and accommodation plummeted more than 70%, while clothing and footwear purchases were down more than 40%. Health spending also plunged – despite the virus – as concerns about infection prompted doctors to postpone routine treatments and other medical care.

The economic pain in the US is expected to be even more severe in the April-June period, but economists say even the estimate for the first quarter is likely to be revised lower, as the government receives more data. “It’s very difficult to gauge the depth of the decline,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics: “The economy has just been flattened. We won’t really know the extent of the economic damage for years.”

To add to this lamentable picture, Trump is witnessing the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the US, with over 1.2 million confirmed cases and already almost 70,000 deaths, the highest rate in the world.

Against all of this background, are you now convinced about the dangerous mental state of the POTUS? What is the Trump Dx? Have recent events been a ‘clincher’ for you too?

If you still harbour doubts, read this article in Salon. Are you alarmed? Is the whole world in peril with this man at the helm?

What can be done?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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The Rorts, the Guidelines and the Minister

By Scott Hamilton  

In episode seven, season three of ‘Yes Minister’, the Right Honourable Jim Hacker MP visits his local sporting club to watch his beloved Aston Wanderers play a game of football. At a drink afterwards in the board room, he learns the club is about to go bankrupt and needs half a million quid to stay alive. Hacker initially takes the high moral ground and gives his fellow barrackers a polite brush-off. But then politics get the better of him.

A fiendishly clever plan is developed where an old arts gallery building would be sold and the proceeds used to save the club. This is to the displeasure of Sir Humphrey, who decides it must be stopped.

The episode revolves around how an independent planning inquiry could be persuaded to come up with the desired outcome. The solution: the guidelines.

Sir Humphrey and Sir lan will give him some informal guidelines.

How do you mean, ‘informal guidelines’?

Guidelines are perfectly proper.

Everyone has guidelines for their work.

I thought planning inspectors were impartial?

Oh, really, Minister! So they are.

Railway trains are impartial too.

But if you lay down the lines for them, that’s the way they go!

The sports rorts on steroids saga has shone a light on the murky role of guidelines in contemporary public sector responsibility accountability and governance. In a 27 February hearing of the Senate Select Committee on the Administration of Sports Grants, the word ‘guidelines’ was spoken 110 times in one sitting.

The Minister’s own submission to the Senate inquiry (29 April) is littered with references to the guidelines that applied to the infamous program. The guidelines, said the Minister, were developed in consultation with ‘my office.’ Key actions were supposedly ‘in keeping with the Guidelines’, such as when the Minister’s then Chief of Staff ‘emailed Sport Australia… for these project inclusions.’

The former Minister made the remarkable claim that ‘practices deemed usual across other government agencies and departments were not required because [Sport Australia] was not governed by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PPGA) Act 2013 nor the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines 2017 (CGRG).’ The Minister is correct about the CGRG, but incorrectly points to the ANAO report to substantiate her assertion that the PGPA Act doesn’t apply to Sport Australia. It does.

The sports grants guidelines were the vehicle for giving the Minister for Sport the role of ‘final approver’ in what became a $100 million campaign slush fund. ‘It was, under these program guidelines, ultimately the minister’s prerogative to make decisions as the minister saw fit,’ said John Wylie, Chair of Sport Australia’s board, at the hearing on 27 February.

While Sport Australia says it ‘did its job in this process’, concerns with the role of the Minister’s Office were raised and ‘discussed in depth’ at a sub-committee of Sport Australia. Independent Member of the Finance, Audit and Risk Committee and now acting CEO Sport Australia, Robert Dalton, told the committee ‘we were comfortable that those risks were being managed, because we’d communicated.’ They’d sent two emails to the Minister’s Office.

‘It was not considered to be a matter that needed to be elevated further,’ Wylie told the Senate Committee. On the contrary, it was a matter that was a serious threat to the organisation and should have been raised and discussed in depth at the board level. Further, Sport Australia should have taken more action than sending two emails. It had a duty to escalate and to speak out.

At different points in the sports saga, key people have had to channel Sir Humphrey. For example, John Wylie:

‘We would love to see more funding going into community sport. It is the backbone of this country… So we would have loved there to have been more funding to go around… As an organisation, we have an obligation to comply with the published basis [e.g. guidelines] for decisions and programs. And the published basis for this program was that we were to go through this process: applications were invited, they’d be assessed on a particular criteria and we would come up with an assessment based on those criteria. But, ultimately, the role of the approver was the minister. So the minister had wide discretion under the program guidelines… We would love to see more worthy applicants successful. We would love that. But there are rules and guidelines… and those were the rules and guidelines for this particular program.’

Thank heavens for those program guidelines laying down the outcome wanted. But, who approved the guidelines in the first place and why didn’t the board approve them? ‘Broadly speaking they were developed by our grants management team as program guidelines normally are,’ Wylie told the Senate Committee. It turns out the last senior person to have actually seen the infamous program guidelines was the executive director of sports partnerships, Robin O’Neill – who incidentally has resigned from the embattled organisation.

It is contested whether the role of the Minister and these sports grants was constitutional. But let’s assume that it was reasonable for the accountable entity to involve the minister in the approval process. The program guidelines specify that the Minister for Sport will provide final approval – but they do not absolve the responsibilities of the board to perform its lawful duties, including compliance with the PPGA Act.

Further, while the guidelines indicate the Minister for Sport may consider ‘other factors’ when deciding which projects to fund, the assessment criteria outlined in the guidelines ‘will remain applicable’ and the discretion to consider other factors is limited to ‘otherwise further the objectives of the program.’

So where does this all lead? The Minister for Sport, or whoever was deciding on which projects to fund, still had to do so on merit and in accordance with the objectives of the program. Furthermore, it was the duty and responsibility of the accountable entity, the Sport Australia board, to ensure this occurred. Sport Australia ‘cut the cheques’ (as the Prime Minister said) but it failed to fulfil its obligations.

Sir Humphrey also says, ‘never set up an inquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be.’ Well that was clearly the case with the Gaetjens inquiry into the sport grants. (He was formerly Chief of Staff of the PM’s private office and now heads the Australian Public Service.) But when it comes to the Senate inquiry (which has cross-party support) it might be a case of being hoisted on one’s own petard, or one’s own guidelines.

Scott Hamilton is a Melbourne-based author and consultant.

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Into the Post-Corona Era: Time for More Focus on Protecting Incomes and Living Standards?

By Denis Bright  

The onset of COVID-19 involves a change in political direction from my old town of Ipswich and every other locality across the nation. The initial public health challenge has extended to new financial, social and environmental problems of unknown proportions. Not since the 1930s has there been such a sudden dislocation in the employment market.

Below is the reference given to my father in 1930 when staff were dismissed forever to save W. Haigh and Sons, an important wholesaler in Ipswich at the time. The file for the reference was developed from an old letter.

The irregularities in the digital copy might offer some authenticity to a paper reference that is almost eighty years old.

Like business entrepreneurs today, descendants of the William Haigh adapted to the economic downturn after the entrepreneur’s own death in 1922. This is two years before my father commenced his employment at W. Haigh and Sons.

Staff members were shed. Assets acquired by the Haigh family were used to support a display of private wealth which are summarised on the Ipswich City Council’s data base of historic sites:

ICC Picture of Dorrington, the Haigh Villa at 88 Chermside Road, East Ipswich

In 1892 Elizabeth Haigh (the fourth daughter of Benjamin Cribb and his first wife Elizabeth Bridson) and her husband William purchased the property. The house is said to be named after a village near Leeds in England, from which Haigh’s husband originally came. Mr Haigh was an agent for the steamship owners, Collins & Son, and he also ran a wholesale fruit market in Bell Street. Dorrington’s grounds extended to Brisbane Road and included an orchard, tennis court and gardens. The Haigh daughters continued to live in the house after their parents’ death. The present owners are only the fourth occupants of the house.

While the Haigh family consolidated household assets in East Ipswich, my father left his parents’ home down the hill in Torch Street to try out casual jobs. His Uncle Walter Ward of Bentley neat Casino in NSW welcomed his enthusiastic efforts. Later, he worked in the in the Currumbin Valley on the Gold Coast and joined the Currumbin SLSC. Being quite a fit swimmer, he was fine with surf rescues.

My father never mentioned this very unpleasant experience from 1932. I found it on the Trove Newspaper site at the National Library Online. It is an extract from The Queensland Times in Ipswich dated 16 January 1932, still five months before the defeat of the Moore Government on 11 June.

The offer of a job at Ipswich Station in the late 1930s provided some relief from the Depression Blues.

When conscription to the Australian Army followed, my father was assignment to non-combatant duties because of his eyesight problem. Colin’s eye had been injured in a childhood accident.

Labor was revitalised during the 1930s at state level during the Forgan Smith era by offering pragmatic recovery strategies. Several rural and regional seats were held by state Labor during the 1930s in the Darling Downs Region and South West Queensland. At the 1935 state election, these seats included Carnarvon (Stanthorpe and Goondiwindi based), Warwick, two Toowoomba seats, Maranoa and Warrego.

At a national level, Federal Labor  looked inwardly to heal its internal rifts with Lang Labor in NSW. At the national elections on 21 September 1940, the electorate had become uneasy with Robert Menzies’ wartime leadership. The UAP-Country Coalition had lost its absolute majority. Menzies made a strategic decision to resign as Prime Minister and commenced a series of radio talks on the Macquarie broadcasting network to revitalise the Australian conservative movement at the height of the wartime emergency in 1942.

Arthur Fadden had moved from Minister Assisting the Treasurer  and an assortment of other portfolios to become Australia’s second conservative wartime Prime Minister on 7 October 1941.

The wartime election on 21 August 1943 resulted in the formation of the Second Curtin Ministry with an extraordinary majority in both houses of parliament as shown by the tally of seats. In the Senate, Labor won all nineteen places available at a mid-term senate election. The Senate still included  sixteen senators from the UAP-Country Coalition who were elected in 1940.

Image from Marplesmustgo

The decisive action by John Curtin to form minority government in 1941 with the support of the two Victorian Independents was political risk-taking of an extraordinary degree. A grateful nation soon endorsed the changes in the direction of wartime policies during the new national crisis over Japan’s thrust into South East Asia and New Guinea.

The numbers needed to form a minority government by John Curtin in 1941 were build up from the economic and social hardships of the depression era generation of Australians. Each of the marginal Labor electorates from the 1940 federal elections is a case study of their endurance in mobilising local campaigns against well-resourced elites who had dominated inter-war politics in cities, regions and rural areas. Some of Australia’s most conservative heartlands were already in Labor hands by 1940 including seats like Gwydir and Riverina in NSW, Wannon in Victoria and Maranoa in Queensland.

With the right leadership, Labor can handle the paradigm changes needed for the current Coronavirus era. Today’s crises extend to employment in essential service industries and to the financial sectors. Similar problems were encountered by the Depression generation when my mother waited for some time to gain employment in state education.

The Queensland Times covered the extent of unemployment amongst teaching graduates in the same edition as its news item about Colin Bright and his request to the Industrial Magistrate’s Court for reduced Award Wages to assist in his re-employment.

By then,  my Mother was finally working in state education, initially at Silkstone State School (SS) in Ipswich and then on country service to North Branch School outside Pittsworth with a series of country transfers to follow.

But the ghosts of the old state LNP struck again after the internal tensions within the Gair Labor Government brought election defeat for Labor in 1957. Labor would be in the wilderness for a full 32 years until the ascendancy of Premier Wayne Goss.

By the end of 1958, some married women were selectively dismissed from 31 December to save three weeks holiday pay. The dismissals were selective. School principals had to decide which teachers should go. At Blair SS in Ipswich, the choice was between two married teachers who were both trade union members and Labor supporters.

The LNP could boast that the dismissals helped to balance the state budget at a time when no expense was spared on hosting Princess Alexandra’s tour of Queensland in 1959.

My father worked on refurbishing a royal train for Princess Alexandra. The visiting Princess was treated to a trip through Premier Nicklin’s electorate with its exotic volcanic peaks, pineapple farms, rainforest remnants and quaint towns to enjoy afternoon tea with elites selected by the LNP state government.

Back in the real world, there was no work for my mother in 1959. She sought employment in NSW at Tweed Heads Public School. I went with her to a job interview at the Education Department in Bridge Street, Sydney. We were whisked to Sydney and back on a promotional fare on one of TAA’s new pressurised super viscounts where we spent a few days on holidays.

Working in Tweed Heads might have enabled my father to retire on a partial disability pension with his eyesight problem.

Under the current LNP Government policies, he would have been pushed onto Newstart programmes and excluded from current unemployment rolls because of his partial disability.

Working in railway traffic as a shunter was an occupational hazard as it involved lots of night work coupling coal wagons. There were occasional near misses from this type of work. At his request, Colin Bright was reassigned to the North Ipswich Workshops and eventually worked as an electroplater. He would come home with grazes from the buffing machines as he tried to balance awkward objects on the machines.

Union shop stewards took up his case and its was referred to the administrative tribunal at North Ipswich Workshops. My father was assigned to painting work at both North Ipswich and later Redbank Workshops as he had done a stint at painting for a contractor during the 1930s. Regrettably, the federal LNP could portray this union activity as Communist inspired and subversive.

Before any recruitment to NSW eventuated, my mother was re-employed at Serviceton South State School at Inala in 1960. A transfer to Ipswich District schools followed in 1961 and she eventually gained a transfer to Ipswich North SS until her retirement.

The quest for stability of employment was one of the key priorities in Australian politics prior to the four post-war recessions from the post-Korean War downturn, to the more serious recessions of the early eighties and nineties as well as the GFC during the Rudd-Gillard years. I shared the concerns of earlier generations in our family against any compromises with full-employment policies or breaches of industrial awards and working conditions by employers in their own self-interests.

The 1961 credit squeeze brought a more complacent nation out of their political slumbers. The official unemployment rate of 3-4 per cent or 125,000 registered unemployed in a workforce of around 5 million.

As a student at Bremer SHS in Ipswich, I was appalled by the return to even moderate levels of unemployment. I remember writing to The Queensland Times to express my concerns this issue. I used a non de plume so a search on Trove will not find the article.

Anyway, the little hiccup of the 1961-62 credit squeeze brought a new generation of Labor leaders to national parliament including Bill Hayden as member for Oxley. Oxley had become a more Ipswich based federal seat after the electoral redistribution in 1949.

Although Labor won the two local state seats in Ipswich during the recovery phase from the Great Depression in 1932, federal Labor had little success locally until 1961. By 1949, the LNP used well cultivated frames of economic incompetence and fear of communism to unseat the Chifley Labor Government. After five consecutive LNP victories in Oxley after 1949, Bill Hayden won the seat on his first election foray.

I did not realize the significance of the 1961 election until the results came through on television that evening. Apart from my Uncle Les Cooper who was a shop steward for the AEU (now AMWU) at the North Ipswich Workshops, members of our extended family had no hands-on political involvement aside from trade union membership. I am the sole survivor of that family network who watched the results at our place in East Ipswich.

Ipswich had a federal Labor representative in federal parliament for the first time since the defeat of James Wilkinson who represented the seat of Moreton for two terms between 1901 and 1906.

The seats appeared to be falling to Labor like skittles as the election results came through on the evening of 9 December 1961. In the end, Labor’s net gain was a more modest fifteen seats. Parliament divided 62 to 60 in favour of the LNP although Labor’s overall vote was 50.5 per cent after preferences.

Commentators dwelt on the significance of the results in the seat of Moreton which was adjacent to Oxley. Here Liberal Minister James Killen survived a 10.2 per cent swing after preferences by 130 votes. Some preferences from Communist candidate Max Julius leaked to the LNP but the crucial blow to Labor came from QLP Preferences which amounted to 7.4 per cent of the primary vote in Moreton.

Labor’s national defeat in 1961 must be attributed to the weight of numbers from Arthur Calwell’s own state of Victoria. Labor had no net gains in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania in 1961. Its net gain in WA was confined to the seat of Stirling.

Victoria carried the weight of numbers because of its population levels. Highly winnable Labor seats like Ballarat, Bruce, Corio and La Trobe stayed with the LNP. The worst-case scenario was Maribyrnong which recorded no swing to Labor after an extraordinary local vote for the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). The results for every division are well summarised on Wikipedia where a search can be made of the results for specific electoral divisions as far back as the 1901 elections.

The current public health, financial, social and environmental crises in Australia provide opportunities for new directions for our country as in 1961.

Image from Nundah, Brisbane from the Daily Examiner: From Pop Concerts to Centrelink Queues

Sally McManus is the inspirational national figure of these times.

Our ACTU leader will surely take up commitment to progressive structural changes to bring a middle-sized economy through the current crises.

This absence of commitment to inclusive structural change has created a dislike of formal politics across Australia. Lesser leaders talk up rhetorical alternatives which are unconvincing to ordinary Australians who fear that Labor will embroil them in higher taxes and meddlesome bureaucracy.

There is no return to normalcy as defined by the politics of the Howard era. Then and now, journalists can choose to unlock structures of power and influence in society from a critical structuralist perspective as an alternative to eyewitness news reporting. Both forms of news reporting of course have their place and should co-exist harmoniously.

Interested AIM Network readers will have no difficulty with the text from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to explain the positive application of structuralism in literature. Hopefully, the Rust Belt States of the Mid-West in the USA will soon overcome their endorsement of Trump era populism in the best traditions of American modernism.

Sally McManus has shown us the way forward by negotiating with rusted on neoliberals and still gains accolades for her efforts. This is a good sign as John Curtin inspired by consensus-building and responsible risk-taking during the wartime emergency of the Post-Depression era.

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. This introductory article offers a restatement of his commitment to citizens’ journalism. Do take up the invitation to add your comments to the issues raised in this article with feedback on your own situation relating to job security and access to JobSeeker, the Coronavirus Supplement or Special Stimulus Payments for self-funded retirees. Telling your story will relieve some of the psychological  health risks associated with financial insecurity. Full names are not required if you wish to add comments.

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Glacier hazards on the increase in the warming world

University of Western Australia Media Release

A global team of scientists including The University of Western Australia has found glacier detachments, which are highly destructive events, may occur more frequently as the world warms.

Following two extreme events in 2013 and 2015 where glacier detachments at Flat Creek in Alaska caused landslides that travelled several kilometres at high speeds of up to 180 kilometres per hour, the research team set out to investigate the causes.

Researcher Dr Matthias Leopold from the UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, an expert in shallow geophysics and soil and sediment analysis, joined an international team led by Dr Mylène Jacquemart from the University of Colorado, in the US town of Boulder. The research was carried out in August last year and published in Geology.

Dr Leopold used geophysical techniques to determine the thickness of sediments deposited during the catastrophic events. The team then looked for buried ice and permanently frozen ground, known as permafrost, to assess the general stability of surrounding areas.

The study had ruled out seismic activity as causing the detachment, but 10-year-old high-resolution satellite images showed a 70-metre-high ice bulge in the area above the glacier tongue.

“On analysis we found the glacier tongue not only blocked ice from flowing down the glacier but caused water to pool under the glacier, causing immense pressure which finally caused the glacier to detach,” Dr Leopold said.

Although many glaciers are formed in remote areas they have the potential to travel long distances when they collapse and have far-reaching environmental impact, making studies like these important.

Dr Leopold said as the Earth continued to warm, glacier detachments would continue.

“The results from the study will help us to identify the specific characteristics of sediments linked to catastrophic glacier detachments to better understand if this has happened in the past,” he said.

“So far we believe this is a new natural hazard linked with the global warming trend.”

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Dial M for Monster

By Kathryn  

Murdoch cares nothing about Australia or Australians. It was Murdoch who tossed his Australian citizenship in the garbage all those years ago when he wanted to spread his tentacles throughout the USA and could not do so with dual citizenship! All Murdoch cares about is himself and the fascist, neoliberal agenda of his IPA!

It was the Murdoch press that annihilated Julia Gillard in an avalanche of vindictive, misogynistic attacks and false character assassinations that continue today; it was the Murdoch press that propped up the vicious, serial liar, Abbott, on a pedestal and pulled him across the electoral line on a platform of incessant lies and broken promises; it was the Murdoch press whose malignant malicious propaganda and distortions of the truth ensured the horrific manipulation of its dumbed down readers. It was Murdoch who gave us the worst PM in our history, the non-achieving vindictive hate-filled Abbott into power and now it is the Murdoch press, again, who are promoting the diabolical, callously inhumane attack dog, Morrison! Murdoch is a megalomaniacal monster who thinks the Australian public are going to forget and forgive that diabolical intrusion into our political affairs. Not likely!

Murdoch fancies himself as a political Bobby Fisher “playing” our politicians like pieces on a chess board! At 89 years of age, it is a tragedy that the only things that motivate this ageing predator are all-consuming power and political influence. Instead of using his influence to benefit the world, Murdoch enjoys playing the role of Puppet Master to the whimpering members of the LNP and other right-wing neoliberal politicians around the world. His control over others is like sport to this ruthless old narcissist who has not achieved a single thing to benefit the lives of ordinary people.

The people of Australia should absolutely refuse to purchase or read anything that is pushed out by the worst, most discredited media predator the world has ever seen. Nothing, absolutely nothing is beneath Murdoch … even criminal behaviour (as witnessed when he and his notorious newspapers were taken to court for phone hacking which bought down the closure of the infamous Murdoch rag, News of the World in the UK in 2011).

Murdoch has proven that he will swim through any sewer, bug people’s phones, destroy lives, spy, lie … crawl through any gutter to get what he wants! I refuse to buy Murdoch papers, Murdoch magazines and will never connect with Foxtel or listen to the verbal diarrhoea on Sky News. Murdoch is behind the LNP/IPA alliance push to destroy the ABC and SBS (through lack of funding). Ever since Turnbull ensconced the ex-Murdoch sycophant, Michelle Guthrie, as GM on the Board of the ABC and then placed the then placed the Murdoch lacky, Janet Albrechsten (who just once happened to be a Director on Murdoch’s IPA) on the Board of the ABC, this once unbiased, public owned media station has become totally prejudiced towards right-wing ideology with a softly-softly approach to the never-ending chaos of the LNP. Now the LNP/Murdoch/IPA alliance have parachuted Sky News sycophants, like David Speers, into influential positions overseeing biased panels on programs such as Insiders and Q&A. Why? Because the LNP/Murdoch/IPA alliance only want the Australian public to see and hear what they want us to see and hear. Now that just about every media station and form of news in the country (excluding The Guardian and Crikey) are now infiltrated and manipulated by Murdoch, we are now living in a parallel universe and faced with a twisted, depraved scenario akin to “The World According to Garp”.

The current government (under Murdoch’s control) will voice nothing but Murdoch’s opinions and Murdoch’s agenda. The ABC and SBS are the stations that Australian taxpayers own – it is these stations that are the only form of media that should represent the people of Australia (who are paying for them). The ABC/SBS are the stations that belong to the Australian taxpayers and not to the self-serving politicians who are supposed to represent us (and never do)! The ABC and SBS are public-owned media stations that are supposed to be the ones asking the hard questions, they have a responsibility – indeed, the moral obligation – to challenge the sitting government (no matter who is in power) and provide an alternate view. This is not happening now because the LNP/Murdoch/IPA have undue influence over our public-owned media. Once they are completely defunded and muzzled, they are gone forever. Now we have Murdoch’s cancerous influence over every single media station in our country who are muzzling free speech, shutting down democratic debate against the LNP’s rising fascist ideology, openly denigrating and attacking anyone and everyone with a left-wing or socialist view. Murdoch’s megalomaniacal control over every media outlet in Australia is now a sad, undemocratic actuality with a level of ownership and control unequal to any form of media in the world. The sad fact is that the LNP (under Abbott, Turnbull and, now Morrison and Dutton) allow this to happen because the unholy LNP/Murdoch/IPA alliance is mutually beneficial to them all … but will be absolutely catastrophic to free speech and devastating to our democracy!

Murdoch employs Z-rated hacks, like the appalling xenophobic racist, Andrew Bolt, the ex-Abbott staffer Peta Credlin, and the hysterical harridan, Miranda Devine, who are nothing more than vacuous mouthpieces for his own hollow Machiavellian narcissism.

The malignant, pervasive Murdoch press are as guilty for what they don’t print as they are for the vindictive, totally biased lies and character-assassinating slander that they do print:

  • No mention of the catastrophic waste of billions of dollars by this spendthrift LNP (on unwanted memorials to Captain Cook, $80 million on a needless,unwanted plebiscite for same-sex marriage, and more than $444 million to ‘mates’ to ‘care’ for the Great Barrier;
  • No mention that this epic failure of a government has increased our national deficit to a whopping half-a-trillion dollars in less than seven years of epic waste, bogus accommodation/travel rorts, unbridled nepotism and ceaseless corruption;
  • No mention of the LNP’s constant vindictive divisiveness and the fact that they have now surpassed the ALP playing the game of Prime Minister Roulette!
  • No mention of the staggering corruption and self-serving rorts by just about every “entitled” member of the LNP (at federal and State level);
  • No mention that this pathetic, do-nothing Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison regime have achieved absolutely nothing in seven years of the worst governance in our history!
  • No mention how this elitist government are making countless billions in handouts and tax rebates to their rich cronies (Murdoch included who was the recipient of nearly $1 billion tax rebate under Abbott) whilst they defunded billions from our children’s education, Medicare, hospitals, health and defunded millions more from foreign aid, charities (who are now begging for money) resulting in a horrendous spike in homelessness all around the country (with families and children as young a 10 on the streets)!
  • No mention how the LNP have never ceased their vicious campaign of non-stop attacks against the most vulnerable people in our society: the unemployed, the sick, the homeless, the mentally ill, the pensioners – with the Murdoch papers steering and publishing the campaign of hate with gusto!
  • No mention of the delegated torture, savage brutality and criminal neglect (causing the death and mental anguish) of over 1,350 asylum seekers (including little suicidal children) who are illegally locked up on Morrison’s and Dutton’s ill-equipped gulags on Nauru – a brutal criminal action that has been decried and condemned by every recognised humanitarian group around the world!

Murdoch is quick to stab his LNP allies (like Abbott) in the back if he suspects that they are starting to lose public opinion because the traitorous Murdoch is not beneath currying favour with the rising tsunami of anti-Abbott or anti-Turnbull feeling out there. However, once the tide changes and it is election time, you will soon see Murdoch revert back to his conservative line because it is the wrecking Troglodytes, Abbott, Dutton, Morrison and the lunatic right-wing fringe of the LNP, who are in his pocket. Murdoch owned Abbott’s LNP and an ultra-conservative LNP (now under Morrison) is going to aid and abet the horrific agenda of Murdoch’s IPA.

Never forget that Murdoch tried to corrupt Whitlam all those years ago and when Whitlam refused (because Whitlam was one of the most honorable and honest politicians in our history), Murdoch swaggered into News Limited with the instructions: “Kill Whitlam!” … and that’s exactly what the fascist Murdoch papers did! Murdoch was the one who helped bring down the democratically elected Whitlam government and the manipulated, gormless idiots out there in the Australian public hung on to every word, believed his lies and followed his agenda. Murdoch did it all again with Gillard and Rudd and, trust me, he will do it again at the next election!

You can never, ever underestimate the demonic, malignancy of Murdoch and you can never underestimate the number of manipulated fools out there who will, once again, play right into his hands!

This article was originally published as a comment on The Mongrel that is Rupert Murdoch.

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Greed isn’t good

By 2353NM  

It seems Australia’s success so far in reducing the impacts of COVID-19 has a lot to do with the co-ordinated efforts of the various state governments and the federal government. Comparisons to other countries with similar qualities of life demonstrate Australians are experiencing less coronavirus-related illness and death. Certainly, the standard of our health care system and dispersed population helps, but ‘stay at home’ restrictions are frustrating and annoying. However just like in the Spanish Flu pandemic at the end of World War 1, the restrictions seem to be effective. The Spanish Flu pandemic’s second and third wave also demonstrate what may happen if the restrictions are lifted too early.

Writing in the Nine Media titles, Political Editor Chris Uhlmann asks the question If a grandparent chooses a loving embrace that may kill them who are we to stop them? His argument is effectively that the longer the personal restrictions continue, the worse the world’s economy will be, which will lead to domestic violence, suicide, civil wars, totalitarian rulers and so on. Uhlmann suggests we allow freedom of movement so grandparents can hug their grandchildren (just to pull on a few heartstrings!). All well and good on the surface except that there is a time lag between the infection and the display of symptoms and in that time the grandparent has interacted with the bus driver, the supermarket checkout operator, the financial planner, friends and relations as well as the people in the coffee shop around the corner. While the grandparents statistically have a greater chance of needing hospitalisation, who’s to know if the financial planner is recovering from a major operation and has little or no immunity? Is a ‘normal’ economy worth one life (or over 50,000 and climbing while their President plays political games in the case of the USA)?

Uhlmann’s response, like the initial responses of UK PM Johnson and US President Trump, to the criticism above would likely be that should ‘normal life’ continue, only the weak should be concerned and ‘herd immunity’ will eventually reduce the virus to insignificance. Apart from there being no proof that long term ‘herd immunity’ to COVID 19 is a ‘thing’, during April Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz wrote an article in The Guardian entitled ‘Herd Immunity is a fatal strategy we should avoid at all costs’. While Uhlmann is an experienced reporter, according to The Guardian,

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz is an epidemiologist working in chronic disease in Sydney’s west, with a particular focus on the social determinants that control our health.

Our money should be on the epidemiologist over the reporter to actually have an idea on a public health issue and its effects.

Looking at COVID-19, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (who happens to have earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry) explains the risk in this video:

Guy Rundle, writing in Crikey (paywalled) suggests:

The position supporting lockdown is this (it is necessary to repeat it, since none of it appears in right-wing articles): COVID-19 appears to have a basic reproduction rate (R0) of around two, which means that anyone with it will infect two other people under normal conditions.

That is a basic exponential rate, doubling for every step of infection spread. If that period is, say, a day, then the population of Australia could be infected from a single case in a 25-day period.

The object of lockdown and social distancing is to detach the effective reproduction rate (RE) from R0, and push RE below one, at which point the virus will eventually die out under maintained conditions (so far as I understand it).

So what is more important — health or the economy? Is it really s/he who dies with the most economic power wins here? Most of us, and hopefully even Uhlmann despite his seeming lack of concern for older members of our society, would have some concern for older friends and relatives, hoping they stay safe and well in the current environment. Concern for others demonstrates to a large extent the fallacy of Uhlmann’s argument as well as demonstrating the ultimate fallacy in a couple of conservative dictums — greed is good (a growing economy trumps all other considerations) and that human suffering is acceptable (provided it is not to those ‘near and dear’).

Just as the ALP’s Rudd and Swan did in the Global Financial Crisis, Morrison and Frydenberg have crafted a package designed to generate economic activity in the community. Despite Morrison’s initial claim that things would ‘snap back’ on the other side of the COVID-19 health pandemic, Morrison’s statements have been referencing small steps rather than a ‘big bang’ recently. It’s also worth noting that the Morrison/Frydenberg stimulus packages are far greater that the Rudd/Swan packages last decade, even allowing for inflation.

There are three issues here. First, the Coalition has been running a ‘better economic manager’ argument for the past decade, calling out the debt that Rudd and Swan incurred to create their stimulus package. The current pandemic demonstrates that the Rudd/Swan approach was in fact correct and given similar circumstances, the Coalition government not only copies the ALP but ‘supersizes’ it. In both cases, those that had been vilified for years for being on any of the government’s support payments were finally supported properly. The current stimulus measures demonstrate that there should be considerably more emphasis placed on the people in our society than big business profits in the years to come.

Second, we now have the opportunity to press the ‘Reset’ button on the way our country has operated since the 1980s. The 1980’s ‘greed is good’ mantra should be tossed in the bin to rot with the shag pile carpet, white shoes and the 6-hour business lunch. We also need to acknowledge that former ALP PM Hawke’s ‘consensus’ model of government is still relevant and effective as demonstrated by Morrison’s ‘national cabinet’.

Last — it may be well and good that there is a concerted effort to ensure a return to economic independence, a race to fast-track a drug to cure COVID-19 as well as vaccine to prevent infection in the first place — but really the effort is wasted if there is no place on earth that has an environment that supports human life in 30 years’ time. Surely the environment and support for renewable energy over fossil fuel is more important than the return of record ASX Indices, ludicrously high executive salaries and larger dividends through going back to the same old ‘rape and pillage’ mentality.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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When you have lung disease the fear of going “back out there” is very, very real!

By Kerri   

Feeling like I am radioactive but grateful for the reassurance of overt hygiene measures I place my mouth securely and airtight over the mouthpiece.

The tests begin.

Lung Function Tests involve breathing through the machine. In and out normally then deep breath in and rapid breath out to completely empty the lungs or, holding the deep breath in for eight seconds then slowly exhaling whilst you feel ready to burst. This type of breathing invariably provokes coughing in a person with poor lung function. Hence the cabinet. If COVID-19 were to be spread in a facility like this it would most certainly kill several people as most of us are older and many I see in my specialist’s waiting room are either wheelchair bound or on oxygen or both. I know I am relatively lucky as I function pretty normally, and most people don’t even know how bad my lungs are. As a consequence most people are shocked when I can’t walk upstairs or a hill in spite of my daily hour on the treadmill and having never even taken a puff of a cigarette.

I cough and splutter as Darren talks me through the tests watching the graph on the computer screen he is glued to as it draws, first little circles for normal breathing then a big scoop down for the deep breath and a sharp rise and fall for the forced exhalation. He patiently explains what I need to do to improve my results each time. The second test’s graph is more linear. Up and down for normal breaths then a slow descent for emptying the lungs and the screen changes to a bar graph for the breath holding and gentle exhale. I screw up one exhale as I cough uncontrollably. Half of doing these tests is keeping control over that nerve that sets you off into big deep coughs as the mucous in the lungs shifts and your body tries to expel it. Between each test there is a short waiting period while the machine re-calibrates. I notice that through his gloves Darren’s nails exhibit the signs of a biter. The spatulate nails are longer than most biters. I absentmindedly wonder if PPE and “Don’t touch your face” will cure many of nail biting?

I surprise myself as I actually do better in these ultra-sterile and strangely barren environs than at my normal testing station. Maybe the drugs are working?? Maybe I am finally gaining control of some aspects of my auto-immune system. How odd to feel like my lungs are improving in a time when so many in the world have lungs that have failed?

The test is finished. I exit the cabinet and Darren removes the mouthpiece to place it in the sterilisation bin with the nose peg. He opens the door using elbow and foot and ushers me past the reception area where more seats are pressed against the desk between me and the receptionist. He points to my invoice which rests on a small shelf. I take it and he follows me opening the door as I realise I have not touched anything other than the nose peg, the mouthpiece and the handle of the gas machine for the last half hour.

Back in my car I pause for a moment to note the tradesmen on an overlooking building site not observing physical distancing and the passing parade of sad, drab looking people. It is not a sunny day and the area is almost industrial in its greyness. One of those grey/blue boxes that appear on the streets containing some mysterious apparatus for telephony or electricity has been repainted by a street artist with a mother polar bear reaching out to draw her cub back into the box which is labelled “ICE” like at a petrol station. I start thinking “while I’m out” thoughts and quickly decide not to take any risks and so I head for home as Blood Sweat and Tears remind me that What Goes Up Must Come Down.

I am unlucky to have this awful lung condition that I have done nothing to earn. But I am very lucky in that I have the health insurance, the livelihood and the optimism to allow me the best of care and the financial stability to wait out this awful health and economic crisis. I am well aware of others who are not so lucky. And I am gruesomely fascinated with the horror show currently playing out in the USA and UK!

I am lucky to live in a wealthy country with a good health system and a reasonable government but I have very little respect for our present system of government that seeks to support people like me and ignore others without such stability and personal resource. The worth of a nation is measured in its treatment of its most vulnerable. The worth of this government should be measured by ALL of its actions not just those of the last 3 months.

Before I leave Darren asks, “Anything else on today?” I proudly reply, “making scrubs.” He tilts his head questioningly. “I am making scrubs for nurses and medical staff. There is a group on Facebook. We sew and some sell the scrubs but mine are free because I have the materials and I can make them free.”

There is not much else I can do to help in this crisis, so I have suspended dance costume making (given a concert seems unlikely) to use the fabric I have been stashing for way too long. I have made scrubs for my niece, a NICU midwife (who likes to theme her scrub tops) for a couple of years now so it is the least I can do for the many medical people who have kept me alive.

Some spit. I sew.

It is somewhat vicarious. I truly wish I could help the many dedicated and dying medical staff in the USA who must need even simple scrubs to cope with such a highly infectious atmosphere and such a woefully inadequate health system.

I do not need to remind anyone here of the failings of the Trump administration.

Next week I need to see my respiratory specialist. I have opted for a video consult. More to avoid the waiting room than any other fear. Again, I am lucky to do this. Many in the USA who do not have health cover will go daily to their work as they cannot afford time off for sickness. Many more will be found to have died at home as they cannot afford to see a doctor. Many Australians do not have computer access to allow video consults and many more will suffer anxiety from the unpredictable nature of a virus that few understand and even fewer have the resources to manage.

If this international disaster teaches us anything, I sincerely hope it teaches us that the, often lowest paid and often lowest revered in our everyday lives are the ones who held us all together. If these workers had the same predatory attitudes as our big business, finance and banking institutions they would probably go on strike right now to make us all realise their worth!

But we all know. Deep down. That those who care for us see why they are needed. Whilst those who use us to benefit themselves and others see only what is in their bank balance and their mirror.

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Somewhere over the rainbow – on the other side

By Jon Chesterson  

Point in case once again, about the redundancy of this COVIDSafe app. Your mobile phone data is shared through Bluetooth with someone you have co-located within 1.5 metres (no further) for a minimum of 15 minutes (no less). In other words, walking the street, brushing shoulders in the supermarket, even a takeaway coffee or 10-minute sit down on the table next to someone else will not register at all. The only thing that protects you is maintaining your physical distance and/or keep moving, don’t gather for more than a few minutes or at all if you can avoid it. Conclusion 1: The app did nothing to protect you, you did!

Now, you get home, wash your hands, gargle with mouthwash before you touch anything – great idea and of course you may have had a mobile hand sanitiser or wipe you used when you got into your car, on or off the train, and no-one coughed or sneezed incessantly over you from the back seat, because they are at home silly – The ones wearing a mask are more worried about you. Gladly you are not suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, panic attack or suspicious paranoia, just being a good citizen! Several days pass. Now if you have been exposed and caught the virus, incubation 4-7 days, in most cases you are going to experience at least some minor symptoms – Dry cough, runny or blocked nose, sore or irritable throat, and a temperature, which if you are a good citizen you might take routinely once a day in the morning just to be sure – But if it is going to happen, you are going to know, it will happen within 4-7 days of point of contact. If that person (point of contact) got tested sometime later, now that’s a big ‘if’ to start with, you will get a notification also sometime later. Now, given the point of contact + incubation period + reported sometime later (the ‘if’) + ‘more’ sometime later it takes to process and notify, isn’t it likely you already know about it or chances are the incubation period is done and dusted. If you are a good citizen you are already taking precautions, lying low and staying at home. Alas if you relied on the app, it’s too late you have already infected others, those at home and anyone you have come into contact with since. Conclusion 2: The app did nothing to protect you, you did!

Here comes the app’s (great gig in the sky) blessing and it is practically the only possibility I can think of other than being told what to do instead of winging it, and if you are one who wings it, will the app stop you? ‘Not bloody likely’ I hear you say. If you are one of those who are 100% asymptomatic and we don’t think this is as common, may be more likely children (footnote, do you have children in your household?), then the app may be your unlikely (doubtful lucky) warning light. But then consider, you may not even have been infected from that contact, so unless you are going to trot along to a test centre, this is the only scenario you are going to know, but you are a good citizen. Slight sheepish grin breaking, however remember, if you ‘are’ one of those ‘asymptomatics’, I wonder how many of those you came into contact with were also asymptomatic, in which case you are never going to get that notification anyway because they don’t know and have no reason to go and get tested – Conclusion 3: The app did nothing to protect you or your family, by being vigilant and taking responsibility rather than relying on a stupid app, you did!

Now tell me what am I missing?

What is the real purpose of this app?

Why has this been rolled out so disingenuously and politicised?

Why the lies and deception, the value judgements?

Who do you trust?

What’s on the other side other than breaches of privacy, control, collusion, exclusion and surveillance?

Even if the app can help, and I have heard no convincing argument yet, have Morrison and the Liberals earned and do they deserve our trust, shaking hands and bleating like a rabid wolf every day all the way back from Hawaii?

Damn it, just put your sunscreen on, shut up and do it!

Don’t have any problem with going and get tested, although it makes more sense to do a combination of: 1) test if you have symptoms or think you may have been exposed and you don’t need an app to tell you that, you can do it; 2) Target and screen higher risk or vulnerable groups, you don’t need an app for that and this is not its function, health authorities do that; 3) Do some random screen testing in the population, again no app required this is a public health initiative; and 4) Accidental outbreak – contact tracing and indicated testing initiated, usually there are many leads but the app may actually help a little here if all the stars are out, but once again the horse has already bolted; and if you are in touch with the above provisos and safeguards, conclusion 4: You’ve got it covered already, it’s called responsibility, you got it!


Art Source: The poetic surrealism of Rafal Olbiński

All said and done, I see a trickle of resistant, oppositional, indifferent and incidental cases coming through on the app, but unless you go and get tested, it’s hit and miss, it’s pretty pointless, and in the meantime did you remember to observe physical distancing and wash your hands, because the app can’t do that for you. You might as well go home singing ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ – But guess what?

Morrison and the Liberals, Amazon and the Telcos, police and the State, mainstream media even the ABC (including repetitive nauseating shots of ‘we are one’ when we are not), security services, bouncers and big business are all singing hymns of praise for the digital icon they conned you into, giving up your freedom and privacy, because they don’t think you are bright enough to take responsibility and be a good citizen, only you do! Actually, they just want to make a profit, be elite, stay on the other side.

Who else can you trust but yourself and those around you, because you certainly can’t trust Morrison and the app. That’s not what rainbows are made of, and just an aside, when the ‘snap back’ comes, when everything goes back to the ‘normal’ settings, back to blind economy and rampant neoliberalism, corruption and lies, how long will it take for Morrison and the Liberals to fuck you up once more, and now they’ve got the app out of you – Because their ideology never worked to get you out of this one. This one required a good dose of reason and humanitarian socialism, which they lovingly and uncharacteristically bestowed on us, and it’s now theirs to take away. But we can wish for a little bit of genuine democracy on the other side, with a dose of truth and reason, that might help. And we can wait for the vaccine, but who will immunise us against these politicians, I don’t recall picking them up in a wet market.

Did I download the app? You’re kidding me, right?

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