A Personal view of Education, Politics and Religion

Or a ramble through 83+ years of memoriesBy Rosemary Jacob I was in my…

A pat on the head for Mundine and…

The preselection of Warren Mundine and Jacinta Price is a reward for…

Morrison Clarifies Dress Code: Thongs Out, But Flip-flops…

Just when we all thought that Donald Trump was the answer to…

The internet has for some become a dangerous…

How do we put this?We have always prided ourselves on the site…

The Advanced Society / Barbarian Intellectualism

The Advanced SocietyIn his book The Road to Serfdom, Freidrich Hayek asserts…

Eyeing the Whitehouse: the Democratic Field

Not so much hunting season as declaratory season in US politics. The…

The Tragedy of Religion

The great tragedy of religion is that those who are trapped within…

The Liberal Party and Women

By Aerchie The Liberal Party does not have a problem with women.It has…

«
»
Facebook

A Personal view of Education, Politics and Religion

Or a ramble through 83+ years of memories

By Rosemary Jacob 

I was in my third year of life (in England on the outskirts of London) when WWII was declared, and it heavily coloured the rest of my life. Growing up with rationing and shortages has led to habits of minimising waste. I even wore to university in 1954 a blouse, home-made from the fabric of a dress which my mother had made for me to wear to Junior school when I was 9!

In order to provide a background to the views I have formed over the years – which include the need to invest heavily in education, the destructiveness of adversarial politics and law and the need to replace the pseudo-science of religion with real understanding of how knowledge evolves from scientific research – I venture to provide a (possibly boring) slice of my autobiography! After all – everything comes down to cause and effect, and how life treats you affects what you think and believe.

My mother was born in England in 1896 to a minister of the Church of Christ, so her version of Christianity was verging on the puritanical. However, to my gain, she was, unknowingly, a pioneer of feminism, whose misguided marriage led to her determination that her two daughters would never have to be dependent on another! My father was in a technical branch of the Civil Service with a background in mechanical engineering.

The older I get, the more I appreciate that my mother (who, sadly, died in 1975) is truly my hero!

The timing of my arrival in this world was also critical, because it enabled me to benefit from radical changes in England to the education system – Scotland is fiercely independent in many things!

Many small, private secondary schools were invited to become state-aided Grammar schools, retaining their charters as long as this did not conflict with the government approved syllabus, drawn up by the relevant regional university groups. Many of these schools were single sex, generally seen as being to the benefit of girls more than boys.

Can I stress at this point that my parents were both reasonably intelligent people but, with three children, had they had to pay for our secondary and tertiary education, it might not have been possible for them to do so for all of us. My mother’s father had moved to a new church every two years, so her own education had been very fragmented. She had also been in the Civil Service before having to resign on marriage in 1931.

Back to the history.

We did little in the way of current affairs at school, as the curriculum was geared towards achieving university entrance standard, but my mother was very much a conservative supporter, while my father was a died-in-the-wool Labour supporter. I learned early in life that both sides have much in common but taking sides was dangerous!

Also, in my teen years, the little I knew of the USA indicated that anyone, from any background, could aspire to be President. Nowadays, of course, only multi-millionaires – preferably with strong ties in the corporate world, have a hope in Hades of rising to those heights.

By my third year in Grammar school, (equivalent to Year 9) having had a smattering of Latin and Chemistry mixed into a very broad general education, we had to choose between science and the arts. With Maths as my best subject, I chose science, leading to Chemistry and Biology in ‘O’ Levels and Pure and Applied Maths and Physics in ‘A’ Levels, along with a whole lot of other subjects at ‘O’ Level, the most critical being English Language, without which no while collar employment would be available!

In the last 2 of our 7 years in secondary education, those of us on the science side had to keep up English Literature as a non-examinable subject, although those on the arts side did not have an equivalent requirement to continue with a science subject. Personally, I think this is a grave mistake, particularly with girls, because they then regard science as a mystery – as do an alarmingly high proportion of our current national politicians!

The other invaluable part of my education in those last 2 years was the study of Comparative Religion. In my opinion, understanding and tolerance require a base of knowledge, while ignorance too often leads to bigoted attitudes and prejudice.

I still use my knowledge of the human body and its systems, which I gained in school biology, although it fell really short in only teaching us about reproduction in rabbits! Dangerous for pre-pill young women! My older sister was later of much help, as she went on the study medicine, finally specialising in surgery, so her greater knowledge of human sexual matters was invaluable!

Although I failed to pass the entrance and scholarship examination for Oxford and Cambridge, which would have enabled me to follow in my brother’s footsteps to the latter university, I did pass the entrance exam for what was then the Imperial College of Science and Technology (now simply IC) in London University. Distracted by a mixed sex (overpoweringly male) social climate, I struggled to achieve highly in my studies but did complete a BSc (Special) Mathematics in 1957.

By this time I was well on the way to becoming an agnostic!

On and off from then until 2004, I taught maths at both secondary and early tertiary level and have helped many mature-aged young women who always thought, wrongly, that maths was beyond them. Male maths and science teachers have a lot to answer for in this context!

Because of the space race and the British government’s need to recruit more maths and science graduates into teaching to raise the standard (does this sound familiar? It should!) I taught my first year on probation to acquire qualified teacher status. This, of course, even with 5 years full-time and 3 years part-time maths teaching experience under my belt, did not make me ‘qualified’ by Australian standards so, after arriving in Australia in 1971, I only taught part-time or casually, all at secondary level, until I completed my Grad Dip Ed (Secondary) as an external student at Mitchell College (now Charles Sturt University).

I succeeding in gaining a position at the fledgling NTU (now CDU) in 1989 and later undertook, successfully, an MSc (Science Education) by thesis through Curtin University.

Here I must make the point that my entire education, up to the age of 68, was paid for by the relevant governments.

Because the formerly private secondary schools, which moved under the government’s control, had been modelled on the British Public Schools – Eton and Harrow etc – they had a House system with a highly competitive points system in sports and other areas, and an expectation that growing maturity required increasing responsibility – for oneself and for others.

This also, because of the no fees situation in state-owned schools, imbued in many of the beneficiaries a realisation that they had a debt to repay the nation – not financially but in service! This is a grave lack in a user pays system!

I have dual British and Australian citizenship, my family having moved to Australia when my husband, a civil engineer, was appointed to a position here in 1970. I followed him with our children, arriving at the start of 1971.

I cannot honestly say that I have a great deal of pride in either country – entirely due to the nature of politics!

I realised in middle life that a significant number of people have had their lives affected adversely because of the prohibitive cost of seeking legal advice. So, in my last semester as a maths lecturer, I commenced study for an LLB – little knowing that you cannot give legal advice (without risking expensive claims against you if that advice is faulty!) unless you have a current practising certificate and professional indemnity insurance! So, I continued on to cover that last requirement for admittance by completing a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. I had also completed the necessary requirements to be an accredited mediator, and I practiced law in a small firm for a little over 4 years, but continued mediating for a few years longer.

This fulfilled a dream I can trace back to 1975, when I started study in a Diploma in Accounting and completed, among other units, a year-long Business Law unit.

Anyone who tells you that you are too old to learn is misleading you. Life is a continuous learning experience even if it is at its best up to age 5!

I have my own theories about how religions were developed, but underpinning all religions it seems to me there four factors.

  1. A desire to explain natural phenomena.
  2. A desire to find a meaning for life.
  3. A need to have some rules for a community to live in peace.
  4. A desire for power which enables an individual to claim the capacity to translate messages from some supernatural being(s).

My own belief is that the ethics – do as you would be done by, etc – which appear to underpin the teachings attributed to an individual (who may/may not have existed) known as Jesus Christ, are, in fact very desirable ethics and I think it a pity that our current would-be leaders do not practice them.

They give a meaning to life – help others!

But, human nature being what it is, greed is good prevails over unselfishness!

Modern science is well on the way to providing answers to many questions and Stephen Fry has issued a video which effectively de-bunks the concept of a loving, omnipotent god!

As far as the adversarial processes for law and politics, inherited from the British colonisers, which have controlled out lives, I find them way short of desirable.

We also have a Constitution, designed to designate which of Commonwealth and States can use which powers – a totally inadequate document in the modern world.

We have politicians more interested in retaining power than setting our systems to rights or helping you and me and our fellow voters, the stupid people who elected them!

I firmly believe the scientists on climate change.

I am torn between wanting us to act urgently, so that my 3 great grandchildren will be able to enjoy their lives, and hoping that we bumble on to be rapidly overtaken by events and the selfish, greedy corporations will have their comeuppance!

One last thought!

Karl Marx is quoted as referring to religion as ‘the opium of the people’.

Nowadays I think it could be fairly claimed that big business has invested heavily in making entertainment the opium of the people – and it reminds me of the Decline of the Roman Empire!

The internet has for some become a dangerous place

How do we put this?

We have always prided ourselves on the site we have built, and those hundreds of commenters and authors that have become part of The AIMN family. As a family we have engaged with respect and maturity.

But lately … not so much.

Over the last six months there has been more of a tendency to attack rather than debate. The number of emails we receive from people – and there are dozens of them – that despair at the way they are treated on our site, forces us to act.

We are at fault for not doing something earlier.

We are extremely disappointed that people (mainly women) are leaving this site after years of contributing here. And why are these people leaving? Simple: they didn’t come here for denigration and abuse. But that’s what they have had to contend with. What’s worse is when these people reveal what is happening in their own lives and the difficulties they face (mainly with serious health issues). What fun (not!) it must be then to come to our site only to be denigrated, ridiculed, harassed etc. They simply don’t deserve it.

The internet has for some become a dangerous place. We don’t want to be such a place.

We are not trying to quell free-speech. As one of our commenters used to say: “Free-speech doesn’t give you the right to be an arsehole.” But we also have to weigh up the options: Do we give a dozen or so contributors the platform to debate in the manner they want, or do we shut down aggressive debate in order that a few hundred extra people would feel safe to contribute here? We have no choice but to run with the second option.

Surely we can all again debate with the respect and maturity that set this site apart.

We ask that you help us turn the trend around. We can do it.

Next time we won’t be asking.

On a different note, you would be aware that this site survives because of the wonderful support we receive from those making donations (including our own financial contribution), and from the income from Google ads. We couldn’t survive with just two of those income sources – we rely on all three.

We have a G-Rating with Google, and they regularly scan our site to ensure that we are complying with the conditions of that rating. The slightest little thing – such as aggression or a threat in the comments or the articles – sees us receive a Violation Report. One of those sets us off in a mad panic to remove or edit the offending material, and to respond to Google to review the violation again. The number of violations we can have before we lose Google ads is not unlimited.

We can’t afford to reach our limit.

If we may indulge ourselves allow us to conclude with the ‘disasters’ of not treating people with respect:

Michael related a story here the other day, of when he and a few of his footy mates – deciding to go up-market and drinking in the lounge of the Belair Hotel – found themselves in an argument with a well-dressed businessman after Whitlam was dismissed by Kerr. The gentleman – about 55ish – was pleased over the dismissal, but rather than debate the issue with him the boys fired off abuse after abuse (mainly words that shouldn’t be repeated here). It didn’t stop there: each encounter with him at the local invited abuse from the boys.

Twenty-five years later, on one ANZAC Day, one of the Adelaide stations included a story in the news about a young pilot who had been shot down over Germany in WW2. The now elderly war hero described his escape from Germany. It was a story to give you goose bumps.

Who was this war hero? It was the same man who Michael and his footy mates abused relentlessly back in the mid 70s. A hero who fought for Australia … was continually abused over something much less trivial than being shot down over Germany.

Michael cannot express the guilt he felt.

Oh how easy it is to make an idiot of one’s self.

But he didn’t know who he was talking to. A bit like us here, don’t you think?

Michael and Carol

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

The Liberal Party and Women

By Aerchie 

The Liberal Party does not have a problem with women.

It has a problem with white, middle-aged males. They do make up the vast majority of the elected members of the Liberal Party, as well as the vast majority of the un-elected hidden party apparatchiks. The few women who are involved with the Liberal Party are probably accepted because they can make the tea and cook the after-meeting cakes.

This has been politics since the time of Athens. Sadly for the Liberal Party, times have changed just a little in the past 2,500 years. Not that they have noticed. Just as they have failed to notice many other changes in society.

Kelly O’Dwyer herself told her colleagues last year that the Liberals were widely seen as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

White middle-aged males have always held the power in white Anglo-Saxon society. They are mentored by old white males who have graduated from middle age. And the one thing they all agree on is that women do not belong in Parliament, unless it is to bring them a glass of water.

Maybe, one day, just before their extinction, the Liberal Party will suddenly wake up to what has created the success of both the ALP and the Greens. The electorate is slightly more female than male!

Of course, if the Liberal Party were to allow roughly equal numbers of women into the Parliament, then the Liberal Party would totally change its abilities, attitudes and aims. The Party would become unrecognisable.

Perhaps this is why the current Liberal Party is so opposed to change. In a new equality-based Liberal Party, there would be no room for the dinosauric white middle-aged white males!

This article was originally published on Aerchie’s Archives.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Countdown to 23 March 2019 in NSW: New Game Changer in Australian Politics?

By Denis Bright 

In the absence of major opinion polls since late November 2018, only Nostradamus might try to predict the outcomes or even the political uncertainties arising from the NSW state elections on 23 March 2019. In the 93 seats in the NSW Legislative Assembly, the primary votes are just neck and neck within the margins of error in both the Galaxy and Reach/Tel polling from late November 2018.

NSW Labor currently holds 34 seats.  A net gain of 18 seats is required to replicate the current majority of Premier Berejiklian. The loss of the most marginal LNP seats of Tweed, Lismore, East Hills, Coogee, Upper Hunter and Monaro would lead to minority government in the Legislative Assembly after the selection of the new speaker.

The political hues in the Legislative Council are likely to be more varied after the state election. Half the upper house or 21 members will need to be elected. Seven Labor members will retain their seats until 2023. With any swing against the LNP government, seven or eight Labor members should be elected to the Legislative Council this year. The last seat will be highly contested and rely on preference allocations as in 2015.

Should Mark Latham (One Nation) and David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat) join the cross-bench in the Legislative Council with members from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) and the Fred Nile Group of Christian Democrats, NSW politics will be moved in a centre-right direction. Achieving a better accord between Labor, the Greens and more progressive independent members is of course the best game plan against the march of neoliberalism under a re-elected LNP government.

To make in-roads in more Legislative Assembly seats, NSW Labor must achieve preference deals with at least some of the minor parties well before the election date. The cross-bench has significant numbers in both houses of parliament.

There are currently seven cross-bench members in the current Legislative Assembly. The Greens have three seats-Ballina, Newtown and Balmain. Independent members currently represent Sydney, Lake Macquarie and Wagga Wagga. Orange is also represented by a SFF member in Orange since the by-election on 12 November 2016.

In Lismore, the Greens cut the majority of the National Party in Lismore to 2.9 per cent in 2015. Lismore’s National Party member Thomas George is retiring. Former federal Labor member for Page, Janelle Saffin will contest the seat of Lismore against high profile LNP candidate Sue Higginson, former chief executive of the Environmental Defenders Office.

The results from previous elections show the ongoing appeal of minor parties in the Legislative Council (Tally Room 2019):

 

Five members of the cross-bench retain their seats until 2023 including two Greens and one each from Animal Justice, the Fred Nile Group and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF).

As the LNP is being challenged by both Labor and minor parties with a strong support base in some regional electorates, it is now essential to look at the complete election table which has been up-dated to the by-election losses for the LNP in both Orange (SFF gain) and Wagga Wagga (Independent) (Tally Room 2019):

 

To form government, Labor needs to win LNP seats which are protected by a margin of up to 9 per cent after preferences. A more comfortable working majority requires seats like Riverstone (12.2 per cent margin), Parramatta (12.9 per cent) and Miranda (13 per cent) to revert to the Labor Party. All these seats were held by Labor until 2011. In the case of Miranda, the seat was still held by Labor until 2013.

Strategically Placed Miranda Electorate

 

Miranda is surrounded by must win LNP seats of East Hills (0.4 per cent margin after preferences from 2015), Oatley (6.6 per cent), Holdsworthy (6.7 per cent) and Heathcote (7.6 per cent). Such seats are in range if there is a marked swing to Labor down the Newcastle-Sydney-Illawarra Corridor.

Labor leader Michael Daley’s visit to the state seat of Myall Lakes early in the election campaign was completely justified. Labor needs seats like Myall Lakes which are currently protected by an 8.7 per cent margin. Labor currently holds the seat of Port Stephens which borders Myall Lakes. The adjacent seat of Upper Hunter is held by the National Party with a 2.2 per cent margin.

 

Until new polling is released later in January 2019, there is hint of strong volatility in the last polling from 2018:

Strong Economic Management: The Ace LNP Election Card?

There is surely the expectation within LNP ranks that government of Premier Berejiklian can improve its primary vote during the election campaign. The LNP will offer strong neoliberal economic management as its ace card to obscure the leadership tensions which have multiplied since the closer than expected 2015 state election.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has attempted humanise and popularise the appeal of neoliberalism and the effects of recent privatisations in his press releases. This is important in retaining seats across the Hunter-Sydney-Illawarra Corridor which should now be in Labor hands. The NSW Economic Scorecard is geared to appeal to voters in formerly Labor heartland seats.

 

As a softener to the privatisation of NSW electricity generation, the NSW Government has established a Generations Fund which will manage some of the revenue generated to expand infrastructure and community development projects (Media Release from Treasurer Dominic Perrottet 19 June 2018):

“The NSW Generations Fund adds a whole new level of resilience to the sturdy financial foundations our Government has already built, to help withstand the budget pressures of an aging population in the coming decades.”

The NSW Generations Fund will grow through investment returns and future contributions. Following the proposed 51 per cent sale of WestConnex, the Government intends to place the State’s residual interest into the NGF, so ongoing returns on that asset are shared with the whole community.

The NSW Generations Fund will also deliver for people today with up to half of returns on the fund enabling My Community Dividend, a new initiative that empowers citizens to take more control over the way public funding is allocated to local projects. My Community Dividend will give residents an opportunity to nominate and vote on projects that strengthen and enhance their local communities. To launch the program, $27.5 million has been allocated in the 2018-19 Budget to fund projects expected to range in value from $20,000 to $200,000.

“My Community Dividend is about empowering the people of NSW to get the projects that matter to them and their communities off the ground,” Mr Perrottet said.

In true neoliberal traditions, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has leased a 51 per cent share of the Sydney Motorway Corporation (West Connex) at a net gain of $9.3 billion to top up the NSW Generations Fund for additional general infrastructure funding and community development spending to $10 billion and $25 billion in a decade (Media Release 18 December 2018).

As the cash cow provided by privatisations is allocated by current expenditure and capital works programmes, the real challenge is a quest for alternative sources of funding (Parliamentary Research Service 2017):

 

Current cash flows offer a window of opportunity for the government of Premier Berejiklian as shown in the capital works programme as covered in Budget Paper No. 2 from the 2018-19 budget.

After the sale of key public assets in NSW, the state LNP government is running out of new cash cows to privatise. Revenue from the long-term leasing of electricity transmission and distribution has been diverted into a Restart NSW Fund:

Restart NSW is the vehicle for the delivery of the Rebuilding NSW plan, which is the Government’s 10-year plan to invest in new infrastructure funded by the electricity network transactions, Commonwealth Government Asset Recycling Initiative payments, and investment earnings.  These proceeds are first deposited into the Restart NSW fund before being invested into infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure NSW is responsible for assessing and recommending Restart NSW projects which improve the productivity and competitiveness of NSW across all sectors. They include a mixture of NSW Government agency-led infrastructure projects, as well as local and community infrastructure projects led by local government, non-government organisations and other agencies, the majority of which are recommended following a submission-based competitive process.

The budget papers for 2018-19 show the projected decline in capital expenditure in the next three budgets to 2021-22.

 

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has extended privatisation processes to some of the operations of NSW Treasury (NSW TCorp) (Media Release 13 December 2018). These changes will become operational in April 2019:

The contracts will cover all Government transactions including payments, receipts, cross-border banking and purchasing cards and are expected to save up to $5 million each year in fees and charges.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet signed the contracts after an extensive tender process.

“The finance sector is evolving rapidly, and the NSW Government has selected the providers who will ensure we offer both the best services to consumers and are an early adopter of innovative technology and new ways of banking,” Mr Perrottet said.

“These contracts will also allow greater flexibility and as technology evolves, a better experience for the millions of people who transact with the Government each year.”

Other advantages, which will flow from the new contracts, include a more streamlined approach to transactions, more payment options for customers, improved security and greater use of digital payment options.

The three-year contracts will commence in April 2019 with the opportunity available for parties to extend the agreement by up to three years.

Westpac and ANZ will provide transaction banking services, payment services and cross-border banking services. Citi will manage the Government’s purchasing cards.

NSW Treasury Secretary Michael Pratt said this was an excellent outcome for the State.

“The new contracts set-up a platform for the NSW Government to execute its long-term banking and payment strategy by allowing us to tap into the expertise of a broader range of leading Australian and international banks,” he said.

These contracts do not rule out Add-Ons to Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s own initiatives. It is a challenge for NSW Labor to show that it can provide financially sound public investment supplements which contribute to ongoing debt reduction without harming new prospects for innovative infrastructure and community development strategies.

One possibility is the opening of NSW Treasury loan raising to Investment Bonds to maintain the momentum of infrastructure and community development. There may be scope for profitable add-on commercial services in both government entities and Public Non-financial Corporation Projects (PNFCs). NSW Treasury provides a convenient inventory of these varied PNFCs.

These options would need to be tested in a post-election inquiry into the sustainability of neoliberalism as the solution to the future revenue base of the NSW Government. There are warning signs embedded in Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s own budget papers about the sustainability of public investment in NSW.

Budget 2018-19 offers a convenient short-term bench-mark in infrastructure spending in both the NSW Government Sector and in the Public Non-Financial Corporate Sector (PNFC) (Budget Paper No. 2 2018-19):

The revenue-raising potential of Destination NSW through new investment in tourism and the promotion of booking services and events is immense.

Public-private partnerships can also assist the private sector to achieve more social market goals from the equivalent of new projects like the existing Parramatta Square Project which is currently being managed by the Walker Group.

Image: Parramatta Square from the Walker Group

The population growth area in the marginal seats of Northern NSW justifies the extension of such major projects to foster regional community development and infrastructure which were promoted by Labor leader, Michael Daley, on his visit to the marginal Tweed electorate (Tweed Daily News 6 December 2018). Moving the Tweed Health Precinct to recycled rural land at Cudgen may reduce government spending and demand from clients but it is hardly convenient or user friendly.

In replying to a question from the National Party Member Tweed Geoff Provest in the Legislative Assembly on 14 November 2018, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet could think of no alternatives to his own government’s cautious neoliberal policies:

There is no way the Labor Party can invest at the levels we can because they do not manage money well. The Labor Party needs to come clean before the next election about the schools and the hospitals it will cancel because it cannot afford to build them. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition had the gall to come into this place and ask about the amount of investment that was going into regional New South Wales from our Restart Fund. Where does the money come from? It comes from asset recycling. Under Labor’s fund, even if it gave 100 per cent of that fund to regional New South Wales, 100 per cent of nothing is still nothing.

Instead, it is the excesses of market ideology which are now in negative focus. Public policies in support of cotton irrigators in Queensland and NSW have been championed by both state and federal LNP administrations at environmental costs along the Darling River in the Barwon electorate (SMH Online 10 January 2019). This electorate has been National Party heartland since the 1950 state election, but this electorate is now vulnerable to changing public opinion.

 

Meanwhile, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet can expect to survive any swings in his safe electorate of Hawkesbury where tidal flows have not yet been privatised. Leadership tensions were ignited in the NSW LNP when the Treasurer attempted to move to the equally safe seat of Castle Hill near his family home (ABC News Online 24 September 2018).

Commentators must wait until the next round of opinion polls to find out if Michael Daley has continued to win hearts and minds in the holiday recess period. Preference flows from the Greens, independents and minor parties are crucial to outcomes on 23 March 2019. In the realities of NSW politics, cultivating preference flows is an art worth developing in response to today’s highly fractured voting profiles.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalisation.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Festering Greed

From Christian Marx, two poems of protest.

 

Festering Greed

Capitalism… a loathsome disease
A festering construction
It brings men to their knees
A harbinger of societal destruction

I will not yield to this beast
It is a putrid anomaly
Like a bacterium of yeast
Like cancer in the anatomy

This evil must be slain
Satan is the creator
Rich men are to blame
Societies sickening shame

Racism is its currency
A rich man’s trick
Selfishness is the surrogacy
In the womb of the tick

Say no to selfishness
Say no to greed
Say yes to freedom
Against the zombie feed.

 

Minds of Cactus

See the zombies
Shopping while they sleep
Defecating ecstasy
Good consumerist sheep

Minds full of product
Souls full of air
Intellect of a fly
Broken beyond repair

Empty vessels make a noise
Looking for meaning
In their useless toys
Consuming and dreaming
Of a joy that never comes
Only post-apocalyptic screaming
Dancing to corporate drums

Your television is talking to you
Your mobile is your friend
Consume in oblivion
The nightmare never ends

See the zombies
Shopping while they sleep
Defecating ecstasy
Good consumerist sheep

3 investment properties
Yet zero friends
1,000 hangers on
Facebook is a mind bend

Your relatives sit in nursing homes
Waiting for you to care
Too busy on your phone
Meaningful conversation is bare

Intelligence is nowhere to be seen
Diet fads and celebrity gossip
Their minds behind a screen
Keep the lemmings spare
Like a coked-up Lothario
Clicking up the numbers
Too dumb to be aware

See the zombies
Shopping while they sleep
Defecating ecstasy
Good consumerist sheep.

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”, and is also a co-founder of “The Global Revolution” website.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

In a nut shell

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

You may have read the AIMN articles Creating conflict, Our best future and Feeding the monster. There is a thread that ties these narratives together. What has been outlined is the state of the world at the moment and where we are headed as a global community. There are two pathways that present themselves for humanities future. One is the marriage between governments and the power brokers controlling fossil fuels and war and the other is a move to a sustainable energy future.

The headlines are shocking beyond belief: There are four warring factions, in Yemen, fighting over 4 billion barrels of oil representing 90% of the countries exports. For the war machine, arms manufacturers and arms dealers to prosper, you need something to fight over. In the Middle East it’s oil and natural gas. They don’t care about the 85,000 innocent children who have starved to death already, in Yemen. It’s all about money, power and control at any cost to humanity.

There is 1.5 billion barrels of oil and 200 billion cubic metres of natural gas being tapped by Israel. A large proportion of Israel’s fossil fuel wealth lies beneath land under Palestinian control. To suck all that oil out from under the nose of the Palestinians you need conflict and diversion. Once again, the fight for oil and natural gas feeds the global war machine and arms manufacturers. And, makes a few people filthy rich.

The war in Syria. Whoever controls Syria controls 2.5 billion barrels of oil. Once again, it’s the fight for diminishing natural resources that drives these conflicts and once again, it’s the war machine and the oil barons that profits.

So, war and control of depleting oil and gas reserves go hand in hand. There are trillions of dollars to be made from war and fossil fuel. If we transition away from fossil fuel to renewable energy that than takes away the need for warring over oil and natural gas. It also takes away the massive profits from both. Keeping that in mind, against all the scientific evidence, who are most likely to be in climate change denial to protect their own selfish interests?

Anyone associated with profit from fossil fuels and/or the fight for control of fossil fuels will naturally be in climate change denial. It’s where the big money is, and these people don’t care about the outcome or who gets hurt. They don’t care about the death and destruction of societies and the murder of the innocent happening right now in real time.

They most certainly don’t care about what may happen in the future. They don’t care about pending catastrophic climate change and they don’t care about the possible collapse of civilisation as predicted by Sir David Attenborough at the UN climate summit. Those in climate change denial only care about short term profit and screw the planet, screw the rest of us and screw civilisation.

If we let the fossil fuel and war barons drag us down their path to fight over and burn all the fossil fuel on the planet, we won’t have a planet capable of supporting life as we know it. We will have a 9.5 degree increase in average global temperature, melting of the polar ice caps and 200 feet sea level rise, catastrophic and extreme weather events and mass extinction. We may as well have a nuclear war now because, the end result of ignoring climate change will be the same. Destruction of the planet and the collapse of civilisation.

Once again, anyone in climate change denial is all about fossil fuel, war and profit and, what is outlined above is the future they are pushing us towards. It’s catastrophic devastation driven purely by greed. To diffuse this situation, we need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This removes the need for fossil fuel wars and safeguards our fragile global environment. We must immediately remove any government that embraces the war machine and we must remove any conservative government that is not 100% committed to the transition to renewable energy.

It’s our children’s future, it’s our grand-children’s future, it’s the future of the planet and all life is on the line. It’s a fight worth fighting. Clean energy from the sun and the wind and, not fossil fuel wars. It’s a pretty simple choice and one that needs to ripple through the community and across the entire planet. Working together we can pressure a responsible progressive governments and we can change our future for the better.

In the conservative belt it’s really easy to say I’m doing O.K Jack, society is working rather well for my family and myself. Why change what’s working, for us? That’s why it’s called being conservative. It’s O.K. right now but, what about the future for our grand-children and beyond. What about looking further than our own back yard. What about looking at the bigger picture and the overwhelming evidence of where we are headed on our current path. What about the common sense and forward-thinking vision one would expect from educated and dynamic people? What about a shift in thinking and a more bipartisan approach to safeguarding the future?

Conservative versus progressive and fossil fuel wars versus renewable energy are the overriding issues of our time. We can save humanity and the natural world if we put aside our political differences, use our heads, meet in the middle, and get moving on this.

PaTH to Misery

By John Haly 

Internships ideally are supposed to equip young people with valuable skills for the development of modern work in the economy of the future. Yet our Australian Government believes entry-level jobs are logical points for internship training. Why else would Hungry Jacks be the skills development centre for young people seeking internships to launch them into their employment future?

Fast food restaurant employment requirements are low enough in status to be considered, entry-level, part-time or second jobs. It is a labour market with large turn-over, low pay and requires a skill set an unskilled teenager can quickly learn. The businesses themselves are often franchises with a formulaic capacity to direct food production, staff training and profit margins. 

Hungry Jacks is such an environment. While it can be argued that more significant skill sets are available, they would usually only be available to regular employees over timeExemplified by moving into administrative roles – such as managing inventory, training and supervising other employees. This is not the training that would be provided to unemployed interns doing 25 hours a week to cover Christmas demand under the Liberal’s PaTH program.

Social media has been reacting badly to the inclusion of Hungry Jacks in the Liberal’s PaTH program as depicted by this Meme. Having seen a significant reaction to it in my corner of social media, I thought of expanding on the response it generated, as well as correcting some impressions.

Hungry Jack social protest meme

Misperceptions

First: The initial statement is technically correct, but it does imply – incorrectly – that the $200 a fortnight is all the intern receives by way of compensation. That is not so! The $200 is on top of their dole payment.  Newstart Allowance maximum is $550.00 per fortnight for a single person. This still leaves the intern with an income less than the minimum wage($18.93 per hour or $946.50 for an equivalent 50 hour fortnight) and under the poverty line ($433 a week for a single adult living alone or $866 a fortnight).

Newstart verses pension and wages

Second: Because some people don’t even read the meme properly, I have repeatedly read comments that suggest Hungry Jacks is somehow responsible for the underpayment. Morally perhaps, but in real terms, not at all. The truth is more venal, as they pay nothing for these interns and get a $10,000 bonus if they take them on as staff after the internship. These interns are paid out of the public common wealth of our government.

Third: Young job seekers don’t have a lot of choice about taking the internship because their job network provider threatens penalties if they don’t take the “job”. As Employment Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed, “It will be compulsory for all young job seekers within the first five months of being in receipt of welfare.” Like “Work for the dole”, which it is replacing, it is difficult to opt out. PaTH work also impedes one’s ability to spend time in search of serious work opportunities. This is aside from the question of whether serious work opportunities exist at all.

Fourth: Despite some passionate debate on social media, PaTH has little crossover with issues surrounding 457 visas (now called TSS visas) for foreign workers. The PaTH program is aimed at Australian workers on the dole, and foreign workers have no access to this. TSS workers already have paid work, and their numbers are small relative to the unemployed and job vacancies. Their impact on unemployment issues is highly exaggerated. The previous and current existence of TSS/457 workers were primarily a product of failures in education provision for Australians. Although both groups do have a common enemy, in employers rorting of the system for the exploitation of TSS and PaTH workers.

The distribution of 457 visa workers

Fifth: Hungry Jack’s misuse of the PaTH program was absolutely predictable, especially in their case – if you look back to 2011 – when they were fined $100,500 after underpaying almost 700 of its Tasmanian employees. The underpayment was over six times the amount of the fine – $665,695 between March 2006 and August 2008. They were a company whose track record demonstrated a predilection for seeking a way to abuse the system. There are no surprises here and very typical of corporate greed expectations.

PaTH’s Reality

Those explanations made, let’s look into what PaTH is designed to achieve.

What I am concerned about is that we are missing the longer term strategy about making the coalition look successful. The Coalition’s PaTH strategy was never designed to work as a method of employing people. You’ve missed the point if you believe that’s what they sought. Some early statistics showed the initial “success” rate of the program ending in paid employment, was less than 7% of the advertised unique internship vacancies. While legitimate complaints have said that is an unfortunate result – it was a bonus for the coalition if they achieved that. A success rate of 7% just gave Michaelia Cash extra ammunition she could, and did use.

We need to communicate that the combination of ABS methodology for measuring unemployment relies on certain assumptions. For example, if a Newstart recipient works for more than an hour (paid or unpaid) in four weeks, they are no longer registered as unemployed by the ABS. Unemployed people who cannot declare they are ready to work immediately, whether because of other commitments (i.e. children in the case of single parents) or because they are in a state of dysfunction (i.e. disability) that they cannot respond, are also eliminated. Unlike the more reliable Roy Morgan unemployment measures, the ABS’s methodology hides unemployed people. Being on the PaTH program also excludes you from the count. By assuming they were genuinely seeking to have it work to reduce real unemployment, means Australians have missed the more cleverly nuanced purpose of the PaTH program. The real political objective is to create an illusion of “jobs and growth“.

Variance between ABS and Roy Morgan’s unemployment stats

While not counting the unemployed, you can guarantee the coalition is counting any jobs “generated” by businesses that can acquire workers at no cost to themselves. The business makes $1000 per head and – if they turn out to be exceptional workers – can employ them with a $10,000 bonus for doing so. Free labour and income is a significant boost for any business. Retail and service business are disincentivised from taking on casual staff they have to pay to manage increased demand over the Christmas/New Year period, in preference for the PaTH interns.

In short, ABS combined with the PaTH interns program is a masterful mirage that as implemented will create the “Jobs and Growth” in all the areas they want it to occur, but none of them the Australian unemployed really need! It is not about jobs but the “illusion of them” because the Liberals have no plan to generate significant numbers of real paid jobs. Instead, this rather ingeniously manufactured neoconservative illusion that is designed to pass back our common public wealth to the private sector. All the while conning the public that they are creating jobs and growth. Entirely predictable as I outlined back in mid-2016.

Coalition employment results?

Have our unemployment stats dropped significantly after my last PaTH article in 2016, according to ABS? Yes, June 2016 unemployment was at 5.8% and is now down to 5% in November! Have they dropped significantly for the same dates according to more robust unemployment measures such as those utilised by Roy Morgan? Very slightly it appeared, as unemployment measured at 9.6%, and it is now 9.5%! Keep in mind, although, that the size of the workforce in June of 2016 was 12,990,000 and it grew to 13,585,000 by last November. That means 9.5% in 2018 is way larger than 9.6% in 2016. In 2016, 9.6% represented only 1,247,000 unemployed people whereas in November of 2018 9.5% grew to 1,291,000 unemployed citizens. Draw your own conclusions.

Poor Job Vacancy opportunities for the Under and Unemployed

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

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Rising corruption and coal

By 1petermcc 

Lately in coal markets around the world, there has been an increase of exposure of cases where the industry has found compliant partners happy to rort the system of energy generation for personal gain. Usually folk with ties to government. It’s not that there is any more corruption than usual, just that the economics of coal no longer make it a viable product, so new deals get examined more closely, and exposure is more likely. This has led to cancelled supply contracts, cancelled financial support for projects, and plenty of court time

There is no greater example of how dire the situation is for coal than the US. Even with Trump making positive comments and wildly ridiculous claims, the fact of the situation is the product is no longer economic, less employment is on offer, and financiers are not prepared to stump up capital on such a high risk venture. Even with Trump urging them to do so.

In this recent South African case we see yet another example of corruption between government connected people and the coal Industry. Trying to prop up a dying industry requires desperate measures and the hunt is on for pollies open to “incentives” to promote their product.

Australia finds itself in exactly this position and personally, I want to see a Federal ICAC in place to deal with the growing influence being exerted by the Coal industry because things are only going to get worse. Clearly the product is already too expensive and smoke appears to be seeping out from under under the door leading to the Coalition Party Room. I’m sure there’s a fire in there somewhere.

The sooner the ICAC is established, the sooner we can start investigating individuals, and the less damage we suffer economically, not withstanding the usual Morrison claims like “we don’t need a banking inquiry”. We already have a problem just looking at Morrison himself and his public display of affection for a lump of coal in the House, and it’s only going to get more shrill as the death throws continue.

We may not be able to incarcerate the offenders, but we can remove them from the public purse, and perhaps we can limit their ill gotten gains if we act quickly. Once we remove these road blocks, we can get on with transitioning to our new low carbon economy and stop dragging it out for as long as possible.

Back in the days of Tony Abbott, dragging things out on energy matters was a profitable political advantage, but times have changed. Instead of it simply being an environmental matter, it’s now an economic and environmental matter, and it’s destroying the party without them noticing the discussion has moved forward.

Sources:

Global Bankers Spurn Trump’s Pleas to Keep Making Loans for Coal

SIU targets Eskom, Tegeta in R3.7bn coal contract

Victorian election result shows Liberal Party faces uphill battle to win back centre

This article was originally published on Advances in Renewables.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Lawyer jokes? As always, the joke is on us.

By Kyran O’Dwyer 

Apparently, Peter Dutton got some legal advice and it’s causing some consternation.

By way of disclosure, I have the attention span of a gnat. Gnat, as in “a small two-winged fly that resembles a mosquito”, not “one who would ever countenance voting for the gNats”. It should also be noted that “Gnats include both biting and non-biting forms.” Before you start in on me, I mean no disrespect to gnats. I’m sure the ‘non-bitey’ ones are most pleasant insects, notwithstanding their poor attention span and annoying behaviour. As for gNat voters, I mean no disrespect, when contempt and disdain will suffice. Have a look at the gNat’s team and tell me I’m wrong.

I would defy anyone to produce one example from that list that could be described as ‘meritorious’, when even describing them as mediocre is a huuuuuge stretch. Big mouthed failures. Apologists for appalling behaviour. Anyone who declares themselves by title as ‘Honourable’ when their actual behaviour, their deeds, are the very epitome of dishonourable, is beyond galling. It merits no response other than contempt, derision and disdain. Why would you treat their supporters, their enablers, any differently?

By now, you may accept my point about my attention span. I started on Peter Dutton, then ended up apologising to insects. That’s before drawing any inference that Duddo is, in fact, a ‘closet gNat’, one of the ‘bitey’ type.

Anyway, Duddo allegedly got ‘legal advice’, which he won’t show but asks us to trust him that it is, in fact, legal advice and it says what he says it says and it says that what he says is right. I think that’s the gist of it. It is likely the same legal advice he used for court cases revoking citizenship, cases granting citizenship, cases seeking extradition, cases denying benefits, cases denying cases. I’ve never heard of the ACME Legal Company Inc and was surprised that a federal government could utilise such a service but, hey, it’s Duddo. Surprises are no longer surprising. This is likely the same advice he is using in defence of Sect 44 claims against his entitlement to sit.

My initial reaction was to write to the various legal bodies, the Law Institutes and Bar Associations, demanding they conduct immediate enquiry to ‘out’ these purveyors of wisdom allegedly informing Duddo. Such people should never be allowed anywhere near The Law. Then I recalled the number of times this ‘thing’ Duddo has cited having had legal advice and, when the full tragedy plays out, it becomes apparent that his legal advice is a work of fiction. It doesn’t exist. He has none. He lied.

Think about it just a little and it becomes crystal clear exactly what we are dealing with here. Duddo not only has no respect for the law, he holds it in contempt. He is on record saying that he is sick of being told what to do by the Courts. His departments have, for years, used the legal process to delay cases going before a court or tribunal in the hope the claimant will capitulate and go away. In those instances where they don’t, nearly every single case has been settled on the doorsteps in a blatant attempt to avoid scrutiny and disclosure of his debased behaviour in a court. Even class actions in the tens of millions of dollars get settled BEFORE hearings commence.

On the 14th June, 2017, “The Hon barf Peter Dutton MP” released a statement:

To date Australian taxpayers have paid more than $13.7 billion to clean up Labor’s loss of control of our borders.

Today another $90 million was added to that bill with the settlement of the Manus class action.”

Now, you have to bear in mind this fool has an army of spin doctors, media advisers and lawyers at his disposal. Whilst we can attempt to gather information through the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner with a view to verifying his claims, this fool’s government has been waging war on information since 2015.

The 2019 update is even more disturbing.

We will likely never find out if ‘little costs’, like the $78mill spent on transporting asylum seekers, are part of his mathematical genius and a Labor induced cost. You’d think with all of that at his disposal, just one of his staff would have pointed out to this indescribable fool that his government has been occupying that space since 18th September, 2013. If they have been in the chair since 2013 and problems from 2013 are still ongoing, what the f#ck have these fools been doing?

His 2017 statement goes on to explain, in details that would perplex both Lewis Carroll and his juvenile creation, Alice, how his mind numbing incompetence is everyone else’s fault.

Sadly, due to Labor’s failed border policies, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is the most litigated department of the Commonwealth.

Currently there is a caseload of almost 5,800 legal matters afoot. DIBP’s legal expenditure in 2015-16 totalled more than $72 million.”

Nothing, absolutely nothing, this fool says can withstand the most cursory appraisal, let alone scrutiny. DIBP didn’t even exist when Labor was last in office. The vast majority of the 5,800 cases are due to his changes to the application process and time frame for seeking TPV’s and SHEV’s. He is lauded as a poster boy for potential PM by a MSM that wonders why its credibility is shot. His ministerial abilities are seriously curtailed by his laziness and stupidity. His early ministries are best summed up by his award as ‘Worst Health Minister Ever’.

“Dutton will be remembered as the dullest, least innovative and most gullible for swallowing the reforms from his think tank … Although I am glad he has been demoted, it would have been good if he was still around to take responsibility for the current chaos he has caused.”

Given the predecessors and successors in that portfolio, the achievement can never be overstated.

The only explanation for this fools ‘success’ lies with ‘Peter’s Puppeteer’, Michael Pezzullo, who is equally renowned for his contempt of the rules and due process. If you do a search on ‘michael pezzullo senate estimates’ you will get the drift. A veteran 30 year bureaucrat, he first advanced the super ministry theory in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

The rest, as they say, is history. Having found a gutless PM and a stupid minister, he created a portfolio where the only assurance offered was ‘trust me’, such was the removal of oversight, let alone rigorous oversight.

He hasn’t finished yet. Pezzullo wants to broaden his powers and co-opt international agencies.

Pezzullo’s good fortune in finding a lazy imbecile of such immense proportion and a government of equally monumental incompetence comes at a cost. Our freedoms. Our rights.

There is no cause for concern for Duddo, though. His monetary worth, as opposed to his value, is testament to the opportunities afforded by negative gearing and capital gains concessions, if not government subsidy through childcare. An obscenity, given his consideration of children across the country and in our gulags. Undoubtedly, his ministerial salary, limitless expenses and generous superannuation provisions haven’t troubled his bank accounts.

Even if the good people of Dickson throw this fool out, his financial future is assured. Guestimates range from $10-20mill and climbing, most of it accruing during his tenure as a representative of the good people of Dickson.

That is not to say Duddo isn’t without purpose. There is a search facility on this venerable site, on the right hand side, about half way down the ‘Home Page’, just below the main banner. If you put in those magic words, Peter Dutton, you will see he has been the subject of dozens of articles by numerous writers for years now. Just in the past few days, more were added. Whilst I’m always happy to be corrected and my ‘inspection’ was only cursory, none appear to be complimentary. His purpose? Ridicule. Derision. Contempt. Disgust. Condemnation. Such things have to be directed somewhere and this asshole seems the natural repository for the inevitable suppository.

But that wasn’t the point of my rant, which appears to underscore my poor attention span. Peter Dutton’s legal advice. My first instinct was that this was some sort of joke, like ACME Legal Company Inc. One of those sad, unfunny jokes, like ‘black humour’ or ‘gallows humour’, underwritten by bitter, brutal irony. Assuming there is ‘legal advice’ and this imbecile could read, what sort of lawyer would debase themselves to such an extent they would take him as a client?

That got me to messing about on this internetty thingy about ‘lawyer jokes’. One of them had a caveat at the start.

But just a warning – by the end of this list you may get the impression that lawyers aren’t the most popular people on earth, but we knew that already, right?”

One of its samples:

At a convention of biological scientists, one researcher remarks to another, “Did you know that in our lab we have switched from mice to lawyers for our experiments?” “Really?” the other replied, “Why did you switch?” “Well, for three reasons. First we found that lawyers are far more plentiful, second, the lab assistants don’t get so attached to them, and thirdly there are some things even a rat won’t do.”

Having spent more time than I should amusing myself at the reputational expense of lawyers, I came across a RN ‘Law Report’ article by Damien Carrick:

A Dublin solicitor died penniless and his colleagues chipped in for the funeral. The Lord Chief Justice was asked to contribute. ‘What? Only a shilling?’ he says, ‘Here’s a guinea; bury 20 of them’.”

Q: What do lawyers use as contraceptives? A: Their personalities.”

Christopher Pyne is quoted telling the mice joke described above, only he characterises them as rats. Whether he was being self-deprecating or is merely envious of rats is unclear.

Tee hee. Then there was one that wasn’t funny as it tied together several matters that hadn’t been initially apparent. Politicians, legal advice, law, even comedy.

What do you call a lawyer who’s gone bad? The answer: Senator.”

The rest of the article has much insight about lawyers and the law, how poorly they are perceived and how much of that is due to their actual behaviour, rather than a perception about their behaviour. They invariably operate within a system of their own design, built around hair splitting, weasel words, obfuscation, avoidance, exceptions and unbelievable complications. The jokes are merely the manifestation of the perception as a reality.

Professor Galanter says the most enduring themes around the profession are that lawyers are slippery with language, greedy and self-serving. But since the 1980s, in the wake of financial scandals, political shenanigans and an explosion in civil litigation, some jokes levelled at lawyers have become vicious and sometimes outright vilifying. It has become politically correct to have a go at lawyers.”

That paragraph seemed to paraphrase all that is wrong. The system they are a part of is frequently vicious and often vilifies people, using slippery language, aka weasel words, to reinforce the objectives of greed and self service. When they become recipients of the treatment they advocate, it is different. Huh?

“’What do you call 6,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start.’ Now that particular joke, and many of these jokes, were racist jokes aimed at blacks or other groups, and were switched to lawyers, which is very unusual.”

There is no suggestion in the article that 6,000 blacks at the bottom of the sea was funny, any more than lawyers suffering the same fate. Yet the sub-groups being interchangeable is ‘very unusual’. Maybe I read it wrong, but it seemed the objection was to the association with blacks rather than their shared fate.

An interchange in the article went some way to explaining not just a legal process evolving within a society that was also evolving, but how the over complication undermined faith in the system it was meant to enhance. ‘The system’ became more important than the people it was designed to protect and serve.

“Anita Barraud: You’ve made a point that the more virulent attacks started as a wave in the 1980s, which of course was a period of great sort of economic turbulence, and there was a lot of litigation, a lot of lawyers fell by the wayside in terms of company scandals and what-have-you, but it also was the lawyers that actually brought them out of it, and actually sought justice.

Marc Galanter: We had a period in the United States from the time of the Second World War, through into the 1970s, a great expansion of rights and remedies and legal protections, and that of course involved a great deal more regulation. And for the managers and authorities of society, they found a lot of new exposure, a lot of new accountability being imposed on them, which they very much resented. You see this very much in medical malpractice litigation, you see it in products liability litigation, you see it in civil rights.

Anita Barraud: This is the McDonald’s hot coffee splashes and all of those notions of ‘So, sue me’, all of that kind of thing that has developed since then.

Marc Galanter: Well there certainly was an increase in the sort of remedies and protections for ordinary people. Correspondingly, there was an increase in the kind of legal exposure of people who were running things, and they resented this very much, and then what you got in the ’70s in the U.S. there was a great collapse of confidence in government, having to do with the Watergate scandal, and the Vietnam war, people’s sense that the government was capable of doing good things, that plummeted. And as it plummeted, people became much more sceptical about law, the whole major part of the legal establishment in the United States began to feel that things were kind of over-extended, the courts were taking on too much, so there was a kind of great turn, a swerve away from this expansive period.

Anita Barraud: The notion that there were too many lawyers, too many laws, and that the world had been too legalised, and therefore it had somehow diminished justice. It bred an unnatural justice in a way.

Marc Galanter: Yes, and I think this recoil against legalisation has been very powerful. Now of course the legalisation has continued. The amount of regulation, the number of lawyers, all these things have continued to increase, but people no longer feel good about them, and there’s a lot of resentment I would say, among top people and among ordinary people, at least a kind of scepticism about legal remedies and so forth, so that although we promise all kinds of remedies and protections to ordinary people, they often find that they’re really not able to get access to them. So there’s a sense I think, a widespread sense of disappointment about what the law has been able to deliver. As I say, this kind of consternation about law which came on the scene say in the late ’70s, early ’80s, and it seemed to be the change in the tone of lawyer jokes and their prominence, is part of this wider movement.”

There is much in that and there is much left out, lawyer jokes and the motivation for telling them aside. Unpicking the differences between; civil rights and the need to protect them; corporate crime and the need to prosecute it; consumer law and the constraints of malpractice/product liability provisions; and so on, is not the issue. It is the nonsensical suggestion that too many rules led to too many convictions, which led to a break down in public trust in institutions.

This is the same argument Morrison ran when declining to hold a RC into banks. If we have a RC and find bad stuff, people won’t trust the banks.

By the time the 70’s and 80’s had revealed global systemic abuses throughout numerous areas in societies, lawyers had already worked out that the more complicated you make the legal structure, the more you restrict its operation. It wasn’t the creation of an egalitarian legal doctrine that caused the plethora of legal jokes. It was the creation of two tier legal systems that precluded many people from accessing them that caused the problems, and far better explains why the jokes took a malicious turn.

Most good laws are relatively simple. Most bad laws are complicated and onerous.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is good law.

If you read through that, it is noticeable that it doesn’t contain exemptions, or exclusions, or limits, or distinctions, or qualifications. It doesn’t say that one child deserves different or better protections than another child. It doesn’t say one racial group deserves considerations over all others. It doesn’t say one religion and, therefore, its followers, deserve primacy over another. It reinforces the notion that if you attack one component of society, you undermine the validity of all components. That it became bogged down in systems created to permit such distractions is where the lawyers got a bad name. It was framed in 1948 and may be what Mr Galanter was referring to when he states;

“We had a period in the United States from the time of the Second World War, through into the 1970s, a great expansion of rights and remedies and legal protections, and that of course involved a great deal more regulation.”

It wasn’t the Declaration that caused the problem, it was the abuses inflicted upon it by governments trying to restrict, not enhance, its operation.

If you think about the purpose and operation of Australia’s tax laws, one of the most complicated systems on the planet, it is easy pickings for such an argument. The more complicated the structure, the more restricted the access, the more privileged the beneficiaries of the system are. That it was largely designed by the same Big 4 accounting firms who advise their clients on where the loopholes are is merely salt for a very tender wound.

Our education system is another example of a delivery system having assumed importance over its purpose – delivering education to our youth. Health? Our unemployed?

At the end of the day, we now have systems where the spirit or intent of any law becomes secondary to the system of delivery, which is invariably administered by corporations.

In the article, there are several occupations mentioned that seem to attract people with legal qualification, referred to as “lawyers-turned-politicians, lawyers-turned-broadcasters, lawyers-turned-comedians, and even learned professors.”

In the comedian section, Shaun Micallef is mentioned, Paul McDermott is not. From another article:

“A staggering 47% of Australian comedians have either studied or practised law.”

There is a chart in that link that explains the correlation between the skill sets of lawyers and comedians, which is informative. And then there’s that nasty joke that set me off on this distraction – the number of lawyers who ‘went bad’ by going into politics. Given the past few decades, how is that going for us?

Once upon a time, so the story goes, the fence broke down between Heaven and Hell. St Peter appeared at the broken section of the fence and called out to the Devil, ‘Hey, Satan, it’s your turn to fix it this time’. ‘Sorry’, replied the boss of the lower regions, ‘my men are too busy to go about fixing a mere fence’. ‘Well then,’ scowled St Peter, ‘I’ll have to sue you for breaking our agreement’. ‘Oh yeah?’ echoed the Devil, ‘where are you going to get a lawyer?’

We put so many lawyers in parliament, a veritable ‘hell on earth’, and then expect them to do our bidding. Silly us.

When we entrench legal systems that not only support but promote a two tier structure, two sets of rules applied disproportionately to two sets of constituents, we know it will end badly. When we entrench legal systems that put more value on the method of delivery than the purpose of delivery, a tearful ending is all but guaranteed.

Expecting lawyers to be the solution to the problem they created would be like expecting a dullard, an imbecile like Duddo, to awaken one morning having experienced an epiphany and recant all of his wrongdoings.

There is an old joke about the lawyer, the engineer and the prostitute in heavy discussion about which was the oldest profession. The prostitute declared that, when society evolved from the chaotic to the more orderly, prostitution was established as a profession, giving comfort to those who would otherwise not experience it. The engineer thought for a while, then declared that it was the engineers who enabled the transition from chaotic, haphazard structures to collaborative efforts, enabling order to be brought to the chaos through valuable infrastructure, which benefited agriculture and commerce.

The lawyer had remained quiet throughout, sitting back smugly with his arms folded. After a few minutes silence, he leaned forward to his friends and simply said “Who do you think created the chaos?”

Another link had many witty pithy contributions broken into sections. From its ‘Ethics’ section, which was unsurprisingly brief, given the loose connections between law, ethics and humour, was this:

“While a doctor, priest and lawyer were out at sea fishing their rowboat sprung a leak. The doctor said, “We’re sinking, someone will have to swim to shore.” No sooner had he said that and a school of sharks began circling the boat. The priest said, “Well, I’ve had a good life, I’ll jump over board.” But the lawyer wouldn’t hear of it, jumped overboard and began swimming toward the shore. As the doctor and priest rowed to shore they were amazed. Instead of attacking the lawyer the sharks made a gauntlet each side of the lawyer as he swam to the shore. The priest proclaimed, “It’s a miracle.” The doctor said, “No, I don’t think so, it’s just professional courtesy.””

As for the judiciary, it was an interesting conflation of self serving ambition, opportunism and populism that got my limited attention.

Two Magistrates, having become lightly inebriated together one Friday evening, were promptly arrested by an unsuspecting police officer who had just arrived in town to enforce the law. All parties were embarrassed when the facts emerged. However, the question of bail was not in issue, since each of these gentlemen, with a stroke of the legal pen, granted the other co-offender bail on the condition that he would appear in the Magistrates Court on the following Monday morning.

On the Monday morning the question arose, who should sit on the bench first. “I will,” said the first gentleman of the law, hoping that he could set a precedent for his brother magistrate. “This is a serious matter, this drunkenness in a public place,” he said. “However, as this is your first offence, I shall treat the matter with a degree of leniency and place you on a good behaviour bond.” He then stepped down from the bench and took his turn standing in the dock.

His brother magistrate, with whom he had previously been imbibing, stepped up and sat on the bench. “There is a prevalence of this type of offence coming before the courts, and something must be done about it. Why, this is the second example of such behaviour that the court has had to listen to this morning. Fined $ 100.00.””

The article cited from RN is from 2006. While reading the article was amusing, it struck me that people get law degrees, spend some time practicing law and then, at some point, choose one of three career paths. The judiciary, politics or comedy. One particular comment highlights the equation, the relativity, of qualified lawyers in parliament who debased the profession from which they arose.

“Ysaiah Ross: Yes, I think there’s some truth about that. The fact that lawyers are in people’s minds all the time is probably very good for the profession, it probably generates more business. The Howard government, its Cabinet has more lawyers than any other Cabinet in the history of any Australian government. And it’s also the one which is least responsible for human rights. I find that very strange.”

Here we are, more than a decade later, with a parliament full to overflowing with tertiary qualifications. The abundance of lawyers is staggering, as is their mediocrity. It is the most unfunny ‘lawyer joke’ ever told, against which Duddo’s legal advice pales into insignificance.

This is not intended as a declaration of war on tertiary qualification, any more than it may be construed as a blanket condemnation of the profession. The disjointed and rambling nature of my commentary is testament to the benefit of such training, as I have none.

“A broad definition of crime in England is that it is any lower-class activity which is displeasing to the upper class. Crime is committed by the lower class and punished by the upper class.”

What these people just don’t understand is that they are there to serve us. Any other consideration is untenable. Their holding of tertiary qualification should enhance that capacity, not limit it. It’s time to stop this nonsense of the tail wagging the dog.

Feeding the Monster

By Stephen Fitzgerald 

I’ve spoken previously about the lack of human rights protection in Australia and now we might have a look at the reasons for political resistance in what we can call the egregious illiberal democracy.

An outstandingly bad illiberal democracy, also called a partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, hybrid regime or guided democracy, is a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of transparency, civil liberties and human rights. It is not an “open society”. There are many countries that are categorised as neither ‘free’ nor ‘not free’, but as ‘probably free’, falling somewhere between democratic and nondemocratic regimes. This may be because a constitution limiting government powers exists, but those in power ignore its liberties, or because an adequate legal constitutional framework of liberties or freedoms does not exist.

José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International reminds us that:

“Only where there is freedom of expression, transparency in all political processes and strong democratic institutions, can civil society and the media hold those in power to account and corruption be fought successfully.”

2018 showed that around the world systemic corruption and social inequality reinforce each other, leading to popular disenchantment with political establishments and providing a fertile ground for the rise of so-called populist politicians. 69 per cent of the 176 countries on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 scored below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), exposing how massive and pervasive public sector corruption is around the world. This year more countries declined in the index than improved, showing the need for urgent action.

Corruption and inequality feed off each other, creating a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth. As the Panama Papers showed, it is still far too easy for the rich and powerful to exploit the opaqueness of the local and global financial and political systems to enrich themselves at the expense of the public good. In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity.

Corruption needs to be fought with urgency, so that the lives of everyday people improve. Grand corruption cases, from Petrobras and Odebrecht in Brazil to Ukrainian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, show how collusion between businesses and politicians denies national economies of billions of dollars of revenues that were siphoned off to benefit the few at the expense of the many. This kind of systemic corruption violates human rights, prevents sustainable development and fuels social exclusion and inequality. It’s starting to sound very familiar and very close to home.

As soon as we see a resistance to human rights and civil liberties protection, limiting or manipulation of the press and one-sided journalism, lawyers weakening the judiciary in favour of the wealthy, escalating inequality and poverty, corporate exploitation and, politicians governing for themselves, we start to seriously question the system. Many are now turning away from the major political parties and looking towards independents who promise to change that entrenched system and break the cycle of crony capitalism.

Implementation of and, technical fixes to specific anti-corruption legislation are a start but, not enough. What is urgently needed are deep-rooted systemic reforms that even up the growing imbalance of power and wealth by empowering citizens to stop the widespread impunity for corruption, hold the powerful to account, and have a real say in the decisions that affect their daily lives. These reforms could also include the disclosure through public registries of who owns what companies and who donate what to election funds in return for political favours.

Corporate and political collusion and corruption is systemic across the western world and is the key factor destroying 21st century democracy. The indicators are lighting up to show that Australia is far from exempt. Countries at the bottom of Corruption Perceptions Index are characterised by widespread impunity for corruption and poor governance. Something that we are seeing in Australian federal politics right now.

The base of support of the Australian Liberal National Party have always been the wealthy financial elite and this must now ring alarm bells throughout society. This is collusion, corruption and cronyism staring us in the face. The outcome is that segments of the population are willing to trade the rights and lives of the poor and marginalised for their own economic prosperity and, traditional parties and politicians also refuse to acknowledge their own roles in creating and feeding the monster before folding themselves into his arms.

When monsters run rampant

Countries around the world, from Hungary to Turkey to Cambodia and the Philippines, have turned to noisy leaders who promise instant renewals and silver-bullet solutions under the banner of a right-wing, nativist “populism”. The preferred term of cohort and controlled media outlets, even though the key constituencies backing these candidates comprise the nations’ elite. So, it’s about propaganda and should be viewed as another flashing red light to democracy. Like the LNP calling themselves ‘liberal’ is a lie and a flashing red light.

In São Paulo, people joined the largest women-led protest in Brazilian history, as women and LGBT people who feared Bolsonaro’s history of racist, sexist and homophobic statements urged Brazilians to vote for anyone else. “Ele Nāo,” they yelled ― “Not Him.”

Brazil was:

“… already one of the world’s most unequal countries in terms of income distribution, and while the poor unquestionably benefited from the previous Workers’ Party’s policies, including a hike in the minimum wage, the vast majority of the economic gains achieved under da Silva went to the richest 1 percent of Brazil’s population. So even as a new lower-middle class earned more than it ever had, Brazil’s obscene levels of income inequality expanded during the good years” (under a leftist government).

Democracy hadn’t delivered what many expected. 32 percent of Brazilians agreed that “democracy may have problems but is the best system of government.” No other Latin American nation showed less support for democracy, while two-thirds of Brazilians had lost faith in political parties, the presidency and Congress. More than half of Brazilians said they would support a more authoritarian style of government if it “solved problems”. This led to retired military officer Bolsonaro’s rise to power as he declared liberation from socialism!

Oh crap! So, there we have it – Corruption, exploitation and destruction under a left-wing government. Corruption, exploitation and destruction under a right-wing government and, corruption, exploitation and destruction under a military dictatorship. And, what’s the driving force behind this. The driving force is who runs the government to benefit themselves and who screws society with the blessing of the elected government. It’s happening right here in Australia and you can’t call that democracy.

True democracy is an Australian’s birth right

As people become more aware of the nature of the political landscape, each federal, state or local by-election (e.g. Victoria and Wentworth) has become, in part, a referendum on the state of Australian democracy as a whole. Any victory for an elitist conservative figure paves the way for escalation of the anti-democratic process and an escalation in social inequality. This also threatens progressive political opponents who are undermined and denigrated as part of the elitist political strategy. Vehement and vicious attacks on political opponents are another clear indicator of those with intention to undermining democracy in favour of themselves and their backers.

Under Australia’s two party preferred political system we see alternate parties denigrated by the left and right to keep them suppressed. Two party preferred, not three party preferred is the war cry. We see alternate political parties denigrating the left and right to try to carve their way into a position of political power. From where I stand, political parties are not working for democracy, they are working for themselves and once again, the financial elite. So, it’s time to change the system.

What choices do we have? Where do we turn to establish a democracy for the people by the people? If it’s not political parties, what is it? I think now is the time for a monumental social experiment. We are definitely in the mood and we are well on the way so, let’s keep pushing and flood the parliament with independents. Give independents the balance of power in both houses of parliament and we are in with a chance of knocking off elitist rule and establishing our democratic birth right.

Embracing 2019: Re-Igniting a Progressive American Revolution?

By Denis Bright 

The re-democratisation of the US is reflected in improved voter turn-outs at the mid-term elections on 6 November 2018.

The Blue Wave to the Democratic Party in the Senate this time was not fierce enough to over-turn the majority for the Republican Party. The new senate balance is now Democrat 47, Republican 53 and two independents, including the left-leaning Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The net loss of two senate spots by the Democrats occurred despite a favourable nationwide swing of 5.5 per cent. The national senate vote reached 59.3 per cent for the Democratic Party.

The Blue Wave in the contestable senate spots did not make it to Florida, Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana which were all re-gained by the Republicans to off-set Democrat gains in Arizona and Nevada.

In Texas, Republican Senator Ted Cruz survived with 50.9 per cent of the vote despite a swing of 6 per cent to challenger Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke vacated his Congressional District 16 in Dallas to contribute to make an unsuccessful tilt at the senate to assist with Democrat efforts to gain control of both houses of Congress.

A most encouraging trend at the mid-term election was the high voter turn-out (Vox, 19 November 2018):

 

Senate spots were highly contested in the swing states where one third of the senate is elected every two years with special votes to confirm appointments from death or retirements.

In the State of Michigan, the votes from the college cities of Lansing and Ann Arbor as well as increasingly de-industrialised Detroit offered protection from a possible Red Wave to the Republican Party.  

 

The Red Wave triumphed in Florida where Democratic Senator Bill Nelson was defeated by 10,000 votes from a voter turn-out of over 8 million:

 

As in Britain after the Tony Blair landslides in 1997 and 2002, a change of administration does not necessarily bring a change in policy direction on all fronts. Even President J. F. Kennedy (JFK) was still under the clutches of the military intelligence networks after his narrow victory in 1960 and a status quo result at the 1962 mid-term election. Having accepted CIA intervention in Cuba in a futile attempt to topple Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, JFK was able to hold the line against military solutions to the Cuban Missile Crisis with some moral support from both Nikita Khrushchev and Pope John XXIII. The CIA got its way in South Vietnam with the coup against President Diem just three weeks before JFK’s own assassination on Friday 22 November 1963.

The Blue Wave in Pennsylvania

Permit me to use some illustrations from the mid-term election results in Pennsylvania which includes the City of Philadelphia.

In Pennsylvania, voter turnout jumped from 43 per cent at the 2014 mid-term election to 58 per cent in 2018 (WITF 19 November 2018). This turn-out was still lower than at the 2016 presidential elections.

In parts of Philadelphia and the Allegheny hinterland, east of Pittsburgh, the turn-out rate was over 60 per cent. College towns in Allegheny County east of Pittsburgh added to the Democratic vote attained by Senator Bob Casey with only minor total leakages of 1.6 per cent to the Greens and Libertarian candidates.

 

In Pittsburgh based, Congressional District 18, the Republicans did not contest the election. However, in Allegheny County on the eastern outskirts of Pittsburgh and into the adjacent college towns, the high rates of voter participation gave 65.7 per cent of its support to Democratic Senator Bob Casey.

The Democratic Party achieved a net gain of three districts and the state is now evenly divided between the Republican and the Democratic Party. District 1 as well as Districts 9-16 are still in Republican hands. Districts 12-15 recorded Republican votes in the 66 to 70.5 per cent range.

Gerrymandering of congressional districts was an important weapon for the Republican Party. This protects the Republican hue in District 1 in Pittsburgh by concentrating Democratic Party support in the adjacent Districts 2 and 3.

The Twists and Turns of Congressional Districts in Philadelphia

 

The seat by seat analysis of the district results inn Pennsylvania is well covered in articles from Politico.

There has been a revolution in the gender balance of congressional representatives from Pennsylvania with an increase in female representation from zero in 2014 to four. All women are from the Democratic Party. The zero representation for women prior to 2018 was repeated in the congressional districts of ten other states. On election night, 55 of the 65 women in the House of Representatives were Democrats.

Madelaine Dean now represents Congressional District 4. Here the Democratic vote has increased from 25.46 per cent in 2014 to 33.94 per cent in 2016. The 63.45 per cent vote for Madelaine Dean justified her decision to transfer from the Pennsylvania state house at the right time as enthusiastically reported in the local media:

That will change in January when four Democratic women from the Philadelphia suburbs and Lehigh Valley are sworn in: Madeline Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon and Susan Wild.

Their election is significant, according to Terry Madonna, a veteran pollster and political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

“They won’t be Trump fans, to put it mildly,” he said.

The women ran on numerous issues, but they also had an anti-Trump message in their platform, even if they didn’t say the president’s name.

Their victory speeches also talked about change and a fight that continues.

“Tonight, we’ve changed the face of Congress,” Dean said.

“Our politics and our government have been turned upside down, and together I hope we’re going to turn our country right side up again. This is not the end of our journey. We have only just begun this fight, and we have a lot of work to do now,” Houlahan said.

Rep. Dwight Evans from the Pennsylvania’s Third District in Philadelphia also has a strong democratic vote. Unlike some Democrats, Rep. Dwight Evans questions some of the fundamentals of market ideology as the right foundations for the welfare of working people:

“The real fundamental question we’ve really got to ask ourselves is, what type of a society do we want?” Evans said in a recent campaign stop, criticizing the GOP (Republican Party) tax cuts for helping corporations and the wealthy while driving up the deficit and leaving less room for needed domestic programs.

Ignored by the national elements of his party, Leib, 33, called out CNN anchor Jake Tapper, a Philadelphia native, on Twitter in mid-October, trying to get some coverage. On the trail, the businessman and leader of the city Young Republicans argued that one-party Democratic rule had not helped the city.

“I’m a realist. I realize this would be the upset of the nation, right?” Leib said in an interview with news website Billy Penn in October. “But I’m still out here working hard to connect with people.”

An estimated 56 percent of the district’s population is African American, according to the data journalism website FiveThirtyEight. Two years ago, Hillary Clinton took 91 percent of the vote in the precincts that now comprise the newly re-drawn Third.

 

Challenging Political Apathy in Downtown Philadelphia with Rep. Dwight Evans (image from philly.com, photo by Michael Bryant)

 

Extending the 2018 Mid-Term Swings  

The progressive traditions of both Australia and the US would be vastly strengthened by more critical news reporting and cultural activism. These results were a snub to the more traditional style of campaigning by Democratic campaign bosses.

The more engaged US electorate surely demands responsible policy risk-taking over the endless use of predictable rhetoric. The precedent of taking good-will from Republicans for the benefit of the wider community is a reminder of the history of the Woodmere Art Museum in the Chestnut Hill District of Philadelphia.

The Museum and some of the art treasures were from the estate of Republican benefactor Charles Knox Smith (1845-1916). His wealth was derived from risk-taking in business, including mining investments in Mexico. This country is now being fenced off from the US and the polemics over this non-issue has shut down the US federal government.

The twists and turns in this upcountry winter landscape are a reminder of the changes which both Australia and the US must make to remain vibrant societies in the years ahead.

The promo for the current Pennsylvania Landscapes exhibition uses the work of impressionist artist Walter Elmer Schofield (1866-1914). It gives a cheerful light to the winter landscapes of Upcountry Pennsylvania from a work completed in 1913.

This was the year of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration for two terms. After commitment to the Great War in Europe, a Republican-dominated Congress after the 1918 mid-term elections rejected the value of participation in the League of Nations to build a just peace.

Shades of 1918 still exist in the rhetoric of President Trump’s America First Approach to the hopes of progressive globalisation.

Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic policies compatible with contemporary globalisation.

 

Another year older

Gosh, doesn’t time fly? Here’s some proof: Today we celebrate our 6th birthday.

It’s hard to pick a highlight out of those six years, but the one most special to us is the way our readers rallied around in May last year when without their support we would have been forced to close our doors. Thanks to our wonderful supporters we were able to meet the costs of the site’s migration to a larger server and the web-hosting fees for another year.

Nothing showed to us how much this site means to so many people. We thanked you then. We thank you again now. You are the reason we are celebrating birthday number six.

Moving along …

When we opened our doors it wasn’t exactly with a bang. On Day 8 we had a whole 48 visitors to the site! Undeterred, we marched on. We had a job to do.

Now after six years we have:

  • Published 7,100 posts;
  • Published 213,000 comments;
  • Welcomed 10,100 commenters; and
  • Attracted almost 20,000,000 site views.

While we are talking about stats, here are a couple of negative ones to include:

  • Our moderators have been busy clearing 799,000 spam comments; and
  • In six years there have been 260,000 malicious login attempts from hackers.

And some amazing records have been set along the way:

  • The most number of visitors the site has received in one day is 218,448;
  • The most views for a post is 432,000 being again for Victoria Rollison’s An Open Letter to Frances Abbott;
  • The most comments for one post is 681, being for Victoria’s An Open Letter to Frances Abbott;
  • Most number of articles – Rossleigh with 1,027; and
  • Most number of comments – Kaye Lee with 16,325.

And our work is not yet done!

In six years we have gone from just a few authors to a proud collection of thirty-two amazing people. Added to that we have published “guest posts” from hundreds of other fantastic writers.

But The AIMN team is far larger than a fabulous collection of writers and commenters. We’ve showed you the “visible”, but what you don’t see is the “invisible”: The people who work behind the scenes. These include:

  • Editors to prepare articles for publication;
  • Moderators;
  • A person to enhance the Search Engine Optimisation of each article;
  • A team of four who share the responsibility of promoting our articles all over Facebook;
  • A person to share the articles on Twitter;
  • A para-legal to review the suitability of “borderline” articles (or to suggest amendments); and
  • A web developer.

We are here because of them, the authors, and you.

It’s our birthday … but you guys and gals deserve the plaudits.

We thank you truly.

2019: the Year of Hope … the Year of Action

Well here we are. So it’s a big HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. We at The AIMN extend to you our best wishes and also our thanks for the years you have shared with us.

As I reflect (which is something we all tend to do at this time of year) I can’t help but recall the words of many great people who have themselves reflected that they “wanted to leave the world a better place than when they entered it.” You may have even said it yourself. I know that I have.

But events in 2018 – both global and local – have shattered many hopes for a better world. We no longer have a lifetime at our disposal to make the world a better place. If 2018 taught us one thing: 2019 is the time to act.

I don’t wish to sour everyone’s mood on what should be a joyous day, besides, regular readers of The AIMN will attest that we’ve lamented the ills of the world in our daily writings, so I’ll leave them there. However, four issues demand our attention:

  • The prospect of another arm’s race;
  • The global refugee crisis;
  • The growing inequality between rich and poor (encouraged by the policies of many Western governments); and
  • Our dying planet (and the creatures who dwell upon it).

Left unchecked and without being held to account – our own government (and that of the USA) – will do nothing to address these serious issues. In 2019, more than ever … they must!

But my fear is that they won’t.

So we need to make sure they do. Telling them at the ballot box is never enough. We need to make ourselves heard not just on that one day every three years, but every day.

While we have a voice … we have hope. But unless we turn our voices into action … they’ll remain deaf to us. This is the year we’ll throw down the gauntlet.

Again, happy New Year to you all. This is our year. We’ll leave the world a better place in 2019 than was given to us in 2018.

2018: the Top 5

Deja vu.

This time last year we bemoaned that:

We can all agree that politically, 2017 was a boring year: 365 days of nothing but the monotony of watching a woeful government led by a spineless prime minister simply meandering aimlessly along.

Well not much changed in 2018, though we did have to endure a “spineless prime minister” for only half the year. As we close the year we ponder if we went from bad (Turnbull) to worse (Morrison).

But that’s all in the future. This article is about the year just past.

Each year we publish a list of our five most popular articles for that year. (The Top 5 is based on the number of views only. It does not take into account the number of comments or the post’s popularity with other online media sites such as Facebook or Twitter).

Here are The AIMN’s five most popular posts in 2018:

Number 1: The truth bomb that terrifies Turnbull, by Victoria Rollison.

Malcolm Turnbull was enraged over an Emma Alberici article – on the ABC, mind you – that destroyed his argument that company tax-cuts would trickle-down for the greater good. How dare the ABC question his signature policy!

While Turnbull would have us believe that his anger was directed at the ABC, Victoria questioned the real reason for his anger: that his policy was based on a lie. And he knew it. Better still … we knew it.

Excerpt:

There is mass outrage today at the news that Turnbull has pressured the ABC to take down and censor parts of an article by Emma Alberici which analysed how little tax some of Australia’s largest companies pay. This story reeks of a scandalous government intervention in a publicly owned free press … There is no compelling evidence that giving the country’s biggest companies a tax cut sees that money passed on to workers in the form of higher wages … The truth is, Turnbull is terrified the lie is no longer believable. And it’s no longer believable because workers are waking up to the reality that their Point Piper millionaire PM, who uses tax havens to ensure wealth created through the labour of workers doesn’t come back to the community, who uses the power of government to make rules enabling other millionaires to steal wealth from workers, is actually lying to them … I have long said that once workers realise wealth doesn’t trickle down, right wing governments will never be elected again. Turnbull knows this too. So, he can censor all he likes, but editing an ABC news article is akin to pissing in the ocean when the waves of change are building like a truth-tsunami. Bring it on.

Number 2: Australian Psychological Society Medicare review submission betrays members and clients, by Eva Cripps.

It’s good to see Eva in the Top 5, and didn’t she cause a stir with this one! “Journalism at its best,” as one commenter noted.

Excerpt:

The Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) submission to the Commonwealth Government’s Medicare Benefit Schedule (MBS) review is an astonishing attempt to restrict access to psychology services for the most vulnerable of Australians. The submission, which was only made available to APS members on Friday, 17 August 2018, represents a kick in the guts to over 60% of Australian psychologists, who may have their ability to provide affordable and accessible services to clients with complex mental health needs significantly reduced … Each year in Australia, approximately one in five people will experience a mental illness. However a recent national survey showed that only 35% of people with a mental disorder had accessed a health service within the 12 months before the survey. If accepted by Minister Hunt, the APS proposal will have the effect of funneling vital health funding to psychologists preferenced because of their privilege/access to higher education, rather than to those with proven and demonstrated skills at treating clients with complex mental health issues.

Number 3: If You Missed Scott Morrison’s Concession Speech, by Rossleigh.

Rossleigh has published over 1,000 articles on The AIMN, and in all bar one he has displayed his remarkable skills as a satirist. A skill he is well-known for!

This article was his “bar one”. Gone was the satire, but the short article was still just as amusing, where he compared Scott Morrison to Monty Python (the video reveals all).

Excerpt:

… after telling us that the Liberals were angry – meaning the voters – he then said that the Liberals – meaning the party he leads – would win the next election because of what they believed. He then reminded us that there’ll be a fair go for those who have a go and the best form of welfare is a job and … Yes, you get the idea.

Number 4: The LNP Welfare Card: the true facts exposed. Corruption disguised as philanthropy!, by Michael Griffin.

This is the second year in a row that guest author MIchael Griffin has made the Top 5, and as with last year, he talks about the Welfare Card and asks the eternal question: is it a rort?

Excerpt:

Setting up networks of corporations and trusts is standard practice for those wishing to conceal their involvement in an enterprise or operation and is often engaged to shield the identity of those involvement in that enterprise … This is the real purpose of the LNP determination to adopt and expand the Welfare Card programme, that is, to obtain donations for the financially stressed LNP and to aid its supporters, donors and members … Unfortunately, with the very weak democracy we have in Australia, there is no way to hold those involved in this scam to account or to have any corruption independently investigated or prosecuted at a federal level. No federal ICAC or anti-corruption body exists. Only the Federal Police can investigate corruption as the criminal offence of defrauding the Commonwealth. Given that the Federal Police are controlled by the LNP Government and beholding to the LNP Government for their funding, and given the LNP and its cronies are the beneficiaries of the card programme, any such investigation by the Federal Police is unlikely to ever occur.

Number 5: The people are getting uppity and Scott doesn’t like it, by Kaye Lee.

The Top 5 wouldn’t be complete without Kaye Lee occupying a place.

In this article Kaye took rightful issue in PM Morrison’s defence of all that is wrong with his government, namely, policies that ‘encourage’ inequality. How can you possibly defend inequality? Morrison tried, and took umbrage that we dare question it.

This article was Kaye at her cheeky best.

Excerpt:

When the crossbench moved to end the shameful practice of holding innocent people hostage in the pretence that this is a valid way to keep our borders secure, Scott Morrison went ballistic … The Coalition cannot understand why people are not satisfied with the fact that some people are getting much richer. Company profits are at record highs after all. Women and children should be happy that the men are taking care of things. Indigenous folk should recognise how much better off they are since the white man took control. And gays should be thankful we no longer lock them up … How about those pesky kids, missing school to express their anger and despair at the older generation’s inaction on climate change. They must have been put up to it by radical lefty socialist teachers. They should be in school doing some rote learning about how wonderful Western civilisation is rather than emulating the dole bludgers by protesting … That young lady who wrote to the PM about her disappointment at the standard of behaviour in parliament should stop worrying her little head about grownup tactics that she couldn’t possibly understand.

For every article that makes the annual Top 5, there are dozens that on another day could have taken their place. Nonetheless, congratulations to those authors that topped the list this year, and congratulations too for the outstanding contributions from the dozens of authors who have published – or had their articles published – on The AIMN in 2018.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Our best future

By Stephen Fitzgerald  

April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in the world’s first manned space flight. “I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

Scientists calculated a ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change – and time is running out

The goal of the Paris Agreement was to ensure global temperatures didn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If temperatures hit that point, we’ll be more likely to see the worst projected effects of climate change, including rising seas, severe storms, extreme heat, drought, and fires. In fact, we are experiencing the beginnings of those extremes right now.

The world needs to transition to renewable energy fast if we don’t want temperatures to rise that much, according to a new study. In that study, the authors calculated a “point of no return” for acting on climate – and it’s soon. There’s nothing mysterious about what it will take to limit climate change: The world needs to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. But the timing of that transition is extremely important.

According to a new study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics, we could soon cross a point of no return. After that, it will be almost impossible to keep Earth’s temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius. The new study calculates that if the world’s governments don’t initiate a transition to clean energy sources by 2035 – meaning that the share of renewables starts to grow by at least 2% each year – we’ll almost certainly pass that point of no return.

The world could hit a tipping point that causes warming to spiral out of control — a scenario scientists call ‘Hothouse Earth’

We need to take action to restore Earth’s systems back to their natural states as much as possible. That means doing more than cutting emissions. It requires planting and improving forests, managing biodiversity, and potentially creating technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or, amplify Earth’s natural carbon propagation processes to capture and store atmospheric CO2.

Avoiding a Hothouse Earth scenario requires a redirection of human actions from “Exploitation” to “Stewardship” of the Earth system.

We are at a crossroad

As pointed out in the article “Creating Conflict”, do we continue down the path of exploitation of the planet and destroy ourselves or do we make stewardship of the Earth system our priority?

In the new 21st century democratic dictatorships, that are emerging around the world today, it’s difficult to push for action to contain global warming. Right-wing governments, like dictators, feign denial because there is no immediate benefit to them or those they represent. Ask a billion Chinese and the response is the same: “In China the government controls billionaires but, in the West, billionaires control the government.”

People need to wrestle control of the planet from those who would wilfully destroy Earth for profit and short-term gain. In a manipulated democracy it’s difficult, but not impossible, if good people work together. Governments who push for global conflict and arms build-up, to fight over oil and natural gas, are easy to spot. They are the ones feigning climate change denial.

Global conflict equates to hundreds of billions of dollars profit to arms manufactures and arms dealers. With $200 billion earmarked for arms build-up, the LNP Morrison government is pushing for Australia to become a war economy and one of the world’s top ten arms dealers. To be a successful war economy, just like America, you need global conflict and perpetual war. You also need something to fight over?

As pointed out, that something is oil and natural gas. The driving force behind the conflicts in the Middle East. By embracing alternate energy captured from the sun and wind, we no longer need oil and gas. We take away the need for war in that arena. Those in climate change denial are all about massive profit to arms manufacturers and arms dealers. To name a few, Morrison, Trump and Macron don’t care about you or society, they don’t care about starving children or refugees in war zones. They only care about themselves.

Besides inflicting conflict and perpetual war on the world, these megalomaniacs have lost sight on an even greater threat to humanity. If we burn all the oil, coal and gas they are fighting over, that will lead to catastrophic climate change and possibly the end of civilisation as we know it. These pathetic excuses for human beings need to be ejected into outer space so they can ponder our world from afar.

Our best future

Our best future is a belief founded on the very best of human nature. It is a goal for us to strive towards. For the betterment of mankind and our civilisation. For the betterment of our planet and life itself. We must change from a world ravaged by greed and exploitation of people and the planet. We need to become stewards and caretakers to protect our home planet and the future for our grand-children and beyond.

For the first time in recorded history we have something solid we can use to stop the wars and fight against exploitation by the power brokers and cohort governments. Action on climate change and a move towards renewable energy, gives us the voting numbers to change governments, it gives us people power and, is the vehicle to drive us towards a better future.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button

Scroll Up