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The perils of popularism

This week we originally were going to be discussing Pauline Hanson’s One…

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The perils of popularism

This week we originally were going to be discussing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and their apparent habit of losing Senators. After all, to lose one Senator is careless, two is a concern and so on. Apart from the Betoota Advocate doing the satire better, they also bring in the relevant point of popularism.

Hanson is “President for life” of the party that enjoys the use of her name and at the beginning of June effectively sacked NSW Senator Brian Burston by requesting him to resign from the party and to hand back his seat in the Senate by letter (at least it wasn’t a SMS message or Facebook post!). Burston’s crime was to support the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s corporate tax cuts, a position originally endorsed by Hanson as well.

Hanson has been a politician for around 25 years. After nearly a year sitting on the Ipswich City Council, she first ran for Federal Parliament in 1996 as the Liberal Candidate for the seat of Oxley in South East Queensland. During the campaign she made some statements that were (at the time) so abhorrent, even Howard’s campaign couldn’t stomach them and disendorsed her shortly before the election date. She sat as an independent and lost her seat in the 1998 election. Also in 1998, Hanson’s One Nation won 13 of the 89 seats in the Queensland Parliament

But what happened after One Nation won all those seats all those years ago set the tone for everything that would follow. Within a year, One Nation was deregistered as a party, its MPs split acrimoniously — one resigned from parliament, some became independents, some established the so-called City Country Alliance — and the great shining moment dissolved into tears before bedtime.

Hanson’s One Nation was also supposed to do exceptionally well in the recent Western Australian and Queensland elections. They didn’t.

The problem with popularism is that you may not ‘pick the mood’ of those you are trying to impress. In the past 25 years Hanson, according to her Wikipedia page, railed at times against extra funding for the disadvantaged in the Ipswich City Council, Chinese immigration, Government assistance for Aboriginal people, the media crusade against her, the Islamic religion, the ‘people’ versus the elite and so on. It’s not the first time Hanson’s quest for popularism has rated a mention on The Political Sword, this article appearing about a year ago when Hanson, who hadn’t been on the front page for a while, decided to weigh into a discussion on children of differing abilities/disabilities sitting in the one classroom. It was one of her less successful attempts at ‘picking the mood’ of the ‘people’ and was widely condemned. Surprisingly enough, this has kept Hanson quiet on this subject ever since.

In March this year the Coalition Government sealed a deal with Hanson’s party to support the corporate tax cuts it hadn’t been able to get through the Senate from the 2017 budget. The price for the support was a pilot apprenticeship package that was to be rolled out to benefit 1000 people across the country. At the end of May, Hanson walked away from the deal citing

The people in general don’t want it. It has not been well received. The Government has not been able to sell the package to the people and they haven’t cut through.

She also presented a new list of demands to be met in return for her support, including

cut in immigration, changes to the Petroleum ¬Resource Rent Tax (PRRT), a gas pipeline connecting Western Australian gas fields with the east coast, as well as “use it or lose it” provisions for gas exploration and development, more support for pensioners, a greater focus on reducing multinational tax avoidance and getting banks “to pay for this royal commission into the banking sector”.

“There has to be a decent PRRT,” Hanson said. “We need a pipeline from the west coast to the east coast. Unless we get electricity prices down in this country, we are going to see the closure of a lot of businesses.”

Those with a more suspicious bent might be able to see the forest in spite of the trees. Bernard Keane from Crikey probably can(paywalled)

The government is correct to hope that Pauline Hanson’s backflip on her backflip on company tax cuts — now opposed again, One Nation’s original position — won’t be her last. Hanson’s reversal isn’t due to any ideological reason or based on evidence — such as, for example, the fact that the Trump corporate tax cuts are flowing almost entirely into share buybacks and dividends — but because of the looming by-elections, and particularly that in Longman.

Longman is based around Caboolture in South East Queensland and there are significant pockets of poverty, social problems and under-employment in the seat. Hanson’s popularist ‘I represent the people’ rhetoric goes down a treat in areas like this. The rationale for her promises are illogical, as there is no chance that Hanson’s One Nation could redress the problems because her party won’t win Government (especially as a result of this byelection).

According to a Reachtel survey published in The Guardian

The Turnbull government’s proposal to cut tax for Australia’s biggest businesses is unpopular in the seat, with only 17% endorsement. A majority of respondents (53.7%) also thought the third phase of the income tax cuts proposed by the Turnbull government in last week’s budget, to flatten the tax rate on incomes between $41,000 and $200,000, was unfair.

Voters were asked whether they supported or opposed tax cuts delivering an average of $530 a year extra for low and middle-income earners in the first four years, and tax cuts for high income earners in seven years’ time.

More Longman voters opposed the measure (47.3%) than supported it (38.3%).

It looks like Keane is correct and the backflip on the tax cuts is not surprising as it would be hard for a popularist to be claiming to ‘represent the people’ while supporting tax cuts to large corporations, some of whom are currently attempting to justify habitual practices that disadvantage wage earners and small business to increase their large profits.

That’s the problem with popularism. You have to read the mood of those you are claiming to represent and at times you’ll get it wrong, causing either damage to your reputation with your followers or damage to the larger community. You could make the point that all political leaders seek popularity at one point or other, otherwise how do they become firstly the leader and secondly how do they get the opportunity to lead a government? The big difference is that popularists don’t seem to understand or care that they can’t be popular all the time across the entire population.

Robert Mugabe in Rhodesia is a great example.

Trained as a teacher, he spent 11 years as a political prisoner under Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government. He rose to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union movement and was one of the key negotiators in the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, which led to the creation of a fully democratic Zimbabwe. Elected prime minister and later president, he embraced conciliation with the country’s white minority but sidelined his rivals through politics and force. Beginning in 2000, he encouraged the takeovers of white-owned commercial farms, leading to economic collapse and runaway inflation.

It’s not for us in Australia to determine if the takeover of white-owned farms was warranted or the politics behind the actions, however the same article suggests that the takeovers, while obviously popular with Mugabe’s followers, were of dubious legality and were detrimental to most Rhodesians.

In 2000 Mugabe organized a referendum on a new Zimbabwean constitution that would expand the powers of the presidency and allow the government to seize white-owned land. Groups opposed to the constitution formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which successfully campaigned for a “no” vote in the referendum.

That same year, groups of individuals calling themselves “war veterans”—though many were not old enough to have been part of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle—began invading white-owned farms. Violence caused many of Zimbabwe’s whites to flee the country. Zimbabwe’s commercial farming collapsed, triggering years of hyperinflation and food shortages that created a nation of impoverished billionaires.

Republican Party US President Donald Trump is also a popularist. He recently decided to impose

tariffs on aluminium and steel imports, saying the new measures are meant to counter unfair trade practices that hurt American workers and industries and threaten national security.

The tariffs, which Trump had already telegraphed last week, will help protect the U.S. steel and aluminium industries, the White House said. Trump is imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent levy on aluminium imports.

For now, the tariffs don’t apply to Canada or Mexico, which a White House release said, Trump “recognizes … present a special case” while discussions continue with those countries to resolve U.S. concerns.

Ultimately, the US didn’t resolve the concerns it had with Mexico, Canada or the European Union. The European Union (who are now victims of this tariff war) are proposing selective retaliatory tariffs on US products that are primarily produced in states that are seen to be leaning towards the Republicans. These products include bourbon, Levi jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The EU took the United States to the World Trade Organization to challenge the legality of the new tariffs and the Trump administration’s national-security justification. Brussels has submitted an eight-page list to the international trade body, covering goods it would hit with retaliatory measures.

The list includes U.S. exports running the gamut from big motorcycles like Harley’s, built on the home turf of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, to “canoes”, “manicure or pedicure preparations” and even “sinks and washbasins, of stainless steel” — the proverbial kitchen sink.

“We support free and fair trade and hope for a quick resolution to this issue,” Harley said in a statement.

“We believe a punitive, retaliatory tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles in any of our major markets would have a significant impact on our sales, our dealers, our suppliers and our customers in those markets,” the statement said.

Trump, like Hanson, is going to have real difficulties in retaining his popularist image while being seen as responsible for the imposition of policy that directly disadvantages his support base.

Hanson obviously decided that Burston is expendable (and hopes the rest of us have no recollection of her statements in March being completely at odds to her statements in May and June). Mugabe apparently drove his country into the ground and Trump will have to be performing technically difficult verbal gymnastics to avoid his support base joining the dots between tariffs on steel being connected to reduced demand for US made products.

Abraham Lincoln (also a Republican President — but in another time) is reputed to have said

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Unfortunately Lincoln was correct. Some will follow the popularist leader to the bitter end such as those that followed the Reverend Jim Jones to Jonestown in Africa and ‘drank the kool-aid’. The rest of us need to question the motives and sincerity of the popularist — because drinking the kool-aid can be hazardous to your health and the welfare of those you really care about.

What do you think?

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

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Cutting High Functioning Autism Funding Re: NDIS

By Jane Salmon

The person who allegedly killed Euridyce Dixon has been said to be struggling with autism.

This is not an excuse for anything he may have done. What has happened is inexcusable.

Not only has a fine woman of wit and conscience had her life taken … Not only has someone innocent died in terror … Not only are all women more afraid, triggered or re-triggered … Not only are rights to freedom of movement and to work curtailed … The potential of this autistic person has also been wasted.

The alleged aggressor/murderer was a person who had not (by virtue of his age) had sufficient access to consistent, well-funded, early intervention autism therapy and timely social and professional support.

No doubt he met some fabulous educators along the way: but perhaps not early enough or often enough.

Therapy under NDIS for high functioning autism is expensive. It is also critical for human safety. Such funding is currently under threat.

It is not cheaper to house autistic people for life in gaol than to supply appropriate therapy in a timely way.

Murder is a pretty poor outcome for any “social story”.

Do not let this happen again. Do not cut the NDIS for any person with any category of autism until it has been proven that the client is able to function and work and socialise safely within society.

J Salmon
Autism Mum

Killing The ABC: The IPA’s Agenda To Dismantle Australia

By Loz Lawrey

I’ve been resisting the urge to write yet another “rant” because … geez, who wants to hear more whingeing? Another complaint, another letter to the paper from yet another grumpy old man who thinks the world’s going to hell in a handbasket?

Yet I awoke today to read that the Liberal Party Council has endorsed the IPA’s wet dream: the privatisation of the ABC.

Enough! I have to squawk and screech!

In 2013, realising that Australians were about to elect an Abbott government, I remember thinking about the dumbing down of our nation I’d been witnessing for years and the extent to which it had been driven by the right wing servants of the moneyed class, aided and abetted by tabloid newspapers and commercial TV.

At first, Abbott’s style as opposition leader seemed absurd and unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain and an inclination to use it.

How could moronic, simplistic three-word slogans possibly convince Australians into voting for a party so out of touch with the public interest, one which strives to entrench the power of wealth while leaving our disadvantaged struggling to survive?

Quite easily, as it turned out.

“Stop the boats”, “ditch the witch”… several years before the ascension of Trump in the USA, Abbott and his media champion Rupert Murdoch were hard at work normalising hate speech and the politics of division.

TV vox pops with Australians in the street showed them responding to questions about their electoral intentions with regurgitated slogans or headlines from Murdoch’s publications.

The ill-named “Liberal” party, then led by Abbott and now Turnbull, bears a greater resemblance to the anti-communist, white nationalist empire-loving Old Guard than it did to the party created by Menzies.

As adjunct Professor John Nethercote (Australian Catholic University) tells us, Menzies “expressly distinguished liberalism from conservatives … Menzies was mainstream, and believed in the mainstream, believed in the community and a middle class.”

While current Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull may pay lip service to Menzies and his “values”, the fact is that the party he now leads is a different beast to the one Menzies founded. Hard-right conservative cuckoos now inhabit the Liberal nest.

It’s hard for the outsider to comprehend what these people stand for, other than money and the power it affords in a capitalist society.

In other words, that is all they stand for: their own interests and those of their wealthy backers, to the exclusion of the rest of us.

This is fascism, the merging of government and corporate power.

Selfish and self-serving, they are the ideological descendants of Thatcher and Reagan, harbingers of a toxic worldview that eschews the very concept of the common good.

“There’s no such thing as society”… Whether or not Maggie Thatcher actually said this is uncertain, but this statement perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the political far right, a mindset which perceives fascist authoritarianism to be in the public interest.

Why would anyone vote for a party that celebrates “winners” (ie. the rich) but will throw you to the wolves should you need a little help at some point from a system to which you yourself may have contributed for years via your taxes?

Well … you tell me.

In August 2012, the far right “think” tank The Institute For Public Affairs (IPA) published a wish-list of 75 suggestions for restructuring Australia’s system of governance.

If you have the time, please read this article, despite the repugnant Weasel-speak in which it is written, because it truly exposes the hypocrisy of the IPA and its agenda – one in which Medicare (ie. public health)is described as a “radical policy” and our “generous welfare safety net” (social security) as “unsustainable into the future”.

Item numbers 50 and 51 on this list were:

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

Privatise SBS

This raised such concern in the Australian community that Abbott famously declared on election eve in September 2013 that under a Coalition government there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

These were nothing more than glibly-delivered promises, spouted at the eleventh hour by a shameless aspirant to power who had not the slightest intention of honouring them.

And what have we witnessed since then, over several years?

An ongoing defunding our public broadcaster and a vitriolic assault on its journalists based on … what? The wishes of the loony IPA? The rabid ideology of the far right?

The fact is that independent journalism and reportage tends to make right-wingers sound stupid. When ideology is given precedence over evidence, the earth becomes flat. Shallow utterances based on nothing more than belief have little to do with the truth and much to do with the pursuit of an agenda.

Once the Coalition took office, the assault began: The ABC “takes everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should “show some basic affection for the home team” squawked Abbott.

Why? Well, the ABC was doing its job. Reporting the facts.

However, when the facts don’t suit politicians and their agendas, they complain bitterly.

Throughout its history, the ABC has occasionally upset governments, be they Coalition or Labor.

Of course, it’s quite natural for incumbent governments of all stripes to wish the national broadcaster was their own propaganda spin-machine, regurgitating official media releases without scrutiny.

But it isn’t, and never should be a mouthpiece for government. Its journalism is one of the vital checks and balances that sustain our social democracy.

This is the very reason that the independence of the ABC must be maintained – its reportage holds government to account.

Sure, all journalism should be “unbiased”. Opinion pieces in conservative publications masquerading as news articles are one thing. But real “news” journalism is about facts, facts and more facts.

In other words, real journalists serve the truth, in the public interest.

Forget “Team Australia” and “taking sides”. These statements of Abbott’s seemed to imply that the truth should sometimes be suppressed.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, himself an IPA alumnus, has just lodged his fifth complaint against the broadcaster. This is not someone engaging in oversight and management. He is serving an agenda, and his complaints are part of a coordinated assault upon the ABC by a cabal of vested interests: far-right ideologues, commercial media owners and our own federal government.

The IPA recently released their book “Against Public Broadcasting – Why We Should Privatise The ABC And How To Do It”.

If I had the time and could be bothered, I’d read the thing and write a response that counters its toxic arguments and neo-liberal antisocial agenda. But sadly, I’m getting old and life’s simply too short.

What a miserable bunch of contrarians they are. So many of the “suggestions” on the IPA’s wishlist are about dismantling, demolishing, defunding and destroying or privatising institutions that were set up with the express purpose of improving our society and supporting Australians.

Is the Turnbull government hard at work implementing the IPA’s agenda? Yes, they are.

What sort of society do these people want? Their concept of “freedom” implies a  law-of-the-jungle world with no checks and balances, no empathy or inclusion, no equality or decency.

Clearly they want Australia to emulate the descent into darkness we are currently witnessing in Trump’s America.

Well, damn them all and damn them to hell.

We’ve let them do so much that is wrong since 2013. They’ve managed to make Australians condone torture and abuse being carried out in our name in offshore gulags.

History will not treat us kindly.

They have already reduced the ABC to a shell of its former self.

The lack of funding and resources is evident, yet still our ABC struggles on, for us.

Please, good people.

We can’t let these goombahs get away with this murder.

Save our ABC.

The Merchants of Venality

By Ad Astra

Venality: the quality of being open to bribery or overly motivated by money.

Wherever we look, venality flourishes. Attune yourself to it and you’ll see evidence of it every day on TV and radio and in the print and electronic media. You can’t escape its tentacles. It’s all-pervading.

Where shall I start? The Royal Commission on Banking is an obvious place. It has uncovered venality that was hidden from most of us. Only the insiders knew.

Let’s start at the top. The governing boards knew of the dishonesty and fraud the banks were perpetrating. Only the criminally incompetent didn’t. Some have resigned in disgrace; others are being ignominiously ejected. More will follow as the scandal widens. These officials are venal. They placed making money above the interests of their clients.

Below them were the executives, choking on million dollar salaries and bonuses, who knew what their underlings were doing and approved of it.

Loans managers placed customers into loan arrangements that were not only disadvantageous to them but also destined to cause them catastrophic loss of savings, often their entire life’s savings. Loans to small businesses and farmers were often abruptly terminated although repayments were on time, thereby jeopardizing the family homes they had offered as collateral. Claims managers disallowed legitimate insurance claims, leaving many in financial peril.

Why did these managers do this? Because their bonuses were conditional on them making money for the bank or saving the bank money. Self-interest overrode client interest. They were venal.

Venality filtered down to lesser bank officers. Retail bank staff at a number of Commonwealth Bank branches made fraudulent transactions in the junior saver program, ‘Dollarmite’ without the knowledge of parents, by putting just enough money (around ten cents) in each account so that they could accrue bonuses for themselves and meet targets.

Some of those who realized the venality of what they were required to do were terrified of speaking up, or being exposed as complicit.

From the top down there was layer upon layer of merchants of venality.

The same appalling state of affairs afflicts the financial planning industry. For years, armed with computerised generic plans and under the spell of investment fund executives, planners have been inveigled into placing clients’ funds in their favoured schemes, which earned all of them bonuses. It mattered not whether the schemes were of benefit to clients; that was secondary to the imperative to collect bonuses. Because they did not receive a plan tailored to their needs, clients often suffered while the planner benefitted. Venality writ large!

I suspect you are so disgusted about what the Banking Royal Commission is uncovering day after day that you are tired of hearing about it, so let’s look at another industry – the restaurant business.

Almost every day we hear of restaurants, often well known, that are defrauding their workers. Perhaps the most celebrated is the Vue Group that operates Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, and its renowned owner Shannon Bennett, a regular celebrity on Channel Ten’s MasterChef.

Staff members complain that they are underpaid, often work overtime without payment and that the tip money they rely on to supplement their incomes is regularly taken from them on the pretext that they have broken crockery, or arrived a few minutes late, or, would you believe, could not answer to the satisfaction of the managers a ‘tip test’, a quiz about the restaurant and its owner. In all these instances the managers pocketed the tips.

A female receptionist who complained that she was not given time for a toilet break was told: ‘Drink less’!

There were though some good aspects of working at Vue de Monde. Read the article in The New Daily and judge for yourself if they balance the downside.

The Vue Group is not alone. Barry Café in the Melbourne suburb Northcote underpaid its staff and refused to pay penalty rates. When challenged, it paid withheld wages but with the threat that further complaints would evoke legal action. You can read the details here.

The operator of the Indian restaurant Red Salmon, Abdul Hafeez Bilwani, was fined and the operating company likewise for chronically underpaying staff.

Former employees of Darren Purchese say that the celebrity chef, who has also appeared on MasterChef, underpaid them thousands of dollars when they were working at his upmarket Melbourne dessert shop, the Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio. They also claim he intimidated them.

St Kilda’s Cafe Di Stasio is another as is Burger Buzz in Brunswick.

There are many more.

Wage theft is endemic in restaurants and franchises. Unions are up in arms. Sally McManus suggests a remedy for this venality in an article in The GuardianIn Victoria, it is now planned to legislate huge fines for businesses that underpay staff and jail terms for employers that do so.

Then there are the convenience stores. You know about Seven Eleven cheating its staff. 76% of Caltex franchises were found to be underpaying workers. The list goes on and on. I could fill a dozen pieces with examples.

All Merchants of Venality.

Let’s explore another realm; a government-sponsored one – the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is riddled with incompetence and suggestions of rorting similar to that seen among private education providers. The Government’s reaction has been to suggest a ‘crackdown’ on NDIS users, notably those with autism, as this condition is deemed too expensive for our government to tackle via the NDIS. Here again, we see venality among users of the NDIS and the providers, and in the reaction of the government, which appears concerned only with saving money.

Before leaving the healthcare field, look at the behaviour of some aged care providers. Many have been exposed because of poor care, gross disregard for the vulnerable elderly they are paid to nurture, criminal negligence, overcharging, even fraud.

Look at the gambling industry where merchants of venality thrive.

Crown Casino has been found guilty of deliberately tampering with poker machines to maximize profit. Last year whistleblowers from the casino accused Crown of instructing staff to remove betting options from poker machines, in a scheme known as ‘blanking buttons’. Not satisfied with their massive profits already, Crown wanted more, even if it defrauded its clients, the very ones, the ‘pokie addicts’, who are losing their money in spades already. Another merchant of venality!

Moreover, every attempt to restrict the size of bets (as has recently been legislated in the UK), has been met with stiff resistance from the casinos, clubs, hotels, and pokie operators, who are more concerned with ripping off clients for fatter profits than the harm being inflicted on pokie users.

The same condemnation can be applied to all the merchants of venality in the gambling industry, which, with its persistent TV ads is trying to suck viewers into parting with their money by betting not just on horse racing, but also on anything that moves – footballers, cricketers, motor racing drivers; next it’ll be flies crawling up a wall!

Let’s look now at the Coalition’s bête noire, the National Broadband Network. It is not national, not broadband, and not a network. It has been a technological disaster ever since Tony Abbott instructed the then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to ‘demolish the NBN’.

Customers have been cheated with slower than purchased speeds, long waits for installation, and in many places, no service at all. Complaints have surged. A recent talkback session on ABC Melbourne 774 radio evoked thousands of complaints that so overwhelmed the hapless NBN spokesman that he was left almost speechless. The NBN is a merchant of venality. Now it says it is abandoning its initial promise of an Internet speed of 100Mb/s as it’s become too expensive!

Recently, Optus was fined $1.5 million for trying to force customers onto its NBN service using misleading claims.

The quest for profit has always overridden client service, and likely will for a long while yet. From the outset, Turnbull’s orientation was to use cheaper technology that he claimed he could roll out sooner than Labor’s FTTP NBN. Instead, the rollout will take longer, will cost more, will deliver less, and will be more expensive for users. Turnbull, who originally had carriage of the Coalition’s FTTN NBN, which is now Fibre to the Curb and ageing copper to the premises, has been and still is, a merchant of venality. Another, the hapless Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, has now replaced him.

For a flagrant example of venality, one can’t go past the media, notably the Murdoch media. Focussed on profit and determined to keep in power the party that gives it most support, subsidies, and privileges, News Corporation uses its media power to uplift the Coalition and demonize the Opposition. Truth is irrelevant. Stories are manufactured shamelessly by compliant writers and promulgated brazenly via print and electronic media. Those who see through the tactics they use are affronted, but what can they do to combat their power and their venality?

Take the environment. Although The Conversation highlights the threat to our environment in its May 18 article: One-third of the world’s nature reserves are under threat from humans, and while Labor and the Greens both show deep concern for the natural environment, the Coalition exhibits disdain. Our treasurer brings a lump of coal into parliament urging us to venerate it, even though he knows that continuing to burn it is threatening our environment, our seas, our Great Barrier Reef, and all living things.

To fossil fuel advocates all that counts is making a profit, exploiting natural resources, enriching those who own them. These merchants of venality believe that it is man’s right to gain supremacy over nature’s gifts and exploit them shamelessly. To them, regulation is anathema and preservation is a dirty word used only by greenie ‘tree huggers’.

The trucking industry abounds with venality. Drivers are forced into killing schedules, dangerous driving timetables and inadequate rest breaks, all in the pursuit of profits.

The live sheep trade to the Middle East, where profits outweigh animal welfare, is another example of obscene venality.

Sadly, some religious orders too, are merchants of venality. How often have we seen sickening poverty among the people alongside the excesses of the church? While the poor languish, massive churches with gilded effigies adorning their interiors are built at great cost. Priests decked out in their richly embroidered robes and mitres tout their extravagantly fashioned staff and waft expensive incense. While many church charities do care for the poor, the venality of the past haunts them still.

Let’s go overseas for a moment. On 21 May Four Corners exposed the venality of the electronics industry in China. For years, the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones and tablets, Foxconn Technology Group, which makes devices for Apple, Sony, Samsung and Philips, has been using well-known carcinogens, n-hexane and benzene, to clean those devices. These solvents have caused countless cases of fatal leukaemia. Instead of accepting responsibility, Foxconn blamed its workers for becoming ill. When whistleblowers exposed its venality, the government tried to shut down these advocates of better safety for workers. All this illness and death resulted simply because Foxconn used the cheapest chemicals, although it knew how fatally toxic they were.

The recently initiated inquiry into the disastrous fire on June 14, 2017, that engulfed the Grenfell Tower in London, incinerating over 70, will examine how cheap but highly flammable cladding was used. Questions demanding answers are: ‘Why was the cheapest cladding selected’; ‘How was it approved?; and ‘Why were the fire procedures so inadequate?’ The venality the inquiry exposes will shock us all.

Dozens of pieces could be written about the venality of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jung-un, Bashar al-Assad, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte, Najib Razak and all the other venal leaders, but the output would become encyclopaedic.

So let’s finish by describing the venality of our political system. For all political parties, winning is all that counts. With it comes power, privileges, influence, prestige, and of course, money!

Time and again we have seen our leaders propose measures that serve their aims, or promote their entrenched ideologies, rather than the common good. Whenever a leader looks generous, whenever a politician offers something that seems too good to be true, you can be sure it is. Look behind the show of generosity and goodwill and you will see what’s in it for them. You’ll always find the reward they expect. Political parties are open to bribery – they are venal. They accept donations that are nothing more than bribes to gain an advantage, no matter whom it disadvantages.

The vengeful Tony Abbott habitually exhibited venality. He instituted inquiries and a Royal Commission hoping to nail Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten, and the unions. The courts have thrown out all charges arising out of these witch-hunts. Millions were wasted. Abbott failed ingloriously. His successor is not much better. His most recent venality is the deliberate timing of the upcoming by-elections to advantage the Coalition and disadvantage Labor.

Politicians are merchants of venality, and everyone knows they are, even the millennials, as this Deloitte study shows.

I’m beginning to realize that when venality is the subject, only an encyclopaedia could contain all the instances of it, so I’ll stop before you’re all bored stiff.

So what can we do about it? Philosophically we can, indeed must accept, that venality is ubiquitous. It has always been so, and always will be. It’s outrageous; it enrages us every day.

To retain our sanity though, while we are being tossed around in the swirling currents of menacing venality, perhaps the best approach is to acknowledge the bleak reality of it, but target for comment instances of it in whatever area interests us.

For those of us who are political tragics, pinpointing venality among our politicians and calling it out in our chosen forum, may give us some satisfaction. It might too let our politicians know that we see through their deceit, their dirty tricks and their venality, and we despise them for it.

Enough feedback from constituents might, just might, change their behaviour! Hope springs eternal!

 

This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Rupert Murdoch and his corporate criminal tax fiddle

By Bob Rafto

Rupert Murdoch and his corporate criminal tax fiddle

A loan arrangement by Newscorp to Foxtel may be lawful under a tax law but it could be illegal under the criminal law.

Newscorp loaned Foxtel $900M with an interest rate of 12%.

A report by Michael West describes Foxtel was spitting cash (highly profitable) at the time of the loan and there was no requirement for the loan.

The interest repayments from Foxtel to News resulted in Foxtel reducing their tax to the ATO to zero, Foxtel generated $6 Billion in revenue over 3 years and paid no tax.

If Foxtel had no requirement for the loan it can be argued that Newscorp, Foxtel and their tax lawyers and accountants conspired to draw up a loan agreement for the sole purpose to defraud the ATO of taxable income.

The criminal code states:

135.4 Conspiracy to defraud

Obtaining a gain

(1)  A person commits an offence if:

(a)  the person conspires with another person with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a gain from a third person; and

(b)  the third person is a Commonwealth entity.

Penalty:  Imprisonment for 10 years.

If the loan is only a book entry it cannot be a legal transaction because no transaction has taken place. Foxtel is paying interest on funds they didn’t receive and a false claim is made to the ATO to deduct the interest costs.

(The above paragraph reinforces section 135.4).

I believe there is reasonable and sufficient evidence for the AFP to prosecute News and Foxtel, along with their partner Telstra, but will they?

Another question is: who with authority can lodge a complaint to the AFP?

Or will the AFP roll over like they have with Mal Brough, James Ashby, Helicopter Bishop and now Michaella Cash?

Silk Road Solutions: Emergent Land Bridge from the Far East

By Denis Bright

China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) are an unqualified plus for the global economy and improved living standards for more than half of humankind between the Far East, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Australia signed up to support the Asian Investment Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) despite pressure from the Obama Administration. Hugh White of the Sydney Morning Herald correctly noted that participation in AIIB projects was a very crucial test of Australia’s capacity of independence within the US Global Alliance.

Three years later the momentum of China’s BRIs is being translated into new road and rail corridors, fuel pipelines and electronic communications.

Charlie Campbell’s feature article talked up the positives in BRI initiatives for Time Magazine:

Formerly known as One Belt One Road, it’s a rekindling of the ancient Silk Road through a staggeringly ambitious plan to build a network of highways, railways and pipelines linking Asia via the Middle East to Europe and south through Africa.

The economic land “belt” takes cargo, in large part via Khorgos, through Eurasia. A maritime “road” links coastal Chinese cities via a series of ports to Africa and the Mediterranean. A total of 900 separate projects have been earmarked at a cost of $900 billion, according to the China Development Bank.

There’s the $480 million Lamu deep-sea port in Kenya, which will eventually be connected via road, railway and pipeline to landlocked South Sudan and Ethiopia and right across Africa to Cameroon’s port of Douala.

A new $7.3 billion pipeline from Turkmenistan will bring China an extra 15 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Not since the hordes of Genghis Khan galloped west in the 13th century have such sweeping transnational ambitions emanated from China, though instead of ashes and sun-bleached bones, this time the invaders plan to leave harbors, pipelines and high-speed rail in its wake.

In a break from the succession of bad news from across the Middle East, there is interest from Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Syria in new associations with SCO.

Recent reporting in the Jerusalem Post is favourable to China’s BRI initiatives:

Israel could play a pivotal role in China’s BRI as a connector between Asia, Africa and Europe both as a land bridge via Jordan and a sea-land bridge from the Red Sea. The BRI presents a unique opportunity for Israel to broaden and diversify its economy. As a critical transit point on China’s New Silk Road, Israel would become an essential part of the global trading ecosystem.

BRI is one initiative which is supported by both Israel and Moslem countries of different persuasions. Progressive economic diplomacy has an instant appeal. SCO strategies are different. They reject the excessively strategic focus of NATO expansion from Eastern Europe to Central Asia. SCO has taken on Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan as new associate states.

The predominantly strategic focus of NATO’s outreach has failed to win hearts and minds in Kyrgyzstan.

Once a NATO transit node for the supply of NATO troops and material for the Afghan War, Kyrgyzstan is now a full member of SCO. The Diplomat recorded the largely un-noticed departure of US military installations:

The United States closed its only Central Asian airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, formally handing back control to the government of Kyrgyzstan, which has been increasingly aligning itself with Russia.

The Transit Centre at Manas was especially important for U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) efforts in Afghanistan, as it was the first and last stop for soldiers entering Central Asia en route to fight in Afghanistan. Additionally, it was home to a logistics and refuelling operation run by the United States Air Force for the war in Afghanistan. The base at Manas was set up in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks with Russia’s consent and has transported 5.3 million military servicemen from 26 countries in and out the Afghanistan conflict theatre. It became especially important as a transportation hub after 2005, when the United States was evicted from its other base in the region, in Uzbekistan.

The quest for alternatives to the shackles imposed by the IMF has extended to Jordan where Prime Minister Omar Razzaz has just been installed to defer austerity measures and tax increases to reduce the national debt (The Jordan Times, 7 June 2018).

While Israel’s centre-right government supports current BRI initiatives, Israel is still unable to distance itself from a more emergent Iran in Middle Eastern politics. This is a difficult obstacle as Iran is the crucial transport hub on planned transport routes from the Far East through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkistan to the Mediterranean Coast, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Even Japan has a place in supportive BRI maritime investment initiatives which will feed containerised freight into continental land bridges. The centre-right Abe Government supports the major bridge links to connect Northern Hokkaido, Japan with Russia through the island of Sakhalin:

Russia and Japan are in “serious discussions” to link the two countries with a bridge that could allow rail travel all the way from London to Tokyo. The proposed 28-mile (45 kilometre) bridge would join Cape Crillon on the Russian island of Sakhalin to Cape Soya at the northern tip of Hokkaido island, Japan.

A shorter bridge or tunnel that has been mooted from the Khabarovsk region on the Russian mainland to Sakhalin would eventually allow an uninterrupted rail journey of about 6,000 miles from western Europe to Hokkaido via the Baikal-Amur mainline and the Trans-Siberian railway.

Representatives from the SCO countries are currently assembling in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao for this year’s 18th annual Summit. The SCO Summit has an expanding network of observer states and dialogue partners including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia and Nepal. The guest attendee representatives also include representatives from ASEAN, the UN Organizations and Turkmenistan (Xinhuanet, 8 June 2017). Expect future participation from Japan and the Korean Peninsula in SCO economic initiatives.

Australia’s representatives on the Board of Governors of the AIIB gave supported the Bank’s infrastructure investments (Board of Governor’s Annual Meeting 2016). Statistics are now dated but Australia’s initial subscription to the AIIB approached $4 billion in 2015 which gave Australia a 3.5 per cent stake in voting rights at meetings of the board of governors. New Zealand made a significantly higher contribution to the AIIB.

Given the unpopularity of President Trump at home and abroad, here’s hoping that Labor’s National Conference in December 2018 might swap commitment to progressive economic diplomacy to out-dated approaches to re-militarization of foreign policies and costly sabre rattling in the South China Sea.

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

 

Malcolm Turnbull and ‘the $100 Billion Porker’

By Michael Griffin

One would expect that the Treasurer of a nation entrusted with the duty of protecting a nation’s accounts and economy would be capable of performing the basic arithmetic involved in formulating a Credit/Debit balance sheet such as a national budget. When it comes to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s chosen Treasurer, Scott ‘the hypocrite Christian’ Morrison, one can’t be so sure that is the case.

Despite his semblance of training in economics at NSW University, albeit in economic geography, Treasurer Morrison seems to have underestimated the cost of his government’s proposed personal tax cuts to the bottom line of the budget over the medium term by nearly $100 billion. Such a large miscalculation is a concerning and astounding error by a national Treasurer who claims to have some understanding of economics. Put in perspective, $100 billion is almost one third of the gross Australian national debt.

On the day of the release of his 2018/2019 budget papers, Morrison announced to members of the press, in the lock up at the release of his budget, that the total cost of his Government’s proposed personal tax cut was $140 billion or about $14 billion per year over the next ten years. Morrison is reported to have stated:

It is not the practice of any government to provide itemised year-by-year costs over the medium term because they’re not reliable. You do it over four years and that’s what we’ve done, $13.4bn, and that is covering completely step one of that process, because as you know the remaining steps actually come in over the medium term and the overall cost over the medium term is $140bn. That is the standing practice for budgeting in this country and we haven’t departed from those transparency rules.

When quizzed in Parliament about the $140 billion cost quoted to the media both Morrison and his leader Turnbull refused to produce any official costings or any documents whatsoever to verify their claims and merely reiterated the $140 billion cost earlier quoted to the media.

However, recently produced Independent Parliamentary Budget Office costings indicate that the cost quoted by Turnbull and Morrison in Parliament and to the media was incorrect by nearly $100 billion dollars. The Independent Parliamentary Budget Office official costings indicate that the total cost to the budget bottom-line was closer to $24 billion per year for ten years or $240 billion in total for the ten years and not the $140 billion represented to Parliament and to the media by Turnbull and Morrison.

The huge discrepancy between the Independent Parliamentary Budget Office official costings and the costs (mis)represented to Parliament by Turnbull and Morrison also indicates the reasons why Turnbull and Morrison were reluctant to release any documents or official costings to Parliament when requested to do so and, further, the reason why Turnbull and Morrison wanted the Budget Bills passed so quickly. Passing the Budget Bills quickly would give little opportunity for other members of Parliament or the media to scrutinise them and Turnbull could then sneak his tax cuts through without anyone noticing their true cost to the bottom line in the future. Of course, once it was too late to realise that the cost was actually greater than what was represented in Parliament it would then be too late to reverse the cuts and, when the costs subsequently ‘blew-out’, Turnbull and his cronies would then argue that the nation was again ‘living beyond its means’ and that austerity measures, that is, further cuts to services and programs, were necessary to bring the budget back into surplus.

Given his qualifications and ministerial standings, one must consider that Scott Morrison is adequately competent and professional and that such a qualified and competent person simply does not make mistakes to the magnitude of $100 billion. On that basis, the only possible explanation for the discrepancy between the cost of the proposed personal tax cuts, as represented to Parliament by Turnbull and Morrison, and of their true costs, as represented by the Independent Parliamentary Budget Office, is that Turnbull and Morrison have lied.

It now seems that Turnbull and Morrison, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, have conspired to mislead the Parliament and, via the media, the Australian people about the true cost of their proposed tax cuts in order to get consent for their tax plan and to have the cuts passed into law by Parliament as a matter of urgency to avoid scrutiny.

A $100 billion misrepresentation to Parliament would count as one of the most serious attempts to mislead Parliament, and of contempt of Parliament, in Australian history. It is a porker of such magnitude that charges of misleading Parliament and of contempt of Parliament against Turnbull, Morrison and Cormann should now be necessary. If that does not occur, the Australian Parliament is a sham of a democratic forum and the whole system under which Australia is governed is in drastic need of ‘renovation’.

However, with few mechanisms in the current system by which dishonest Governments and politicians can be held to account in Australia, for instance, without a mechanism facilitating impeachment, it is most unfortunate that none of the co-conspirators involved will ever face any judgement or penalties now or in the near future.

“Not something we would wish our children to face”

By Keith Antonysen

Below is a copy of an email sent I to a senior worker (Alistair Webster, Director of Policy) from Mr Shorten’s office, whom I met at a Town Hall-type meeting on Monday 4th June 2018. Rather than give a political talk Mr Shorten responded to questions from the audience on a range of matters. The LNP has no policy on climate change, and Direct Action has proven to be shambolic as anticipated by Turnbull prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Dear Mr Webster

My wife and I were most impressed with how Bill was able to answer off the cuff questions last night. We certainly hope that Justine [Keay] is re-elected.

My concern is that climate change is not getting enough attention; it has been subsumed by attention to energy requirements by the LNP. I believe that Australia is not taking the matter serious enough.

Turnbull often pushes the view that terrorists present a high risk; the science in relation to climate change suggests it presents far higher risks than terrorists. Some examples:

Professor James Anderson who made us aware of CFCs creating the hole in the ozone layer states we are in dire danger. World wide we must spend huge amounts of dollars to ward off extreme climate change, and have only a few years to do so.

Paleoclimate research does not present a happy picture, as Dr Burger discusses in his preliminary comments attached to research yet to be published.

Dr Burger’s research clearly provides convincing evidence in the role greenhouse gases had in causing mass extinction at the end of the Permian period. He reaches his view through chemical and mineral artefacts he found in the samples of rock he obtained.

Permafrost is thawing, which potentially provides further danger in pingos exploding in Siberia; to date 7,000 pingos have been found. One of the original pingos to explode was found to have 9.6% methane in the atmosphere of the crater formed by the explosion. Normally methane is measured in parts per billion.

While not all of the pingos discovered might have methane gas, they do present concern.

Copy of article given to you last night with hyperlinks.

My main worry about climate change is that people will be dislodged through extreme weather events when lack of fresh water, sea level rise, and crops being damaged with all sorts of nasties through flooding, create a dystopian world where insurrection, and break down of communities will be outcomes. A major tipping point is an ice free Arctic Ocean which is extremely likely to happen within thirty years when taking into account the most conservative scientist’s view point. Grounding lines of ice sheets in Antarctica are going in the wrong direction.

Not something we would wish our children to face.

Yours Sincerely

Keith Antonysen

Truth or dare

I was talking with a couple of smokers the other day after a meeting and in the general conversation about life, the universe and everything, innocently I asked the ‘how much is a packet of cigarettes these days’ question. I was really happy that I don’t smoke when I was told that a packet of 30 cigarettes was around $30, or a dollar a cigarette (unless you buy the really cheap and nasty ones apparently).

On the way to the meeting we called into the office of another participant to collect him for the meeting. On the way out of his office block, all three of us bought a coffee at around $5 each. We attended the meeting and bought lunch afterwards. Despite the cool and windy conditions, we weren’t the only ones at the fish and chip shop close to the water in a ‘tropical’ North Queensland city that day. One of the other participants and I didn’t live in the town where the meeting was held, and the airport was pretty quiet when we got back to the terminal. This particular airport has a reasonably sized commercial area once you clear the security screen. While consuming yet another coffee at around $5 each, we observed that the terminal was filling up (the two major airlines have jets leaving this town for Brisbane about half an hour apart), most were either buying something from the café, the bar or going to the airline ‘lounges’ for ‘refreshments’ while waiting for the plane.

Admittedly, not everyone flies on a regular basis, however that’s not the point. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics14.5% of adults consumed tobacco products on a daily basis in 2014/5. While we’re quoting statistics, 17.4% of adults consumed more than two standard drinks per day in 2014/5. Both datasets are showing a long-term decline. Roy Morgan Research claims that in 2014, the average Australian adult consumed 9.2 cups of coffee per week while suggesting that visitation to cafes is on the rise.

So when Treasurer Scott Morrison announced his personal taxation policy in early May that would mean the ‘average’ person received another $500 or thereabouts a year, who can blame the ‘average’ Australian for the collective yawn. Certainly a lump sum of $500 annually is of potentially greater ‘value’ than around $10 a week because $10 pays for around 10 cigarettes or two coffees. The politician in Turnbull and Morrison will believe that when the ‘average punter’ is lining up to buy the $500 appliance at JB Hi-fi or Harvey Norman with the proceeds of the 2018 tax cut sometime late in 2019, they will be thanking Turnbull’s Government for the largess. Realistically, it’s not going to happen that way.

That’s not to say that lump sums are not good economic stimulus — it worked well when the Rudd Government was attempting to prime the economy during the ‘Global Financial Crisis’ in the late 2000’s. It’s also pretty obvious that some will probably spend their ‘windfall’ on the pokies or at the TAB late in 2019. The promotors of the scheme this time are the same people that railed against the ‘ethics’ and ‘morals’ of Rudd giving people a lump sum to ‘blow on large screen TVs or at the pokies’ last time.

The difference between Rudd’s $900 cheques and Morrison’s lump sum however is the targeting of it. If Morrison’s scheme manages to survive until 2027, all taxpayers between $40,000 and $200,000 will incur the same tax rate. The appearance will be that the higher earners in that income bracket will be paying more and on a numerical basis they will, however as a percentage of earnings they won’t. To sustain your way of life, you need a certain amount of money – let’s say it is $35,000 per annum to pay the rent/mortgage, put food on the table, buy an occasional coffee and so on. If you’re on $40,000 per annum, you have $5,000 left over for the rainy day such as a newer car, a holiday or something else. If you’re on $200,000, in theory you have $165,000 left over. While the higher income earner may be paying a higher rent or mortgage as well as purchasing ‘better quality’ (certainly higher priced) food and consumer items, they will have considerably more to ‘put away for the rainy day’, conceivably $150,000. Fairfax reports under Morrison’s plan

By 2027, a couple with two children earning more than $130,000 a year will be banking up to $8000 in extra cash, the ANU’s PolicyMod microsimulation reveals.

And

“I think what it shows you quite clearly is most of the benefits [from the tax cuts] go to high-income families in the later years,” said ANU professor Ben Phillips.

“Largely because it is high income families who pay the tax, it is very much skewed towards the high end.”

The analysis goes beyond the seven-year figures provided in Tuesday’s budget, which Mr Morrison pointed to again in his post-budget speech on Wednesday when asked if the changes were fair.

Mr Morrison said workers on $160,000 would see a proportional reduction of 2.4 per cent, while those on $50,000 would see a 6.3 per cent reduction, but the figures only go up to 2024 when the largest reform – when the 37 per cent tax rate is eliminated.

The budget plans to reduce the rate to 32.5¢ in the dollar for 73 per cent of Australian workers – all those earning between $40,000 and $200,000.

It is a strange strategy to commit to tax cuts favouring the better off over a ten-year period when your opposition is mounting a fairness argument. Like the company tax cuts that are still partly held up in the Senate, the personal income tax package has been initially promoted as a ‘all or nothing’ proposition. This David Crowe article that ran in Fairfax Media mastheads soon after the budget makes the point that

The Prime Minister and Treasurer are prepared to take the entire $140 billion tax package to the brink of defeat so they can sharpen the contest with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten at the next election.

Yes, they are serious about the reform. It delivers on the Liberal Party’s low-tax message. But they also want to wedge Shorten.

However, Crowe argues

Morrison makes a strong argument that workers on higher incomes pay far more tax overall under a tax system that is progressive now and will stay that way under his reform.

A worker on $80,000 a year pays about $18,600 in tax not including any family tax benefits, while a worker on $180,000 a year pays about $58,000 in tax. Naturally, a cut in tax rates makes a bigger difference to someone already paying three times as much tax in dollar terms.

But the government will not win this argument by refusing to release its own numbers while the Grattan Institute, the Australia Institute, the Australian National University and others pick the plan apart.

One scenario is that Turnbull and Morrison refuse to split the bill, suffer a defeat in the Senate and take their plan to the people at the next election.

It looks like exactly what they want. But they will need a better argument on fairness.

If it comes down to an argument on fairness, the Coalition is on a hiding to nothing. This, and every other blog site that is even slightly to the left of centre (as well as some that aren’t), have discussed the inhumane, immoral and racist treatment of people the Australian Government holds in concentration camps off-shore, while claiming that because they are held off-shore, Australian law doesn’t apply.

Another piece of legislation held up in the Senate is the legislation around drug testing on welfare recipients (to make the tenuous connection between welfare and drug use stronger you’d imagine). According to Toby Hall on the ABC website, 52 submissions were made to the Senate inquiry formed to investigate the plan

How many submissions to the Senate inquiry were unambiguously in favour of the idea? One … from the Government’s own Department of Social Services.

And those against?

Some of Australia’s leading health and medical organisations such as St Vincent’s Health Australia, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Public Health Association of Australia, the Kirby Institute, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists … the list goes on.

Add to that the Salvation Army, Anglicare, St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia, Uniting among others and it’s pretty much a “who’s who” of Australia’s pre-eminent health and community service organisations.

Hall goes on to note that those opposing the plan are the organisations entrusted to treat and care for Australians experiencing addiction every day of the week. What would they know?

Toby Hall suggests fairness would be the treatment of welfare recipients with drug issues in the same manner as if you were

a footballer, an actor, someone from privilege— and you experience addiction, the public and media’s response is mainly sympathetic. The individual is, on the whole, surrounded by goodwill; it’s largely recognised that they have a health issue. People want them to get better and return to their best selves.

But come from a disadvantaged background or be on income support, and you’re a deadbeat, a bludger, deserving little or no sympathy.

The Federal Government has used this proposal to dog whistle community prejudices towards addicts, seeking to make political mileage out of it, all the while saying they’re acting in peoples’ best interests — it is nothing short of disgraceful.

If they were serious about helping people, they would have come to health and community service organisations before they announced this proposal and asked for our input.

The question remains can a political party buy enough votes by promising effectively a couple of cups of takeaway coffee, under half a packet of ciggies or a pint of beer a week to the ’mug punter’ in 2018? The answer is apparently not.

The pollsters asked a representative sample of 1200 voters: “Given the choice, would you prefer that the Government used extra revenue to provide income tax cuts or to pay off government debt?”

Fifty-seven per cent preferred that the government pay off debt. Thirty-seven per cent went for the tax cut.

Interestingly, it’s the Coalition’s own voters who feel strongest about this – 68 per cent prefer a smaller national debt than a tax cut.

But a majority of Labor voters – 52 per cent – and a plurality of Greens voters – 49 per cent – feel the same way.

This broad reaction is as Ian McAllister predicted well before the budget.

“It has a name,” explains the ANU political scientist. “Sociotropic voting.”

Sociotropic choices put the greater good of the country ahead of narrow personal self-interest, or egocentric voting.

Fairfax columnist Peter Hartcher, who wrote the words above, suggests that’s how Thatcher kept winning the Prime Ministership of the UK, she was seen as doing good for the country despite the personal sacrifices that most residents perceived they were facing. Hartcher continues by noting

When it came to last week’s budget, McAllister predicted in a conversation with me: “Personal tax cuts will only help the government if the electorate believes that they’re good for the country as a whole…

“But it won’t if it’s just a government saying I’m going to stuff $20 in your pocket.”

In the event, Morrison said he’d stuff a maximum of $10 a week in your pocket. And, lacking evidence that this would help economic growth for the country as a whole, he didn’t try to make that argument.

It was Labor that promised to stuff $20 a week into your pocket.

Why do politicians refuse to believe decades of consistent polling and research?

They usually say that they don’t believe the polling. They say that people just tell pollsters what they think sounds noble. And that, privately, we’re all just motivated by base greed.

Which is a funny response from a class of people that lives and dies by poll results.

Perhaps it tells us more about the politicians than it does about the people.

Maybe the polling and Thatcher are correct. Politicians should be daring enough to accept the truth. Tax cuts don’t really mean that much per week to the ‘average punter’ they are trying to get to vote for them, while fixing the country (whether it be reducing debt, provision of infrastructure, assisting those that are less well off or a number of other things) is. Shorten’s ‘fairness’ argument is clever, doubling down on tax cuts isn’t — after all, discretionary expenditure such as smoking a few cigarettes or buying a few cups of coffee a week doesn’t seem to be a big deal to most.

What do you think?

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

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7 ways Aboriginals are still being robbed in Australia today

By Welcome to Country

We always hear from non-Indigenous people that we get so many benefits. In reality, the benefits are few and far between and usually come with many strings attached. Another reality is that we are still being exploited far beyond any benefits could ever compensate for. Give us a moment to explain some of the realities of how we are still being robbed today.

Fake art – Australia is currently overrun with cheap imported fake Aboriginal art from Indonesia & China. Art has the potential to be a strong source of income for our people. We always hear about the term “welfare dependency”, well what about the term “fair go”? You protect farmers by banning foreign imports of bananas etc. Why won’t you protect us? We are trying our best to promote Indigenous artists and encouraging people to buy direct, but how can we compete when airports and tourist markets are overflowing with fake art?

Native Title – You often hear about Native Title celebrations when it is awarded, however native title is not land rights. If Traditional owners are not careful, they can soon find out that Native Title offers very limited protection from large mining companies who are always backed by the government to overturn any objections we have about how we want things to happen on our land. Native title holders should check out the economic treaty recently signed by the Wik people in Cape York, which gives them Independence from the government as the deal was made with investors from China.

Our Voice – This week there have been talks of replacing statues of colonial figures and moving Australia day to a more inclusive date. Many people seem quite shocked by these suggestions. We are labelled as left-wing troublemakers and the conversation is quickly shrugged off by the majority in Australia. The truth is that our people have been very vocal about these issues for many years but we are silenced by the media time and time again. The media either ignore our protests or finds an incident that draws the attention away from the protest. Social media is beginning to break down these barriers however the media is trying just as hard to keep them in place.

Respect – For the past 229 years our people have survived wave after wave of attacks on our people, languages, land and culture. It is amazing that we are still here today when you consider what we have been through. From the brutal frontier wars, the introduction of European diseases, the concentrations camps and other attempts at ethnic cleansing such as the stolen generations. You would think that after all that, we would have earned a bit of respect. Unfortunately, we still cop the blame for our broken communities and problems in society. We don’t just cop the blame either; we are demonised by the media for having these problems and they use this as an excuse to rob us even more. Keep reading…

Would your society still be strong if you faced what we have been through?

Our children – The 1997 Bringing them home report concluded that the 70-80 year period known as the stolen generations was an act of genocide. A decade later Kevin Rudd said sorry for this period but figures show that more Aboriginal children are being taken away now than ever before. Doesn’t sorry mean that you won’t do it again? We know that in some cases children do need to be taken away, but if you listen to our Elders such as those from the Grandmothers against removals campaigners, they want our children to be kept within our culture and extended family groups.

Our communities – Over the last few years, the government has tried to suggest that the solution to broken communities is to close the communities altogether and herd our people to the fringes of larger towns and cities. While this may seem to make sense to outsiders, figures show that we are healthier and happier on our traditional lands. In case you didn’t know already, there have been large nationwide rallies happening in recent years to show the government that we won’t be bullied off our lands. Now it seems the government is trying different ways to break down our communities even further with a significant reduction in funding, implementation of the basics card and making it easier for our people to be sent to jail with new rules brought in that include jail for unpaid fines and controversial amendments to the bail act in the northern territory which take away the power of the judge to grant bail when they feel the circumstance does not require jail time. This has led to some of the highest imprisonment rates in the world. Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to happen at an alarming rate as well.

Justice – So what is going on in Australia? Is the government too stupid to see the big picture? Even the United Nations have pointed out that the government has got things awfully wrong. So where is the change, where is the justice? I think the government is intentionally robbing us. Their dreams of assimilation and conquest still linger. You can see it in their refusals to change the date of Australia day and removing the monuments of those men responsible for the deaths of our ancestors.

I wish I could follow up these points with a solution but I think a solution will only come with more awareness about these issues. Change will come through International pressure, but without awareness, there will continue to be no pressure. If you want to see things change, then please share this message far and wide.

This article was originally published on Welcome to Country.

Christian MPs want ‘cultural war’ over religious freedom

The PM is holding 20 Ruddock Review recommendations to advance religious
freedom 
while giving Christian lobbyists private briefings ahead of their public release in June.

Malcolm Turnbull faces a political gamble by swinging the religious pendulum too far to the right.  Does he risk a backlash by further weakening our secular constitution — giving ‘faith’ extraordinary new powers — simply to ease religious angst over the legalisation of same-sex marriage?

Conservative MPs won’t let it go; and “religious freedom” is their battle cry.  Assistant Home Affairs Minister, Alex Hawke, is already on record as saying that Australia is “absolutely” in a “new cultural war” against secular social policy.

There’s an almost postmodernist feel about this Christian campaign for more “freedom”.  It’s an “identity politics” strategy of presenting Christianity as an “oppressed minority”, despite their 52 per cent showing at the 2016 Census.

There were 16,500 submissions to the Ruddock Review — almost 10 times the number to the Banking Royal Commission.  It is estimated that 95 per cent of these are from aggrieved congregations filling out pro-forma letters against gay marriage, orchestrated by religious lobbies.

Media commentators are not asking the basic questions.  What, precisely, do the Churches mean by “freedom” — and what freedoms are they currently denied?  Legal experts say “none!” The handful of ‘secular’ organisations that lodged Ruddock submissions went to great lengths listing dozens of freedoms, privileges and entitlements, already enjoyed exclusively by all religious institutions.

They include the existing right to ‘hire and fire’ LGBTI staff and students from their schools.  But it extends to “religious belief” under exemptions from some anti-discrimination laws — and this can include thousands of “secular” positions in church hospitals, schools, aged cared, charities and for-profit businesses.  They include teachers, nurses and welfare workers who may fall foul of religious exemptions. A recent poll showed 80 percent of the public thought this was unacceptable.

We must be careful not to give additional powers to corporatised religious institutions.  Every person currently has the constitutional right to believe whatever they wish — but religions should not be above state and national laws that apply to all other citizens.  The trials of Cardinal Pell and Arch Bishop Philip Wilson attest to that.

Australia is already regarded as a ‘soft theocracy’, with considerable religious influence in politics.  A recent academic journal showed that our federal parliament is one of the most Christianised in the Western world, with 30 per cent of MPs “actively” attending regular parliamentary Prayer Breakfasts — a rate which is twice the religiosity of the general public.

And religious groups are now lobbying MPs for greater powers.

The religious publication ‘Eternity’ reports Freedom For Faith (FFF) being given privileged briefings on the Ruddock Review by the Prime Minister’s Officer.  At the recent FFF conference in Sydney, Professor Patrick Parkinson — who wrote the Ruddock Review submission for Freedom For Faith — told the audience:

“I have been kept closely in touch with the Ruddock Inquiry. I have been kept informed by the Prime Minister’s office and we have been making progress.”

This lends credibility to the claim that Christian churches wish to codify and extend many of their religious entitlements — specifically articulated in many submissions from leading religious institutions, and published on the Ruddock Review website.  

Professor Parkinson went on to say that ‘secularists’ fail to understand the need for religious schools to have all staff bound by FFF principles, and including Christian maths teachers.

“My wife is a maths teacher and she brings God into her classroom all the time, saying that an equation relates to the order of creation.”

In Australia’s secular democracy religious organisations cannot claim they are discriminated against.  Currently, 40 per cent of secondary students are taught in private religious schools.  Promoting God — including within STEM subjects — seems to be accepted practice.  Extend these freedoms to the variety of other religious businesses — all funded to some degree by taxpayers — and it’s difficult not to conclude that the federal government and religion are perhaps too closely joined at the hip.

It seems almost certain that 78 per cent of the public who believe religion and politics should be separated (IPSOS Poll 2016), would also support the separation of religion from STEM subjects in schools.  Does this contribute to the perennial conflict between religion and science?

We have yet to learn the content and effect of Philip Ruddock’s 20 recommendations for religious freedom — and the lobbyists are already working on sympathetic MPs in the corridors of power.  But the PM must finally take the gamble of formalising one or more of the recommendations into law. That may be more problematic, once it hits the floor of parliament.

At that point, many MPs might think more seriously about a public backlash if religion — already heavily bankrolled by taxpayers — is given new powers.  To codify the hiring and firing of their vast workforce — based on a belief in God — might be swinging the religious pendulum way too far.

Brian-Morris-0-Head-Shot-150x150

Brian Morris is Media Director of the National Secular Lobby. He is a former journalist and managing director of The Publicity Agency. He is the author of ‘Sacred to Secular’. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.

 

 

Turnbull’s ‘Fake’ Jobs

By Michael Griffin ©

Despite the 403,000 ‘new jobs’ that Turnbull and his employment minister, Michaelia Cash, claim to have created over 2017, over that same period the unemployment rate fell by only 0.1% from 5.6% to 5.5%. On the face of it, that seems an odd phenomenon.

The 403,000 jobs Turnbull claims to have created during the course of 2017 is approximately 50% of the number of unemployed. On that basis, any ordinary person would be forgiven for expecting that such a huge number of ‘new jobs’ would put a very significant dent in the unemployment numbers.

No doubt, that same ordinary person would be equally surprised to find that it hadn’t. It stands to reason that if all the jobs Turnbull claims to have created had gone to an unemployed Australian, then the unemployment rate, and the public costs of Newstart, and of the homelessness that results from unemployment, would have been at least halved.

So what is really happening here?

As indicated by an article by Tim Colebatch in Inside Story on 20 April 2018, the reason the jobs growth touted by Turnbull had no impact on the jobless figures for the corresponding period is because nearly 73% of the so-called ‘new jobs’ Turnbull claims to have created went to new migrants.

As Colebatch’s linked article indicates, hidden within a recently released joint report of the Treasury and Department of Home Affairs Offices entitled ‘Shaping the Nation (2018)’, which the title itself implies the deliberate adoption of a strategic policy of social engineering akin to that suggested by the Club of Rome and by neo-liberal globalists, that would alarm many conspiracy theorists and nationalists, and which report seems to have been conveniently ‘missed’ by the  great Australian professional media, is this:

“Recent migrants accounted for two thirds (64.5%) of the approximately 850,000 net jobs created in the past five years. For full-time employment, the impact is even more pronounced, with recent migrants accounting for 72.4 percent of new jobs created.”

Hence, not much more than one-quarter of all the jobs Turnbull claims to have created have gone to Australian citizens, in particular, to the unemployed. The remaining nearly three-quarters of jobs created have gone to migrants on a working visa of some sort.

The fact that the jobs created have largely been taken by migrants partly explains why the official unemployment rate dropped by only 0.1% during the same period that Turnbull and Cash claim the increased job numbers occurred.

This discrepancy occurs because the migrants taking the jobs would not have been receiving Newstart before they took up their new job in Australia and, hence, would not have been included in the unemployment figures before or after they started working.

Put simply, they would not have been registered as unemployed before they got their new Australian job because they would not have been in Australia when the jobless figures were tallied. Consequently, when they arrive in Australia and start their new job, their employment is not deducted against the jobless figure.

Amongst other things, these facts indicate that Turnbull and his LNP government cannot legitimately use jobs growth numbers to justify their continuing persecution of the unemployed. Indeed, the facts probably support the opposite. That is, that the LNP’s ongoing persecution of the unemployed is unreasonable because it is government policy, in permitting so many work visa migrants into Australia, that has caused, and is still causing, the plight of the unemployed in Australia.

In other words, the government is to blame for unemployment NOT the individual unemployed person who is, in reality, a victim of the LNP’s anti-Australian, pro-immigrant ‘(re)shaping the nation’ policy.

But there is another factor relevant to why the official long-term unemployment rate was barely impacted upon by the ‘new jobs’ Turnbull and Cash claim to have created and which factor is not so evident from the Shaping the Nation report and that Tim Colebatch does not mention.

Reviewing the Australian Bureau of Statistics (‘ABS’) Labour statistics pages, upon which Turnbull and Cash rely to make their jobs growth claims, then we learn that the ABS does not measure ‘full-time jobs’ at all but measures only ‘working hours’.

The ABS defines a ‘job’, for the purpose of job creation statistics, to include any increased hour of work for those already employed. Hence, when a worker undertakes additional hours in the form of overtime, for instance, or when a casual or part-time employee works a few extra hours, then each of the additional hours worked is included as a new and separately created ‘job’ in the ABS statistics.

Hence, six additional hours of work by the same person undertaking the tasks they usually do in their usual job is counted as six brand new jobs. This is the case even if the same person is working for the same employer, in the same workplace and is undertaking the same tasks they do in their ordinary or usual work hours. The only difference is that the same person is working a few additional hours more than they did at the time the ABS measured working hours in the previous year.

The ABS relies upon international standards to measure ‘hours of work’ as separate jobs in the way it does. ‘Resolution I’ of The 18th International Conference of Labour Statisticians concerns the measurement of working time. It states the following:

  1. “Working time can be measured for short measurement units, such as minutes or hours, or for long units such as half-days, days, weeks or months. The measurement unit of “hours” is used for ease of reference.”

The ABS has chosen the ‘ease of reference approach’ by using an hour as the unit of measurement for the creation of a ‘job’. To that effect, the ABS reports that those interviewed in their job creation survey for 2017 responded that they were working on average 0.6% more hours than those interviewed for the corresponding survey at the same time in 2016.

The ABS then extrapolates the percentage of additional hours worked by those in its limited survey sample to the Australian workforce as a whole and it then calculates the total ‘new jobs’ created from the figure arrived at after the process of extrapolation to the entire workforce.

Hence, the ABS assumes that, like those employees in their limited survey, every worker in Australia has also worked 0.6% more hours than they did in the previous year and, in this instance, it arrives at the conclusion that 403,000 additional working hours, and, hence, 403,000 ‘new jobs’, have been created across the entire economy during that period.

In sum, what Turnbull’s 403,000 ‘new jobs’ really means is that 403,000 more hours have been worked than the last time a measurement was taken by the ABS. However, because each additional single hour worked is regarded as a ‘new job’, Turnbull and Cash are able to claim that the 403,000 additional hours worked is also 403,000 ‘new jobs’.

What has been created then by Turnbull is actually 403,000 additional hours of work, not 403,000 new full-time jobs as Turnbull would like us all to believe. In fact, if the additional 403,000 working hours is divided by the average weekly full-time hours of 37.5 hrs, then it calculates that for the period for which he and Cash boast of creating 403,000 ‘new jobs’, they have actually only created the equivalent of approximately 10,747 full-time jobs.

Applying the percentages disclosed in Shaping the Nation, then we can see that, of those 10,747 equivalent full-time jobs, about 73 %, or 8,060 equivalent full-time jobs, were worked by migrants on visa and the bulk of the rest of the equivalent full-time jobs by existing employees spread across the nation. All the additional 0.6% hours worked by existing employees across the nation provide the other working hours, which, when tallied together and then divided by 37.5 hrs, make up the remaining equivalent full-time jobs not worked by migrants on a visa.    

Significantly, neither of these groups – migrants or existing employees – were included in the previous jobless figures because they were either employed or not in Australia at all when the jobless figures were measured in 2016 or 2017. Because they were not previously included in the jobless figures, the additional working hours undertaken by migrants or by existing employees had no effective impact on the unemployment rate during the corresponding period and, consequently, that rate fell by only 0.1 %.

This also means that few unemployed people benefited from migrants getting an Australian job, or from existing workers undertaking additional work, during the period that the measurements were taken.

These figures also indicate that the cost of unemployment is not ameliorated when migrants on visa take an Australian job. If the 403,000 ‘jobs’ Turnbull claims to have been created had gone to an unemployed Australian, then approximately half the annual amount spent on Newstart, or about $5 billion per annum, would have been saved to be freed up for spending in other areas or for debt reduction.

Seems that Turnbull is committed to the use of rubbery figures and statistics to create a false picture of reality. By doing so he can conveniently use these rubbery statistics for the generation of his fake news on job creation, to justify his ongoing victimisation of the unemployed, for his ongoing deception of the Australian people about his government’s economic credentials and as a dubious reason for his implementation of discredited trickle-down neo-liberal economic policies and for his advocacy for the maintenance of a failing capitalist market system – a system that can provide neither sufficient jobs nor adequate housing for the citizens of the nation in which it operates.

What Sahul could recognise

Part Thirty-eight (and conclusion) of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

What Sahul could recognise

The future constituents will decide on how to proceed. Nevertheless, they could consider some suggestions on the basis of the experience of other peoples who succeeded in proclaiming and maintaining their independence.

The experience of Finland comes to mind.

The Finns speak a Uralic language unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. In Finland, there are three official languages: Finnish, Swedish and Sami.

All Finns, 5.5 million of them, readily communicate with their neighbours: Norway, Sweden and Russia in their languages or in the English which is taught as a second language in schools. Let it be said at this point that education in Finland is absolutely secular, there being no sectarian schools. It just so happens that the educational system is regarded as the best in the so-called western world. Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in the capital Helsinki, local governments in 311 municipalities, and an autonomous region, the Åland Islands. Over 1.4 million people live in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area, which produces a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Originally occupied by Sweden in the thirteenth country, Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809. In 1906 Finland became the second nation in the world to acknowledge the right to vote to all adult citizens and the first in the world to guarantee all adult citizens the right to run for public office. Following the 1917 Russian Revolution, Finland declared itself independent, on 6 December 1917.

In 1918 the fledgling state was divided by civil war, with the Bolshevik-leaning ‘Reds’ supported by the equally new Soviet Russia, fighting the ‘Whites’, supported by the German Empire, both empires gone by now. After a brief attempt to establish a kingdom, the country became a republic. During the second world war, the Soviet Union sought repeatedly to occupy Finland, with Finland losing parts of Karelia, Salla and Kuusamo, Petsamo and some islands, but retaining independence. Finland joined the United Nations in 1955 and established an official policy of neutrality. The Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 gave the Soviet Union some leverage in Finnish domestic politics during the cold war era. In 1955 Finland joined the United Nations and established an official policy of neutrality. It is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development since in 1969, of the N.A.T.O. Partnership for Peace since 1994, of the European Union since 1995, of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council since 1997, and joined the Eurozone at its inception, in 1999.

Finland is a modern, vibrant, dynamic country, a top performer in numerous metrics of national performance, including education, economic competitiveness, civil liberties, quality of life, and human development. In 2015 Finland was ranked first in the World Human Capital and the Press Freedom Index, and as the most stable country in the world during 2011–2016. A large, but decreasing, majority of Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, People of that confession were 95 percent in 1950, but only 72 percent in 2016. During the same time, people with no religious affiliation went from 2.8 percent to 25.3 percent. Freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Finnish Constitution.

Passing now to the constitution, a practical, modern, progressive, essentially free attitude to life’s values, has permitted the Finns to amend their constitution the best to serve them.

The Constitution defines the political system: parliamentary republic within the framework of a representative democracy. It also defines the basis, structures and organisation of government, the relationship between the different constitutional organs, and lays out the fundamental rights of Finnish citizens. The original Constitution Act was enacted in 1919, soon after Finland declared its Independence in 1917, but the current Constitution – the text thereof having been adopted on 11 June 1999 – came into force on 1 March 2000, and was amended on 1 March 2012.

The text of the constitution consists of 131 Sections, grouped into 13 Chapters, as follows: 1. Fundamental provisions, 2. Basic rights and liberties, 3. Parliament and the Representatives, 4. Parliamentary activity, 5. The President of the Republic and the Government, 6. Legislation, 7. State finances, 8. International relations, 9. Administration of justice, 10. Supervision of legality, 11. Administration and self-government, 12. National defence, 13. Final provisions.

At this point, one could very well ask: but why Finland?

Simple!

Some universally recognised rights seen as fundamental reverberate the most solemn provisions of the  United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the U.N. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Such rights have been ‘constitutionally received and protected’ in Finland. They are the foundation of Finnish law and as such include, for instance,  the following: right to self-determination, I.C.C.P.R., Art.1; right to liberty, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 9; right to due process of law, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 12; right to freedom of movement, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 18; right to freedom of thought and the right to freedom of religion, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 18; right to freedom of expression, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 19; right to peaceful assembly, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 21; and right to freedom of association, I.C.C.P.R., Art. 22.

Furthermore, the provisions for constitutional rights closely mirror the European convention on human rights, including the educational, social and economic rights in addition to political liberties. The international human rights obligations of Finland are set as the highest legal norm of the law – even above the constitution.

Chapter 2: on Basic rights and liberties, which is divided into 18 Sections, and is one of the most important, contains the following guarantees: equality; the right to life, personal liberty and integrity; freedom of movement; the right to privacy; freedom of religion and conscience; freedom of expression and right of access to information; freedom of assembly and freedom of association; electoral and participatory rights; protection of property; educational rights; right to one’s language and culture; the right to work and the freedom to engage in commercial activity; the right to social security; responsibility for the environment; protection under the law; protection of basic rights and liberties; and  basic rights and liberties in situations of emergency. (Ministry of Justice, Finland (Unofficial translation) The Constitution of Finland 11 June 1999 (731/1999, amendments up to 1112 / 2011 included).

The basic rights and liberties are consecrated in Chapter 2, Section 6 which proclaims that everyone is equal before the law, therefore “No one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person.

Children shall be treated equally and as individuals and they shall be allowed to influence matters pertaining to themselves to a degree corresponding to their level of development.

Equality of the sexes is promoted in societal activity and working life, especially in the determination of pay and the other terms of employment, as provided in more detail by an Act [of Parliament].”

In the end, it will be for the Australian Constituent Assembly to establish provisions which guarantee the people of Sahul and the newly arrived the following:

Political rights

1) to live in a society which encourages the development of local authorities as an expression of direct participation by the people in public life and as a guarantee of civic responsibility;

2) to reside and travel freely in any part of the Republic, save for such limitations as the laws may prescribe in a general way for reasons of health or security, and to be given asylum from political, social or economic oppression. No restriction may be prescribed for political reasons;

3) to enjoy privacy and protection of personal information and correspondence from surveillance or interference;

4) to practice, to propagate and to celebrate any religion, whether in public or private, or not to practice any;

5) to express one’s thoughts freely, whether by words of mouth, in writing, or by any other means of communication;

6) to assemble and associate freely, peaceably and unarmed for the purpose of expressing an opinion, without interference from the government;

7) to organise freely for common political, social or economic ends;

8) to participate in all electoral processes, to contest all elections and to vote in all elections. A vote is personal, equal, free and secret in a proportional system;

9) to petition Parliament for legislative measures;

10) to serve compulsorily in the civil defence forces, which are organised on the basis of the democratic principles of the Republic;

11) to object on conscientious grounds to service in the defence forces.

Legal rights

1) to equal treatment before the law, and in the community, without distinction as to sex or sexual preference, national origin, language, religion, political opinion and personal or social conditions;

2) to freedom from retroactive legislation, from performing personal service, or being forced to any payment other than according to law;

3) to freedom of domicile;

4) to personal freedom from inspection, search, harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention or other restriction on personal liberty;

5) to institute legal proceedings for the protection of one’s rights and legitimate interests;

6) to be presumed innocent until properly found guilty, to be informed of all charges laid and the evidence in support of them, and of the right to remain silent in court;

7) to defence as an inalienable right at every stage of legal proceedings. An indigent person is entitled, through special provisions, to proper means of action, defence and services at all levels of jurisdiction;

8) to a fair and impartial hearing by a jury of the defendant’s peers if accused and tried for an unlawful activity, and to equal treatment before the law and equal access to legal representation;

9) to freedom from torture or cruel and degrading treatment or punishment. The death penalty is not permitted;

10) to obtain reparation from culpable violation of criminal, civil and administrative laws and for judicial errors;

11) to freedom from extradition, unless expressly provided for in international conventions. Extradition is never permitted for political offences.

Social rights

1) to live in a peaceful, neutral community, which values and applies peaceful means of conflict resolution, and promotes and encourages international organisations having such ends in view;

2) to a healthy, sustainable, accessible and attractive environment and to clean water and air;

3) to adequate housing and comfortable living conditions;

4) to good health care and preventative medicine, free at the moment of need;

5) to full access to personal information held by any public authority, subject only to a restriction signed by the responsible minister and reported to Parliament;

6) to be recognised and respected as a member of a multicultural society and a valuable contributor to a society which is progressing to unity in respect of diversity;

7) to see the cultural patrimony of social groupings retained and enhanced through special educational provisions;

8) to the recognition and protection of the family and the moral and legal equality of its partners;

9) to the recognition of the duty and corresponding right of parents to support, instruct and educate their children;

10) to the safeguard of motherhood, infancy and youth and the promotion of institutions necessary to such purposes;

11) in the case of women, to control of their fertility and reproduction;

12) to free and equal access to child care;

13) to a limitation of working hours, to rest, recreation and leisure, and to holidays;

14) to lifelong and free educational provision;

15) to the promotion and development of scholarship and scientific and technical research;

16) to enjoy access to literature, music, the arts and cultural activities;

17) to dignity and care in retirement.

Economic rights    

1) to useful work at a fair wage which provides an income sufficient to maintain a decent standard of living, with the corresponding duty in every citizen (or lawful resident) to undertake, according to one’s possibilities and choice, an activity which contributes to the material and moral progress of society;

2) to the protection of labour in all its forms and methods of execution, and of the vocational and professional training and advancement of workers, as well as the promotion of international agreements and organisations, and the protection of Australian migration and labour overseas;

3) to the protection of economic enterprise, which cannot, however, be applied in such manner as to be in conflict with social utility or be prejudicial to security, freedom and human dignity;

4) to compensation for expropriation;

5) to limitation of private land ownership, the transformation of large estates and the institution of productive units;

6) to the promotion and encouragement of cooperation on a basis of reciprocity and devoid of any private speculative aim;

7) to the protection of saving;

8) to participate in all decisions, including those relating to health and safety, affecting the workplace and to information, representation and expression of opinion for all employed persons;

9) to organise freely in a trade union;

10) to withdraw labour in pursuit of an industrial dispute;

11) to full and equal access to all government or social benefits at a level sufficient to meet basic needs;

12) to the benefits of a progressive taxation system;

13) to freedom from taxation in excess of ability to pay.

Previous instalment: A movement of people in Australia (Part 2)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

A movement of the people of Australia (Part 2)

Part Thirty-seven of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

It seems fair to presume that people who have experienced the questionable ‘blessings’ of imperial or colonial domination – whether of a political or socio-economic nature – would welcome the final liberation from the condition of subject and the opportunity to belong to a republic. There is no magic in that; there are only guarantees which are contained in a truly modern constitution.

The experience of people coming from overseas may be different, but there is no reason to suspect that, in a truly open, informed, participatory society, people born in countries such as China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Germany, South Korea, Greece, Hong Kong, United States, Lebanon, Ireland, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Iraq, Thailand, Pakistan, Fiji, Ian, Singapore, Nepal would not appreciate the advantage of a modern, democratic, secular and peaceful republic.

There is still hope that the opportunity could attract even people from Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland. It would make, at present, a balance of about seven million new-arrivals to seventeen million of mother-country-subjects.

Australia is a religiously diverse country and, although it has no official religion, one hears frequently a reference to the so-called ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’- an omnibus blanket to cover all sorts of things, and not always welcome. In public life in particular one observes frequently a  ‘special kind of hypocrisy’, for instance: the various governments of Australia refer to the Christian God in their ceremonies, as do the various Australian Courts. And on the same line, Christian symbols appear on public buildings, such as universities, not to mention publicly-paid-for hospitals bearing the name of persons connected with the Christian religion and/or the name of this or that ‘royal’ celebutante.

All this prefaced, Christianity is the predominant practice in Australia, though this is diminishing, changing and diversifying. At the Census 2016, 52.1 per cent of the Australian population acknowledged to some variety of Christianity. Over the fifty years since 1966 the proportion of the population who self-identify as Christian, combining all Christian denominations, has fallen from 88.2 per cent. In 2016, 30.1 per cent of Australians declared “no religion”; a further 9.6 per cent chose not to answer the question. The remaining population is a diverse group which includes Muslims – 2.6 per cent, Buddhists – 2.4 per cent, Hindus – 1.9 per cent, Sikhs – 0.5 per cent, and Jews – 0.4. They may not say very much, and perhaps not many may be aware that they are in a similar position as in democratic countries, such as Norway or Sweden, but in no way as constitutionally free as the Fins.

Australia has no official language, but its version of English has always been entrenched as the de facto national language. Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon, and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling. General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

According to the 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 72.7 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. There was a considerable drop if compared to 76.8 per cent in 2011. Otherwise, the next most common languages spoken at home are: Mandarin – by 2.5 per cent, Arabic – by 1.4 per cent, Cantonese – by 1.2 per cent, Vietnamese by 1.2 per cent, and Italian – by 1.2 per cent. English is still the main language for three quarters of Australians, but there are 301 other different languages spoken in homes across the country. A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual.

Over 250 Indigenous languages are thought to have existed at the time of the invasion; less than 20 are still in daily use by all age groups.  About 110 others are spoken exclusively by older people. At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous People, representing 12 per cent of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home.

When one comes to literacy and numeracy, it is difficult to speak about a truly open, informed, participatory society, in the presence of figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which show that 44 per cent of Australian adults do not have the literacy, numeracy and dexterity for problem solving in technology-rich environment, and even less skills they need to cope with the demand of everyday life and work.

Five years ago, approximately 7.3 million (44 per cent) non-Indigenous persons in Australia aged 15 to 74 years had literacy skills at Levels 1 or 2, a further 6.4 million (39 per cent) at Level 3, and 2.7 million (17 per cent) at Level 4/5. For the numeracy scale, approximately 8.9 million (55 per cent) Australians were assessed at Level 1 or 2, 5.3 million (32 per cent) at Level 3 and 2.1 million (13 per cent) at Level 4/5. The statistics are much worse for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. Census data show just how badly Australia fared at closing inequality gaps. (Census data shows just how bad we’ve been at closing inequality gaps, N. Biddle and F. Markham, 25 October 2017, The Conversation).

Being literate means more than just being able to write, read or count numbers.  Literacy generally refers to the ability to connect the things one hears and speaks about with written and read text, and to think critically about them. While some people may have basic spelling abilities, it does not necessarily mean they can comprehend what words mean and how they should/would be used. Numeracy likewise goes beyond being able to recognise a number; it is about being able practically to apply mathematics and problem solving to everyday life. It can also mean understanding quantities and measurements, such as metres/centimetres, kilos/grams, litres/millilitres, prices and even time, and this more than fifty years after the great reform brought about by the introduction of the decimal – no more imperial – measurements provisions.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, with Finland and Sweden competing for the first place, many adult Australians struggle with the literacy and numeracy skills required in daily life. And the emotional, practical and financial toll of low literacy and numeracy can be severe, particularly in a world which assumes almost everyone can read and write. At the intangible level it makes for an attitude to life of ‘sh’ll-be-rightysm’, ‘no worries’ and indifference to the meaning of life itself. It makes for apathetic morons, stupid and ignorant consumers of the religion of ‘free market’ and submission to their snake oil representatives.

The word ‘nationality’ and ‘citizenship’ are employed interchangeably – and indifferently in Australia. ‘Nationality’ appears on official documents and forms; ‘citizenship’ is acquired ‘by operation of law’, or by application after a period of residence in Australia, under certain conditions. The first Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 came into force on 26 January 1949. It has been amended many times, notably in 1973, 1984, 1986 and 2002. The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 replaced the 1948 Act, commencing on 1 July 2007.

It is now administered by the Hon. Peter Dutton, since July 2017 he of the high-sounding title of Minister for Home Affairs, a newly engineered portfolio combining the oversight of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (spies), the Australian Federal Police (wallopers) and Border Force – the old Department of Immigration and Border Protection (abusers of asylum seekers).

Mr Dutton was 19 when he graduated from the Queensland Police Academy and then went to spend nine years as a policeman, during his ‘formative years’ attending to drugs, sex offences and serving the National Crime Authority. Not too bright quite probably, but equipped with an authoritarian personality and quite likely a limited education, he distinguished himself as Minister for Health (2013-2014), gaining in a 2015 poll the reward from the Australian Doctor magazine, as “the worst health minister in the last 35 years.”

But he is from the Queensland right-wing, actually extreme right-wing if that is possible, and ‘balances’ a terminal Turnbull government – which is going from fizzer to finished.

Mr Dutton is in an extremely powerful position: by law he may – or at least try – to  impose a character test on people requesting visas to enter Australia. He exercises his power by presiding over the unlawful detention of thousand of would be migrants who have the nerve to seek refuge in Australia, but have no visa or ‘the right’ connections. He has seen fit ‘to gumshoe’ Green Senator Sara Hanson-Young during her visits to those asylum seekers’ concentration camps – the Immigration Department and the private company called for the operation confirming the truthfulness of the events.

He was overheard on an open microphone, prior to a community meeting on Syrian refugees, joking about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising seas from climate change.

In May 2016, before the  federal election, Mr. Dutton said of refugees that many “many … won’t be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English”, and “These people would be taking Australian jobs.”

In November 2016 Mr Dutton said it had been a mistake by the Malcolm Fraser administration to have admitted Lebanese Muslim immigrants.

Mr Dutton is clearly an ignorant but powerful person, burdened with racial, sexual and religious prejudices, devoted to the fine art of the antonyms of bon mots, a come-to-life Javert who was born with the obsession ‘to punish the guilty’, true or imaginary, one Javert is a fictional character, the primary antagonist of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables. He was presumably born in 1780 and died on June 7, 1832. He is a police inspector who becomes, over the course of the novel, obsessed with the pursuit a … whom Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has needed to save from time to time for the display of those ‘qualities’ – Australian values, anyone?

Prime Minister Turnbull defended Mr Dutton on several occasions saying that he is an “outstanding Immigration Minister.”

During the whole of 2017 he has competed with Prime Minister Turnbull in extolling ‘Australian values’, without being able to define them or to explain how they can be conveyed. The only requirement on which they seem to agree is that would be migrants should have a Level 6, required for university entry, knowledge of the English language!

The Minister for Home Affairs is not an aberration: this is the way of the Englanders. Mr Dutton is only more uncouth than the ordinary ‘Liberals’.

They are, after all, those who quickly dismissed any suggestion of ‘a Voice.’

Australian Constituent Assembly

Indigenous People and Torres Strait Islanders should take comfort that in order to organise the gathering at Uluru they might have gained new contacts, a better organisational ability, and a stronger determination to assert their rights according to the only law which may protect them: the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration should be seen as restoring the sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples over the ancient continent of Sahul, part of which is modern Australia.

There are already in Australia organisations which have parallel if not similar purposes such as the secularists, the humanists, the rationalists, those who could be characterised as ‘conscientious objectors’ and a myriad of voluntary bodies such as those which recently prepared the document: Australian NGO Coalition submission to the Human Rights Committee, Australia’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Human Rights, September 2017. The work minutely details a long list of deficiencies, defaults, false promises and betrayed commitments, despite the rhetoric and because of the shameful behaviour – lately – of the Turnbull Government.

The signatories are in total 56 organisations.

When they are ready, the representatives of the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders and of a movement representing all people living in Australia, should inform the Speakers of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, as presently constituted, that the movement demands the election of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of drafting a constitution which represents modern Australia and acknowledges the pre-existence of Sahulthe only authority having sovereignty over the whole of the continent.

For these purposes the only function of the existing Australian Government should be that of remaining in charge of the day to day business, of providing the means for the free, peaceful exercise of the people’s decision, of arranging the elections, guaranteeing its calm and fruitful results, and – in the end – securing a peaceful transition to a new and truly representative form of government.

A constituent assembly is a form of representative democracy; thus it demands that election of its representatives take place by a universal, proportional method – one head, one vote, one value, no preferences, compulsory or otherwise, no tricks.

Recent events have confirmed the absolute necessity of changing the Australian voting system to improve the quality as well as the ethos of the institution of Parliament. The postal survey on marriage equality was a clear demonstration of the failure of a tired, ‘use-by-date’ Australian political system, with the results as condemned by Professor Allan Patience.

What was obviously the duty of the Parliament – of the parliamentarians, actually – was thrust upon an initially bewildered electorate. Was not the matter to be decided by Parliament, rather than spending 122 million on a non-binding plebiscite? Perhaps the only good thing which came out of the experience is that it showed, in the end, that the electors of Australia are better than the official politics. In limine, one could say that the response to the postal survey proved that Australian professional politicians do not really represent the people. They actually represent a conglomerate of pressure groups, perbene clubs, camarillas, in-crowds, cabals, packs, clientèles, inner circles, coteries, and supporting party branches banding together for hidden interests. Of course, one hears from time to time a loud praise for the ‘wisdom of the Australia people.’ Such courting words are designed to keep ‘the people back home’ happy and proud, albeit marginalised and controlled – which is the ultimate purpose of the Philistine exercise.

What is not said is that the leaders think that people are really too stupid, or ignorant, or uninterested – and often altogether – to be allowed to speak about their own affairs. That presently ‘the people back home’ may see through Turnbull but have reservations on Shorten is something to be patched up with reassuring slogans. Governing the place is to be left to the ‘intelligent minority’, who should be protected from “the trampling and the roar of [the] bewildered herd”, the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders”, the “rascal multitude.” According to the circles of courtiers or favourites who surround the leaders of the ‘two party system in the Westminster tradition’ the real role of the general population is to be ‘spectators’, not ‘participants in action’. (C. Rossiter and J. Lare (eds.), The essential Lippmann, A political philosophy for Liberal democracy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.1982, at 91-92) And so, much more interest is gained by sport, sport of any kind, invariably attached to gambling. Politics, when it comes to be talked about, is given the hazy time left after a serious imbibing, when what is belched fits the expectations of the professionals: a quite apathetic populace given to ‘no worries’.

The professionals: “do not speak of them, but look and pass them by”, Dante, Divine Comedy, Hell, III Cant, verse 51.

The Constituent Assembly is to elect from among its members a Constitutional Commission of a designated number of representatives, with the duty to prepare the constitution’s general layout. The Commission could be further divided into a certain number of sub-commissions, to deal, for instance, with the: rights and obligations of the citizens, the constitutional organisation of Australia, the economic and social relationships et cetera.

A more specialised Commission, of a number to be designated, will have the duty to write the constitution in accordance with the work of the previous sub-commissions.

The Assembly members will be charged with putting a referendum to the electors for the proclamation of a republic.

Certain guarantees of democratic principles and practice should be introduced by the adoption of an electoral proportional representation as it is operating in countries like Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, and  up to 21 of the 27 countries of the European Community. Up to 87 countries have adopted the system, occasionally modified in details but not in the ultimate substance: New Zealand, for instance has a mixed-member proportional representation, with a 5 per cent – or 1 district winner – threshold.

No one in her/his sane mind would doubt the democratic nature of government in any of those countries. And they are not alone. Of the 87 countries which have adopted the proportional representation electoral system to fill a nationwide elected body, the overwhelming majority proceeds by party lists – the electors voting directly for a party or for candidates whose vote total will pool to a party, as in Finland, often with a percentage threshold, roughly between 3 and 5 per cent.

The road to reform and acceptance could be a difficult one, but not impossible and certainly not impassable.

Continued Monday with: What Sahul could recognise

Previous instalment: A movement of people in Australia (Part 1)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

Aw C’mon, Get Up! Change the Rules

By Kyran O’Dwyer

Never before have we been in this situation. Of course, we have had bad governments before. But never like this.

We have had governments that are ‘out of touch’ before, seeming to act contrary to public opinion. Remember Vietnam and, more recently, Iraq wars? Public rallies were held and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest. The governments of the day simply ignored the substance of the protest.

We have had ‘incompetent’ governments before, where billions were squandered in the pursuit of a short-term political ‘sugar hit’, or a ‘nation-building project’ (or ‘nation protecting project’, as they are so often defence associated), often leaving unjustifiable debt embedded in the nation’s budget.

We have had ‘naïve’ governments where the rights of we, the people, were gambled against the prospect of future dividends, like the workplace ‘reforms’ of the 80’s and 90’s, sacrificing rights without ensuring the guarantee of the promised resultant benefits.

There are many historical examples of ‘bad governments’ evidenced across many spectrums of measurable outcomes. No matter the ‘measure’ (economic, social, environmental, etcetera), the long-term result of their poor performance is not only found not to have been to the benefit or advantage of we, the people, but their poor performance is established as having been to the detriment of we, the people. This is usually after the bad government has been discarded and the extent of their folly is fully discovered.

It’s difficult to recall any government being as woefully bad as this mob. They have not only managed to tick all of the above boxes, but they achieved it in their first year of government. Has any first term government failed to pass its first budget in full? Has any government failed to pass any of their budgets in full in successive years? With a change of leadership and a DD election, they ventured to the edge of the political abyss, nearly achieving the unthinkable. A first-term government getting voted out of office. In the House of Representatives, they gambled the 90 seats won in 2013 and were left with 76 in 2016. A one-seat majority. In the Senate, the cause of their discontent, they gambled the 33 seats won in 2013 and were left with 30 in 2016.

A salutary lesson, indeed. Don’t gamble with gambling, and only gamble what you can afford to lose.

The hubris of this mob is manifested when they not only indignantly ignore and/or reject their own incompetence but add abuses of power to their transgressions. Unsatisfied with that, they then add abuses of privilege and entitlement to their transgressions. Unsatisfied with that, they then add a complete and utter disregard for any semblance of accountability to their transgressions.

It is a further problem that we have a partisan media that not only ignores these transgressions, these assaults on our intelligence and decency but condones them (both covertly and overtly) in their superficial discussions of the identities behind the decisions, rather than the substance of the decisions themselves.

It is a further problem that we have government departments and agencies who actively pursue the political agenda of their ministerial masters to the detriment of the people they were designed to serve.

But this mob have now taken it even further, which is a cause for greater concern.

Can anyone recall any previous government that has so actively and doggedly pursued ideologies that we, the people, are overwhelmingly opposed to?

A majority of Australians believe that climate change is real, having long since tired of the distraction of how much of its accelerating impact is caused by ‘man’. The majority of Australians have more trust in the scientists (of whom more than 95% believe climate change is real and are working on solutions, with varying degrees of optimism) than in the rabble elected to represent us.

The majority of Australians believe the national broadcaster is an essential service for a free and vibrant democracy. In Australia, we have a further peculiar reliance. The vastness of our land, the dispersal of our people and the savagery of events such as fire, flood and cyclones, has meant our national broadcaster has had a further dimension as an emergency broadcaster, with many rural Australians reliant on it for so much more than entertainment.

The majority of Australians have been surveyed over the years on many and varied issues and have been consistent in their responses. Health, education, our First People, our homeless, those in need of assistance, even on our governance, to name but a few.

Traditionally, even our previous bad governments paid lip service to the wants and needs of the majority. Not this mob. Having initially decried such results as ‘mere populism’, they don’t even bother with that any more. Never before has a government said ‘Yeah, Nah, well, just Nah’.

And the media have given up any pretence of doing their job. The sacred Fourth Estate panders to these ideologically crazed muppets either by repeating their lies or ignoring their failures.

There are some exceptions. Greg Jericho alluded to the current situation in his piece “All care, no policy: Liberal party pretenders exposed” which reveals this fundamental problem.

But really, all this talk about the ABC from Abetz and Dutton is just a continuation of the long run of the Liberal party being disingenuously concerned about things it is actively against.

It’s dire, by any measure. It can come as no surprise to anyone that the calls for a Federal ICAC have been rising to a crescendo across all sectors of society, increasing in volume and frequency in recent years. Two parties have even expressed support for this oversight, yet watched on while existing forms of oversight and scrutiny have been disembowelled.

Our government has said ‘Yeah, Nah, well, just Nah’.

Our society has real issues to face which cannot be addressed with superficial tokenistic enquiries. There was a time when an ICAC would have, at the very least, been a start. Now it is a case of waaayyy too little, waaayyy too late. What do you do when those in power show such abuse of their power and privilege, making rules that they, themselves, have no regard for?

It was back in 1887 that John Dalberg-Acton penned those cautionary, if not prophetic, words;

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It is not until you read the full passage that you realise we have not only ignored the prophetic caution of the past to our own detriment, we have entrenched the sanctity of power and ignored the inherent corruption when power is absolute.

But if we might discuss this point until we found that we nearly agreed, and if we do agree thoroughly about the impropriety of Carlylese denunciations and Pharisaism in history, I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King, unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negation of Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position like Ravaillac; but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III of England ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greatest names coupled with the greatest crimes; you would spare those criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice, still more, still higher for the sake of historical science.”

That there is any attempted justification for double standards, two sets of rules, is an indecent proposal.

That those double standards would hold those without power to a greater standard of scrutiny and accountability, is a shameful proposal.

That those double standards would hold those with the greatest power to little, if any, scrutiny, and accept their poorest behaviour as reasonable, is an obscene proposal.

Yet here we are, more than 150 years later, faced with the apparent repercussions of our apparent complacency. We should be the most knowledgeable and enlightened generation of all time, yet we continue to not only suffer fools but give them privilege, status and stature for no other reason than their ‘title’. We then indemnify and excuse any transgressions of the law, let alone any communally acceptable standard of decency, for no better reason than their ‘title’.

“There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

We have surrendered all manner of hard-won freedoms and advances due to these fools doing what those at the top have always done. Create fear and division amongst the ‘masses’, with their ignorant arrogance being offered as the only apparent remedy.

“… the end learns to justify the means.”

Sally McManus, 16th March 2017, was written up in The Guardian:

McManus was asked whether she supported the rule of law, to which she said yes.

Presenter Leigh Sales asked if the ACTU would distance itself from the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union, one of its affiliates, for more than 100 court cases in which it was accused of breaking the law or contempt of court.

“There is no way we’ll be doing that,” McManus said because the CFMEU had been fined for taking industrial action.

“It might be illegal industrial action according to our current laws and our current laws are wrong.

“It shouldn’t be so hard for workers in our country to take industrial action when they need to.”

Do you remember that? It was rated as a ‘tour de force’ on the part of Ms Sales and an abject failure on the part of Ms McManus. Our intrepid leaders were all but apoplectic in their zeal to decry this absolute pearl, this gift, from the mouth of Ms McManus. Their glee and enthusiasm soared when Ms McManus expanded on her consideration.

When Sales challenged how McManus could say she believed in the rule of law, the union leader replied:I believe in the rule of law when the law is fair and the law is right, but when it’s unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”

Manna from the heavens rained upon those with the reins, their inalienable right to reign newly assured. ‘The peasants are revolting’, they cried, delighted with the snide cruelty of their double entendre. Such flagrant disregard for the law cannot be tolerated in any decent society, they cried. Anyone possibly linked to support of such lawlessness, however tenuously, must be immediately challenged to categorically refute such a notion and disassociate themselves from any such link.

Asked about the comments, Shorten said: “I just don’t agree.”

“If you don’t like a law, if you think a law is unjust, use the democratic process to get it changed.

“We believe in changing bad laws, not breaking them.”

And so it came to pass. If a law is unjust it is as simple as using the democratic process to have it changed. The Peasants desire for change has been satiated, the grip on the reins of those reigning strengthened by a media, breathless in its support for the status quo.

Can you see it yet?

Using our democratic process to change unjust laws is all well and good if you have access to our democratic process. Saying that you can vote every few years for the least worse of the available options, and trusting them to act and behave honourably for the remainder of their tenure, is not Democracy. It’s politics. Particularly when there is no requirement for a ‘politician’ to act honestly, let alone honourably. A politician is reliant on the trust of their constituents to get elected. When that trust is consistently rated at 12-20%, it is an indecent proposal to say you are acting with the trust (let alone confidence) of your constituents. As for listening to your constituents and acting in their interests, well, that’s simply a bridge too far. Exhibit A; A Postal Survey on equality.

We can dig into history for examples of where constituents have been denied justice under this illusion, loosely defined as democracy. This will invoke the usual criticisms of living in the past, of unfair comparisons, of how we have changed, of how things are different now.

It is the fifty year anniversary of the murder of a recidivist lawbreaker (oddly (and co-incidentally) engaged in protests about sanitation workers pay and conditions at the time of his murder), Michael King. Better known as Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr King (Jr) styled himself on another recidivist lawbreaker, Mahatma Gandhi, and both are still held in high regard by proponents of change, particularly when faced with entrenched and institutionalised legal injustice. It’s not as if we don’t have our own examples, such as Charles Perkins, whose Freedom Rides highlighted the systemic injustice and racism meted out to our First People. Looking at those and other examples of protesting unjust laws by breaking them, it is hardly a successful model. Fifty years later, human’s civil rights protections have not advanced, whereas corporate protections are now embedded in every facet of our society. Even less likely is the hope that our legislators will heed our protests and avail us the access to their democratic process. We are often told voters are averse to change, which is odd when all of the lived experience suggests it is the legislators who are resolutely averse to change, particularly if it threatens their, or their benefactor’s, privilege, as opposed to their constituents interests.

Rather than looking back, let’s look at the intervening period. It was March 2017, when Ms McManus uttered the unutterable.

I believe in the rule of law when the law is fair and the law is right, but when it’s unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it.”

Since March 2017, unions have been raided and workers have been fined for protesting over the death of workmates; ‘wage theft’ is a ‘thing’ that is illegal, albeit un-prosecutable; an RC into institutional abuse of children has handed down its final report; we have had a postal survey into a matter of basic human rights; we have a new RC into financial institutions uncovering illegality on a daily basis (increasingly ignored in MSM); we have environmental reports on a regular basis showing our governments wilful ignorance of the reality; we have had a (state based) RC into child detention (which is unlikely to go any further than ‘Oops, sorry, kinda’); we have had deaths in custody, onshore and off; we have had a new ‘Home Affairs’ ministry established against all expert advice; we have removed most oversight of spending on our defence budget, which appears to have no objective other than a commitment to spend 2% of GDP; we are building a ‘defense industry’ that will sell to anyone. Many issues have been omitted, not because they are unimportant, but because the list is simply too long.

All of the above issues have at least some component of lawlessness in them, ie people or institutions acting outside the law. In breach of the law. A worker, hounded and pilloried for illegally protesting over the death of a workmate, is lawless. Particularly if they are part of a union. The clergy, corporations, institutions, government agencies and personnel, power companies and miners (who befoul the environment and ignore ‘requests’ for environmental repair) have also broken the law.

It seems odd to note that the penalties for breaking what could easily be argued an unjust law, are far more significant and frequent (and personally directed) than the penalties for breaking what could easily be argued as a just law (usually with far more significant damage resulting from the breach).

And all of this is fine, ‘cause we got ourselves a Democracy.

“… if you think a law is unjust, use the democratic process to get it changed”

Now can you see it?

More than 100,000 people took to the streets in Melbourne on Wednesday, the 9th May, in support of the Change the Rules’ campaign.

We need to change the rules to give all working people the basic rights they need to improve their living standards.”

There is a slightly more detailed list of the changes needed not just to the rules, but to the underpinning values and aspirations of those rules, relating to job security, wages and conditions, contained in another ACTU blurb.

In the interests of a pretence of balanced reporting, it is only fair to mention that one of the Employer’s Unions have unleashed a campaign, titled ‘Strong Australia’, “Business Council of Australia to ramp up role in politics”.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA), the lobby group representing Australia’s largest companies, has decided to do politics.”

This seems to infer that the BCA (and other Employer unions) haven’t done politics’ previously. Hmmm. Anyway, like the ACTU, it represents a massive membership and struggles for funds.

7.30 understands the peak business lobby group is asking its 130 members to pay $200,000 each towards a fighting fund for the campaign.”

130 x 200,000 = $26,000,000. Hmmm.  Anyway, like the ACTU, it will campaign to Change the Rules.

It is now spending big on political advice and political campaigning and is targeting marginal seats.

It argues it has no choice but to take on groups like GetUp and what it sees as a destructive, anti-business sentiment rising in the community.

“To not do that means we will surrender our country to, I think, an inevitable set of very poor policies which will be bad for the country and to be honest, bad for the poorest people, not the richest people,” the BCA’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott said.”

Hmmm. Ok, it won’t campaign to Change the Rules. It will campaign to ‘Keep the Rules the Same and Stop Calling us Names’. The ACTU must be cowering, terrified of the mighty force it has provoked, in trepidation of the inevitable mobilisation of its members.

The BCA has announced a television advertising campaign which it says will “focus on two basic truths — business provides and generates jobs, and big and small businesses rely on each other to be successful“.”

Hmmm. Ok, they won’t take to the streets. They’ll buy a TV show and a presenter (who will allegedly bring with him credibility and gravitas).

In the interests of a pretence of balanced reporting, you need to compare the pair. Both of these organisations are referred to as ‘umbrella groups’. Their ‘members’ are entities, as opposed to people, even though the entities are represented by people. Admittedly, the ACTU is a peak body for 46 affiliated unions. As such, you could argue that it also has a small membership. However, they represent about 2 million Australian workers and their families. About 14% of the workforce. Of which, only 100,000 took to the streets, or 5% of the workers they represent.

The other peak body has nearly three times the membership of the ACTU. From the BCA membership section:

Our membership is made up of the CEOs of Australia’s top companies.

Members represent a range of sectors including mining, retail, manufacturing, infrastructure, information technology, financial services and banking, energy, professional services, transport, and telecommunications

So how many workers do they represent, even if only in a de-facto capacity?

Image from http://bca.com.au

Ms Westacott says they will “focus on two basic truths — business provides and generates jobs, and big and small businesses rely on each other to be successful.”

There have been no reports to date as to how many of their workers are proposing to partake in the televised town hall meetings to express their undying gratitude to the providers and generators of jobs and their sincere appreciation of the reliance between big and small business.

Hallelujah, they will sing, in their televised empty town hall. “No big business has screwed a small business and we all got a job” they will chant, as the pigs are loaded up and prepared to fly. They will then sing Kumbaya, as an evocation of their spiritual unity and interpersonal harmony, which will echo hauntingly in their empty town hall. A new reality TV show will be prepared for the newly emaciated ABC.

100,000 in the streets will be no match for the awesome power of the employers union.

Then there’s that other unruly rabble over at GetUp!

GetUp members come from every walk of life, coming together around a shared belief in fairness, compassion and courage. It is GetUp members who set our movement’s agenda on issues they care about, in the fields of Environmental Justice, Human Rights, Economic Fairness and Democratic Integrity. Our work is driven by values, not party politics.”

For decades now, Australians have been described as politically ignorant, lazy, disinterested, apathetic, and so much more. The membership of GetUp! is about 9 times the combined membership of all of the political party’s.

This article from 2013 states membership of 50,000 for the Liberals, 43,800 for Labor and 10,400 for the Greens. Just over 100,000 Australians are sufficiently motivated to join a political party. Admittedly, that is only the major parties. For the sake of the exercise, let’s assume there are another 20,000 involved in the minor parties. Various wiki pages for political parties suggest interest in them has continued to wane since 2013, while GetUp! continues to attract members.

Like unions, they are member driven. It is the members that create and drive the campaigns. There are well over 1 million Australians participating in GetUp! It does not have a political affiliation but is branded as political by luminaries such as Erica Betz, Corgi Bernardi, Peter Dudone, the BCA and many, many more. It’s passing strange that all of these groups try to replicate the operations of GetUp! and unions but can never get any support. Does anyone remember the Liberal’s ‘Fair Go’ campaign?

The Fair Go billed itself as a forum to “analyse and explain policy in the context of our shared goals for Australia’s future”.

“We encourage freedom of thought and deliver robust conversations to promote a fair go for all Australians,” it said.”

It is designed to support the Coalition’s overarching narrative into social platforms and arm supporters with bottom-up perspectives on public policy issues.”

You don’t? Don’t worry. It disappeared up its own fundamental orifice with nary a whimper.

This isn’t a new tactic or strategy. In the absence of any credible argument for their inane ideology in lieu of Policy, they have often sought credibility through the hijacking of a progressive group’s tactics or methods, as if it somehow legitimises their cause. There is good reason to say the ‘conservative’ side, the beneficiaries of the status quo, are envious of groups that can garner public support and keep trying to emulate the efforts.

In the absence of any groundswell of support for their fetid facsimiles, they have gone to the next level. Make it as difficult as possible for these member-driven organisations to continue to exist. Deprive them of legitimacy. If that fails, deprive them of legality.

There is a current crisis in Oz that is neither peculiar to Oz or new. It is not simply that we have a woefully inadequate government in crisis, but that we have an absence of genuine governance that exacerbates the crisis. The thin veil of politics is an inadequate and indecent cover, made all the more indecent when it is held up as Democracy. We have gone waaayyy past any hope that an ICAC will restore any semblance of balance in the disproportionate allocation of power. Those who make the rules have the power. It is groups and organisations that are member driven that are our best defence, until such time as we have a genuine democracy, based on the Direct Democracy model.

Wolf Linder: I would say you can never export legal instruments or elements of direct democracy as such. You have to develop them in your own tradition, on the base of your own culture and you have to adapt themselves to your own needs. On the other hand, one could say that other people can learn from Swiss democracy. It says that it is possible even in a modern society, or you can see how to avoid some pitfalls of direct democracy. So I think the Swiss case is a good case to look at, and to say, well, we can adapt or we can use this experience for ours.”

“Now is the winter of our discontent” is a line from Richard III, by Shakespeare. It apparently means that the time of unhappiness will soon end. The ‘summer of our discontent’ apparently means that unhappiness is at its highest.

In his “I Have A Dream” speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Martin Luther King alluded to Shakespeare’s Richard III when he said: “This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.”

This is not written out of despair or in capitulation. This is written in appreciation of the millions of Australians who do care enough about their tomorrow and everyone else’s tomorrow. There is no point in appealing to our ‘government’ or their media. But it is time the blame was left exactly where it should be.

“… if you think a law is unjust, use the democratic process to get it changed”

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