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A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 8)

By Dr George Venturini  

The United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of poverty in the industrialised world, with 4 million (almost one in three children) currently living in poverty. This number has increased dramatically in the last 30 years. (Poverty in the UK: a guide to the facts and figures, 22 March 2018, fullfact.org).

In 1979 there were around 1 in 10 children living in poverty. Inner urban areas are generally much higher.

The unprecedented austerity programme being imposed by the Conservative Party/Liberal Democrat government, including drastic cuts in social benefit entitlement and wage freezes as well as rises in fuel and food prices, was making it more difficult for families to survive. This trend in increasing poverty and misery for millions of children in the United Kingdom was set to rise, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting that the figure for child poverty would have risen by 400,000 by the year 2015.

The demand on charities that assist poor families in need was increasing.

The trend in rising child poverty had taken place ever since the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in 1979, driven by the offensive waged against jobs, wages and welfare provisions. For all Labour’s hand-wringing about the plight of poor families, and then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s personal pledge to “end child poverty” in a generation, the gap between the rich and poor reached record levels under Labour’s rule – 1997-2007. Even though it was targeted for special attention, child poverty fell just a few percentage points, from a high of 33 per cent in 1998, in a period of economic boom. By 2012 it was climbing and set to go beyond its previous high.

The Conservative/Liberal government was preparing itself to throw further millions of people into poverty. The government was legislating to cap the total benefit payment that can be received by a household to £26,000 (AU$46,423) per annum. The cap would have affected those in areas with high housing costs, with 55 per cent living in Central London.

The measure was reported to save £270 million (AU$482,207,491) towards the government’s overall target of cutting a massive £18 billion (AU$32,153,874,530) from the welfare bill in the lifetime of the parliament. The Observer reported a leaked government memorandum suggesting that just this one measure would have pushed 100,000 children below the poverty line – an indication of how many would have suffered the same fate as a result of overall cuts many times that figure. (D. Moore, ‘Child poverty map of UK paints a bleak picture’, 27 January 2012, wsws.org).

The resulting picture was one of a world of misery, social dereliction, mixed-up values and reprehensible moral shortcomings.

For instance: it was confirmed by the news that, according to the Land Registry, the United Kingdom was losing more than 1 billion pounds (AU$1.5 billion – in 2012) in tax as the rich and famous had registered some 94,760 properties – from townhouses and castles to country estates – into offshore companies.

How could such worldly extremes where some are wealthy beyond measure, and others are pushed to the outer edges of society and forced to live a type of twilight existence, be tolerated? Simply, ignore them.

The condition was even harsher for young migrants. According to Children’s society some asylum seekers only received half of what a comparable British family would receive in income support. It was a bleak assessment of how the welfare system treated asylum seekers. Unlike traditional benefits, which are increased every year to take inflation into account, welfare payments to asylum seekers were increased at the discretion of politicians. With the Border Agency considering whether to raise these benefit levels, charity organisations and senior Liberal Democrats were arguing for more cash.

The Children’s society informed that current payments were “unacceptably low”, forcing thousands of very vulnerable children to face severe hardship every day. It said that a single person seeking refuge in Britain would receive 37 pounds (AU$55 – in 2012) a week to live on – just a little over a half of what is paid to a British citizen.

On 29 May 2012 Unicef – the United Nations Children’s Fund – produced a piece of research which showed that the government’s austerity drive was set to reverse the strides made in reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom.

The study, Report Card 10, Measuring Child Poverty, indicated that during the early years of the recession, the United Kingdom was more successful than other rich countries in reducing child poverty and protecting children from deprivation, but warned that spending cuts would have swiftly undermined this progress.

“This report shows how committed government action can make a big difference for children. The UK should be proud that our commitment to end child poverty by 2020 in the past has seen a clear improvement in reducing child poverty and protecting vulnerable children from deprivation,” said David Bull, executive director of Unicef U.K.

“However, we know that the number of children living in poverty in the U.K. is set to increase due to spending cuts. This will be a catastrophic blow to the futures of thousands of children, putting at risk their future health, education and chances of employment.”

Unicef argued that the United Kingdom’s success in reducing child poverty over the previous decade was the result of the previous government’s drive to increase household incomes by introducing tax credits and improving public services for children.

Although the United Kingdom missed the target set by then Prime Minister Tony Blair to cut the number of children in poverty to 1.7 million by 2010, the country still saw a large reduction in child poverty as a result of government intervention, Unicef said. (In 2009-10, the last year for which figures are available, 2.6 million children in the United Kingdom were below this poverty line, according to the definition in the target).

There was growing speculation over whether the government, which in 2010 signed up to legislation committing it to a 2020 target to end child poverty, will seek to abandon the relative poverty definition.

The Centre for Social Justice – founded by Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, when he was in opposition – has called on the government to scrap “crude and flawed yardsticks” for measuring child poverty. (A. Gentleman, ‘Child poverty in UK set to increase as result of austerity drive, says Unicef’, guardian.co.uk, 29 May 2012).

The Report noted that in a downturn, children are first to drop off the policy agenda, and said that it was evident that “frontline services for families are everywhere under strain as austerity measures increase the numbers in need while depleting the services available. It is also clear that the worst is yet to come.” … “Many families, even those on low incomes, have some form of ‘cushion’ – whether in the form of savings, assets or help from other family members – by which to maintain spending during difficult times. There is therefore almost always a time lag between the onset of an economic crisis and the full extent of its impact. Failure to protect children from poverty is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make. The heaviest cost of all is borne by the children themselves. But their nation must also pay a very significant price – in reduced skills and productivity, in lower levels of health and educational achievement, in increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, in the higher costs of judicial and social protection systems, and in the loss of social cohesion. The economic argument, in anything but the shortest term, is therefore heavily on the side of protecting children from poverty.”

Unicef warned that during times of economic recession, in the scramble to effect immediate change, all planning for future generations is perceived as of secondary importance. This is highly problematic, not only because future planning is negated in favour of a short term outlook, but because a child’s current living situation is under escalated risk during times of financial crisis. Children, as one of the most vulnerable groups of people, cannot be left out of the equation especially in times of financial recession.

The Unicef Report stated that levels of ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’ child poverty in the United Kingdom were expected to reach 24 per cent  and 23 per cent of children respectively by 2020 – compared to the target figures of 10 per cent  and 5 per cent set by the previous Labour government. The United Kingdom had a higher rate of child deprivation than the Netherlands and all of Scandinavia.

The shadow minister for children and families commented: “This independent report suggests that much of the good work that Labour did to address child poverty is being undermined by the Tory-led government … government cuts that go too far and too fast and the double-dip recession created in Downing Street will actually push more children and families below the breadline.”

Unicef believed that the United Kingdom had protected vulnerable children from the effects of the global financial crisis better than most other affluent nations, primarily, it claims, due to the previous Labour government’s efforts to increase household income. However, this was far from a self-congratulatory moment; the United Kingdom was still failing to meet its own targets in reducing child poverty to 1.7 million in 2010.

In 2012 in the United Kingdom, 4 million children lived in poverty, according to End Child Poverty, demonstrating the extent of this failure. All mainstream political parties had signed the Child Poverty Act of 2010, which aimed to eradicate child poverty by 2020. Whilst achievements to date had been unsatisfactory, there had been some progress over the past decade and Unicef warned that current and proposed austerity measures would have  unravelled any recent progress made in tackling child poverty. (G. Wales, ‘Austerity increases child poverty, report confirms, Gillian Wales analyses a recent report from Unicef arguing cuts are increasing child poverty rates in Britain, 29 May 2012).

There was recognition that child poverty is one of the most crucial indicators for measuring successful social cohesion, a marker of well-being and future prosperity of any given nation. Long-term effects of child poverty include: issues in education, employment, mental and physical health problems and difficulties with social interaction. The standard of living encountered during a person’s childhood is recognised as being instrumental in shaping her/his future.

Absolute child poverty is a totally unacceptable occurrence in any nation, but in one of the richest nations in the world where there exists no civil war, no recent natural disasters and no endemic disease outbreaks it is a shocking disgrace. It should make governments stop and question the whole neoliberal mantra that free-markets allow wealth to ‘trickle down’ to the bottom.

Austerity measures may also affect minors in more subtle ways. There is another type of poverty, one that is more difficult to define and to quantify, that of emotional poverty. As the unemployment rate soars, many households are experiencing joblessness for the first time. Children are far from immune from the negative effects of austerity. The additional stress levels, lack of funds and general loss of confidence experienced by parents and family members must impact upon children also. It has been proven that unemployment can become cyclical for generations of families. These children are feeling both the direct and indirect outcomes of unemployment and austerity measures likely affecting their own participation in the workplace in future years.

In Scotland’s major cities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, the situation was much worse.

Unicef was not alone in linking austerity to increasing child poverty. The Institute for Fiscal Studies had confirmed that child poverty rates were about to soar due to the Government’s austerity agenda. Austerity measures are proving a complete failure, exacerbating the problems of unemployment and thereby increasing levels of child poverty.

State-direction job creation, along with relevant supporting policies, is the route to success in lowering the rate of child poverty in the United Kingdom. The ‘Lost Generation’ would not just be those then leaving school to no jobs and no higher and further education places, but the generation before them who are too young to be aware of their disappearing future. To put the brakes on this depressing picture Britain needs to end the madness of austerity, the chief executive of Unicef said. “Government policies to tackle the deficit must not harm children. There is only one chance at childhood – we cannot see a generation growing up in austerity denied the chance to fulfil their potential.”

Unicef‘s report said that the previous government had achieved one of the largest reductions in child poverty by providing tax credits, cash transfers and accessible public services. But it said that the United Kingdom now had a higher rate of child deprivation than Iceland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Unicef‘s league table took account of whether children have access to 14 items including three meals and fresh fruit and vegetables every day; books; outdoor leisure equipment such as a bicycle; the internet and the opportunity to celebrate special days such as birthdays.

The United Kingdom had a higher percentage of children in poverty (12 per cent) – when defined as households with income lower than 50 per cent of the national median – than 21 of 35 economically advanced countries surveyed.

In Britain, 800,000 three- and four-year-olds already enjoyed up to 15 hours of free early education every week. (A. Grice, ‘Shock report: cuts to have a ‘catastrophic’ effect on child poverty’, 30 May 2012, independent.co.uk).

The child poverty rate, though at the time thought to be stable, was predicted to begin rising again in 2013.

A spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group told the media that the Group was concerned that “child poverty is about to dramatically worsen. Independent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests child poverty will surge by 100,000 children a year due to the government making children and families a prime focus for their austerity agenda.” He said that the 20 billion pounds (AU$30 billion – in 2012) in cuts to the welfare budget by this government was bound to have an effect on children and families on low incomes. “There are too many people out of work; – he said – while too many people in work are on such unfair levels of pay. The cost of housing alone is so out of control that this contributes 1.2 million children to the total of 3.8 million living in poverty in the UK.”

Statistics to be published on 14 June 2012 were likely to show that the halfway target promised by Blair had been missed.

The political parties would have had a big squabble over their respective records. Labour supporters would say that a lot of progress was made. Coalition supporters would wonder whether there was as much progress as there should have been, given the billions spent. And there would have been another round of debate about changing the target.

Continued Wednesday – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 9)

Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 7)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy 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.


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Chinese Ships in Sydney Harbour: The PLAN and its plan

By Dr Strobe Driver  


There has been much comment in recent days about the arrival of three Chinese warships entering and berthing at Sydney Harbour’s Garden Island. This has included Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s stating the visit had been ‘planned for some time,’[1] through to Medcalf’s (@Rory_Medcalf) asking on Twitter ‘… What’s the story here?’[2] Whilst the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ‘capital ships,’ which form a part of its ‘blue water’/ocean going task force is, indeed a major event it is nonetheless designed to send signals to Australia. Whilst the prime minister may dismiss the happening as something that is ‘routine’ and representative of the ‘… relationship we have,’[3] the subjectiveness of this statement begs the situation-at-hand to be analysed further—if only because China’s relationship with Australia is fraught at best and toxic at worst. This has been the case since especially (then) foreign minister (the Honourable Julie Bishop) had been labelled a ‘complete fool’ by the Chinese leadership.[4] Thus, the ‘relationship we have’ with China demands a coming to terms with the messages the PLAN is sending, the core and peripheral reasons for the visit and crucially, the message it is intended to send.

A show of force by China: The People’s Liberation Army Navy

First and foremost, the visit is a display of strength by the PLAN and one which is designed to send a clear signal that it (now) has a regional geo-strategic stretch that is the equivalent to the United States of America (US); Russia; France; Britain; and many other developed nation-states. To wit, its engagement with the Asia-Pacific (A-P)—which of late, has been conveniently relabelled by Australia and India as the ‘Indo-Pacific,’ in order to re-engage with India and diminish the ‘Asian influence’ as much as possible—is and remains a strong part of the PLAN’s agenda. There are also subtler though no less important reasons for a part of what is essentially, a battle fleet entering the harbour. A US marine rotation was also happening in the Northern Territory as part of the Australia-US ongoing alliance and it is important, if you are a competing power, to emphasise that one’s presence will not be dictated to by other engagements a country such as Australia may have and moreover, de-escalation of regional tensions is not part of, and never has been part of, an ‘upcoming power’s’ focus.

To place the ‘upcoming power’ concept into perspective, it has been true of many power-stakes pre-circa-1995 ‘rise of China’ to overtly signal with a naval presence that at the forefront of diplomacy, is military preponderance. What the entrance into the harbour reflects of the PLAN is, it has gained a level of professionalism; discipline; ‘hard power’;[5]and the scientific knowledge to venture far beyond its littoral waters. To be sure, such a feat would have been difficult pre-1995 and it is important for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to emphasise the feat to its domestic population as this encourages ‘nationalism’[6] and thus, national pride.

History has shown that powerful stake-holders use a definitive and observable naval military presence as a symbol of international standing; as a signal to their domestic population that an elevated level of power has been achieved; as a psycho-symbolic representation of power; and to signal to any adversary that it has the ability to apply immediate destructive power if needed. From an historical perspective, this aspect is writ large in the British and their ‘Dreadnought class’ ships, which were used to intimidate others. The British used them in order to get their ‘point’ across; and if necessary apply a barrage to hurry along negotiations. Such a tactic-of-suasion was applied in keeping Britain’s Anglo-Persian oil interests alive in the Middle East (1913); and of directly threatening Turkey (1918). The point being, that building surface (and from the mid-twentieth century sub-surface) fleets offer a tangible and real threat beyond simple assertive diplomacy and presents an intent: should dialogue fail threat-of-force will be followed by direct force. History is littered with what a naval power can accomplish and of its  tool-of-suasion over a weaker actor. One need look no further than Japan post-World War Two (WWII). The US strategically imposed its will long after its occupation exit and essentially, forced the Japanese in the process to cede Okinawa for its future preponderance needs. The US’ success remains to this day. To wit, Okinawa backs-up an ongoing US naval presence in the A-P region. Furthermore and to reinforce the notion of power through a naval presence, is to note that the US is currently posturing against Iran in the Persian Gulf with the threat of sending in a carrier-strike group into the region,[7] due to Iran’s commitment to its nuclear programme. Notwithstanding the tensions, it reflects the certainty with which the US views sea-power as a regional interlocutor; and its codicil of being able to apply immediate and direct force if needed as per the historical model—especially if a fleet-air-arm is also initiated. China understands all of the aforementioned and this can now be elaborated upon.

What the PLAN understands: Core and peripheral issues

As per the US model-of-intervention, the PLAN understands the application of an overt physical presence is part of the psycho-symbolic components of re-configuring the way in which Australia must view the Asia-Pacific; that the presence of its ships is part of an overall regional coercion strategy; and that their presence sends a message about the future of what Australia should consider when making foreign policy decisions. These are only some of the core issues-at-hand that the PLAN has alerted Australia to, and whilst they may be the most straightforward there are subtler issues-at-hand.

The peripheral issues that form part of the overall strategy the PLAN is using is one in which historically, naval-power has often been utilised. A dedicated and  powerful navy is used to support nation-state ‘business interests’—the British in India and Malaya, the US in the Central Americas, the French in Algeria and Indochina, and Japan in Korea is to name only several countries that have used their military to invoke their foreign policies. For the Chinese Communist Party the PLAN’s presence consists of but is not limited to displaying that its military might is largely unhindered by the China-US trade war; is immune to US posturing; regardless of diplomatic tensions, it takes A-P preponderance seriously; and that the show of warships is an overt sign of a growing ability to protect its assets—such as the Port of Darwin.

To be certain, a nation-state will use its navy as a deliberate and focused weapon-of-suasion and will do so by manipulating any given situation. This was true of the US has using its military assets to protect its oil imports in the Strait of Hormuz in 1982 (by re-flagging Kuwaiti tankers); of the British and Icelandic navies sending ships to offset each other’s preponderance in the so-called ‘Cod War’ of 1975 -1976; and of Australia using naval assets to transport and supply troops in the expulsion of Indonesian troops out of East time/Timor Lesté. All represent sea-power and its geo-strategic stretch and moreover, each action was designed to disrupt ‘push back’ against what is deemed hostile policies on the part of a perceived or actual threat.

To be sure, whilst the above-mentioned examples do not immediately correlate to China using direct force (at least at the present time) to reinforce its politico-stance. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to not recognise that it is sending a strong message to the Australian government and of course, to the Australian people. Notwithstanding the protection of physical assets in the current politico-mercantile environment, there is also the simmering discontent China has with regard to the Huawei issue and its (so-called) ‘threat to Australian security.’ It can be assumed the mishandling of this issue by the Morrison government, if only because the shutting out of an Asian country getting ‘too good’ at what it does is the reason. What of course the shutting out of Huawei emphasises—in a globalised and free trade world, which essentially, is and remains what the West imposed on every other nation-state—is to show that when a non-Western company becomes a serious contender (read: direct competition) in the telco industry, it needs to be stopped. Considering free trade; mercantilism and transnationalism are a part of ordinary twenty-first century business practice, the message Australia has become part of, is the ‘stop factor.’ To be certain, the shutting out of Huawei is however, simply another sad reflection of what has gone before, and moreover the veiled racism it displays is not lost on non-Western nation-states. History has shown that the West does not take kindly to non-Western nations becoming too competitive, as per the British, Dutch and US forcing the shutting of trade with Japan after the Meiji Restoration (1895). These three Western nation-states were the ones that insisted Japan break its isolationism and trade with the West or risk being bombarded by a US navy ship. However, once Japan got ‘too good’ at mercantilism/trading, the West moved against it. This appalling treatment of Japan by the West would sow the seeds for the Pacific phase of WWII, and result in the deaths of millions of people.

The growing threat that China poses as the Vasco da Gama era—the West’s untrammelled control of the world and its resources—comes to an end, a much more cosmopolitan approach to international relations will have to become manifest as the dominance of the West is moderated. To some extent, the West will have to change its inculcated norms regarding the East and for Europe, considering its not  part of the A-P, it has time in its side and can approach the newfound loss of the West’s influence in a more surefooted way. This is not so for Australia, as it will be placed at the forefront of happenings; and will have to confront Chinese ambition head-on. At the present time Australia is a reactive, unfocused and policy-deficient nation-state in a region that is being overtaken by another actor and Australia is scrambling to play ‘catch-up’ rather than dispensing with the past; and reconfiguring the future. This state-of-affairs has not been lost on the CCP, nor has Australia’s history of ignoring its neighbours and it knows to force Australia into a decision will undermine clear thinking.


Beginning with diffusing the Huawei situation is to note Britain’s response to upholding transnational trade whilst moderating influence is to observe it only restricting access to specific components of the 5G network; and thereby, manage and mitigate any risks.[8]  Australia is reactive and not as nuanced and this too, is not lost on the CCP. The message that is being sent to China is a dyad: Australia does not have the expertise to mitigate the risk; and Australia remains obsequious and sycophantic to US demands regarding the ‘security network,’ of which Britain is part of. This is yet another example of and for Australia, and due to its appalling record in the region, that the ship of good representation has sailed.

When Australia should have been building hospital ships and creating meaningful diplomatic tenets and good governance hubs within Micronesia and Oceania consecutive governments were busy cutting aid budgets; and lecturing A-P countries about what Australia was doing for the region. Climate change is a good example of what Australia was ‘doing for the region,’ and who could forget the Honourable Minister Abbott and Dutton’s deriding comments about ‘rising sea levels in the Pacific,’[9]which would go on to reflect the level of concern Australia really has about its nearest neighbours; and how much it truly cares. One need only ask, is this a good way to make friends and influence people? More to the point and from a political cum diplomatic perspective, to think that the CCP does not understand the way in which Australia is viewed as suspicious in its intent within the A-P would be naive in the extreme—one need only observe the corrupt gas deal with Timor Lesté[10] to understand Australia’s level of ‘care’ in the region.

After the recent election which saw the Liberal/National Party Coalition being  successful, the prime minister scrambling to the Solomon Islands in his first overseas visit as the newly-elected prime minister, shows the newfound level of concern Australia has about its status in the region–and ‘panic mode’ would be an accurate summation of its disposition. However, it’s too late. It was Keating who told Australians’ that Australia was ‘part of Asia’ and its policies should reflect this. Instead, Australia has held on to its middle-power status and within this construct believed that it could never be disrupted. The unpalatable news for Australians is the PLAN has a plan for Australia and it comprises of, but is not limited to it being a major force on the part of the Chinese government’s disruption of Australia’s power in the A-P region; to shatter Australia’s middle-power status; to signal it will protect its assets with force if need be; and eventually, will demand that Australia declare whether it is ‘with China, or against it.’ For many more geo-strategic and geo-political reasons than those stated, these components will take another decade-plus to come to fruition for Australia, but they will come. Overall, what has happened however, is Australia—a developed, wealthy nation-state—has fundamentally ‘dropped the ball’ in the region due to consistent cutbacks in aid budgets; ill-thought through and reactive policies which severely impact on regional neighbours (such as talk about moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which created a political storm in Indonesia[11]); and a general lackadaisical approach to maintaining the true well-being of A-P nations.

And now China has ‘picked up’ where Australia should never have ‘left off.’ The Morrison government’s offer of an immediate 250 million dollar infrastructure investment[12] to the Solomon Islands is not because it genuinely cares about the A-P but is a reaction to its fear-base toward China; as is the upgrade to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Manus Island Lombrum Naval Base which is also underpinned by a concomitant ‘rising anxiety about China’s power in the region,’[13] and not by a genuine concern for PNG. Who would have thought after years of neglect by Australia that another nation-state would take our place?

Nation-states are and remain opportunistic as per the above-mentioned examples of the US, Britain and France and moreover, to think that the governments of PNG and the Solomon Islands are not aware of the core panic-based reaction of Australia also represents a non-acknowledgement of their politico-sophistication. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands should however, ponder one thing: if Australia slips into recession will the money actually arrive? This remains to be seen. What Australia needs to do is set about building constructive, meaningful and equal relationships, otherwise China will continue to step into the region. The PLAN ships have since departed, however the intent with which they came, remains.


[1] Andrew Green. ‘Chinese warships dock at Sydney’s Garden Island.’ ABCNews. 3 June, 2019.  https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-03/chinese-warships-enter-sydney-harbour/11172578

[2] ‘Chinese warships dock at Sydney’s Garden Island.’ ABCNews.

[3] ‘Chinese warships dock at Sydney’s Garden Island.’ ABCNews.

[4] ‘Chinese newspaper labels Bishop a ‘complete fool.’ SBSNews, 15 Jul, 2014. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/chinese-newspaper-labels-bishop-a-complete-fool

[5] ‘‘Hard power’ centres on military and economic power … .’ See: Joseph Nye. ‘Soft Power and European-American Economic Affairs.’ Hard Power, Soft Power and the Future of Transatlantic Relations. Edited by Thomas Ilgen. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006, 26.

[6] Whilst nationalism is a multifaceted and complex issue some aspects of its makeup include: ‘… sovereignty, legitimacy, participation in collective affairs, direct membership, culture, temporal depth, common characteristics and special histories.’  See: Craig Calhoun. Nationalism. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997, 4.

[7] ‘Strange things are afoot in the Strait of Hormuz.’ The Economist. 14 May, 2019. https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2019/05/14/strange-things-are-afoot-in-the-strait-of-hormuz

[8] Jack Stubbs and Kanishka Singh. ‘Britain does not support a total ban on Huawei: sources.’ Reuters. 18 Feb, 2019.

[9] Shalailah Medhora. ‘Peter Dutton jokes with Tony Abbott about rising sea levels in Pacific nations.’ The Guardian. 11 Sep, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/11/peter-dutton-jokes-with-tony-abbott-about-rising-sea-levels-in-pacific-nations

[10] Chip Henriss. ‘I thought Australia wanted to help East Timor, not take its oil.’ ABC News/The Drum. 23 Sep, 2015. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-21/henriss-address-the-oil-injustice/6790978

[11] Michael McGowan.  Q&A panel clash over moving Australia’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.’ The Guardian. 20 Nov, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/20/qa-panel-clash-over-moving-australias-israel-embassy-to-jerusalem

[12] Stephen Dziedzic. ‘Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledges $250 million dollars for Solomon Islands infrastructure.’ ABC News. 3 Jun, 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-03/scott-morrison-pledges-$250-million-for-solomon-islands/11172062

[13] Stephen Dziedzic. ‘US to partner with Australia, Papua New Guinea on Manus Island naval base.’  ABC News. 17 Nov, 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-17/us-to-partner-with-australia-and-png-on-manus-island-naval-base/10507658

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Dr Strobe Driver completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.


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Prepare for war

By RosemaryJ36  

Once (when?) our government acknowledges the existence of the climate emergency which is currently affecting our planet, we shall all need to be living under wartime restrictions and prohibitions.

I came to Australia at the beginning of 1971, so I have no first-hand knowledge of life in Australia during WWII, but I was 3 when that war commenced, and have many, very clear, memories of conditions in England during the war.

The population of the UK is large compared with its land area, so, unlike Australia, a very large proportion of its food is imported. A legacy of British colonisation was the importation of dairy produce and lamb from Australia and New Zealand and tropical fruits from the West Indies. With warships and U-boats prowling the oceans, transporting food from overseas, especially from the opposite side of the world, was scarcely viable, and the food restrictions included severe rationing of all basic foods, with powdered milk and eggs substituting for fresh produce.

Air transport was barely in its infancy and, in any case, the skies were alive with a very unfriendly collection of aircraft!

Just thinking of planes – we lived near what is now Heathrow Airport and a smaller Heston Airport was at the end of our road, so we were in a target area during the Battle of Britain! Not highly recommended for a peaceful life but a continuing reminder of the vicissitudes of war!

Back to the main theme – fresh fruit, other than seasonal fruits grown locally, were unavailable, and on two separate Christmases my siblings and I each found a mandarin, one time, and a pomegranate, the next, in our stockings – rare treats! In fact, in cookery at secondary school in 1947/48, we had to make a blancmange using cornflour, colouring and flavouring. I chose to use pink for colour and banana for flavour – never having seen one!

Manufacturing facilities were all geared to the war effort, so all paper was recycled. We were not issued with a replacement exercise book at school until we had both completely filled the old one – and not obviously torn out any pages for personal use! In pre-email days, a box of matching writing paper and envelopes was a precious gift! We even put aside Christmas and birthday wrapping paper to use again! Those were the days when normal parcels were tied up with brown paper and string and sealing wax!

Biscuits and loose sweets were in tin boxes and glass jars and the contents were weighed out and slid into paper bags. We are now paying a high price, in more than money, for the convenience of modern packaging!

Civilians accepted all the restrictions willingly – after all, our defence forces were putting their lives on the line, while we were simply inconvenienced!

Our car sat in the garage from 1939 to 1945 because fuel was not available for civilian use. Even after the war ended, petrol was rationed for a while. Consequently, bicycles, buses and trains were our only forms of transport in an urban setting. Additionally, because of the redirection of manufacturing to essential services, and defence force uniforms, civilian clothes, and fabrics for home dress-making, were also rationed. So, as a teenager, I had school uniform, something old to change into after school (so the uniform could last longer) and something fit to wear to Sunday School. Todays’ teenagers would probably rebel! The New Look after the war was over was the backlash to these restrictions!

We never went without essentials in my home, but we learned to be frugal and avoid waste. Growing up with restrictions, I took them for granted, but my mother had known better times and was very conscious of the limitations on life imposed by living in wartime conditions.

I learned many valuable lessons about the relative importance of various aspects of life, and to have to revert to restrictions on possessions and movement will be quite acceptable. But for many who have grown up in a more extravagant world, giving up privileges and accepting restrictions will be hard.

But if it is a matter of life and death, do you really have a choice?

I have put solar panels on my roof and am in credit with my power provider – and well on the way to recovering the initial cost! I try to limit waste and recycle all I can, but I suspect that much of what goes in the recycling bin does not get properly processed!

I think recycling is a national government issue and there needs to be much more coordination of policies and actions. The Australian State/Territory system has a lot to answer for on this one.

The Climate Emergency is a GLOBAL issue and requires cooperative action by national governments. Some will inevitably hold back, but trade may be a useful lever there.

We ALL need to accept that we are getting closer and closer to falling over a cliff edge which descends to an abyss.

If you have young children, grandchildren, great grandchildren – you cannot afford to stick with the status quo.

The scientists, and a growing number of civilians who are not wedded to greed and selfishness, know that we have nearly run out of time to change our policies to ones which will slow, stop and reverse the otherwise inevitable destabilisation of our ecosystem.

Species are disappearing at an accelerating rate but, sadly, the numbers of the most destructive species – mankind – are increasing at an unacceptable rate!

We don’t need to tinker at the edges of the problem but develop a whole new approach with unprecedented speed.

On ABC’s Q&A the other night, the CEO of CSIRO, Larry Marshall waved a piece of solar film – produced by a 3-D printer – which has been known about for quite some time but has received far too little publicity. There is much (sometimes ill-founded) criticism of solar panels and yet this alternative – which can be floated on water to keep the film cool AND reduce evaporation – could solve many problems.

We have so many solutions, and the potential for massive change, more readily available than we realise.

What we lack is both the motivation and sufficient willingness in those whom we elect to turn their backs on the fossil fuel lobbyists and embrace a Brave New World!

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This is my testimony. This is my life …

By Keith Thomas Davis  

My name is Keith. I am 66 years-old. I am a Survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I note with simple cold detachment that a certain Cardinal’s legal team is hoping to change his circumstances, and all of that will unfold as it will. Well I, and most other Survivors, would dearly love to see our circumstances changed too. We have to spend many years of our lives seeking any sort of release from the weight of Depression and PTSD that was foisted onto us by our clerical abusers. There is no early release for us.

I have lived each and every single day of my life, from 5 years old onward, surrounded by depression and a colossal case of PTSD. The memories of the cause never leave me. So from where I stand, a couple of months for some pampered bod in a pampered jail cell is but a picnic by comparison.

The photo is of me in 1979 … depressed for 22 years by that stage, and desperately trying to pretend otherwise. Today, 39 years later, I look at my eyes in that photo, and they say it bloody all.

Survivors. We are real people. We are far more than just a 5 second vignette tacked onto the sensationalist reporting of certain high-flying court cases. We live lives that have been greatly affected by the perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse.

Who are Survivors? We are you. At birth we had the same potential as you. The potential to do great things, or nothingnesses, or the myriad of things in between. And then something happened to us. And against our choice, we became not like you.

Have you ever really wanted to say something without fear staying your hand? Powerful protected voices tend to swamp ours out. Well, not this time.

I’m dropping the fear, and I’m going to rip it all out there as bare as I can, come what may. This document is the hardest thing I have ever written … and it is doubly hard to countenance the fact that what I relate below, my history and my life, is not at all unique … it is far from unique … because too many men, women, and children out there in our society have experiences similar to mine. What an appalling indictment of our society that is.

There are some inescapable truths about how our lives have been affected. Our voices are muted, rarely heard in full, so I would like to inform you about how it feels to be a depressed recipient of clerical abuse. It is not pretty, and the living of it has been even less so. Yet, I say these things without anger, and later on I’ll explain why.

Depression and PTSD are no laughing matter. They are a scourge. I would give anything to not be a lifelong expert in such matters. The following is written for other Survivors, for people with depression from other causes, and for people who are blessedly without it. I want to challenge, and inform. On the surface it might just appear to be my history, something that I have lived, but in truth it is an Everyperson Story, it is about all of us and the things that happen within our society.

Here’s what depression feels like to me …

“Depression is a right bastard. It clings to you with the holding power of ten tons of superglue. You can’t just simply flick it off. The air and the ground of the world you are trying to walk through, and exist in, is made of dense, restricting, molasses. You cannot push your way through, and every single step meets resistance. You cannot breathe with even a touch of ease. Despite the surface face-saving appearance of brave man, everything scares you and undermines the fragility of your self-worth. It affects every single facet of every corner of your life. It affects your ability to relate to your partner, your family, your children, your friends, your workplace, yourself, and every other person you meet. It stops you from trusting everything and everyone. And that’s how depression feels to me on a light day.

None of those words confront me anymore. None of them are a surprise. Their content has rattled around within me for the last 61 years. Those words have been my life, every one of those words has been my life. As measured by psychiatrists and psychologists my abuse experiences, and the resultant effects on me, fall at the extreme end of the spectrum. As measured by me, I agree with all of that, and then some. I’m not affected by flashbacks or nightmares largely because the memories of what happened to me are simply always there. It is not as if my sub-conscious has to search around for them.

I have no intention of going into the specific details of my abuse. It was sickening for me to experience them, their frequency was unrelenting, and it would sicken you to read about them.

Also, there are some areas I will not deeply share, but they are part of the cost. I have met some outstanding women in my life, and all of those relationships were lost. Not because any of us were unwilling or unloving. I can understand, now, that it is difficult to hang in there when either side could not effectively break through the veil of my depression.

I have three beautiful children. We all love each other, and we all struggle to communicate clearly across the gulf of my depression. To the end of my days I will never stop trying.

I have three siblings. A brother, and two sisters. I cannot reach them. Costs and abiding sorrows underscore the lives of many Survivors.

For the above three reasons, let alone the abuse, I will never forgive my abusers, but nor will I ever hate them. The negative of unforgiveness is balanced out by the positive of hatelessness. Neutrality. That’s the best I can do. I’ll run with that.

Until a decade ago, I’d lived all of my life acutely aware that things were simply not happy within me. I was too shy, and too reticent to engage in any meaningful way with other human beings. Despite my best efforts I could never successfully engage with the external world, and the people within it. On the surface I bumbled along and appeared to live a regular sort of life. It took an inordinate amount of nervous energy to maintain that illusion (I am sure many people can relate to that).

I started journalism at UQ and couldn’t complete it. I started computer science elsewhere, and couldn’t complete it. I started business studies at USC and couldn’t complete it. I wanted to become a professional man, and couldn’t attain it. I could not engage effectively with the external world. The smothering nature of my memories, my fear, and my agoraphobia won.

Back in the day, back in my day, abuse victims were not helped. We were seen as an embarrassment whose experiences were never to be talked about. The Priests on the other hand, were venerated. I left the orphanage thinking that all the years of torment had been my own fault, and therefore that deep underneath, I must have been a bad sort of person, even though in opposition to that my rational mind said that, no, I was not.

Well, surprise, surprise, hello … Depression and PTSD … they sprinted in my door like malevolent banshees and enveloped me for all of the years that were yet to come.

The kicker here is that I did not know that I was deeply depressed. I did not see the lack of drive and lack of spontaneity in me that others saw writ large. I did not like the memories that I had but I simply thought that … gosh … if this is life … then it sure as heck is one mountainous shit sandwich. I couldn’t understand why, if I was at least good enough to be admitted to various tertiary courses, I never seemed to be good enough to complete them. It was all so incredibly frustrating.

It is not exactly funny how it all works folks. When you are continually abused as a young child over many years you end up thinking that you are the one who has done something wrong or bad. You then carry that unfair legacy throughout your adult life. And you end up thinking that everyone can see this badness deep within you … even if the poor sods are only trying to say hello to you. If someone treats you badly you tend to absorb it and stay mute. You end up thinking that you are simply just not good enough. Ever.

At this point it would be so very easy to choose anger over love. It would be so very easy to spew out my anger over my lost life and the meagre sentences handed down to the pampered and protected clerical perpetrators – those beggars for early release. But no to anger I think, because it consumes, and because it widens the wounds. And no to anger I think, because it will not give me back lost time, it will simply add to the total of the loss. I choose to share a positive, even though it exists in a work-in-progress state.

I am just one voice, and there are so many more out there who have never been heard. I want the following to be of assistance to fellow sufferers. I want it to help. I want it to show that hope is possible, and that there are ways out. I also want the following to inform anyone who does not have depression but may be connected to someone who does. I could not have thought the below, or written the below, or experienced the below, without the dedicated help of some very gifted people.

When I was younger, I didn’t have the faintest idea that my depression and anxiety had become, by that stage in my life, permanently habituated. It took another 30 years before I developed the guts to even look at the issue of my depression. That’s the effect unremitting childhood abuse can have on a person, as I’m sure all too many of you out there know only too well.

A decade ago, life itself decided that I’d had a gutful. My whole being bloody well gave up on it all. I had a total breakdown, could not work, could not think, could not get up out of my chair, could hardly function. It led to years of unemployment and poverty. All the nervous energy that had so poorly sustained me for decades just simply ran out. I knew, finally, that I needed help. At that stage I was diagnosed with clinical depression, the permanent variety. That diagnosis was a red rag to a bull, it stirred something in the residue of my spirit, because stuff the Catholic Church I thought, if ever there is a time to fight it is now.

After a decade of hard and confronting work with therapists, psychologists, and one outstanding psychiatrist (albeit briefly), the veil and the weight of it all has lifted a bit. Joy, and love, and friendship, have managed to partially enter the room. During that decade I lived as an absolute hermit on an old farm. I had a couple of close friends, wonderful forgiving people, but generally people-avoidance was my go. However, I found a pathway out from the worst of it all. My submarine may still be wallowing slightly under the water, and that is the realistic truth of that, but my periscope at least has found a way to stick up into brighter clearer air.

What suggestions would I pass on to fellow sufferers of Depression & PTSD?

Because I have such a steel-trap of a mind, I had determined at some point that I would push through life and tackle the legacy of my abuse all by myself. Without help. Didn’t work out too well I must say.

Such an approach failed me each and every single second, hour, day, week, year, and decade, of my life. Until roughly a decade ago I was too proud, and too swamped (and what a deadly combination those two things can be) to seek help from Lifeline, Beyond Blue, RUOK, and all the other groups and therapists who exist out there to specifically help people like me.

I am grateful that I finally decided to seek help, and that help is ongoing, and I have accepted that I was simply incapable, 50 years ago, of dealing with the fact that I had endured years of unrelenting psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Back then it took all of my energy to keep the thoughts and memories buttoned down to what I thought was a manageable level. Truth is, nothing was manageable. Also, back then nobody really wanted to know because half a century ago you were supposed to just suck it up, and society was not geared to listen to you, or believe you. The better late than never scenario is indeed, in my case, a better late than never scenario. Thank the stars for that scenario I say.

But these days, in this modern era, people do listen, and people do believe. That didn’t save the younger me, but it opened up the possibility of relief for the older me.

So … quite clearly … don’t take the early advice I gave to myself. Don’t follow my early plan. It was a crap plan. My plan was an abject failure. It tied me to a half-lived life. Depression can become habituated to the extent that you end up thinking that it is just how life is. Well it is not how life is meant to be. Life can, whatever the limitations, be wonderful.

If you are a sufferer of depression, be different to me. Be faster than me. Be smarter than me. Start early with tackling your condition, and as hard as it is dive in and confront it, seek assistance. Good help, that works, is out there.

I am pretty objective about all of these matters. I’m not sorry for myself, whatever my limitations, and nor should you be. My old dog Zoe, a beautiful being who has dropped planet and entered Canine Valhalla, gave me mega-sympathy over the years of her life, often with undoubted cause. She didn’t judge me or ask me to spark up, she simply accepted me, and then accepted the dog biscuits in return with glee. She met all of my sympathy needs.

Writing, right now, about depression and PTSD, does not make me any braver than I normally am or not, and it does not make me any braver than you. Nor does it depress me any more than I am. I am well aware of what happened to me all of those years ago, I stuck it all on my table and had a good long hard look at it, and I am well aware, acutely aware in fact, of the legacy issues from that time that I still carry. A lot of sufferers carry these awarenesses and legacies. I simply hope that talking about my experiences, and about the sorely needed ray of light that has come in over the last decade, will encourage others in a similar situation to seek help.

In the end, what is it that I really want to say? Well, I understand that Depression & PTSD can be caused by many different circumstances and happenings in life. Mine was caused by childhood sexual abuse. That causality is native to me. Your causality is native to you, whether it be domestic violence, bullying, racial vilification, war memories, or something else. The absolute given, however, is the fact that depression does not differentiate on cause. If a situation opens the door for it, it will dive in with a bloody vengeance.

If your depression was caused by childhood sexual abuse, I cannot make any universal redress recommendations. We all have to look deep within before making that decision. All I can relate is that, since my perpetrators were long dead, I took legal action against the orphanage where I was domiciled, and against the Catholic Church. For me, their response to my legal action against them constituted yet another example of abuse. No surprise there.

If you, the readers of this, are blessedly free from depression, and have a friend or family member who is not … I implore you to do the following … understand them, love them, do not judge them, don’t tell them to just get over it, don’t walk away from or dismiss them, and use every fibre of your being to encourage them to seek help. You might be the one who makes a hell of a difference in their lives. It may end up being the best thing you have ever done.

To my fellow sufferers: I am a 66-year-old man. I’m a human being who has handled life as best he could. I’ve done some good things, and I’ve made my share of mistakes. I finally decided to tackle my lifelong unwanted gift of Depression & PTSD. It took hard work, and I will not kid you about that, and there is more work to come, and I won’t kid you or myself about that either … but it has enabled me to, after such a long time, and with some serious heavy-duty help along the way, again have at least some deep air in my lungs, and again have some joy, and some love, and some humour in my heart. I can now experience some forms of that thing called happiness. I wish the same, or much better, for you.

Summation: Survivors. We are real people, and we live our lives as best we can despite the limitations that were placed upon us. I believe that all Survivors are amazing people, living examples of the indomitable nature of the human spirit when faced with adversity. What I have written is not just about me, like all Survivors I’m a work in progress. It is about all of us. It is about our society and what happens within it.

Keith Davis is a citizen journalist. He is an implacable foe of social injustice, and he is a strong believer in the inevitable implementation of a Universal Basic Income in Australia. He has a varied background, including print media publishing, not-for-profit group administration, and Indigenous sector project management. He fully supports the notion of Treaty. He writes from the heart, believes that whimsy and thoughts out of left-field have at least as much power as logic and reason, and does not limit himself to any one particular topic or theme.

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A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 7)

By Dr George Venturini  

Poverty is defined by the British government as ‘household income below 60 per cent of median income’. The median is the income earned by the household in the middle of the income distribution.

In the year 2004-2005 the 60 per cent threshold was worth 183 pounds (AU$273, then) per week for a two adult household, 100 pounds (AU$150, then) per week for a single adult, 268 pounds (AU$400, then) per week for two adults living with two children, and 186 pounds (AU$278, then) per week for a single adult living with two children. This sum of money is after income tax and national insurance have been deducted from earnings and after council tax, rent, mortgage and water charges have been paid. It is therefore what a household has available to spend on everything else it needs.

One should consider also that there are basically three current definitions of poverty in common usage: absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion. ‘Absolute poverty’ is defined as the lack of sufficient resources with which to keep body and soul together. ‘Relative poverty’ defines income or resources in relation to the average. It is concerned with the absence of the material needs to participate fully in accepted daily life. ‘Social exclusion’ is a new term used by the British government. Prime Minister Cameron described social exclusion as “… a shorthand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown.”

But there are also other recognised forms of poverty, such as 1) water poverty, which is defined by the government as spending more than 3 per cent of disposable income on water bills. Nationally, in 2006, nearly 10 per cent of households were in water poverty.  2) fuel poverty, which applies to a household which struggles to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost. The most widely accepted definition of a fuel poor household is one which needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on all fuel use and to heat the home to an adequate standard of warmth.

Defining the ‘poverty line’ as those individuals and households with incomes less than 60 per cent of their respective medians, in 2009-2010 the percentage of the population living in relative poverty stood at 17.1 per cent – before housing costs, and 22.2 per cent – after housing costs. As a result, 1) 17-18 per cent of the population are found to be in poverty at any one time consistently, from 1994-2004; 2) in 2003 to 2004, 21 per cent of children lived in households below the poverty line. After housing costs are taken into account, this rises to 28 per cent; 3) 3.9 million single people in the United Kingdom lived below the poverty line in 2005. Many of these people are divorced women; and 4) nearly 60 per cent of those in poverty were homeowners.

According to a recent study by four scientists of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and their report which was supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the latest year of data available through the methodology of the Households Below Average Income system, despite falls in Gross National Product and employment, average take-home incomes continued to grow in 2009-2010. Median equivalised income in the United Kingdom grew by 0.9 per cent, from 410 pounds (AU$612 – in 2010) per week to 414 pounds (AU$618 – in 2010) per week – both in 2009-2010 prices, whilst mean income grew by 1.6 per cent, from 511 pounds (AU$763 – in 2010) to 519 pounds (AU$775 – in 2010).  Taking the period from 1996-1997 to 2009-2010 as a whole, median equivalised income in the United Kingdom grew by about 1.6 per cent per year while mean income grew by 1.9 per cent per year, on average.

In 2010 a Eurostat report estimated that 17.1 per cent of Britons were at risk of poverty, after social transfers were taken into account.

In the then latest year of available data, income inequality was largely unchanged, and it remained steady from the beginning of the recession. Looking over that during 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, there has been growth across much of the income distribution, with the highest at the very top and relatively robust growth at the bottom of the income distribution – likely to reflect real-terms increases in benefits and tax credits seen over the periods. Those in the middle of the distribution saw relatively little growth.

Considering the 13-year period of Labour government as a whole, income inequality has increased. However, this increase in inequality is much smaller in magnitude than the rise in inequality which occurred during the 1980s. Moreover, inequality would have increased still further without the discretionary changes to taxes and benefits made by Labour during its 13-year period of government.

The most widely-watched measure of relative poverty in the United Kingdom is the proportion of individuals with household incomes below 60 per cent of the contemporary median. In the  year 2009-10, the number of individuals living below this poverty line fell by 500,000 measuring incomes before housing costs but was unchanged measured after housing costs.

While Labour was in office, headline rates of relative poverty fell from 19.4 per cent in 1996-1997 to 17.1 per cent in 2009-2010 before housing costs and from 25.3 per cent to 22.2 per cent after housing costs. These falls in poverty were not continuous; poverty generally fell up to 2004-2005, rose for three years in a row and then fell again during the recession up to 2009-2010.

A Child poverty strategy laid out the government’s proposals for meeting the 2020 targets for the ‘eradication’ of child poverty. It emphasised increasing employment through welfare reform and additional childcare, and reductions in education and health inequalities. It also introduced a number of new indicators which would have been  tracked in addition to the legislated income-based targets. There were sensible reasons for broadening measures of poverty beyond those based purely on income. However, it was doubtful whether these policies would have been enough to meet the extremely ambitious targets, particularly given the significant cuts to benefits, tax credits and public service spending planned in the years ahead.

There is no question that the Cameron government’s commitment to austerity opened a path to pain and stagnation to the poor of the United Kingdom. They would have been forced to suffer through years of unnecessarily high unemployment. They would also have had to endure cutbacks in support for important public services like healthcare and education.

For a while, it looked like things were going just as standard economic theory predicts: the economy is slowing and unemployment is likely to rise. Maybe the British populace would have tired of the rhetoric of austerity as a way to make politicians ‘feel good’ about tightening other people’s belts. Maybe the Liberal Democrats – it was hoped – would have broken away from the Coalition and forced new elections.

The conclusion appeared quite clear: austerity does not work and should not be tried.

By mid-October 2011 unemployment in the United Kingdom had jumped to its highest level since 1994, with young people hit hardest as private companies failed to make up for job losses in the public sector, piling pressure on the government to boost a stagnant economy. The government was quick to blame the rise in unemployment to 2.57 million on the ‘Global Financial Crisis’ and the Euro zone turmoil. But calls for it to ease its austerity plans increased as fears of a ‘lost generation’ of young people without hope of a job were growing. Economists also warned that people should brace for more bad news as employment numbers tumbled at recession-style rates. Deep cuts in state spending would eliminate more than 300,000 public sector jobs in coming years. Less than a week after the Bank of England launched a fresh round of stimulus to prevent a recession, the bank’s leading economist told Reuters news agency in an interview that the economy was likely to weaken further in the final quarter of 2011. The Office for National Statistics informed that the number of people without a job on the International Labour Organisation measure jumped by 114,000 in the three months to August 2011 to 2.57 million, the highest total since October 1994.

By October 2011 the jobless rate hit 8.1 per cent, the highest since 1996.  Youth unemployment rose to 991,000, its highest since records began in 1992, driving the jobless rate among eligible 16 to 24-year-olds to 21.3 per cent. The number looked set to exceed the psychologically important 1 million mark. The government had been banking heavily on private firms to provide enough jobs to make up for the losses of public sector jobs, but economists said the drop in employment was worrying. The number of people in work had plunged 178,000 in June-August, the biggest drop since mid-2009 and the kind of decline which previously had only been seen during recessions.

Unions seized on the dire numbers to mount a fresh attack against the government. They charged that in the middle of the worst international recession for 80 years the government itself was creating unemployment with 250,000 public sector posts already gone and still more to come. Clearly the government policy was hurting and not working.

The Coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats wanted to boost growth through lower corporate taxes, fewer labour market regulations and other supply-side measures. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne had also announced a scheme to funnel loans more directly to credit-starved smaller firms, though this plan may not have taken effect any time soon.

Meanwhile the Bank of England had swung into action and begun to pump an additional 75 billion pounds (AU$112 billion – in 2012) into the economy in order to prevent a renewed recession. But doubts remained over whether this would be enough of a boost for the economy, which had barely grown over the previous year as consumers faced a combination of soaring prices, higher taxes and slow wage increases.

The Office for National Statistics’ figures showed that real incomes were still falling as pay increases fell even further behind inflation rates of nearly 5 per cent. Average weekly earnings including bonuses grew by 2.8 per cent. Analysts had forecast a rise of 2.9 per cent. Excluding bonuses, earnings rose only 1.8 per cent, below analysts’ forecasts of 2.0 per cent.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation survey, Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2011, published at the end of 2011, revealed the terrible scale of entrenched poverty in the United Kingdom.

The Rowntree report was based on data collected by the Department for Work and Pensions for 2009-2010, the latest year for which full data were available. Rowntree’s previous report, from 2008-2009, found that 13.5 million people – 22 per cent of the population in the United Kingdom – lived in poverty. The Rowntree figures revealed that in the 2009-2010 period, 22 per cent of the population were still officially living in poverty. The report also deducted housing costs and housing benefits from household income, and factored in the numbers, and ages, of people living in a household. On this basis, after taxes and housing costs had been deducted, 60 per cent of median income was calculated at 124 pounds (AU$185 – in 2012) per week for a single adult and 214 pounds (AU$320 – in 2012) for a couple with no children. It stood at 210 pounds (AU$314 – in 2012) for a single parent with two young children and 300 pounds (AU$450 – in 2012) for a couple with two young children.

The level of ‘deep poverty’ – household incomes of less than 40 per cent of the median – was also very high, with 10 per cent of the population affected. Poverty among children stands at 29 per cent and for old age pensioners at 16 per cent. The majority of people in poverty in Britain today are not those forced to live on lower than subsistence level welfare benefits, but are part of growing number of ‘working poor’.

The Rowntree report found that “Among working-age adults in poverty, 53 per cent live in working families (that is, either they or their partner are working).” Since 2001-2002 the increase in the number of working-age adults in poverty was 2 million. In 2009-2010 the number of working-age adults in working families who were living in poverty stood at 4 million.

Millions of children continue to live in poverty. In 2009-2010, 2.1 million children, more than half of all children in poverty, were living in working households. Child poverty was set to soar as a result of the austerity measures being imposed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government. The Exchequer’s own figures were drawn up after Chancellor George Osborne’s autumn budget statement acknowledged “an estimated increase of around 100,000 in 2012-13” in the child poverty figure. The government then attempted to claim that the Consumer Price Index rate of inflation was currently higher than the growth of average earnings, asserting that increasing benefits by the C.P.I. rate of inflation would eventually cause child poverty to fall.

This manipulation of figures was challenged by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which confirmed that up to 100,000 more children would be pushed below the poverty line as a direct result of government policies.

Another study by Rowntree, published in October 2011, forecast that a further 700,000 children would have been pushed into poverty by 2020. The latest Rowntree report detailed the devastating extent of underemployment and unemployment in the United Kingdom. As a result, “in the first half of 2011, some 6 million people in the UK were underemployed. This had changed little from 2010. Underemployment had not been this high since 1993.”

Unemployment rose markedly since the period analysed by Rowntree, when 2.5 million people were officially unemployed. In the three months to October of 2011 unemployment hit its highest level since 1994, when it shot up by 128,000 to 2.64 million.

By the end of 2011 the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development think tank warned that unemployment would have continued to rise to 2.85 million in 2012, stating that the private sector would not have been able to offset the 120,000 jobs set to go in the public sector. However, the C.I.P.D. report appeared to be wildly optimistic, as its figures were premised on there being no widespread new job loss losses in the private sector and a “relatively benign outcome to the euro zone crisis.”

According to official figures, up to 710,000 public sector jobs would have been lost by 2017. Tens of thousands of people had also been arbitrarily deprived of unemployment and disability benefit payments.

Rowntree’s study examined the scale of ‘fuel poverty’ in the United Kingdom, which had risen drastically over the previous decade. The report stated: “The proportion of households who struggle to keep their homes warm has risen for all tenure types since 2003. That year, around 6 per cent of all households were in fuel poverty.” Furthermore, “By 2009 18 per cent of all households, and 21 per cent of those in rented accommodation (social or private), were in fuel poverty. This threefold increase is the steepest of any indicator in this report. In 2009, some 4 million households were in fuel poverty.” This figure was superseded by the huge growth in ‘fuel poverty’, from nearly one in five households in 2010 to one in four in 2011. According to a contemporaneous report by statutory consumer body Consumer Focus, a quarter of all households in England and Wales had fallen into ‘fuel poverty’. The government had previously forecast that 2011 would have seen 4.1 million households in the United Kingdom in ‘fuel poverty’, but the Consumer Focus figures revealed that there were already more than 5 million households in ‘fuel poverty’ in England alone.

In 2012 millions more people would have been thrown into poverty due to the more than 2.5 billion pounds (AU$3.8 billion – in 2012) of reductions to tax credits, which top up the income of low income families. It was forecast that 2012 would have been the year cuts bite deepest.

Low-to middle-income households would have received 56 per cent of all tax credits in cash terms and would be hit disproportionately. A couple with two children and an income of 40,000 pounds (AU$ 60,000 – in 2012) a year would have seen their income fall by 8.9 per cent in 2011 and 2012, and by 14.5 per cent by 2013-2014.

At the beginning of 2012 some of the poorest areas of the United Kingdom, between 40 and 50 per cent of children lived in poverty, with areas of London featuring heavily. The situation has hardly changed for the better.

The ‘Child Poverty Map of the UK’ classified poverty as families claiming out-of-work benefits or in-work tax credits where income is less than 60 per cent of the median – in 2012 £25,000 a year. It might have slightly increased, but – presently – that would be the equivalent of AU$44,627 (as at 30 June 2018). At below 60 per cent of the median income, material deprivation leads to families struggling to meet basic needs like food, heating, clothing and the extra costs of schooling such as school trips.

After housing costs, household bills and general family spending needs will have to be met by approximately £12 (AU$21.42 as at 30 June 2018) or less per family member a day. For those families on benefits, this figure can be substantially less.

It is estimated that, today still, four in ten children are in poverty in 19 parliamentary constituencies, with 50 to 70 per cent of children facing poverty in 100 local wards.

London has some of the most deprived areas. Tower Hamlets borough, with a population of some 250,000, is the worst affected, with 52 per cent of children living in poverty. Islington is at number two, with Hackney, Westminster and Camden also in the top 10.

In other parts of the United Kingdom, such as Belfast West, Birmingham Ladywood, Liverpool Riverside and all stand at or above 46 per cent in terms of child poverty.

Manchester came out as third worst in the country, with the Manchester Central constituency recording a child poverty level of 49 per cent. In Manchester overall, 40 per cent of children are living below the poverty line.

In Scotland, the Springburn area of Glasgow has 52 per cent children living in poverty, and 44 per cent in the northeast area of the city.

Campaign to End Child Poverty executive director Alison Garnham said, “The child poverty map paints a stark picture of a socially segregated Britain where life chances of millions of children are damaged by poverty and inequality.”

Poverty will shorten lives. It is estimated that a boy in Manchester will live seven years less than a boy in Barnet and a girl from Manchester is expected to live six years less than a girl from Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster. Poor children are born too small, with low birth weights associated with infant death and chronic diseases in later life. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to leave school at sixteen with fewer qualifications. Two per cent of couples and 8 per cent of single parents are not able to afford two pairs of shoes for each child.

Continued Saturday – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 8)

Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 6)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy 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.


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The battle for the killer slogan

By Ad astra  

I could commence this piece by debating why slogans influence voters, no matter how tiresome, no matter how monotonous. But why bother? We know they work. Why bother to question their use, or scorn those who use them? It is surely more practical to examine how to use them creatively. This piece is just the beginning of the search for the killer slogan.

Recall how potent was Tony Abbott’s ‘Axe the Tax’. Remember how Julia Gillard’s ‘price on carbon’ was twisted into a ‘carbon tax’ by Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin, who later admitted that was what they did quite deliberately, knowing how mendacious that was, and how lethal that misrepresentation would be. Reflect on how the ‘carbon tax’ slogan changed the meaning and intent of Gillard’s ‘price on carbon’, demonised it, killed it, and eventually her prime ministership too.

The obvious truth is that these tiny sound bites are easy to remember. As you read this, stop for a moment to recall Abbott’s three word slogans. It would be surprising if you did not remember: ‘Axe the Tax’, ‘Repay the debt’, ‘Stop the boats’, and ‘Stop the waste’.

Over and again PM Morrison used two key slogans: ‘Jobs and Growth’, and ‘Building our Economy, Securing our Future’. They captured important elements of LNP policy. His oft-repeated homily: ‘If you have a go, you’ll get a go’, while superficial, even folksy, had popular appeal. To bolster the LNP’s economic credentials, Morrison and Frydenberg cheekily coined: ‘We’re back in the black’ although a surplus is still years away, adding their own brand of alliteration: ‘We’re back on track’. It was a smart, although dishonest slogan.

The LNP’s negative slogans were even more powerful, reinforcing what pollsters have peddled for years, namely that the public believes that the LNP is a better manager of the economy than Labor. ‘Labor can’t manage money, so Shorten’s coming after yours’, ‘The Bill Australia can’t afford’, and ‘Paying off Labor’s debt’, hit their mark powerfully. Morrison hammered the line: ‘There’s a big price for changing government’, and reverting to John Howard’s ‘Who can you trust’ meme, assailed us with: ‘Who do you trust to manage a $2-trillion economy.’ and ‘Who do trust to keep the budget in surplus?’

Do you remember Bill Shorten’s prime slogan for this election: ‘A fair go for Australia’? It was appropriate, as a ‘fair go’ is a central element of Labor’s belief system, but why not ‘A fair go for Australians’, or better still ‘A fair go for all Australians’, or even better ‘A fair go for you?

More powerful were his: ‘Everything is going up, except your wages’ and the lines about Liberal cuts. His negative slogans though did cut through when he referred to the Coalition’s ‘Chaos and division’ and ‘A coalition of creeps, crackpots and and cranks’, contrasting it with his ‘united party’.

Somehow though his slogans lacked potency. They fell rather flat, delivered as they were without the verve they deserved. He might have had more impact had he spoken the words he used at the May 30 Labor Caucus meeting: “We are the party of progress, we are the party of reform, we’re the party of the big picture, the party that champions the big changes.”

Anthony Albanese made a good start at his address to Caucus”Labor is not just a political party; Labor is a movement for a better Australia.”  The statement has both punch and depth.

As commentators responding to the election analysis How, Why? suggested the piece should have had a go at creating some slogans, here it is.

Initially I searched Wikipedia for Labor’s slogans. I found a list, but it is at least ten years old. Take a look at the list. How many are still in use? Most are union slogans. Many would now grate on voters.

So let’s start with some contemporary ones with a positive tone. None though had the potency of Gough Whitlam’s ‘It’s time’, although Labor did try to evoke the memories of that 1972 election.

I invite you to add your own slogans in ‘Comments’. I’ll send them to Albo as our contribution to the next election.

Labor wants a fair go for you.
Labor wants a fair go for all.
Labor wants all Australians to share this country’s wealth.
Labor wants prosperity for everyone, not just a few.
Labor wants a better deal for the next generation.
Indigenous Australians deserve the same as other Australians.
Indigenous Australians must be lifted out of poverty and disadvantage.
Indigenous Australians deserve respect and recognition as the nation’s first people.
Indigenous Australians must be recognized in our Constitution.

Everyone is entitled to secure employment.
Everyone is entitled to satisfying employment.
Everyone is entitled to decent wages.

Let’s get wages rising again.
Corporate profits are soaring; let’s lift wages too.
Let’s encourage large and small business to expand.
Labor is ‘business friendly’.
Business builds our nation’s prosperity.
Employers and employees together will build a better Australia.
Restore Victoria’s fair share of federal infrastructure funding

Stop wage theft by greedy employers.
Stop employers cheating you by not paying your superannuation on time.
Restore penalty rates.

Everyone is entitled to a safe workplace.
Everyone must be able to come home safely.
Every family deserves to have loved ones come home from work unharmed.

Labor will increase childcare funding and gives a fair go to millions of households.

All school leavers deserve to get a good job
All school leavers deserve a good education and sound training for work.
All school leavers deserve a place at university or TAFE.

Everyone deserves a financially secure retirement.
Everyone deserves reliable superannuation.
No one should be in poverty after retirement.

Everyone deserves high-quality health care whenever they need it.
All Australians deserve affordable, accessible health care.
Good healthcare for all.

Everyone deserves decent end-of-life care.

Everyone is entitled to a clean, unpolluted environment.
Our children must be able to inherit a sustainable planet.
We owe it to our children to clean up pollution and preserve our country and all its precious assets.

Farmers need security of water supply, protection against adverse conditions, guaranteed markets, and financial security

Overseas trade must be promoted and preserved.
Trading tariffs and regulations must foster international trade.
Trade barriers must be reduced.

Let’s now try a few negative slogans.

First, avoid reference to ‘The top end of town’
Avoid slogans that disparage business, executives, and shareholders.
Use instead: Labor encourages all who seek to become shareholders.
Shareholders are the backbone of Australian business.

Here are some personal slogans that might strike a chord.
Go slow Scomo
Slomo Scomo
Can Slomo do it?
Where’s your miracles, Scomo?
Morrison, show us your miracles.

Here are a few pointed ones aimed at Coalition behaviour:
The Coalition looks after its masters.
He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Big coal calls the tune.
Big business calls the tune.
One Nation and the United Australia Party call the Coalition tune.

Here are some that aim at Coalition weak spots:

Will the Coalition protect our planet?
Will the Coalition save the Barrier Reef?
Will the Coalition stop rising sea levels?
How will the Coalition tackle droughts, water shortages, land degradation?
How will the Coalition manage threats to endangered animals and species?
Will the Coalition reduce carbon emissions, not just talk about it? How?
Emissions are still rising. How will the Coalition stop them?

Will the Coalition stop pollution by plastics? How?
Will the Coalition clean up Australia? How?
How does the Coalition intend to reduce pollution?
The Coalition says it’s serious about promoting renewables. Show us how.

If you’re interested in the slogan game, you may find this reference of interest:
It’s time to unpack this election’s campaign slogans by Judith Ireland, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald of May 7.

Let’s leave it here. It was not my intention to provide an exhaustive list of slogans, but simply to suggest where a start could be made. Those listed above are only examples. There are many other areas that lend themselves to telling slogans.

Please add your own slogans in ‘Comments’ below. I’ll forward them to Albo. Every slogan we can send him will contribute to success in 2022.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword – ‘Like’ this page to receive notification on your timeline of anything they post.

There is also a personal Facebook page:
Ad Astra’s page – Send a friend request to interact there.

The Political Sword also has twitter accounts where they can notify followers of new posts:
@1TPSTeam (The TPS Team account)
@Adastra5 (Ad Astra’s account)

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Calls to challenge the Christian crusade

Brian Morris asks several pertinent questions: “Where is the challenge to an increased Christian influence in politics? What role does mainstream media play in shielding religion? And has the atheist voice been silenced on contesting Christian provenance?”

Tim Wilson is now the Liberal member for Goldstein, but when he was appointed Human Rights Commissioner, in February 2014, he launched a program that now seems out of control. There was considerable doubt about why Wilson pushed so hard for his Religious Freedom Roundtable – primarily for church leaders. It was founded on dubious evidence, and his motivation remains unclear.

Since then, “Freedom of Religion” has morphed into a mantra across all media – and, more recently, has become weaponised by militant Christians. One clear example is the Israel Folau imbroglio that now seems destined for the High Court. Some even suggest there’s an interesting confluence of events.

At face value, “Religious Freedom” is a mere motherhood statement – an innocuous cliché that no one cares to malign. But the temperature has risen markedly since same-sex marriage was legalised. That led to Philip Ruddock’s Religious Freedom Review which incited more frequent rants by angry Christians who demanded even greater sacred privileges – and further inflamed by Folau’s sacking from the ARU.

With Scott Morrison’s re-election – and bolstered by his much vaunted Pentecostal credentials – the Religious Right are in full cry. Of course, it remains to be seen what Morrison’s signature legislation – a Religious Discrimination Act – will actually deliver. But the PM has made it clear he is on a crusade for more protection of Christians, to codify exemptions, push the LNP agenda of more religion in schools.

Religion in schools? Why are we still teaching kids they’re “sinners”, only redeemed by Jesus Christ? Malleable young minds become imbedded with supernatural beliefs which greatly limit their ability to think critically. Growing up to believe all life’s answers are in one book – the Bible or Quran – is divisive. It breeds intractable views that place faith over facts, denies science, and inhibits social progress.

So where is the non-theist viewpoint in all of this?

Typically, the nation’s non-religious citizens are denied any real opportunity to publicly ask serious questions. Such as; “where is the balancing voice of reason – across all mainstream media – that seeks to challenge this current religious overreach; and which increasingly influences the political process?

Alarmingly, an opposing voice is the crucial element that’s missing from this one-sided campaign for religious freedom. Media outlets are mute and seem oblivious to the 78 per cent of citizens who have stated – in a 2016 Ipsos poll – that they want “religion to be removed from the business of government.

So the problem of ‘religion in politics’ applies equally to the media

Where – during the five years of ramping up this Religion Freedom mantra – have we heard clear and articulate atheist voices calling into question the excesses of Christian doctrine?

Mainstream print and electronic media are indeed culpable. They seem to be phased into acquiescence when Christians claim “persecution” by imaginary detractors from the left. The age-old taboo of not questioning religion has been reasserted. There seems to be a predominant view that “being more tolerant of religion” means avoiding even the most basic questions of current Christian motives.

Who can name one media outlet where an identifiable atheist or secular voice has been consistently heard – whether through radio, TV or print? The media know who all the pro-secular groups are, but never call. Media releases are ignored, and worryingly, journalists “unsubscribe” from circulation lists.

Why is that? Do we now have a media problem – similar to that of religiously influenced parliamentarians? Do newspaper editors – or radio and TV producers and presenters – feel it is much safer simply to avoid a possible backlash from Christian militants in their audience?

Christianity has an entirely flawed foundational history. Countless historians, biblical scholars, archaeologists, anthropologists and a dozen other science disciplines have written a complete and comprehensive library-load of books which provide irrefutable evidence of religious fabrication.

No one is trying to take away the “personal and private” faith of those who remain religious – but there is a serious problem here. In this evidence-based 21st century we still provide excessive privileges to religions based on myth. With arcane dogma, they hold political sway to block a raft of social issues; abortion, assisted dying, and push legalised discrimination and tax breaks that are beyond all reason.

Religious schools can freely discriminate against LGBTI students, and hold a Sword of Damocles over the heads of teachers and staff who are divorced, de-facto or gay.  Alone, Catholic education run 1,700 schools with more that 60,000 teachers – all of whom must subscribe to the school’s faith and ethos.

Since when are there such disciplines as Catholic maths, science or technology? Why are secular teachers denied employment, on the basis of religious ethos? And why, in these religious schools, do we still teach children the Christian myths of Moses, of Noah, and a plethora of historical inaccuracies – which include fables and alleged exploits of Jesus of Nazareth? It amounts to intellectual child abuse.

Public education was, for a hundred years, “free, compulsory and secular.” But the influence of church hierarchies on successive governments has meant that these same Christian myths are carried in to public schools by 3,000 chaplains whose fundamental Christian calling is to “make converts.”

Weekly Special Religious Instruction (SRI) is conducted by openly evangelical churches, and fostered by governments in every state. Why is this so? The mission of these evangelists is to give children “a sense of purpose and meaning to life, through Jesus Christ.” If parents are so determined to have their kids indoctrinated they should do it at home, not through evidence-based education in public schools.

Religion has been given far too much latitude by politicians and media executives – many of whom are devoutly religious, or influenced by their religious education; underpinned by Christian myths. It is this grounding in faith that perpetuates the centuries-old taboo not to question religion – to maintain a tradition that seeks to malign and condemn those who challenge these fabricated “biblical truths”.

Where are the more rational politicians and media executive to give greater “balance” to questions that probe the provenance and authenticity of all religion? It is these same legitimate inquiries that remain camouflaged by the seemingly innocuous campaign for Religious Freedom.

In this era of fake news and political spin it is increasingly relevant to examine all religious doctrines that mislead and harm so many, and which continue to divide societies. Science has exposed many fictions of Christianity but they continue to be spread by endless media programs, commentary, and apologists.

Where, one may ask, are the clear secular voices to temper these religious excesses? The rationalists to convey evidence from academics, scientists and historians – and for atheists to publicly debate and question the foundational myths of Christianity. It is an urgent call – in a supposedly enlightened era – for equal media access to articulate the case of “freedom FROM religion”.

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


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A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 6)

By Dr George Venturini  

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Hanover-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, later Windsor (since 1917), and later still Battenberg (since 1947) in the part of Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of the United Kingdom and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, had officiated in Perth, Western Australia on 28 and 29 October 2011 for the 22nd Commonwealth tournée. The year after, she was preparing for the 23rd show which would take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 15-17 November 2013.

Elizabeth II is also Queen of Australia, of former Dominions such as Canada, New Zealand, as well as villes du plaisir et de débauche for the privileged such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, and fortunate places such as Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu, in each of which she is represented by a Governor-General. Elizabeth II holds a variety of other positions, among them Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, and Paramount Chief of Fiji. Her Majesty is also styled Duke of Lancaster, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of many of her realms, Lord Admiral of the United Kingdom, Defender of the Faith in various realms for differing reasons.

Neither Elizabeth II nor her husband (and second cousin once removed as well as third cousin – and that may go a long way in explaining Prince Charles and much of the other progeny), Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg known as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, would take part in the tournée, as they had done in Australia in 2011 at the declared cost – according to the Australian government – of AU$58 million. The Queen would try to survive on a meagre disbursement of 35 million English pounds, having recently obtained a rise of 2 million pounds for her services – essentially for doing nothing. One of the Queen’s functions is that of supporting a large and expanding entourage of social parasites.

The wealth of the ‘Windsors’ remains a deep mystery, on which one could only speculate. A lot of reports surfaced that the Queen and the Royal Family are worth billions, although clarifications have been made that much of the privileges enjoyed by Her Majesty, including living on palaces and castles such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, using the Crown Jewels and hundreds of priceless paintings, are held in trust for the state. She could use them but she could never sell them. But, with or without these, Queen Elizabeth II is a very, very wealthy woman. The quantification, which follows, would remain uncertain. Maybe it is intended to be part of the glamour of the monarchy – glamour in the Scottish sense of magic spell, incantation.

However, before entering such mystery it may be worth considering some of the conditions of the United Kingdom in 2012 – the year of the Diamond Jubilee, and for that to take a look at the beginning of life – in childhood, and toward the end of it – as pensioners, and the governing poverty of both times.

The United Kingdom is a ‘developed’ country with comparatively large income differences; those at the lower end of the income distribution have a relatively low standard of living. However, the severe privations of those in the developing world are scarcely to be seen due to the more advanced social infrastructure – health services, welfare and so on. Discussions surrounding poverty in the United Kingdom tend to be of relative poverty as well as absolute poverty.

In the early 1950s it was believed by numerous people that poverty had been all but abolished from the United Kingdom, with only a few isolated pockets of deprivation still remaining.

Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree chose a basic ‘shopping basket’ of foods – identical to the rations given in the local workhouse, clothing and housing needs – anyone unable to afford them was deemed to be in poverty. By 1950, with the founding of the modern welfare state, the ‘shopping basket’ measurement had been abandoned.

The vast and overwhelming majority of people which fill the government’s current criteria for poverty status have goods unimaginable to those in poverty in 1900. Poverty in the ‘developed’ world is often one of perception; people compare their wealth with neighbours and wider society, not with their ancestors or those in foreign countries. Indeed this is formalised in the government’s measure of poverty. A number of studies have shown that though prosperity in the United Kingdom has increased, the level of happiness people report has remained the same or even decreased since the 1950s.

Over the course of the Fifties and Sixties, however, a ‘rediscovery’ of poverty took place, with various surveys showing that a substantial proportion of Britons were impoverished, with between 4 per cent and 12 per cent of the population estimated to be living below the Supplementary Benefits scales.

In 1969 Professor A. Atkinson stated that “it seems fair to conclude that the proportion of the population with incomes below the National Assistance/Supplementary Benefits scale lies towards the upper end of the 4-9 per cent.” According to this definition, between 2 and 5 million Britons ere trapped in poverty. In addition, some 2.6 million people were in receipt of Supplementary Benefits and therefore living on the poverty line. This meant that at least 10 per cent of the population were in poverty at his time.

In their 1965 study on poverty, The poor and the poorest, Professors Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend decided on measuring poverty on the basis of the Supplementary Benefit scales, plus 40 per cent. Using this poverty line, Abel-Smith and Townsend estimated that some 14 per cent – around 7.5 million of Britons lived in poverty, i.e. on incomes below 14 per cent of the Supplementary Benefit scales. Abel-Smith and Townsend also estimated that since the mid-Fifties the percentage of the population living in poverty had risen from 8 per cent to 14 per cent.

In 1972, 12 per cent of British households lived in houses or flats considered to be unfit for human habitation.

In his seminal work Poverty in the United Kingdom – published in 1979, Townsend suggested that 15 million people lived in or on the margins of poverty. He also argued that to get a proper measure of relative deprivation, there was a need to take into account other factors apart from income measures such as peoples’ environment, employment, and housing standards.

Another study on poverty estimated that 9.9 per cent of the British population lived below a standardised poverty line in 1973.

During the late Sixties and Seventies, progress was made in reducing the level of post-war poverty and inequality. Based on various measurements, however, the number of Britons living in poverty rose significantly from 1979 to 1985. The number of Britons living in poverty – when defined as living below the Supplementary Benefit level – rose from 2,090,000 to 2,420,000 during that period, while the number of people living in poverty when defined as living on or below the Supplementary Benefit level rose from 6,070,000 to 9,380,000. Using a poverty measurement of living at 140 per cent of the Supplementary Benefit level or below, the rise was alarmingly higher, from 11,570,000 to 15,420,000.

Figures from the European Commission estimated that from 1975 to 1985 the number of people living in poverty had doubled in Britain, from just over 3 million to 6.5 million. In 1975 the United Kingdom had fewer people living in poverty than Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg. By 1989 Britain had a higher poverty than each of these four countries. In 1989, 12 per cent of the United Kingdom population was estimated to be living in poverty, compared with 7.2 per cent in Belgium, 7.4 per cent in the Netherlands, 7.9 per cent in Luxembourg, 8.5 per cent in Germany, and 11.7 per cent in Italy.

From 1979 to 1987, the number of Britons living in poverty – defined as living on less than half the national average income – doubled, from roughly 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the whole population. In 1989, almost 6 million full-time workers, representing 37 per cent of the total full-time workforce, earned less than the “decency threshold” defined by the Council of Europe as 68 per cent of average full-time earnings. In 1994, 76.7 per cent of all part-time workers earned less than this threshold. From the late Nineties onward, however, poverty began to fall steadily, helped by policies such as big increases in national insurance benefits and the introduction of the national minimum wage. Using the 60 per cent of median income after housing costs poverty line, the percentage of the British population living in poverty rose to 25.3 in 1996-1997, compared with 13.7 in 1979. From 1997-1998 to 2004-2005 – using the same 60 per cent of median income after housing costs measurement – the percentage of the population living in poverty fell from 24.4 per cent to 20.5 per cent.

Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed in 1999 to cut child poverty 25 per cent by 2005, 50 per cent by 2010 and to eradicate child poverty completely by 2020. The Labour Party website stated: “In 1997 Labour inherited one of the highest rates of child poverty in Europe – with one in three children living in poverty. Our mission to abolish child poverty is grounded both in our determination to secure social justice, and to tackle the problems that the social exclusion of children builds up for the long-term. Work is the best route out of poverty and our successful welfare to work measures have lifted millions out of poverty including disabled people, who have too often previously been consigned to a life on benefits. At the same time, millions of families are benefiting from the Child tax credit, the Working tax credit, and record rises in Child benefit.”

A 2000 report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated that 4 million people lacked access to a healthy diet, while a review of European Union food and health policies estimated that food poverty was far higher in the United Kingdom than any other E.U. member state.

Poverty rose again from 2005-2006 onward, reaching 22.5 per cent of the population in 2007-2008, before falling again to 22.2 per cent in 2008-2009.

The 2005 Labour manifesto stated: “[Since the Labour government came to power in 1997] there are two million fewer children and nearly two million fewer pensioners living in absolute poverty.”

In a report covering only the east of England, the Foundation found that in 2004-2005, 22 per cent of children in the east of England lived in families on low incomes. This compares to the 26 per cent of children in low income families in 1998-1999, showing child poverty had been reduced. The Foundation noted that the government had missed its official target of reducing child poverty by a quarter between 1998-1999 and 2004-2005.

In late November 2006 the Conservative Party garnered headlines across the press when a senior member spoke out on poverty. The headlines began when then Opposition leader David Cameron’s policy adviser and shadow minister Greg Clark wrote: “The traditional Conservative vision of welfare as a safety net encompasses another outdated Tory nostrum – that poverty is absolute, not relative. Churchill’s safety net is at the bottom: holding people at subsistence level, just above the abyss of hunger and homelessness. It is the social commentator Polly Toynbee who supplies imagery that is more appropriate for Conservative social policy in the twenty first century.” This was followed two days later by Cameron saying that poverty should be seen in relative terms to the rest of society, where people lack those things which others in society take for granted, “those who think otherwise are wrong … I believe that poverty is an economic waste, a moral disgrace. … We will only tackle the causes of poverty if we give a bigger role to society, tackling poverty is a social responsibility … Labour rely too heavily on redistributing money, and on the large, clunking mechanisms of the state.”

The Liberal Democrats held the view that Labour: “must completely overhaul the weapons it uses. The way in which tax credits and benefits are being used, with little or no attention paid to housing, health and education, is creating a state of dependency. The Government must fundamentally rethink how it tackles child poverty. Gordon Brown’s unwillingness to admit and address failures in the tax credit system is undermining the wider aims of the Government. We now have a system where two million people face an effective tax rate above 50 per cent. A single mum on minimum wage can receive just 36p per hour. If we are to truly create opportunity for all we must make work pay. Although the Government has had some success, particularly in reducing the number of children in poverty, they have already missed their first target by some 300,000.”

Continued Wednesday – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 7)

Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 5)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy 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.


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Post-Election Trending Issues: Lagging Australian Investment in Both Public and Private Sectors

By Denis Bright  

In our predominantly private sector economy, the trend-lines in commercial investment help chart the way forward against the much-publicised headwinds at home and abroad.

ABS obliged with the release of the March Quarter Data for Private Capital Expenditure on 30 May 2019 based on the usual survey of a representative sample of business ventures, large and small (ABS 5625.0):

The investment trend-lines varied across different sectors of the Australian economy as reported in the ABS notes on the new data.

By asset type, the trend estimates for buildings and structures fell 1.4% while equipment, plant and machinery rose 0.4%. The seasonally adjusted estimate for total new capital expenditure was down by 1.7% in the March quarter 2019.

The bright spot was investment in plant and machinery which was assisted by investment write-offs from the 2018 budget which are to be extended in the current financial year.

The significance of last week’s data was re-enforced by the release of the National Accounts for the March Quarter on 5 June 2019.

The National Accounts data adds a snapshot of the components of the +0.4 per cent change to seasonally adjusted GDP in the March Quarter. This would have been a good discussion starter if released during the recent election campaign.

GDP data was kept out of negative territory in the March Quarter 2019 positives for both Government Final Consumption Expenditure (GFCE) and Household Consumption (HFCE) and a very favourable growth in the Export Sector on the back of improved terms of Trade which rose by 6 per cent over the previous year in seasonally adjusted terms.

There was scant evidence of the vibrantly strong economy which had been the keynote of the LNP’s election rhetoric.

Public sector investment (GFCF-Pub) had been stoked up in previously published quarterly data.

Ironically, the alleged spending excesses of state and territory governments made their own contribution to the trend-lines in consumer expenditure in the March Quarter. Somewhat concealed in the mix for the March Quarter was the continued decline in private sector investment (GFCF-Priv) which should be the forte of any centre-right government in command of the economic agenda.

Greg Jericho’s articles in The Guardian (4-6 June 2019) interpret trend-lines in annual rates of Private New Capital Expenditure.

There is a well-argued case for stoking up ailing private sector investment in Australia.

Greg Jericho is positive about new capital expenditure for 2019-20 for 2019-20.  Time will tell if the projected 21 per cent increase in new capital expenditure eventuates in this era of trade war between the two global economic superpowers with its inevitable impact on Australia.

Our middle-sized economy has a stake in both sides of the trade war era. China and her key Asian trading partners are our major source of net commodity and service export income. The US is the major source of net overseas investment and the protector of the stability of the existing Australian economic model rather than a dynamic source of sustainable growth and economic diversification which might be fostered by closer ties with Asia.

Speaking from London, Prime Minister Morrison was well aware that a real problem exists now that the election results are almost finalised (Jacquelin Magnay in the Australian Online 5 June 2019):

Scott Morrison has warned trade conflict between the US and China is testing the global trading system and putting prosperity and the living standards of billions of people at risk, just hours before meeting US President Donald­ Trump at D-Day commem­orations in Britain.

Ahead of a series of meetings with British counterpart Theresa May and Mr Trump, the Prime Minister said the global trading system was under real and sustained pressure and the US and China were testing the system as never before.

Despite the time lags in the data available on the RBA Charts now available for June 2019, it is surely Net Capital Inflow for new investment which is the emergent weak-spot in the Australian economic perspectives.

Our situation is summed up in The Conversation on 20 May 2019:

Usually, it’s Labor that inherits an economy turning down. This time, it’s the Coalition. And because of regular updates from the Reserve Bank and the Bureau of Statistics strikingly at odds with their public position that the economy is strong, they ought to be finely attuned to it.

Economic growth, the catch-all that is supposed to show us where the economy has been and where it is headed, is frighteningly small.

The Treasury’s best estimate of potential growth – how strongly the economy could be growing over time if things were well managed – is 2.75% per year.

The reality, for the two most recent quarters for which we have data, is 0.3% and 0.2%.

While new overseas investment can make a positive contribution to our investment short falls, a progressive Australian government should be critically aware of the limitations of resource commitments to projects like the ADANI mine or reliance on investment from the US and UK Military Industrial Complexes as agendas for positive change.

Australia will not diversify into a global financial hub by directing more public resources to negative gearing of real estate investment or share market wagers that offer cash-back for retirees and others.

Let’s hope that the current global trading problems foster a more independent spirit from LNP leaders who are temporarily in control of the policy levers.

In his address to the Australia-UK Chamber of Commerce on 4 June 2019, Prime Minister Morrison offered support for investment of $30 million by the Scotland’s Brewdog in a new plant in Brisbane.

Cheers to Queensland’s place in a new beer-led recovery as Brewdog joins Carlton and United, Tooths, Tooheys, Castlemaine Perkins, Tasmanian Breweries – which was Boags and Cascade, Coopers, South Australian Brewing, Swan and Courage.

As Brewdog expands its international operations, let’s hope that the federal LNP will now take-up the firm’s commitment to a living wage for its enthusiastic employees (Brewdog Online 2019):

We are seeking people with a true passion for craft beer and a recognition that their fellow students deserve better. You’ll be the creator of great ideas, amazing activations and will be happy to get your hands dirty to ensure every job is 100% complete and nailed on.

In return, we’ll pay you the Living Wage for your hours worked (plus National Insurance contribution if you are over 21). We will also supply you with merch and clothing to look the part, a discount in our BrewDog Bars, and another kind of study to do – we’ll support you in taking the Cicerone® Certified Beer Server Exam.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a structuralist perspective.

Feedback is encouraged from political insiders with specialist knowledge of the issues raised in the article while I am in Southern Europe for a month or so from 17 June 2019.

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No time for wusses

By Grumpy Geezer  

“I like fighting Tories, that’s what I do.” Anthony Albanese 2012.

In response to the electorate’s recent vote to continue drinking from the toilet the Tories have smugly rolled out the clichés – we should respect the umpire’s decision, they have a mandate and the people have spoken. Bollocks to that!

I will invoke the words of a great man, spoken after he was overthrown by a born-to-rule conspiracy – “maintain your rage.” After more than two decades of Tory torpor Gough Whitlam was enthusiastically elected to implement a progressive agenda, the execution of which may have been flawed in some respects but which nevertheless transformed Australia into a fairer, far more civil society – one that was anathema to the Randesque ideologues in the Liberal (sic) Party and their fellow travellers. They thought of Whitlam’s government as a short-term anomaly to be righted (pun intended) at the first opportunity.

44 years later, after six years of calamitous Tory incompetence and nastiness and following their campaign of lies and misinformation, there is no way I will accept this current claque as legitimate and I will not be nice to those who do.

“She already told me that she doesn’t have to be nice, so why do I? Because my mother raised me right? That’s why wolves always win. Because the rest of us mind our manners and get devoured for our efforts.”
Sheryl J. Anderson, Killer Cocktail

To reflect Ms Anderson’s sentiments – fuck you, Fauxmo; and the donkeys you rode in on!

Many folk complain about the lack of civility in political discourse from the pollies, the pundits and the peripheral participants. Such folk should recall Tony Abbott during his stint as Leader of the Opposition. Celebrated by the Tories as the most successful ever LotO he slid into government through his junkyard dog tactics of deceit, negativity, invective, hypocrisy and lies.

Shoutyman Morrison enthusiastically embraced that low road. With nothing else to sell our marketing man took Kill Bill on a solo tour. Civility, mannners, respect? Phffft!

In contrast Bill Shorten tried the polite and measured approach during the election campaign, resisting the temptation to remind Australians of how that pineapple suppository got where it is. And look how well that magnanimity served him – straight back to Opposition.

Politics has always been a dirty game but the Liberal Party under Abbott drafted new rules of engagement – the gutter is their chosen battleground where decorum and decency are entirely superfluous.

Negotiating with despots

It’s not possible to negotiate with nutters or appease bullies, any concession is seen by the autocrats as a weakness to be exploited. Their zero-sum mindset has one winner – and it aint you or me.

Appeasement is surrender. It didn’t work for Neville Chamberlain and it sure didn’t work for Malcolm Turnbull whose obsequience to the Chief Despot Il Douche Dutton got him a shiv in the ribs. For bullies and tyrants to rule they must exploit fear; ethics and scrutiny are to be eliminated, and if there is one stand-out personification of the creeping evil of neo-fascism it is the potato-headed autocrat Peter Spud-Dutton. An empathy-free zone with all of the charisma of genital warts Spud is the best illustration of why playing nice has no part in our political discourse circa 2019.

Herr Kipfler and the Potato wedge

Spud is the best worst example for why progressives must not be conciliatory nor impersonal. His tools of trade are hate and fear, his tactics are the dog-whistle and the wedge. He has neither the wit nor the subtlety to carry it off unnoticed yet the Opposition decided that timidity was its best option for avoiding his blatant attempts at wedging. They waved through the draconian legislation that now clearly undermines our democracy and freedoms.

Dutton, as a result, got an increase in his electoral margin and has returned to his role as poster boy for the elated right-wing nut jobs now shaping the L/NP agenda. (Once that thin veneer of post-election gloss wears off Scotty you best be careful).

A compliant media gets bitten on the arse

For six years the L/NP dodged scrutiny with its “look, it’s Labor” dissembling and obfuscation – taking their behaviour as an Opposition into Government. A complacent and compliant media went along for the ride giving a free pass to a declining economy, corporate crime, a degraded environment and social disharmony.

The ABC was cowed into submission by constant attacks, becoming a timorous shadow of the once honourable organisation that held governments to account.

And in a truly ironic case of misplaced schadenfreude a journalist from the L/NP propaganda machine Newscorpse was raided by the Australian Federal Police Farce – the Gestapo of Spud’s private legion of spooks and door-breakers. The indignation of News’ L/NP groupies provided a level of grim lampoonery.

The goon squad trading as the AFP has all of the credibility of the Keystone Cops. A bought and paid for apparatus of the Lib surveillance state they somehow managed to lose the paperwork when “investigating” Michaelia Carcrash on the AWU raids tip-off. In raiding the ABC and a News journalists they are complying with standard practice – hounding sources of information that embarrass the conservative Government, intimidating potential whistle-blowers and keeping the L/NP free from scrutiny.

Dutton, ex-copper from Queensland, is resurrecting the Bjelke-Petersen-era police state cheered on by the Party nutters who’ve slipped through the crazy filter. Bullies are cowards and this platoon of poltroons is scared of accountability. Their incompetence and failures and their lack of courage is supplemented by their conviction that they have a right to rule and no obligation to serve.

A compliant and complicit mainstream media has gotten a loud wake-up call. Will they respond or will they hit the snooze button? Will a complacent public shrug this off? I’m betting they will and I will not be polite in calling out those of that kind of my acquaintance, and in less than courteous terms. This is a government for gormless dullards, the tremulous, the authoritarians, the weak of mind and dull of eye, the indifferent and the stupid.

It’s not my government. Fuck that!

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer (www.geezerspot.com).


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Controversy sells

By Matty Clarke  

Recent raids by AFP were touted as a attack on the press recently about the 2017 articles by both Newscorp and the ABC, that come from leaked documents on Tuesday. The media had a field day linking the raids to other serious incidents of restrictions of press freedoms in Australia, as well as other conspiracies about orders from Liberal politicians to silence journalists.

What the media did was blow the matter out of proportion to sell more news. When the allegations first surfaced the military took swift action launching a review. One of the key points of the investigation was that SAS were being operationally over-used in place of standard military units in an attempt to keep casualties down, but had the opposite effect which resulted in a change of strategy within the military in Afghanistan and other theatres of war.

The Australian Federal Police were referred the matter and began their own investigation as to whether their was a breach of national security and for warrants to be issued by a judge. The AFP had to have sufficient evidence that a crime had taken place.

Is it possible that the documents were stolen from the military rather than leaked by any military personal? The raids were classed as a breach of national security under the official state’s secret act, so this seems a highly logical probability. In the AFP statement they underlined the fact and the referral wasn’t just from one agency head but two, warranting a serious investigation into how the documents came into media hands.

Matty ‘The Fighting Roo’ Clarke


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The Coalition can’t manage money

By Ad astra  

The Coalition can’t manage money. No, that’s not a misprint. The conventional wisdom, peddled by the Coalition, aided and abetted by opinion polls that always rate the Coalition ahead of Labor in managing the economy, is that ‘Labor can’t manage money’. During the election campaign, that was echoed endlessly by PM Morrison, Treasurer Frydenberg, and sundry other Coalition advocates in parliament, in the mainstream media, and on social media.

Of course, during the campaign truth was irrelevant to the Coalition. It followed the oft-quoted dictum attributed to Joseph Goebbels: ”If you tell a lie often enough the people will believe it, and the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed”. As the people already believed that ‘Labor can’t manage money’, it was a simple line for the Coalition to parrot day after day, knowing their supporters would, like kittens, lap it up like warm milk.

The Coalition constantly ignores the verifiable fact that Labor’s agenda of bank guarantees and a graduated fiscal stimulus rescued us from the dangerous depths of the Global Financial Crisis. It did this more efficiently than any other developed country. And it did so against the resistance of the Coalition, which vigorously opposed the second tranche of the stimulus that it labeled as ‘reckless’. So much for its claim of financial wisdom!

Let’s look at the Coalition’s economic record.

Writing in Crikey, Politics editor Bernard Keane neatly sums up the Coalition’s legacy in Australia’s lost decade beckons as productivity, investment and wages slump. I have drawn heavily on his article, which is well worth a thorough read.

He begins: ”Australia now has a real productivity crisis. So where’s the wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanied the fake crisis claimed to have happened under Labor? In a damning report, the Productivity Commission’s latest examination of the economy reveals that Australia has endured six years of poor productivity growth and wage stagnation, and slumping investment augurs poorly for a recovery any time soon.”

The Commission’s 2019 Productivity Bulletin itemises an alarming policy failure since 2012. Productivity levels are falling in crucial industries with no end in sight to the chronic wage stagnation that has frustrated workers since 2013.

Keane spells this out in Wages are going nowhere. And the entire governing class is to blame. The Productivity Bulletin confirms that the labour productivity surge under the Rudd-Gillard governments has been replaced with an extended period of declining productivity under the current government, with it not merely well below long-run levels, but falling every year between 2015 and 2018.

Take a look at Table 3.1 of the Bulletin. (As it’s a long pdf file, search for ‘Table 3.1’.) You will see that every wage measure shows a decline over the six years that the Coalition has been in power.

Keane continues: “Accordingly, it offers no hope to workers that wage stagnation, predicted by Treasury and the government to vanish over the next two years, will end any time soon; the only comfort is that over the long-run, the Productivity Commission thinks that it’s ‘improbable’ that wage stagnation will get much worse over the course of the next decade. Australian workers must be weeping with gratitude.

What’s fascinating is that there was an alleged “productivity crisis” when Labor was in power, with acres of commentary in the media, economists and even the Productivity Commission, often on the purported failings of the Gillard government and the Fair Work Act and how to fix them.

Keane concludes: ”That ‘crisis’, it turned out, didn’t exist, as Treasury itself confessed years later. Not merely does it now appear that the Labor years saw a big lift in productivity from the depths created by WorkChoices (which Treasury famously warned Peter Costello would harm productivity) but that it has been replaced under the current government by a very real ‘productivity crisis’ of the kind business and the commentariat whipped itself into a frenzy over eight years ago – one with no end in sight.

Now we have the Reserve Bank cutting the official cash rate to 1.25%. RBA governor Philip Lowe commented that …“while the outlook for the global economy was ‘reasonable’, the risks stemming from the trade war between China and the US, and weak international trade growth, prompted the bank to cut.” He said the Australian economy was still expected to grow by about 2.75 per cent in 2019 and 2020, but there was still uncertainty about the prospects for household consumption, “affected as it is by a protracted period of low income growth and declining housing prices. Some pick-up in growth in household disposable income is expected and this should support consumption.”

The New Daily quoted BIS Oxford Economics’ head of Australia macroeconomics, Dr Sarah Hunter: The cut “confirms that in the RBA’s view the economy has slowed down over the past six months. Despite employment figures continuing to lift, weak income growth and the ‘negative wealth effect’, where people tighten their spending due to devaluation of their assets due to falling house prices, are both bad signs for the economy.”

Writing in Crikey on 5 June, Keane spells out the situation even more stridently: ”The need for stimulus for the so-called ‘strong economy’ was demonstrated three hours before the bank cut rates yesterday when the Australian Bureau of Statistics released April retail sales data. That showed a surprising fall of 0.1% (the market had been expecting a 0.3% rise). Worse was what is happening in NSW, where retail sales fell 0.4% in seasonally adjusted terms. And the decision was confirmed by today’s GDP numbers, showing the economy grew a miserable 0.4% in the March quarter, mainly because of government spending, bringing annual growth down below 2% to 1.8%, its lowest levels since the aftermath of the financial crisis. There was better news on the current account deficit: the March quarter deficit fell sharply, thanks to the highest trade surplus ever recorded in a quarter. That added 0.2 percentage points to the GDP data and pushed our terms of trade up 3.1%, on top of the same in the December quarter, thanks to higher iron ore prices and the slightly weaker dollar.”

In case Coalition members had missed the bad news, and still could not see how poorly it had managed the economy, in an article in ABC News, ominously titled Australia’s economy slows to levels last seen during the GFC, business reporters Stephen Letts and Michael Janda rammed home the message: “Australia’s economy has slowed further, with GDP growth tumbling under 2 per cent over the past year. The economy grew at 0.4 per cent in the first three months of the year, to be up 1.8 per cent over the year – the slowest growth since the September quarter in 2009.”

Although his neoliberal-minded colleagues were furious at the rate cut, Treasurer Frydenberg applauded it, and insisted that the government is augmenting the bank’s monetary stimulus by providing fiscal stimulus, namely tax cuts and building infrastructure. In contrast, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers pointed out that “…if the Liberals were doing such a great job managing the economy, the Reserve Back would not have had to cut rates today to get the economy moving again.” Take your pick.

So there you have it. Only one-eyed Coalition supporters could construe the deteriorating state of our economy as somehow acceptable, as having nothing to do with the stewardship of the government. Instead, they will likely insist that the Coalition knows what it’s doing, has everything under control, and that we’re all doing fine. They will extract any morsel of ‘good news’ from the economic data to bolster their conclusions.

They will go on insisting that ‘The Coalition is the superior economic manager’, although the evidence inexorably leads to the conclusion: The Coalition can’t manage money.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Is it not time for all to unite to combat the climate emergency?

By RosemaryJ36  

The school children’s March 4 Climate managed to garner the headlines for a while but there are still too many adults who accuse the parents as being responsible and claim the children don’t know what it is all about.

Greta Thunberg proves that is far from the case, but surely it is now past time for the adults to take the stage?

Social media makes it clear that there are diverse groups which are all active in campaigns to raise awareness about climate change/global warming, fracking, coal mining, underwater exploration for oil, pollution, out of control emissions of greenhouse gases etc.

This article is addressed to a few of them.

Is it not time for them all to unite?

I presume there are Environment Centres in all states and territories, just as there are EDOs across the country.

GetUp! is a bit on the nose so might need to take a back seat, but the other major organisations already campaigning for action should, IMHO, all join forces in a major and continuing campaign.

We have to counter the arguments that Australia alone will make little impact on the world scene – which totally discounts significant efforts elsewhere which are already bearing fruit.

We have to get on board the growing number of corporations which are already uneasy about the future in the absence of serious efforts to change current practices affecting the climate emergency.

We have to highlight the likely costs associated with future severe and catastrophic weather events, with lives lost, and the associated likelihood that insurance will cease to be available.

We need to emphasise the effects on increasing numbers of displaced people from low lying areas which face inundation.

Many medical groups would be on board, particularly on the grounds of health effects of atmospheric pollution.

Too many governments are only thinking in sound bites and time spans between elections.

Every day which goes by without taking action makes a thoroughly inauspicious outcome more likely.

But I fight a losing battle trying to arouse my own family!

I am also deeply concerned that the USA has a President who believes climate change is a hoax, China is clearly more interested in ruling the world than in saving it and Russia is controlled by a man who is blinkered against all concerns except the need to retain power.

I don’t know, as a single civilian, how best to attack this problem but I am sure there are many among you who do.

I am sure methods would include coordinated demonstration all round the country, mail and email campaigns directed at governments at all levels and possibly strikes, particularly among essential services!

I am not seeking personal glory, but I do hope for action in the immediate future. I have 3 great grandchildren, all under 10 years old!

We have not been helped by the fact that self-interest has resulted in our electing an Australian government which is deaf to all scientific arguments – despite the fact that Exxon and Shell have known the facts for almost 3 decades!!

What action can we jointly take to greatest effect?


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A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 5)

By Dr George Venturini  

Rarity is the principal cause of the value of diamonds. Intrinsically, they are but carbon. The word diamond, the hardest known natural material, derives from the ancient Greek αδάμας – essentially, ‘unbreakable’. Diamonds are thought to have been first recognised and mined in India, where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could be found many centuries ago along the rivers Godavari, Krishna and Penner. Diamonds have been known in India for at least 3,000 years but most likely 6,000 years.

Diamonds have been treasured as gemstones since their use as religious icons in ancient India. Their usage in engraving tools also dates from early human history. The popularity of diamonds has risen since the 19th century because of increased supply, improved cutting and polishing techniques, growth in the world economy, and innovative and successful advertising campaigns. In the 21st century, experts in gemmology have developed methods of grading diamonds and other gemstones based on the characteristics most important to their value as a gem. Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are now commonly used as the basic descriptors of diamonds: these are carat, cut, colour, and clarity. A large, flawless diamond is known as a paragon.

The production and distribution of diamonds is largely consolidated in the hands of a few key players, and concentrated in traditional diamond trading centres, the most important being Antwerp, where 80 per cent of all rough diamonds, 50 per cent of all cut diamonds and more than 50 per cent of all rough, cut and industrial diamonds combined are handled. This makes Antwerp a de facto ‘world diamond capital’. Another important diamond centre is New York City, where almost 80 per cent of the world’s diamonds are sold, including at auction sales. The De Beers company, as the world’s largest diamond miner holds a dominant position in the industry, and has done so since soon after its founding in 1888 by the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. De Beers owns or controls a significant portion of the world’s rough diamond production facilities, mines and distribution channels for gem-quality diamonds. The Diamond Trading Company is a subsidiary of De Beers and markets rough diamonds from De Beers-operated mines.

Marketing has significantly affected the image of diamonds as a valuable commodity.  N. W. Ayer & Son, the advertising firm retained by De Beers in the mid-20th century, succeeded in reviving the American diamond market. And the firm created new markets in countries where no diamond tradition had existed before. N. W. Ayer’s marketing included product placement, advertising focused on the diamond product itself rather than the De Beers brand, and associations with celebrities and royalty. Without advertising the De Beers brand, De Beers was also advertising its competitors’ diamond products. The campaign lasted for decades but was effectively discontinued by early 2011. De Beers still advertises diamonds, but the advertising now mostly promotes its own brands, or licensed product lines, rather than completely ‘generic’ diamond products. The campaign was perhaps best captured by the slogan “a diamond is forever”. This slogan is now being used by De Beers Diamond Jewellers.

It is particularly from Africa and Asia in the 1700s and 1800s that such riches came, by way of tributes from local potentates to the ultimate divinely-descended-Being in London. There, one could see – on payment, of course – the famous Crown Jewels. There, one can see the Cullinan, also known as the Star of Africa. And there is the Koh-i-noor; rumoured to have been found in Afghanistan, not far from the Indian border, once owned by the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Mughal Emperor Sha Jahan. It was at one time – before the discovery of the Star of Africa – considered the largest diamond on earth. Both of the world’s largest diamonds are parts of the Crown Jewels. After Queen Victoria’s death the Koh-i-noor was set in Queen Alexandra’s brand-new diamond crown, with which she was crowned at the coronation of her husband, King Edward VII. Queen Alexandra was the first Queen Consort to use the diamond in her crown, followed by Queen Mary and then Queen Elizabeth. India has claimed that the diamond was taken away illegally and it should be given back to India. When the Queen made a state visit to India marking the 50th anniversary of Independence in 1997, many Indians in Britain and in India, including several Indian members of parliament, demanded the return of the diamond. It remains in the Tower of London. The nations of Africa, devastated and scattered across the globe by the slave trade until 150 years ago, and then exploited by a company such as De Beers – particularly during the Apartheid regime that it supported – receive not a penny as ‘royalty’ from that exhibition.

On 20 November 1947, when Elizabeth married Philip, and despite the gloomy atmosphere of austerity and restraint, or perhaps because the public needed a public celebration, there was little resentment of the enormous expenses involved. The wedding dress, designed by Norman Hartnell – the British fashion designer who had become Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Her Majesty The Queen in 1940, and would subsequently be Royal Warrant as Dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II since 1957 – was studded with ten thousand pearls. The couple were showered with priceless jewels: a hoard of rubies from Burma; emeralds and diamonds from British Columbia; uncut diamonds from South Africa; and similar presents from all over the then still British Commonwealth. Individual admirers also sent lavish gifts of jewellery – among them a single 54 carat uncut diamond. The late Queen Mary gave the couple the gifts she had herself been given fifty-five years before, including a diamond tiara of inestimable worth from Queen Victoria and priceless diamond brooches which had been given to her by a Maharajah, when India was still the Pearl of the Empire. King George VI gave Elizabeth and Philip hundred-year-old earrings which featured every cut of diamond and flawless antique pearls once worn by Queen Anne.

It is not known – perhaps the Queen herself may not know – how many carats of diamonds she owns/holds. What is known is that the diamond market price has considerably increased recently, in fact by 20 per cent in 2011.

Since the mid 1950s the wholesale price of a one carat diamond has soared from AU$2,600 to AU$27,940, a significant gain on an investment if fortunate enough to have been gifted a few gems in 1952.

The Cullinan diamond weighed in at a staggering 3,106.75 carats. It was presented to King Edward VII and was eventually cut into nine stones, seven of which will be on display as part of the celebrations this summer. The largest, which is mounted in the royal sceptre, is 530 carats.

So, perhaps, a series of new meanings should be given to the word diamond in the hands of the head of the Battenberg-Windsors: such as their self-defined word ‘proper’, the word ‘unalterable’ – meaning by that sclerotic, the ‘unbreakable’ grasping of the English monarch and her Family, the ‘untamed’ greed which characterises The Firm, along with the other word of threat and intimidation, for which the Greek original word could readily be translated into: “I tame” or “I overpower.” Because nothing in this obsession for owning precious stones could explain, let alone justify, the profligate use of public money and the indifference to suffering of the people – in Little Britain as well as in the countries from which such stones were originally taken.

In the end the possession of so much tells quite a lot about the owners; it certainly brings to mind the notion of hypocrisy, a hypocrite being – in Ambrose Bierce unforgettable definition – “one who, professing virtues that [she] does not  respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what [she] despises.”

This state of affairs is particularly grave if one considers the enormous, personal, other wealth of the Queen, her disposal of public property – often intermingled with State property, and the profligacy of the members of The Firm. Elizabeth II is the Queen of Diamonds – par excellence.

For days in 2012 the British public was subjected to saturation coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

This diet of carefully choreographed royal propaganda, which included minute-by-minute coverage of 1,000-boat pageant on London’s river Thames and an official pop concert at Buckingham Palace, ensured that any serious news was all but excised.

The mounting economic crisis in Europe, the death of another British soldier in Afghanistan – the 417th to have died since the 2001 invasion, were reduced to footnotes.

The tens of millions of pounds spent on the Jubilee was in stark contrast to the demands of the ruling élite that working people – the target of the most severe austerity measures since the 1930s – were expected to make ‘sacrifices for the good of the nation’. And the real cost of the celebrations, including the extra public Bank Holiday, is still not known.

Much of the expense was assigned to ensure a security lockdown of London. For the Thames Pageant event alone, 13,000 security forces were mobilised, including members of the Royal Navy and Marines, as well as police officers.

Over the previous month, London’s 40 square miles had been systematically swept by security forces, including police frogmen carrying out an underwater search of the Thames, to counter the so-called “terrorist threat”. This is in addition to the biggest mobilisation of the armed forces in London since the second world war, already in place in the run-up to the Olympic Games.

The pop concert organised outside Buckingham Palace plumbed new depths of sycophancy and deference. Performing were multi-millionaire musicians including Elton John, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, in an anticipation of Trumpian reality TV.

In the process of these celebrations, all manner of the crimes of British imperialism were brushed under the carpet. In May, the Queen hosted a tea party of international Sovereign Monarchs to celebrate her Jubilee. Amongst the attendees were the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, fresh from their bloody repression of opposition protests in Bahrain.

At the 23 May Royal Academy ‘Celebration of the Arts’ event to commemorate the Jubilee, Bono, lead singer of rock band U2, thanked the Queen for her reign and visit to Ireland the previous year. This is the same band whose 1982 recording of the ‘Sunday bloody Sunday’ song – about the slaughter of thirteen innocent people in Derry in 1972 by the occupying British army – was rated as one of the best political protest songs of all time. Donald Trump, where are you?

What exactly was being celebrated here? A proven real estate dealer such as Trump would understand what follows:

  • According to a 2012 report by Brand Finance – which “specialises in Brand Valuation and the valuation of Intangible Assets”, the tangible assets of the Royal Family, including the Duchy of Cornwall with around 133,658 acres, over 23 counties, were worth an estimated £18 billion (AU$32,113,803,092 in 2018).

  • Today, even  more so than in 2012, the financial and social gulf between the United Kingdom’s rich and the rest of the population is at record levels. The Sunday Times Rich List, which tracks the wealth of Britain’s richest 1,000 people, recorded their combined wealth in 2012 at £414 billion. The Queen herself was estimated to be worth more than £300 million – a vast underestimation.

The Financial Times was forced to note in a comment that since the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, “society has become far more unequal. After tax, the richest 1 per cent now have 9 per cent of all income, compared with 3 per cent in 1977.”

Now the social position of the working class is being subjected to an even sharper decline as a result of the government’s austerity measures. Millions are without work. Pay cuts and freezes are the norm, while the destruction of social provision – implemented to fund the multi-billion-pound bailout of Britain’s banks in 2008 – means many, still today, being denied their right to health care, education and social benefits.

In the capital, soup kitchens now feed thousands of people every day, including emaciated and starving children.

Despite the media’s best efforts to present the population of the United Kingdom “as all being in it together”, a single episode from the Jubilee made plain the real state of class relations: that of the already mentioned episode of  a group of long-term unemployed people from Bath, Bristol and Plymouth having  been bussed into London and forced to work as unpaid stewards during the Jubilee, as part of the government’s so-called ‘Work Programme’. Is this ‘the vile scum’ to whom, or which, the conservative MP was referring ?

The pouring of vast political, financial and human resources into the Jubilee celebrations took place at a time of widespread alienation amongst the mass of working people and youth from the political parties and state institutions.

Support for all the three main political parties had collapsed, while much of Britain’s ruling élite – as well as their police – had been exposed through their relations with financial oligarchs, such as Rupert Murdoch, as deeply corrupt.

No doubt the promotion of the monarchy as an institution supposedly above all this stench was – and remains intended – intended to remedy the tragic condition of the people. (R. Stevens, ‘The Diamond Jubilee: A glorification of wealth and privilege,’ 6 June 2012, wsws.org).

Who was footing the bill for the Diamond Jubilee and how much is being paid for by the taxpayer? No reliable answer ever came – just the traditional, insipid muddling-through.

Was all this hullabaloo worth it? And how much is the Queen worth?, are next questions which come to mind. Precise, honest answers are difficult, nay impossible.

Continued Saturday – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 6)

Previous instalment – A cast of characters: The Monarchy (part 4)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy 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.


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A Prod from the Deep North

By Keith Thomas Davis  

Most of us bumble along from week to week. Each week has its thought points, and things done or things to do. I’ve bumbled along over the last week, here in Qld, here in the best State in the Federation, doing an excellent job of avoiding all of the things that I was supposed to do. Which left me time to notice a few things …

I notice that the Adani Mine is being promoted despite polls showing that the majority of the Australian population are against the approval. The trite national press is presenting it as a battle between the Yokel Qld, Us and the Progressive Southern Them, and that, quite frankly, is just a load of hogwash. It is a smokescreen blown out there to hide the fact that the majority of people do not want their taxpayer dollars gifted on a grand scale to prop up an uneconomic mine. Those soon to be wasted dollars would be better off spent sheltering the homeless and raising Newstart.

I notice that the appeal against the approval of the Sekisui mega-eyesore-resort at Yaroomba Beach here on the Sunshine Coast (yep … in the best State in the Federation) is slotted to be heard later this year in the Planning and Environment Court. In case you don’t know there were a record number of community objections against this multiple high-rise edifice, yet the Sunshine Coast Council flew in the face of sanity and community wishes and approved it. It brings up questions about the power of money to influence outcomes. It brings up questions about the power the Development Lobby still has here in Qld. It brings up questions about a certain legacy issue pertaining to Sekisui House … a particular $50,000 donation. Queensland, beautiful one day, covered in concrete the next.

I notice that Religious Freedom Legislation is raising its head again. I don’t need it. I freed myself from religion years ago. When you think about the fact that the overwhelming majority of Australians don’t attend Church then you are left holding the word Secular in your hands.

I notice that Ken Wyatt is the first Indigenous Man to be promoted to head Indigenous Affairs. I wish him well in his role. I hope he has the oomph to carve through and make a real difference. I hope his colleagues in government don’t get in his road. That latter hope is a pretty forlorn one.

As for the above photo … it was used to illustrate an article I wrote about Machine Intelligence (AI) and the implications for humanity. With a bit of thought-twisting it could just as easily have been used to describe the outcome of the last federal election. We now have dullard party machine-men in charge with intelligence copiously conspicuous by its absence. A lot of us got what we didn’t vote for. Greed trumped humanity.

Did I mention that Queensland is the best State in the Federation? Out of my window I can see blue ocean, blue sky, warmth, semi-tropical green (yeah, OK … some concrete too), and all sorts of interesting progressive type people milling about. If you live south of the border you are welcome to pop up and visit, and it cannot be said often enough, the best State in the Federation!

Keith Davis is a citizen journalist. He is an implacable foe of social injustice, and he is a strong believer in the inevitable implementation of a Universal Basic Income in Australia. He has a varied background, including print media publishing, not-for-profit group administration, and Indigenous sector project management. He fully supports the notion of Treaty. He writes from the heart, believes that whimsy and thoughts out of left-field have at least as much power as logic and reason, and does not limit himself to any one particular topic or theme.

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