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Creating conflict

By Stephen Fitzgerald

What started out as a pathetic little grab for votes in the Wentworth by-election, by the LNP, has now been escalated to include threatening every Australian citizen and Australian trade.

Wentworth voters see embassy relocation as a targeted pitch to Jewish voters“:

The response to the proposal relocation of the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem met with outrage across the Muslim world. That includes protests from our closes and dearest neighbour, Indonesia.

Protest call to occupy Australian embassy in Jakarta“:

Several hundred Indonesian protesters have demanded Canberra drop any plans to move its Israel diplomatic mission to Jerusalem, calling on other Islamic groups to occupy the embassy, raising security concerns over an issue that already threatens to derail one of Australia’s most important relationships. And derail it has.

Australia warns citizens on travelling in Indonesia ahead of expected Jerusalem move“:

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia on Friday (Dec 14) warned citizens to take care while travelling in neighbouring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move by Canberra to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In addition, our trade with Indonesia has been directly threatened by Scott Morrison stupidity.

Jerusalem embassy proposal delays Australia-Indonesia trade agreement“:

The Australia-Indonesia free trade deal has been put on hold with the Indonesian Trade Minister confirming there will be no agreement while Australia considers moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Australia to recognise Jerusalem as Israeli capital, delay embassy move a report“:

It was not clear if the government intended to recognise the entirety of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, or just West Jerusalem, which Israel has held throughout its existence, as opposed to the eastern sectors of the city that it captured in the 1967 Six Day War.

The announcement was welcomed by Israel, but heavily criticised by Palestinians and a number of Muslim-majority countries in Asia, including neighbouring Indonesia, with which Australia is trying to clinch a landmark free-trade deal.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority delegation to Australia slammed the reported upcoming announcement, with envoy Izzat Abdulhadi saying his people should not have to pay the price for some kind of face-saving move. A face saving move by our esteemed prime minister has threatened Australian trade and exposed every Australian citizen to extremist Muslim reprisal.

Why would any thinking clear minded government do that? It certainly plays into the hands of the right-wing. If you don’t have sufficient national threat create some! A national threat, a terrorist threat, a Muslim threat plays into the hands of right-wing governments who wish to act as our guardian saviours. They do this to divert attention away from governing for themselves, corporates and the financial elite?

So, Morrison thinks; “Tick, tick? Geez I’m clever. Let’s save face and, as a bonus, kill two birds with one stone”:

(1) Instil a bit of fear in to the community so we can save them, and (2) Give the burgeoning Australian arms industry, a bit of a kick start, by creating some more global conflict.

Australia’s bold plan to become one of world’s top 10 arms exporters“:

Australia’s expansion plans come amid increased global demand for military hardware, prompting criticism from aid agencies who argue Australia could make human rights violations worse if weapons were sold to the wrong buyers.

Australia will create a A$3.8 billion fund to lend to exporters that banks are reluctant to finance, a central defence export office and expand the roles of defence attaches in Australian embassies around the world. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that with A$200 billion budgeted to increase Australian defence capabilities in the next decade, Australia should rank higher than 20th among arms-exporting countries.

The planned Australian military build-up was the largest in its peacetime history, he said. Given the size of our defence budget, we should be a lot higher up the scale than that. So, the goal is to get into the top 10, Turnbull said. And, Scott Morrison is with him.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has been accused of being an arms dealer amid secrecy over Australia’s military exports to Saudi Arabia“:

But they insist whatever equipment has been exported is not being used in the Yemen conflict and a Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign.

So, once again the LNP create terrorist fear in the community and escalate global conflict to improve Australia’s chances of being in the top 10 arms manufacturers and exporters. Moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has precisely this effect.

Just like big brother America, recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and just like America become a war economy. In other words, along with pandering to the financial elite and corporates, go after the big ‘arms dealer’ bucks to throw at cohort main stream media to lie, cheat, deceive, bribe and buy your way into government?

Are the LNP completely insane? This right-wing Liberal National Party government, under the leadership of Scott Morrison, are showing signs of being homicidal maniacs. What won’t they do to try to stay in power?

Let’s dance

Rather than joining those who examine the entrails of what happened in the past 12 months and makes a narrative around the good, the bad and the ugly, how about we raise the tone a tad and look at attitudes and consensus.

Wasn’t the last week of Parliament fun? Effectively the coalition government wanted to pass some laws around data encryption,

Attorney-General Christian Porter has said a high number of people involved in terrorist plots and serious organised crime use encrypted messaging apps.

which might sound pretty harmless on the surface, but the laws are ‘world first’ — that doesn’t necessarily mean the legislation is well drafted.

Francis Galbally, chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, told a Senate committee last week that changing just one part of a telecommunication network could have unforeseen ‘systemic’ effects — exacerbated by the bill’s demand for absolute secrecy.

As an example of these ‘systemic’ effects, Galbally notes, “The bill, should it become law, will profoundly undermine the reputations of Australian software developers and hardware manufacturers in international markets“.

At the same time ‘a multi-party push to legislate faster medical treatment for refugees on Manus Island and Nauru’ was being planned in the Senate by amending a related piece of legislation.

By the end of the day, the government got its encryption laws and the Senate didn’t get to release people from Nauru on medical advice (without the Government following its apparent process and taking the case to the Federal Court). You can read all the gory detail here. Basically, the coalition puts their particular version of ‘national security’ above people’s lives, and the ALP has not stood up for its claimed principles.

It is well known that the Coalition Government has a problem with climate change and energy. Together with a lot of other bloggers and commentators, we have spent hours and wasted millions of electrons (not to mention the oil tankers of printer’s ink) arguing that the coalition’s lack of action (but plenty of thoughts and prayers) on climate change is a moral failing. It won’t affect most of us that much, but our kids and grandkids will have some real problems.

Just recently the media has reported on the ice sheet in Greenland melting at a rate far greater than environmental variability can explain and the population of the Northern Bettong, an animal that is essential for the health of rainforest in Far North Queensland, has declined by 70% in the past 30 years. Apart from the link between energy production and climate change, on a purely rational level, burning a finite resource to derive energy and stubbornly refusing to consider alternatives is pitiful public policy.

It’s not only Abbott, Kelly, Canavan and Morrison on the LNP side that are at fault here. The ALP under Rudd told us that climate change mitigation was ‘the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time’, produced legislation which didn’t go far enough for the Greens (who the ALP needed on side to get the legislation through the Senate) so the Greens voted the whole thing down. Subsequently the ALP seemed to forget about the ‘moral imperative of Australia doing its part to confront a global and long-term problem’ until Gillard introduced the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (falsely called a ‘carbon tax’ by the LNP for political point scoring). And recent events indicate that the Greens have still to learn the art of political compromise.

That that could be the big issue here — compromise. Opposition Frontbencher Anthony Albanese recently recorded a podcast with The Guardian — reported here. In the podcast, Albanese discusses the differences between the old and new Parliament Houses — in the old one people were crammed into offices; in the new one every member has an office with its own interconnecting rooms, en-suite and kitchenette facilities.

The only time the politicians actually have to see each other now is when the division bells ring (and some offices are so far away from the Chambers that Cathy Freeman would have had trouble getting there in the allotted time when she was training for the Olympics), or when their side of politics calls for a ‘show of force’ in the Chamber. In short, the MPs and their sycophantic staff are not only isolated from each other (should they choose to be) but also from the community they are supposed to be representing. It really can’t help when, for example, the Liberal Party is internally warring over the constitution of ‘the base’. Without being too crude about it, there is nothing wrong with communal amenities where perhaps the newest member of Parliament finds out the Prime Minister does have a backside – and can be approached just like everyone else.

Earlier this year, George Megalogenis and William McInnes were among the guests on ABC Melbourne’s Conversation Hour. In the conversation Megalogenis discusses how AFL football is like politics and in the 80s and 90s, while the AFL and the NRL were effectively broke, it was a golden age in Australian politics with Prime Ministers such as Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard. His claim is that now politics is broke and football codes are a financial powerhouse. His theory — letting those in charge of the business get on with the business. His example — the CEO of the Richmond Football Club apparently doesn’t interfere in coaching decisions; she is paid to understand and run the business that supports the coach and players to be given what they need to perform at the elite level. It used to be the same in Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Office apparently interfered far less in day to day decisions of Ministers in the ‘golden age’ than they do now, if you believe the reports especially from the Hawke, Howard, Rudd and Abbott eras.

ABC Breakfast’s host Virginia Trioli writes a regular email from the ABC with some suggested reading material for the weekend. In a recent email, she wrote in relation to Christmas Parties:

Go hard or go home. Say something. Talk — really talk — about your life, your triumphs, your failures; your year of struggle or your reflections on another milestone reached; your pride, your joy, the moments of grace remembered or sought: or don’t talk, don’t just chatter, and how about we just stand in companionable silence and enjoy the passing parade around us. I’m completely happy with quiet too. And I wonder, if in a time of head-pounding 24/7 blah blah blah, a little less of the chat (and a hell of a lot more of the dancing) might actually be a good idea.

Maybe it’s something our politicians and their sycophantic and fawning fellow travellers should consider — more serious talk; get on and do stuff without waiting for approval from Newspoll, and less chatter with those in the gilded halls around them.

What do you think?

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

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My Land

By Khaled Elomar

I reflect on my childhood in a war-torn country (Lebanon). The absence of hope, security and prosperity. The instability of rule and governance. The limited education that any child or adolescent is exposed to, if they are lucky to be exposed to any of it at all.

Then I see where I am now. The smorgasbord of unlimited education and work opportunities placed before me to pick and choose from. The voice and tone given to me to speak out against politicians irrespective of party inclination, to be able to speak out against racism and bigotry.

Things that I could only dream about back home are factual and within an arm’s reach in this country.

I make this urgent plea to my fellow Australians: don’t let fools such as Avi Yemeni, Pauline Hanson and others, make you think we, migrant refugees, are here to destroy this great country. On the contrary, we are forever thankful and appreciative. We will defend this country because we would never want our kids to live the life we did back in our homeland.

I used to hear and feel the whistling sound, vibration and impact of missiles whilst looking into my teachers’ eyes and wonder if this was the last face I would see before taking along endless sleep. I would never wish that feeling and experience on anyone, including my worst enemies. So why would I, a proud Australian Muslim, a proud migrant refugee, the son of one of the greatest men to have ever lived, want to bite the hand that feeds me?

We appreciate this country as much, if not more, than any born Australian and we pay an unreserved respect to the true owners of this great land for allowing us to live here. I love my homeland for it made me a resilient human. I love My Australia, for it kept me a resilient human.

Oh the irony

One of the production team behind The Political Sword regularly attends a trivia night at a local pub. Recently the host (who runs a company that hosts multiple trivia nights every night of the week — so he’s pretty good at finding obscure facts) made the claim that 49 percent of Australians are either immigrants or one/both their parents are immigrants.

You may have noticed over the years that we at The Political Sword like to check claims presented as facts regardless of the origin, so we did. As it turns out, the trivia host was right — 49% of Australians are either first generation (they immigrated) or second generation (one/both parents born overseas) Australian. It’s one of the facts that has come out of the much maligned 2016 Census (remember the one we were supposed to do on-line, until the website crashed). The remaining 51% of us have Australian born parents — although the Grandparents’ country of origin could be a different discussion. 

When this data was released half way through 2017, The Guardianreported:

As of 2015, Australia had the ninth-largest number of overseas-born people of any country, and the highest proportion of its population, at 26% — ahead of New Zealand (23%) and Canada (22%), the bureau found.

The Guardian’s article also has a lot of other population related statistics that are interesting — and who knows may help you win a trivia night somewhere, sometime. 

Given the distances between the homes of the production team behind The Political Sword, most communication is done by email. Apart from ‘business related’ discussions we also discuss the usual things that people discuss — the weather, politics (strangely!), and various events that happen in the lives of the co-conspirators. The same week as the trivia host made his 49% of Australians are either first or second-generation comment, another member of the production team wrote about an example of blatant discrimination that he had recently seen. 

Some ‘very lovely’ ladies who are recent immigrants turned up at a local computer club, eager to learn, gain some additional skills and fit into their adopted community. There was also one attendee who was considerably older and also an immigrant (from the UK in the era of the ten-pound Pom). Apparently the older English ‘gentleman’ was offended that the ‘very lovely’ ladies, who were from an Islamic community group, would be furthering their understanding of computers at the same time as he was and started to verbalise his thoughts at full volume. Fortunately the Community Co-ordinator was able to diffuse the situation before it really became heated. 

In a nutshell, an older ‘gentleman’ who immigrated to Australia around 50 years ago finds it objectionable that others have immigrated to Australia more recently, with different cultural beliefs. Oh, the irony! You’d have to wonder if, 50 odd years ago, the ‘gentleman’ had different cultural values to those around him when he arrived in this country. 

Many years ago, Bruce Woodley from The Seekers and Dobe Newton of  The Bushwackers wrote a song that claimed

We are one But we are many And from all the lands on earth we come We’ll share a dream And sing with one voice I am, you are, we are Australian

You might recognise the words — they have been recently appropriated by ABC as their network identity jingle. Pity there are pockets where the reality is somewhat different from the lofty ideals. 

So what would our ‘older gentleman’ have us do with his ‘very lovely ladies’ — send them back? If we are going to send immigrants back to where they came from, do we only send the 26% of the population who are first generation Australians away, in which case the UK immigrant is out too? Do we deport the 49% of first- and second-generation Australians which might be a problem if for example Mum comes from Ukraine and Dad comes from Russia? Do we send all immigrants away in which case Australia reverts to being a terra nullus of 60,000 or thereabouts years ago; or do we just agree that the ‘gentleman’ is a bigot rather than a gentleman and welcome the ladies from the Islamic community group while telling the bigot his rant is not welcome? 

The reality of immigration to Australia over the last 60,000 years in this country is a blend of cultures from ‘all the lands of earth’. It is a far more pleasant place than the cold, narrow minded monocultural vision offered by the followers of the ultra-conservative bigots spewing hatred such as the likes of Hanson, Bernardi and the ‘alt-right’ poster children who occasionally tour (or try to tour) the country promote. Assimilating parts of different cultures presents solutions to seemingly intractable problems, gives us benefits as mundane as pizza and fried rice as well as demonstrating that ‘Anglo’ culture doesn’t always offer the ultimate solution to the problem. 

Where else in the world will you see kids of African background pestering their parents for sushi in the local food court or young girls of Middle Eastern, Asian and European backgrounds all performing together at the local dance school concert? And that’s just how it should be. 

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM 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:
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A Climate of Opinion

By John Haly

The battle for climate change mitigation is euphemistically referred to as a “debate” amidst ideologically restrained political advocates that still think there are legitimate oppositional interpretations about it, to respect.

When opinions replace facts in a “post-truth” world, the result may be that confusion and ideology reign inappropriately in society. The increasing occurrence amidst western nations of the populist right, fascism and the rejection of science have manifest to generate a new dark age. Climate change denialists champions include Donald Trump (USA), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Recep Erdoğan (Turkey), – and further down the list – Scott Morrison (Australia).

The sea of opinions

Like fish swimming in the water, human social exchange swims in a sea of opinions. Facebook, Twitter and online commentary in the news media are awash with a flood of emotionally charged views fought with passionate debates, justifying links, populist rhetoric and ad hominems. The truth may emerge but catching glimmers of it, is as elusive as panning for gold.

The other day after some back and forwards over the subject of immigration my temporary antagonist finally resorted to “I think we have to agree to disagree on this one.” At which point I replied, “We do indeed” and more or less left the conversation with him. (Aside from an amusing sideline with a close friend of my antagonist who made some wry observations of him.) It fell into a case of a civil agreement, to disagree. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion?

The Olive Curse

Well no. For example, my wife loves olives, and I hate them. It’s my opinion that olives are a curse rendered on humanity by unkind gods sent to torture one’s palate.  My belief about olives is a matter of opinion. The only consequence is when I get a salad with olives, I pass them to my wife’s plate.  She thinks they are a blessing that I am prepared to fork over, whenever I encounter them. Apart from our culinary differences, there are many other times opinions matter and have more serious consequences.

Schools Strike

I spent the afternoon of Friday the 30th of November with my son at the #StrikeForClimate protest in the city. My son – after canvassing his schoolmates who were unaware of the rally – was worried that hardly anyone would turn up. When we turned the corner from George St into Martin place, I pointed up at the massive crowds of thousands of kids and said, “Have a look, you think no one is turning up now?”. He muttered something incomprehensible, but I noted the smile emerging on his face.

The sheer crowds of children at the climate protest that my son was delighted to discover.
Sequence of Events

There are opinions that climate change is a natural cycle of events for which humans bear no responsibility. Other opinions blame humankind’s waste and dirty extractive industries. Unfortunately, the opinions have vastly significant consequences, not the least of which may be the end of civilisation as we know it. Dramatic, yes, but the sequences of the events have already begun.

As temperatures rocket and “hottest on record” becomes a catchphrase,

Another opinion such as Scott Morrison’s idea that climate change is “nonsense”  fly in the face of concerns by other nations.  If Morrison’s scepticism were true, would mean there is nothing we can do about stopping climate change. If Morrison’s opinions are false, then there is everything that we can do to stop it.

So these sorts of opinions matter enormously. In these cases, you don’t have a right to your personal opinion divorced from truth, if the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Especially if your erroneous view affects what actions we take. As indeed it does in the case of the conservative government who are beholden to wealthy extractive industry leaders who financially support their opinions to profit in the short-term. When my late (small-l liberal) father argued against anthropomorphic climate change with me, I asked him, “On what planet is it a good thing to pollute your environment?” While he conceded the point, there is always the sense of condescension that the older folk have to the previous generation. None so apparent as the criticism of young people skipping school.  They were castigated by politicians before their protest over the lack of climate change mitigation had even begun.

Follow the History and Money

Despite this, our children took to the streets around the nation in protest of the destruction of their future. They have no ties to corporate ideology nor are they being paid off by extractive industry donations.

It is a truth that the extractive industries knew about the problems with CO2 and overheating the planet for decades. The extractive industries were predicting the effects of industrial pollutions effects on heating our climate in the 1980s. Despite years of research and technology advances and scrutiny over 40 years, our scientific research has done nothing else but confirm what Shell and Exxon knew and then actively falsely denied.

So it is way past time we had our kids still shouting about it in the streets. There is nothing temporary or theoretical about the findings: these have been confirmed! We should have legislated against polluting industries decades ago. Our failure to commit to climate change mitigation should be a criminal offence!

Exxon’s own scientific research from 40 years ago has only confirmed what we still know today.
Remember Tobacco?

This resistance is hardly the first or last battle the scientific community will have with uneducated or compromised opinions. Who recalls a very similar “debate” over whether or not, smoking causes cancer? US tobacco companies were well aware of tobacco’s effects on health, in the same manner, Exxon was about climate change but denied it publically for years. These companies fought every attempt to speak the truth. It is only in the last few years that these companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into public self-confession. As the truth has diminished their market,  Tobacco companies are moving into new smoking markets as Altria is in talks to buy the Cronos group.  Therein lies new issues for another discussion.

Vaccinations have saved lives and eradicated entire diseases from the spectrum of deadly and disabling ailments on this planet.  Yet, the anti-science brigade of anti-vaxxers that have a long history of obstinate rejection is expressing opinions which threaten the safety of the greater community and again, our children.

Your Right to an Opinion

If your opinion doesn’t align with the reality, then you need to get the hell out of the way.  I would argue that you don’t have a right to hold that opinion and prevent necessary risk mitigation that is going to save lives. Unfortunately, this is what our errant government is doing, and which our kids stood up to be counted, in opposition on Friday. When it is the children (not the adults) in the US, who are the ones standing up to archaic gun laws because they are averse to being killed, what does this say of the older generation? Similarly, it is children in Australia, that dare to stand up and protest because they too want a future beyond the lifetime of greedy, corrupt old men who want to die rich. Who are the Adults now?

So no, there are times when you don’t have a right to your opinion and the current race to save humanity from climate change is one of those times. It is – on the other hand – way past time, to stand up and be counted.

And my son was afraid noone might turn up at the protest.

This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.



The people have spoken

By Stephen Fitzgerald

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer! With record corporate profits as wages stagnate and living standards for workers plummet this saying is starting to ring true. This is not just happening in France but, across the entire western world where right-wing political bodies govern on behalf of the financial elite.

Thousands of protestors have taken over the streets of Paris, setting fire to cars, smashing shop windows, and attacking military police. These protestors are angry. They say they can’t afford their mortgages and their bills. “France is a rich country,” one protestor tells 9News. “There’s no reason for us to live like this.”

They gathered before sunrise at the Arc du Triomphe, men and women – many of whom have come from outside the capital, hurled rocks and other projectiles at police, who retaliated with tear gas canisters. Further down the Champs-Élysées, it was chaos. One group set fire to vehicles filling the sky with black smoke, as riot police send protesters running.

Authorities were prepared, deploying 89,000 police and security forces around France and 8000 in Paris. All in all, 135 were hurt in protests across France, while about 1000 were detained. There were similar scenes of violence in the French cities of Marseilles and Bordeaux. And the yellow vest movement has spilled across Europe, with clashes in Brussels and the Netherlands. And, it’s not about petrol prices. There is something much bigger going on.

This is a rebellion against an elitist government. Emmanuel Macron is a right-wing president for the rich, pandering to the rich, as inequality escalates and the workers in society struggle to survive? Macron is pandering to those who exploit society and the people have had enough. In true French Revolution and Bastille Day style the population has rises up against the financial elite, and the right-wing government who panders to them, in an attempt to win back democracy.

So, what’s going on?

The arc of history only bends towards justice when people of goodwill wrench it in the direction of justice.” You will get that from the good people of France and not the financial elite or the right-wing president who run the country to favour themselves.

The new Populism is an ideology which presents “the people” as a morally good force against “the elite” who are perceived as corrupt and self-serving. Populists typically see “the elite” as comprising the political, legal, corporate, church, and media establishment, all of which are depicted as a homogeneous self-serving entity who feed off society and are accused of placing the interests of themselves and other groups—such as foreign countries and immigrants etc, above the best interest of society and the best interest of the majority of citizens.

Right-wing governments pander to the financial elite in return for election funds to stay in power. They pander to the media in return for favourable editorial. They attempt to control and censor the media in their own interest. These governments run on lies and deceit and focus on denigrating opposing progressive government. They drag down those progressive governments who represent the best interest of society and the best interest of the majority of people.

To maintain power and control, right-wing authoritarian governments give corporates and the top ends of town whatever they want to gain financial favour. They throw money at the church to win the religious vote. They go after secular groups to win things like the Jewish vote. They lie and accuse the opposition of everything bad they themselves are doing to win the ignorance vote. They expand the police force and give the military call out powers, with shoot to kill authorisation, anticipating social rebellion and, instil fear into the community with exaggerated security threats.

They are climate change deniers who pander to the fossil fuel industry and they refuse change like renewable energy. They govern with fear and deny the needy and most vulnerable in society. They employ henchmen to constantly drag down opposition leaders and opposition parties. This is the right-wing LNP government in Australia and if they are allowed to continue, Australia is heading in the same direction as France and the other western countries being plundered by right-wing governments and the wealthy elite they represent.

To save Australia’s future, the future of our children and democracy as we know it, the Liberal National Party must go! We need to usher in a progressive government, a government who is looking out for the best interest of all Australians, Australian society and the future for our children.

Image from defenddemocracy.press

Deflating democracy

By Henry Johnston 

Earlier this week my neighbour asked, “Is America a democracy?”

I replied, “America is a republic which aspires to democracy via its Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

We continued our discussion from the perspective of white and non-white U.S. citizens, but our conversation eventually ended in stalemate. We agreed Shakespeare’s line, now is the winter of our discontent, best sums up the mood of Republican United States which, if you believe the commentators on MSNBC and CNN, is as far from a democracy as it has ever been in that nation’s history.

But this drift from democratic exceptionalism is not confined to the United States.

On Thursday 6 December 2018 Australia demonstrated the extent of its slide from idealism to the ignobility of brute force. The occasion was Prime Minister Scott Morrison threatening to go nuclear if Labor did not support yet another measure to battle the ongoing war on home-grown terrorists.

I leave the detail of that debacle which ended the Australian Parliamentary year to others. Suffice to say as a democracy our nation seems on the verge of a summer of discontent.

But what triggered this negativity? The answer I believe is the fallout from the Great Recession of 2008, and its most stubborn legacy; deflation.

The fact Australia survived this debacle is thanks to the text book application of Keynesian economic theory, universally derided by Liberal economic rationalists. In my opinion their continued scorn of the finest management of an economic crisis in contemporary Australian history, constitutes perilous wilfulness.

The Liberal Government let the 10th anniversary of the Great Recession of 2008 pass without so much as a mention.

Earlier this week a slew of financial pundits predicted the Reserve Bank of Australia might cut interest rates next year. If this eventuates, Australia is on the precipice of deflation.

In psychological terms deflation deprives individuals of a sense of well-being. No matter how hard people work their goals remain out of reach. Think low pay, the gig economy, casualisation, the marginalisation of women in the work force etc.

One way or another deflation is entrenched in other parts of the world, especially England. But despite a chronically sluggish economy, Brexit looms large for the Old Dart.

The Bank of England recently warned of a catastrophe if an unprepared Britain turns its back on Europe. But gleeful Brexiteers, led by the Conservative Party, insist the winter of our discontent will be made glorious summer by this son of York. This quote by the way is from the play Richard the Third by William Shakespeare.

The deformed body of Richard the Third was recently found buried beneath a car park somewhere up north.

But Europe too is wracked by turmoil, caused by deflation and stoked by the knuckle-duster fists of far-right thugs. And in Eastern Europe there is a real prospect of a full-scale hot war between Ukraine and Russia, over access to the Sea of Azov. Both Ukraine and Russia are also experiencing deflation. Even China with its command economy is sliding backward.

There are thousands of definitions of deflation, but this simplified version sums it up in a way that can be traced back to our disgraceful Liberal government, which continues to embrace a discredited economic rationalist model without question.

Deflation occurs when supply is high and demand low. In other words when people stop buying. Think the current housing market in Australia.

Deflation can also come about when the supply of money decreases, often in response to a financial contraction created by bad investment or a credit crunch. Think the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, with its sensational revelations of predatory lending practices.

Too much competition can also trigger deflation as can and too little market concentration.

Japan is trapped by its quicksand, and no matter what economic tricks it conjures, Japan cannot free itself from its grip.

The last time the world endured a lengthy period of deflation was between 1918 and 1939, when democracy waned to the point where its beacon was almost extinguished.

This must never happen again.

As the season of good will looms, I find it hard to believe there will be a change for the better next year unless Australia rids itself of a truly awful conservative government, and prepares once more to deploy the economic levers devised by John Maynard Keynes.

But this will not happen if the Liberal Party of Australia remains in power in 2019.

Economic rationalists around the world, Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenburg among them, hate Keynes for many things, none the least of which is this pithy bon mot: “capitalism is the astounding belief that the wickedest of men will do the wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone”.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale at Brays Bookshop in Balmain an at Forty South Publishing.

Comparative corruption and transparency

By John Haly 

The media and public’s desire for a Federal anti-corruption body and the search for revealing transparency has met with a lagging response by the government. From the mantra of “on water matters” when resisting transparency around refugee issues to the failure to submit Peter Dutton to the High Court over his extraordinary profiting from the public purse, the lack of transparency is wearing thin with the public. As the media scrutiny digs deep into the hidden recesses of the largess to ministers provided by government coffers, the public is finding their protests about the “double dipping” of mothers or the “lifters and leaners” or justification of “Robo debt” claims, a tad hypocritical.

The years of shielding the banks from the scrutiny of what the royal commission has revealed, while these same banks donated millions over time to their political coffers, has upset the public. Especially as they have often been the victims of these banking scams. That successive prime ministers wanted to offer millions in tax welfare as a gratuitous icing on the cake above and beyond protecting them from their crimes, was seen as very “rich”.

That Morrison could claim that he was unaware of the long history of banking fraud and money laundering or saw it as nothing more than a “populist whinge“, flies in the face of what banks have been seen to do here and across the globe. Repeated inquiries into the banks from the Wallis inquiry in 1997 to the Murray inquiry in 2015 and the equally numerous scandals from merely this century, from NAB concealing losses in 2004 to CommInsure payments scandal in 2016, have demonstrated clearly that unregulated banks will always misbehave. There was never any legitimate grounds for not having a Royal Commission, but the government resistance was palpable. As with most cases of corruption and graft to be found in Banks, isn’t it always recommended that one “follow the money”?

Meanwhile in Denmark

On the international scale, one has only to look at the Danish Banks in a country routinely near the top of the Transparency International index. As the Danish government hosted the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen on the 22nd of October 2018, the scandal of the Danske Bank was prevalent in the media. The national Danish Chair of Transparency International, Natascha Felix, welcomed the collective audience to three days of workshops and discussion groups. She spoke specifically of the failure of control systems that “allows individuals to steal from the most vulnerable populations in Denmark” and how a Danish bank laundered millions of dollars. The rather ironic timing of Denmark holding this conference and their banking scandal was a subject that came up many times in the course of discussions that followed. The illusion that Denmark was immune to the sin of corruption because of its view that it was an isolated island of progressive values, had been dealt a significant blow. Natascha Felix noted that while Denmark had often been at the top of the Transparency International index, “it doesn’t mean that power and access doesn’t corrupt the Danes.

Opening of IACC conference in Bella Centre’s Congress Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark

One of Natascha’s important opening points was that “when it comes to corruption there is so much more at play than rules and regulations and procedures”. For example, locking people in German gulags in the mid-1940s was legal whereas smuggling Jewish people out of Germany was illegal. In a contemporary example, locking up asylum seekers – who have no criminal charges laid against them – in gulags has been legal for years in Australia. Current illegalities have echoes of the German past. When even so much as reporting crimescommitted against “legally innocent people” while working in these gulags, is illegal, the roles of values and ethics that transcend laws of convenience are significant. Corruption and oppression championed by poorly drafted laws and regulations, does not make the actions of governments less corrupt.

Natascha Linn Felix presenting at the opening of the 18th IACC

Australia’s fall

Australia held the enviable position of being 7th in the world in the Transparency index in 2013, but since the coalition government has been in power, we have dropped to 13th. This is still an enviable position, especially after I was confronted by a response about that fall, by the former Syrian Minister, Abdullah Al Dardari. While on a panel in a workshop at the IACC conference, he gave an amused response to my query about how Australia should proceed. “I will take Australia at any time now … this is a different planet, what you are talking about … 13th, [we’ve] never been 150th”. While many in the audience laughed, context on the international scale can be quite sobering. (Just in case you were curious, Syria comes at 178th, so you can see why the ex-minister suggested my concerns were “from another planet”.) Still, we are not without our battles to seek better from our governments regarding transparency and the absence of corruption.

Abdullah Al Dardari answering questions in the Conflict and Development workshop

As Denmark and our own experience demonstrate, being amidst the top end of the transparency index doesn’t mean our governments and banks and institutions will not make every effort to rob you blind and quite literally, rob the dead.

What we may never have heard

Corruption still holds sway in robust democracies with independent judicial and media oversight. Were we in Syria, it is unlikely we would even hear of banking scandals, much less have any official inquiries. Nor might we have heard that Peter Dutton made $5.63 million from direct subsidisation of his childcare facilities for which he voted. Perhaps it didn’t occur to him there was a conflict of interest? Nor might we have heard of his submission to build a third childcare unit, which is a remarkable interest in children despite his ongoing and robust resistance to other children in his care receiving medical care. Perhaps his interest is not the children, one might speculate?

Nor might we hear about:

I am stopping here although I am sure dear reader you can find many more.

Helicopter scandals, perks & privileges should face a Federal ICAC

Whereas attempts to pork barrel electorates whether it be Barnaby Joyce or a Wentworth by-election will always receive high publicity under any regime as long as it was positive and complimentary. Negative stories like Joyce’s condemnation of women to cervical cancer deaths would, of course, be wholly suppressed where less robust protections for journalists exist.

We are not Syria, but …

Corruption is multifaceted and has high-level impacts of any country, and even if we are not the worst, we are infected by its influence.

So we are not Syria. We do hear of, or have a public reaction to, and legal stoushes over, the apparent corrupt conduct of our political leaders, banks and institutions. And with respect to Abdullah Al Dardari’s entirely appropriate observation that we in Australia are “on a different planet”, compared to what he has had to battle in his roles in Syria and later the United Nations, it is a fight none of us should relinquish because there are darker shades of grey. To have fallen to 7th to 13th on the international transparency index – although to over a hundred other nations that is still enviable – it is indicative of a systematic weakening of our democracy. We are on a downward track which our government is responsible for, as are we who do not hold them accountable. We are a lucky country compared to so many, and ours is an elevated state we have taken for granted. For a long time, we’ve remained politically disengaged, proud of apolitical inclinations, unwilling to take stand over the dinner table on behalf of the struggle of others, lest we offend our privileged white neighbours. We have paid scant attention to the slippage that once it gains momentum, will career downwards unless we put our backs against our pedestal and push hard.

This article was originally published on John’s blog Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches, and has been reproduced with permission.

It was also published on Independent Australia as Comparing Australia’s transparency and corruption with the world.

Five shades of faded blue

By Ad astra 

How well the ancient Biblical words apply to the Coalition: ”How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle…thou wast slain in thine high places, and the weapons of war perished!”

The true-blue Liberal flag, once graced with rich shades of competence, efficiency, endeavour, diligence and success, now flies tattered, limp and washed out. The Liberal flag is now discoloured with five shades of faded blue: denial, arrogance, anger, confusion and ineptitude.

After its humiliating loss at the Wentworth by-election, and the obvious reason for it – the undignified removal of its well-liked member Malcolm Turnbull, a modicum of insight might have been expected as the extent of the Coalition bloodbath at the recent State Election in Victoria was being exposed on ABC TV. But no, Deputy Liberal Leader Josh Frydenberg was soon on the airwaves trying to convince us that the disaster unfolding before his very eyes had nothing to do with the disrespectful extrusion of Malcolm Turnbull and his replacement with a novice. ”It was a state election run on state issues” he insisted. Of course state issues were prominent, but only blind and deaf Freddie would not acknowledge the influence of events in Canberra. Coalition supporters handing out how-to-vote cards reported how often voters curtly informed them that they were not going to vote Liberal because of what the party had done to Malcolm Turnbull. Josh was in denial, deaf to what he was hearing, blind to what he was seeing. He even accused Bill Shorten of arrogantly believing he could ‘measure the curtains in The Lodge’. He looked foolish. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis put it: ”It was the rhetorical equivalent of jamming his fingers in his ears and making ‘la la la’ noises. Right on cue his fellow-denialist Eric Abetz, always ready to argue the inarguable, followed him. Peta Credlin soon joined the chorus of denial in The Australian, arguing that the Bourke Street terrorist attack made the Coalition’s campaign on ‘law and order’ tricky because public sensibilities prevented them ‘going in hard’!

This chorus of denial has since been drowned out by a plethora of commentary that has pinpointed the ‘toxic Canberra culture’ as a potent reason for the Coalition’s decline. Defeated Coalition Leader Matthew Guy and John Pesutto, member for Hawthorn, who saw his re-election cast into doubt as he commented on the ABC’s election panel, had the good grace to concede that the Canberra shemozzle was a telling reason for the Coalition’s defeat. Even the State president of the Liberal Party, Michael Kroger got the message and resigned. Now, Coalition members in NSW, petrified about the ‘toxic’ behaviour of their Canberra counterparts, are running a mile to distance themselves for fear of contamination during the upcoming NSW State election.

Next, along came arrogance to further stain the Liberal flag. PM Morrison, who ought to have been a little contrite, came out arms flailing, insisting that notwithstanding recent electoral debacles, the Coalition would triumph at the next federal election. Voters would reward the Coalition for its outstanding economic success and reject Labor’s high-taxing policies, he insisted. And he reinforced his words by angrily shouting them whenever he could – at doorstops, in press interviews, in Question Time, in parliamentary debate. He turned up the volume as he fumed.

But for arrogance writ large, there could scarcely be a more brazen display of it than dark-suited Coalition members walking out of the chamber as Julia Banks announced a few days later that she was withdrawing from the Coalition to sit on the crossbenches. You can hear her speech in the Featured Video. Of course their leader has form in walking out when females are speaking in the House!

Anger soon stained the Coalition’s flag. Shocked at its electoral reversals, and extrapolating these to the May federal election at which many Coalition members could see their seats evaporating, the prospect of losing a comfortable income evoked much anger and distress.

Although a cluster of Liberals joined their leader to unveil their anger, none could match him; his shouting became more and more raucous. And when schoolchildren organized a rally in school hours to protest against the government’s lack of action on climate change, Morrison exploded. In typical ‘strict father’ mode, so well described by George Lakoff, he condemned the rally with: “Each day I send my kids to school and I know other members’ kids should also go to school but we do not support our schools being turned into parliaments.”

Following his leader, Resources Minister Matt Canavan added that he wanted children in school learning about how to build mines, do geology and how to drill for oil and gas“which is one of the most remarkable science exploits in the world”. He warned the students that their protest was ”the road to the dole queue”. Clearly, he not only lacks insight into the motivation of the protesting students; he remains intractably wedded to the outmoded technologies that scientists assure us will bring about global devastation and render the planet uninhabitable. He was angry and confused, along with many of his parliamentary colleagues.

In response to the PM’s reprimand, one student said: Mr Morrison’s comments were ‘ridiculous’. It is as if he expects us to be completely apathetic towards the world and its issues until we reach the age of 18, when we are suddenly supposed to become well-informed voters with our own developed opinions…Mr Morrison says that he does not support our schools being turned into parliaments. Well, maybe if the people in our Parliament listened to the science and took action like those of us in school, we wouldn’t have to resort to strike action like this.” A campaign organiser said that Mr Morrison’s comments had actually boosted the protest’s profile and spurred more people into action. Another example of Morrison’s ineptitude and lack of insight!

Greens leader, Adam Bandt who had met with some of the students involved and backed their actions, said: “The PM is unbelievably out of touch with young people, not only in Australia but around the world…these students want a leader to protect their future, but they get a hectoring, ungenerous and condescending rebuke from someone even worse than Tony Abbott.” 

So it came to pass that on the last day in November eight thousand students from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour, Bendigo and twenty regional areas did head to the nearest Parliament House or the offices of members of parliament to take part in the strike, quite undeterred by the angry rebukes from their parliamentarians. More protests are to follow. The repercussions will long reverberate.

The next shade of blue to tarnish the now-very-dull Liberal flag was confusion. Clearly the Coalition, the PM and his ministers are rattled, beset as they are with electoral defeat after electoral defeat, abysmal opinion polls that never improve, a confident Labor Opposition, and a cluster of policies that even their own supporters won’t accept, the most recent being its energy policy. And all they do in response is to shout more and more angrily.

Denial, arrogance, anger and confusion bring in their wake ineptitude, the fifth shade of faded blue to tarnish the Coalition flag.

Virtually everything Morrison and his ministers now say and do reeks of ineptitude.

The Coalition is lost. The path ahead is beset with intractable difficulties, insurmountable problems, and an impoverished mindset incapable of addressing them. Ideological shackles restrict their thinking; outmoded beliefs curb their judgment; antediluvian attitudes constrain their reasoning.

Foolishly, they have corrupted their flag. And in the process they have besmirched our National flag too.

The once proud true-blue Liberal flag hangs tattered and limp. Only five shades of faded blue remain.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Satanic Football Ban – Christian School Acts

By David Ayliffe 

Children at a remote Victorian Christian School have been forbidden to watch, play or discuss football by the conservative Principal of the school, Phil Upright, who calls the game “Satanic”.

Pastor Phil Upright, who leads the “Discriminate a right and a Privilege Independent Thinking Political Party” also heads Liberty Christian Church and is Principal of the Church’s Christian School in the small Wimmera town of Genesis.

Upright not only bans the sport but has pioneered a revolutionary re-education program called “On the Mark” to help students repent of “the aberration of football”. The course trains students to “resist the devil” through fasting and prayer, repetition of Bible verses whenever football urges arise, and a prohibition on ice cream for offenders.

Locals report that the secret weapon in the course is a huge black leather King James Bible weighing as much as three six packs of lemon squash – the beverage of choice of the church – that participants are required to carry with them all day and use as their pillow to sleep at night.

The On-the-Mark Bible, weighing in at about 6kg, is reportedly so heavy that students struggle to hold it in their arms with two hands clutched around it. Young teenagers have been seen struggling through the main street holding the Bible, only able to manage a few steps at a time before they have to stop and rest. Some have even been seen falling down under the weight.

Yet Pastor Upright claims “this has been a Godsend, the huge Bibles help our children expend energy they may have otherwise used in the addictive pursuit of Football. On the Mark is helping us curb a problem in our community and stop it reach epidemic proportions as is seen throughout the nation. It’s incredible to think that in Victoria we now have a public holiday for Football – you’ll never see that for Christianity, except for Christmas and Easter.”

Upright claims that On the Mark has been 95% successful with suffering students now able to resist the lure of the ball.

“God’s purpose for leather is Bibles, not football!”

A large black and white sign “God’s purpose for leather is Bibles not football” adorns the entrance to Liberty Christian Centre welcoming visitors to 9 to 9 Sunday services at Liberty Christian Church where Pastor Phil amazes his congregation with preaching through 12 hour worship services that draws football references from every verse of the Bible. A quiz during the service has members producing obscure verses from the Old and New Testaments to which Pastor Phil reveals the anti-football purpose in the verses. The member who proposes the most obscure Bible verse on the day receives a Six Pack of Lemon Squash from Pastor Phil.

Elders Jack and Jill Godwin, long term members of the church and repeat recipients of the Six Pack award preferred to remain anonymous when they spoke to the writer. Singing the praises of the church and Pastor Phil’s grand football fight beamed each week on the big screen, Jack Godwin held back tears as he said “I would have never known that Jesus was thinking of football in the shortest verse in the Bible, John Chapter 11 verse 35 where it says “Jesus Wept”!, “Pastor Phil has opened my eyes to it. God has given Pastor Phil an incredible prophetic gift to see what others can’t see, and worse, will never see.”

“Would you like a pikelet,” his wife Jill declared to the author as she continued on from her husband “On those two words alone, “Jesus Wept”, Pastor Phil covered the history of AFL going back to when it was founded in 1858. He preached on that for 7 weeks producing 35 hours of teaching material that is sold through his Amazon online shop and is being used around the world … in some places.”

Upright is not applauded by all in Genesis. President of the local Country Women’s Association and widow of a former Shire President, Ethel Campfort. Ethel – 86 years old – and by her own confession a lifelong AFL “tragic” Collingwood supporter, has organised protests outside Upright’s church. The protests involved fellow CWA members regularly holding cake sales outside the church with large signs around their table: “FOOTBALL FOR ALL!”, “FREE THE CHILDREN!”, “BAN THE BIG BLACK”, and “MOTHERS FOR FOOTY”.

“It’s dreadful seeing healthy young children and strapping teenagers walking down the Main Street muttering Bible verses under their breath and buckling under the load of Bibles so big they should be on wheels,” says Ethel Campfort.

“Some of these kids can barely walk carrying those Bibles. It’s a crime and should be banned. Upright should be laid low in prison.”

Rumours that Upright has argued in Liberty Church that too much Football would lead to blindness have not been confirmed.

The Culture Wars

The Liberal Party cultural wars are having a detrimental effect on the rest of us. Here are two examples.

Without rehashing old news, Australia had a functioning carbon pricing and emissions trading scheme around 5 years ago. It was canned by the Abbott government after mounting the mother of all scare campaigns about $100 lamb roasts and the town of Whyalla being wiped off the map. Abbott’s then Chief of Staff, now a member of the right-wing mafia that promotes their ideological claptrap on Foxtel’s Skynews after dark, admitted later that the scare campaign was exactly that, a scare campaign without any basis in fact.

The ALP recently launched its energy policy for the 2019 Federal Election. The framework of the policy was partly pinched from the Turnbull LNP Government — the ‘National Energy Guarantee’. It is probably clever politics however history tells us that this watered down ‘least-worst’ policy was formatted specifically to stand a chance of getting the legislation through the Liberal and National Party rooms, rather than the Parliament or even addressing some of the needs and wants of residential and commercial energy users. It didn’t get up because the usual suspects determined to change the Prime Minister instead. The ALP policy from years ago was a better mechanism for reducing carbon emissions as there is a direct correlation between emissions and cost — something business understands.

As the ALP policy was released, the posturing from the Luddites in the LNP commenced again. As Katherine Murphy observed in The Guardian

The energy minister, Angus Taylor, by way of riposte, bunged on a high-vis vest, stood in front of a smelter in Tomago, and talked about Shorten having to nominate which burping cows he would cull, which, for a person of Taylor’s intelligence and technical expertise, must feel about as close as it comes to End Times.

We’ve been here before: the hyperbolic carry on, it’s all pretty tired.

The thing is that Taylor, as Energy Minister, should know better. More forms of renewable energy are being commercialised all the time. It wasn’t a ‘world first’ when the then ALP South Australian State Government chose to accept Tesla’s offer to construct a very large battery, connected to the electricity grid.

So, how did that work out? Pretty well actually, as we discussed in January this year. In fact it worked so well that Victoria purchased a couple of Tesla batteries last March. If Taylor still has any doubts, maybe he should talk to his South Australian party colleagues who took over the state government during the year.

The South Australian government will launch its Home Battery Scheme in October, which will offer South Australians subsidies of up to AU$6,000. In the wake of the government’s announcement, [Sonnen] the German storage provider has revealed plans to manufacture up to 50,000 battery storage units at the former Holden site in Elizabeth, creating hundreds of jobs.

Ooops! Clearly the truth isn’t getting in the way of this story. The issue is that reducing emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere is essential for our kids and grandkids — who at the current rate of environmental change (ignored by the LNP government) will be unable to live in a large part of Australia in decades to come. It could be worse — a number of Pacific Islands could disappear altogether! Now that is worthy of a scare campaign.

The dux of St James’s College in Brisbane’s inner-city Fortitude Valley graduated a week or so ago with a number of academic awards, high achievement in her Year 12 subjects as well as successful completion of two University level subjects while still at school. She wants to be a doctor and on the face of it, she has every right to believe she could be successful in attempting the demanding University course.

Except it won’t happen unless she can get a scholarship. The dux is a Sri Lankan asylum seeker, Soumi Gopalakrishnan, who arrived in Australia on a fishing boat around four years ago. The problem is that the LNP Government policy has determined that Gopalakrishnan and her family are here on asylum seeker visas. Asylum seekers are considered to be full fee-paying international students. Full fee students have to pay for their course (in this case over $100,000 per annum for the next five years) annually up front.

Gerry Crooks, the Principal at St James, said

“The school has obviously played a very significant part in getting them to where they are, but it’s been a privilege for us. I think they’ve given the school far more than we could ever give them as a family,”

For the record, St James is a ‘Catholic Co-educational Secondary College in the Edmund Rice tradition’ and, as well as offering free education to Gopalakrishnan, provided a public transport card for travel to and from school. A day after ABC chose to publish the story of Soumi Gopalakrishnan, a number of people and organisations had offered to assist her financially to attend University.

In contrast, our narrow minded, mean and vindictive government, currently lead by Morrison, who proudly shows off his bizarre ‘I stopped the boats’ trophy to the media will happily look the other way when illegal immigrants arrive by plane and overstay their visa, which actually is a crime. He and his government apparently don’t have a problem in bullying and victimising for political purposes those who attempted to arrive or settle here over the past five years with the perfectly legal right to claim asylum according to the 1951 UN Convention signed by then Prime Minister and Liberal Party ‘demi-God’ Robert Menzies.

And there is still some doubt that anything Morrison did to ‘stop the boats’ had any effect in any case — the number of people who were prepared to attempt to arrive in Australia by boat was declining, months before Abbott and then Immigration Minister Morrison conceived ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’.

Yes, both the power generation wars and the drawn-out war on refugees are fear-based campaigns. Hopefully the Victorian State election plus recent by-elections in Wentworth, Braddon, Longman and so on will give the conservative parties in Australia the final realisation that fear and scare campaigns that have stood them well since Menzies was warning about ‘reds under the bed’ are now useless. People clearly aren’t ‘buying’ the ‘Whyalla wipe-out’ or refugees are all ‘gang members in the making’, preferring to support plans and visions for the future. Unfortunately (for the Liberal Party), sections of their ‘broad church’ are too involved in their own cultural wars to see the wood for the trees.

What do you think?

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

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Enough, enough, enough

By Andrew Elder

Our Prime Minister knows the big challenges facing the country in our time are beyond him.

The vital early period of his term is over: he is not asking what you can do for your country, nor proclaiming excitement and disruption, nor bringing together unelected stakeholders for summits. The first hundred days is the same as the next hundred days, and the hundred days after that: culture war stuff, picking on transgender kids, visiting drought-stricken country while bagging environmentalists, proclaiming his faith – headline-grabbing but insubstantial. He will demonstrate once and for all the electoral futility of focusing on culture war while big and significant issues go begging.

When you ask people what they remember about the Whitlam government, they usually rattle off something from the duumvirate of December 1972: recognising the People’s Republic of China, say, or ending prosecution of draft resisters, or sanctions against apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia. Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, achieved a lot without putting legislation to parliament. The House of Representatives had been elected on 2 December but had not been convened while these administrative arrangements were put in place. This then set the context for Labor’s caucus to convene and elect ministers, who would then put legislation for more substantial reforms through parliament.

Morrison is in the opposite position. The failure of tax cuts, the strange idea that a Liberal government would punish energy companies for making profits, and the outcome of the Wentworth by-election demonstrate that the legislative agenda of this government is over. A government needs to be able to negotiate with the formal opposition, but the Abbott-Dutton tendency are paranoid about catching Labor germs. The minor parties offer small achievements that go against the government’s agenda (e.g. banning live animal exports or ending mandatory detention), a time-suck for a government running out of time. The agenda of his government, insofar as it has one, is administrative and petty: toying with asylum-seekers, a ‘pub test’ for academic research, outsourcing Centrelink.

The party man

Morrison did not attempt to be the big man on campus at UNSW, like Turnbull or Abbott had at Sydney University. Instead, he sought out Bruce Baird as a mentor: Baird was then the NSW Transport and Tourism Minister, and on his staff at the time were Barry O’Farrell, Mitch Fifield, and Ross Cameron. Morrison was found a policy role at the Property Council, where he would have learned how to lobby and how to do just enough research to make your proposal look plausible.

He later became NSW State Director of the Liberal Party. At a time when the moderates and the right were starting to carve up the party between them, he shut down a rich ecosystem of members beholden to neither faction, and thus regarded as troublemakers by both. Both factions worked with him but neither fully trusted him.

Morrison then went onto tourism jobs in New Zealand and Australia. When Bruce Baird went to Canberra as Member for Cook, he believed Howard would promote him to ministerial rank. Instead, Howard appointed as ministers other backbenchers he had been deliberately ignoring, but who became leading lights in the successive Coalition government: Pyne, Brandis, Dutton. Had Baird joined their ranks, Australian political history might have been slightly different. Certainly, Morrison might have enjoyed more support in Canberra than he did when Fran Bailey sacked him.

Morrison is entirely a creature of the Liberal Party but has no capacity to shape it. John Howard had been a party activist since he was 17, but when he became leader in 1995 he was able to reshape the entire party in his image. None of those who followed him had either that depth of understanding, nor the clout to make the party pivot around him. Nelson didn’t. Abbott lacks Turnbull’s wealth and breadth but is shaped more profoundly by sixth-century Catholicism than by the Liberal Party. Morrison, like Rudd, is only there until the factions unite and cast him off.

Morrison has lived the narrow political life Turnbull studiously avoided, which may explain some of the disdain the former prime minister shows toward the incumbent. If Simon Crean or Alexander Downer had become PM, they might have been like Morrison is now: transactional, cliche-ridden to the point of being a cliche himself.

Towke

If ever there was a clear example that Lebanese males in their vast numbers not only hate our country and our heritage, this was it. They simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that’s taken them in.
– Alan Jones, 2GB, 28 April 2005

Michel Taouk wanted to exercise political power. His politics were to the right of Australian politics’ main right-of-centre party, but several active members of that party assured him they could help him.

The NSW Liberal right at the time was led by David Clarke, who was appalled at swarthy types and demanded they Anglicise or “de-wog” to meet his approval: Concetta Fierravanti-Wells smothered herself in pancake makeup and insisted on being called Mrs Connie Wells. Michel Taouk became Michael Towke, and stuffed Liberal branches in the Sutherland Shire with goons who couldn’t sign their own membership forms or pay party dues.

Morrison shored up the outgoing member for the area, his old mentor Bruce Baird (much he same as he had with Turnbull in August), then set about undoing Towke’s work on local branches. When Towke beat Morrison, Morrison worked to have the result reversed with far-right stackers weeded out. Reversing a branch-stack is highly complicated work and requires a high degree of political sophistication, cleverness and toughness. It is unlikely that the Liberal Party today could hold off a right-wing insurgency like that. It is a proven fact that the Nationals couldn’t.

Morrison deserves credit for outmaneuvering Towke. Firstly, the end of outmaneuvering a right-winger almost always justifies the means. Second, political success involves beating

Had Towke’s victory been allowed to stand he would now be a minister in the Dutton government, or he would have gone the way of former Queensland MP Michael Johnson. People who use Towke as a stick to beat Morrison do so on the following assumptions:

  • Nobody could be a nastier, further-right politician than Scott Morrison, and
  • This article can and should be taken at face value.

Firstly, Morrison is a vicious right-wing thug or he’s an ineffective duffer: he can’t be both. Second, the journalist who wrote that article, Paul Sheehan, is what happens when you give traditional media more resources than they enjoy today. He wrote a number of apocalyptic if-blood-should-stain-the-wattle books predicting and tacitly endorsing right-wing violence in Australian politics. All I can say to those people taken in by the Sheehan article is, have a swig of Magic Water and be careful about believing articles that you wish were true.

Secrecy

Morrison started his career as a lobbyist. Being a lobbyist relies very little on media exposure to be effective. Lobbyists walk straight past press gallery journalists day after day on their way to meet with politicians to make significant decisions that affect us all: if press gallery actually contained journalists, they would intercept the lobbyists and ask them questions, refusing to be fobbed of by non-answers in pursuit of the public’s right to know. In reality, press gallery just sit there waiting to be approached.

Everyone who has ever become Prime Minister has courted the media to some extent. Deakin, Scullin, Curtin, Abbott, and Turnbull had been journalists and learned the tricks from inside that trade. Morrison has actively courted the media less than any of them, except for those that only ever sought to act as caretakers (Forde, and Country Party PMs Fadden, Page, and McEwen). He has worked his way up and through the Liberal Party, with no media exposure beyond The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader or the odd, quickly passed story in national media on his tourism shenanigans.

For all those comparing Morrison’s evasive interview answers to Trump, look at his performances as Shadow Immigration Minister. Morrison developed a line and plugged it, and plugged it and plugged it. In opposition he could (and did) dodge questions about his own position, or that of the Coalition. In the same way that journalists love capturing an unscripted remark and make the departure from scripted lines the story, so too those who are interviewed often relish pumping their lines out and avoiding unscripted questions. He simply talked over Leigh Sales until she learned not to push him for information. By renting a house he smashed the whole concept of, and conceits behind, Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet. Morrison has made an art form of dodging answers. He did this before Trump, dodging answers has got him where he is today, and he isn’t changing.

The only time that mask slipped was when he admitted to David Speers that putting children into offshore detention caused him to weep and pray. This had the capacity to fracture the whole self-image he had built up, as both a tough guy and fair at the same time (after all, mandatory offshore detention is bipartisan, and the press gallery thinks the ship of state is bipartisan-ship). Advocates of offshore detention thought he showed weakness of resolve. Supporters of ending mandatory detention hoped to use his humanity to confront the idea of ending the practice. No journalist pressed him on this: he put up the facade by resolving to cut immigration, playing along with Matthew Guy’s doomed law-and-order strategy, and even if he were pressed he would dodge the issue.

Right Ho, Fink

Before there was South Park, there was Yaron Finkelstein. As a student at UNSW he saw people throw themselves passionately into various pursuits, and he thought they were risible. I only saw him care to the point of stone-faced seriousness on two occasions: when performing volunteer labour for Keith Windschuttle, who had schooled him in the arts of copywriting, and on the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli Prime Minister whose death effectively ended the two-state solution and gave rise to Binyamin Netanyahu.

Imagine my surprise to see Finkelstein photographed in a shadowy way and described accordingly by Michael Sainsbury:

“An avid practitioner of the edict that political operatives should be rarely seen and never heard, Finkelstein has flown under the radar in politics for some time. This, however, has not impeded him in becoming one of the top campaign operatives in the country,” according to a bio on the website of lobbying firm Advoc8.

It is a false dichotomy that one cannot pursue a career in politics without the media quoting your every word and putting your name to it; Morrison knows that and so does Finkelstein. The only people who don’t know are the press gallery and others who don’t understand politics.

Yaron Finkelstein has spent his entire life in Wentworth, and if you don’t understand the politics of your own backyard then how good are you really? It is nonsense that the Liberals are shrugging off the loss of Wentworth, because when a party fails in relatively safe seat then it fails all round. Whether it’s the byelections in Bass in 1975, Flinders in 1982, or Canberra in 1995, this is a byelection that clangs like impending doom.

Dave Sharma was an excellent candidate, almost certain to be a future cabinet minister, but he did not have a high profile. A high profile is not only useful in terms of name recognition by voters, it necessarily makes the candidate more likely to get national news coverage, which feeds back into the campaign.

Here we see the sheer poverty of a life spent in politics and media: nobody will vote for you if they don’t know who you are. Sharma was kept away from public engagement because the Liberals feared unscripted encounters, and the more they double down on this the more they will shun votes. A dedication to the base is an exercise in seeing who exactly will keep voting Liberal in the face of this highly scripted crap.

It is snide to blame Finkelstein for the policy brainfart of moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Finkelstein could argue either side of that debate equally convincingly, as he might any position really. There is no sign of any policy nerds making up for Morrison’s absence of policy, and if they did Finkelstein would snuff it out before Morrison got any ideas. This is a screensaver government. All sorts of stuff is going on behind the facade, but so long as there’s a daily press conference the press gallery will never dig for them.

John Howard employed staff who compensated for abilities he didn’t have. The triumvirate of Arthur Sinodinos, Tony Nutt and Graham Morris were different to each other and to Howard, but together they complemented Howard and made a formidable team. By employing Finkelstein, Morrison has entrenched his worst aspects (flippancy, disdain for policy detail) and failed to compensate for his manifold shortcomings.

Very foreign policy

Scott Morrison does not give any sort of fuck about foreign policy, and you can’t make him. His political career began in earnest trashing various international protocols on refugees. Denunciations from foreign media and multinational organisations made not a whit of difference or were flung into the culture-war mill.

Treasurers get an appreciation of the wider world – we saw this in Keating and Swan, but not Morrison. Turnbull had planned to go to the South Pacific Leaders’ Forum at the end of August, and when Morrison took over he simply didn’t go. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe gave Morrison a lesson in tact at the commemorations in Darwin, which Morrison has almost certainly missed (watch Morrison at the next wreath-laying speech-giving ceremony to honour The Fallen, and see if he doesn’t behave like an oaf trying to accept Best & Fairest at footy club trophy night). At the APEC summit Morrison sat there without headphones: leaders of mighty nations tuned into translators to hear from other leaders, but not our current Prime Minister. They must know he won’t be at the next one, he does too and doesn’t give a damn, so how many opportunities go begging for the nation as a result is hard to quantify – but it is probably more than the bugger-all assessed by the Prime Minister. At the G20 he is a tourist, not building in any way on recent low-profile work by Julie Bishop and DFAT in improving relations with Latin America.

Say what you will about Turnbull, but he could play a Prime Minister on television. That stuff matters less than Julie Bishop thinks it did, but more than Morrison and Finkelstein (“Merkel? How many points in Newspoll is she good for?”) can imagine. All Morrison has done is lower the bar for Shorten to scale on his way to press gallery endorsement as Prime Ministerial.

Jakarta, Jerusalem and junk analysis

Toward the end of World War Two Australian troops were shunted off to clear Japanese forces out of the Dutch East Indies while US forces powered toward Japan. Australians regarded themselves as sidelined. In 1945 striking dockworkers in Melbourne inhibited the restoration of Dutch colonial rule, helping the Indonesian nation come into being and in turn compelling the Chifley government to recognise the new nation of Indonesia. In the 1960s Australian policymakers came to recognise Indonesia was a growing power economically and militarily; despite fifty years of appalling corruption that commitment to dialogue and ever closer relationships continued, with military and currency agreements already in place, and had begun to bear fruit as a limited but promising free trade agreement.

All Morrison has to do to make that agreement happen is to junk a symbolic commitment to moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He can’t though, because the Liberal right need a win. The Liberal right were denied Dutton as leader, and are facing a rollback of their beloved mandatory detention position. They failed utterly, and publicly, on marriage equality. The Liberal right hobbled Turnbull on climate change; Morrison is so happy to nobble himself on this policy that the right can’t assert their influence by making him adopt a position with which he doesn’t disagree.

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem is the ankle bracelet that the Liberal right have clapped on Morrison. They expect him to scupper a deal over fifty years in the making to deliver a victory that the Liberal right can claim as their own. Pentacostal churches hold the Liberal Party together in WA and in parts of Queensland. In Victoria, Marcus Bastiaan mobilised fundamentalist Christian sects into joining the Liberal Party there, and even without him the party there is reaping the rewards for appealing to a base that is already within the party membership but scarcely evident beyond it.

I doubt that Morrison is particularly torn by the pentacostalist belief in bringing on the Rapture by fomenting divisions between the Israeli Jewish state and their Muslim neighbours. Moving an embassy to Jerusalem, recognising Israel as one state and not two with Palestine, is deliberately provocative and successive Australian governments have left the issue well alone. If you can accept that Tony Abbott is a committed Catholic, and yet after several years as Health Minister and PM abortion is practiced lawfully in public hospitals, then you can accept that the is relevant but not pressing for Morrison.

Even so, he lacks the wit and the clout to simply draw a line under this issue. Both the power dynamics within the Liberal Party (the right must be seen to have a win over the new Prime Minister) and Morrison’s own professed faith (pentacostalist churches in the US strongly support Trump’s relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem) explain why this seemingly unimportant issue cannot simply be shut down by the Prime Minister.

The reason why this experienced political journalist cannot fathom Morrison’s position is because of press gallery niceties around political coverage: that Morrison’s faith is a private matter (clearly it isn’t), that everything is just grist to the mill of winning momentary advantage (er, not true either), and so the Liberal right must logically be in pursuit of votes not otherwise available to the Liberal Party (not true either, but telling an obvious truth means you miss out on juicy juicy drops).

In other words, the niceties of the press gallery are preventing the story from being communicated to the public.

As always, the press gallery move as a pack. Gone is the Annabelle Crabb notion where every lumbering manoeuvre and dull quip is fascinating, and everyone in Canberra is lovely once you get to know them (so please don’t vote out my friends!). Now the pervasive mood is adolescent truculence, where everything and everyone is, like, soooo lame. The press gallery are trying to cultivate the impression that they’re above this, that if there were some serious policy happening they would absolutely prefer to cover that than, uh, whatever it was Josh Frydenberg said about the thing.

The press gallery were a docile bunch when Keating fed them policy on a daily basis, and they are worse now. They have not become high-minded policy wonks and are not judging what politicians say against what people who know about policy say. The idea that they chafe against this government’s backbiting and dithering and yearn for the broad expanses of, say, energy policy is obviously nonsense. When Shorten makes policy announcements they are roundly ignored in the gallery, so that when they are repeated at election time they can be covered in a thick layer of hype, and when rolled out as government policy the gallery will treat them with incredulity and rely on the new opposition to frame them.

There will be more on this later (soon, soon), but we are heading into a transitional moment where Labor occupies the centre of politics, doing the worthy work of government with limited room/imagination to innovate much, while various bits of jetsam orbit them to no or limited effect. The model here is Queensland, where Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is indistinguishable from chancers and freaks like Hanson or Katter. The political system can adapt to deal with this.

The press gallery can’t. It is built around balance and he-said-she-said, where every disagreement is argy-bargy and all water is muddied. There will be lots of colour-and-movement, which will be enough for the press gallery; but as ever they will offer little enlightenment about how we are governed and what the options are. Combined with the inherent weakness of media organisation management, and their insistence on elevating the non-stories of the press gallery in place of news, this means the press gallery is doomed in its current form. They will tell you this means democracy is doomed too, because democracy is a thing they own; this is crap too. We need information and we need to go around the press gallery to get it. If the political system can adapt so too can the population at large, and the press gallery can mark time until relieved.

This article was originally published on Press Gallery Reform and has been republished with permission.

G20 Summit in Buenos Aires: And the Winner is Common Sense

By Denis Bright

Welcome to one of the negotiating triumphs of the century. This Win-Win Outcome fulfils the highest expectations of most G20 countries including Australia’s representatives in Argentina who all played a behind the scenes role in influencing the positive outcomes.

The world’s two superpowers in the US and China have temporarily called a halt to trade war diplomacy:

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to halt new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks, the US says. At a post-G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, Mr Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on $200bn (£157bn) of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% on 1 January.

China will buy a “very substantial” amount of agricultural, industrial and energy products, the US says. Meanwhile, Beijing says the two sides agreed to open up their markets.

It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since a trade war erupted earlier this year.

The dispute broke out after Mr Trump complained China was doing nothing to cut its large surplus in bilateral trade. At the summit in Argentina’s capital earlier on Saturday, the G20 leaders agreed a joint declaration that notes divisions over trade but does not criticise protectionism.

In the Associated Press picture (AP) President Trump’s maintains a statesmanlike poise. Perhaps posterity will fully appreciate the significance of the bilateral negotiations. Other luminaries are not included in this AP pictorial with its focus on President Xi Jinping and President Trump. The Xinhua picture attributed to Li Xueren is objectively a better record of events. However, the AP coverage is better infotainment of this incredible event.

In the AP record, US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, relaxes with some banter on the left side of President Trump. This is an amazing stance for the US War Hawk from Maryland with a long-standing commitment to regime change from Libya to Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, had of course been campaigning for this negotiated outcome for months and dared to take the podium at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on 26 May 2018. This was attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, French President Emmanuel Macron and China’s Vice President Wang Qishan (Bloomberg 26 May 2018).

More conventional leaders would not dare to challenge the direction of President Trump’s impulsive economic diplomacy.

Eyewitness news sources were too busy reporting the latest tensions between Russia and Ukraine to cover important forums like the St. Petersburg Economic Forum or the Far Eastern Forum in Vladivostok in September 2018. These events attracted international visitors like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from the other side of a re-emerging global geopolitical divide. That such divides could be re-imposed in 2018 surely betrays the spirit of 1989 which was about consensus-building and greater freedom for all.

Speaking in St. Petersburg Christine Lagarde offered some prophetic assurances:

“The good news today is that the sun is shining on the global economy. We went through a decade of difficult time, and now, we have an economy that is doing well,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde said her list of worries also include high levels of sovereign and corporate debt and tighter financial conditions in emerging markets from monetary tightening, particularly in the U.S.

The IMF chief has repeatedly warned against the risks of a global trade war amid aggressive steps by President Donald Trump to crack down on what he sees as the unfair trading practices of U.S. competitors. The Trump administration on Wednesday launched a probe to determine if imported cars imperil national security, a move that could lead to higher tariffs, and next week Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will be in Beijing for the next round of trade negotiations to ease tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“It would be a great mistake to resort to protectionism and unilateralism. This would be a self-inflicted wound,” Lagarde said. “Nobody wins a trade war.”

If the goodwill generated at the bilateral talks between China and the US continues, the dark shadows of protectionism can be halted so that global investment multipliers work their magic for humankind in developed and developing countries alike.

The global economic profile of the USA is not being enhanced by the style of financialisation being offered by the Casino Capitalism promoted by President Trump and his Republican predecessors.

Well before the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, IMF staff had crunched the numbers to show that China and other Asian economies had carried the real burden of partial economic recovery from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) a decade ago now:

US efforts to punish emergent countries for their success would offer terrible negative blow-back to countries like Australia as it waited for Casino Capitalism to deliver almost non-existent capital flows for investment in infrastructure and community development for both metropolitan and regional locations.

In the twenty-seven years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, capitalism must move in proactively social market directions away from the old assumptions of Thatcherism. Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison rooted for the changes in Buenos Aires behind the scenes.

Scott Morrison and Matthias Corman arriving in Buenos Aires – 30 November 2018

Australian Prime Minister:  I believe that both China and the United States are very keen to see a more open trading environment around the world, and more trade all across the world and particularly between their two nations. We all benefit from that. I think this will be a good opportunity over the course of the next two days to re-assert our commitment to these principles of trade and encourage all of the nations here to get on with that job. Because it’s what drags people out of poverty, it’s what gives people choice in life and that will be our focus, as it always is, at these important events.

This is one occasion when our leaders need bipartisan support without any qualifications. It was a real achievement to be tested in the forthcoming 90 days.

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

 

The Energy Road to Nowhere

By Ad astra 

Are you as exasperated and disgusted as I am with the political antics exposed during the renewed debate about energy policy? Are you appalled by our parliamentarians’ persistent inability to collaborate in making decisions about how to tackle climate change? These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers.

On 22 November, Bill Shorten chose a gathering arranged in Sydney by Bloomberg New Energy Finance to outline the energy policy Labor will take to the next election. Prefacing his presentation with ”Climate change is no longer an emergency. It’s a disaster”, Shorten went on to: “announce initiatives to boost the use of alternative energy and help meet the Labor party’s goal for 50 percent of the country’s power to come from renewables by 2030”. In support of Labor’s policy he pledged $10 billion in extra funding for clean energy and steeper cuts to carbon emissions.” He also promised subsidies for home battery installationsThe Conversation gave the battery idea a tick.

It is not my purpose to detail all the events that occurred on that momentous day – you are able to read all about them in the media. My aim is to highlight the tediousness of what is a monotonous replay of the same old story of climate change and energy policy inertia that goes back a decade.

Think back to where the saga began in earnest. We know that climate change has been on the minds of politicians for decades, but when in March 2007 Kevin Rudd, speaking at the National Climate Summit at Parliament House, declared climate change to be “the great moral challenge of our generation”, a new era began.

To cut a long story short, you will recall that following a paper by economist Ross Garnaut: Climate Change Review, Kevin Rudd developed an emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and negotiated the support of Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, who indicated he was prepared to back it. This eventually lead to his eclipse by Tony Abbott.

You will also recall that the Greens under Christine Milne, urged on by Bob Brown, refused to support it, effectively killing it off, as it ‘did not go far enough’. With the support of the Greens it would have passed, as some Coalition members were ready to cross the floor. At the time, Finance Minister Penny Wong, who also held the climate portfolio, said that the Greens should be held responsible “for their destructive impact on climate policy”.

During Julia Gillard’s prime ministership, Labor developed a policy that included a ‘price on carbon pollution’ as a penalty to dissuade polluters. When she introduced this concept, she was trapped into saying that it was a ‘tax’, and then fell foul of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s label of a ‘carbon tax’. As Abbott’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin later conceded, Labor’s climate change policy was never a carbon tax. Abbott was deliberately employing “brutal retail politics, and it took him six months to cut through and when he did cut through Gillard was gone.”  

That’s enough history to illustrate the parallel between then and now.

Now: No sooner had Shorten made his November 22 announcement that Labor would give support to the Coalition’s NEG, albeit with the proviso that there be a 45 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030, going beyond the existing Paris Agreement goal of a minimum 26 percent reduction from 2005 levels, than energy minister, Angus Taylor, whose sole focus is on getting power bills down, and to hell with emissions reduction, donned a high-viz vest at a high-energy-use smelter in Tomago, and enlisted the owner to support his attack on Labor’s proposals: ”These reckless targets will be a wrecking ball for the economy and for jobs in agriculture and the manufacturing sector. We won’t stand for it.”… He challenged Shorten to nominate which factories he would close down, how many cattle he would cull, and what industries he would wreck. Now Morrison has backed him.

Taylor must have expected the captains of industry to back him to the hilt and condemn Shorten’s move out of hand. Instead, Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, said of Shorten’s announcement that it was: ”a useful step that could help address the ongoing crisis in the electricity system.” Among Coalition members, Julie Bishop is the only one who agrees that it would be wise to go along with Labor. But will her colleagues listen?

In a characteristically delightful take on this laughable episode in The Guardian: Bill Shorten chooses to be the grown-up on energy as Coalition’s toddlers have a tantrum, Katharine Murphy pokes fun at Taylor and adds wearily: ”We’ve been here before: the hyperbolic carry on, it’s all pretty tired.”

Soon after Shorten’s announcement, right on cue, Richard Di Natale was on the TV doing the Green Thing, labelling Shorten’s proposal “A joke of a policy”, accusing Labor of “…backing away from tough action on climate change, including a price on carbon”, and blasting him with ”Bill Shorten has now become the punch line in what is the sick joke that is climate policy here in Australia.”

So there you have it, the same old, same old, same old story story – déjà vu all over again! Once again, Labor proposes a well-thought-through approach to tackle climate change by agreeing to adopt the NEG, an energy policy developed by the Coalition that has already been through its party room three times; the energy minister vehemently derides it as a ‘wrecking ball’ and refuses to have a bar of it, and the Greens smash it because it does not match their ideological position!

Sadly, our nation is once more back on the endless energy road to nowhere. Oh dear!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Liberal Soul-Searching: Can A Zombie Government Find Its Soul?

By Loz Lawrey 

After the Liberal/National Coalition’s resounding loss in the 2018 Victorian state election, Liberal leader Matthew Guy, in his concession speech said this: “We need to stay united. We need to stay focused, on our opponents and the game ahead, not on ourselves”.

This statement illustrates the misguided mindset of Liberal Party politicians: they believe that their job is to simply seize and hold power at any cost (the Tony Abbott approach), rather than to govern the nation by listening and responding to the Australian electorate.

Do these people realise they’re supposed to be in government, not playing some form of competitive sport?

Since Abbott’s election in 2013, the federal Coalition government, like its sibling party in Victoria, has been staggering about under the weight of this fundamental misunderstanding, like a clown carrying a donkey.

Winning an election is one thing, but actually governing requires the dialling-down of campaign rhetoric and focusing on developing and implementing good policy in the public interest.

Perhaps this is simply what an elitist born-to-rule mentality looks like. It’s as if these politicians are saying “We know best; our ideology and beliefs are the best; facts, evidence and expert advice don’t matter and neither do your opinions, voters. To us, it’s all about winning”.

Once the Coalition actually wins government however, it doesn’t seem to know what to do, other than bombard the public with messages about itself to reassure us that it does know, such as Scott Morrison’s already tired mantra: “We’re getting on with the job.”

A party of salesmen, the Liberal Party tends to get hung up on the effectiveness of their salesmanship rather than that of their policies or “product”.

We’re already hearing bleats of disgruntlement from conservatives about their party not “selling the message” effectively enough to win over voters in Victoria.

Unfortunately, the quality of the salesmanship becomes irrelevant when the policy message is negative and uninspiring.

And what is that message? Does the Liberal Party actually have a coherent vision for our country? A vision that depicts a healthy multicultural, inclusive, egalitarian society whose principal aspiration is fairness? A vision of a happy, well-educated society? A “clever country” perhaps?

Or is their vision one of mean-spirited, judgemental, fascist authoritarianism where certain minority groups are demonised and human and civil rights are constantly eroded while funding for social welfare agencies is withdrawn over time, while the rich get richer?

The Liberal Party embraces the antisocial neoliberal non-vision of trickle-down free market economics: low-taxing small government, pay-as-you-go profit-driven health and welfare services and privatised public utilities.

Meanwhile, their climate change denialism remains, blatantly, the elephant in the room. The only “message” we’ve been hearing endlessly repeated for the past five long years is another mantra well past its use-by date: “It’s Labor’s fault!”

The Coalition will only ever produce mere career politicians, never true statesmen.

Statesmen inspire and unite voters; they don’t try to divide and manipulate us through fear and insecurity. They don’t spruik hollow, contrarian slogans such as: “we’re working to save Australians from a Shorten government”.

A statesman might say (and mean) something like this: “We can never be a stronger state until we are a fairer state.” Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews delivered this simple message of inclusion and goodwill on ABC Melbourne radio on post-election Monday.

How different this sounds to the chest-beating, divisive hate speech we hear from Canberra Liberals.

During his Saturday night victory speech, when Andrews praised Victorians for rejecting “the low road of fear and division” we knew exactly what he meant.

The negative sloganeering we’ve been subjected to during this state election campaign, compounded by the dog-whistling from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton on law and order and terrorism has been like enduring a constant, never-ending screech of fingernails on a blackboard: “Screech! African gangs! Screech! Terrorists! Screech! Labor waste! Screech! Labor taxes! Screech! Law and order!”

A cacophony of fear-mongering nonsense, if you will. What a sad, miserable and above all, cynical approach to wooing an electorate: trying to scare people into voting for you.

It’s the oldest trick in the book, the last resort of desperate politicians, devoid of vision: scoundrels in their high tower of last refuge, hurling grenades of fear and loathing in a mendacious attempt to divide, conquer and scare voters into endorsing their regressive ideology and political posturing.

The narcissistic federal infighting, incompetence and toxic messaging have at times felt like an ever-flowing river of rubbish. Finally at last, Victorian voters have said “enough!”

Even some of the party’s own have also had enough: MP Julia Banks has abandoned the party to sit on the cross bench as an independent. In her view

“The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has blamed Liberal officials and “ideological warriors” for imposing their extreme views on social issues on the broader party, which the public now views as one of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Bring on the federal election, as soon as possible, please.

Can Australians stand another six months of Zombie Government dysfunction?

Surely the Liberal/National Coalition has earned a long, long period in opposition?

After the Coalition’s poor result at the 2016 federal election under Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals promised to do some “soul-searching” over their growing disconnect from the electorate.

Their Victorian election wipe-out is proof that the search has been fruitless. Much of the Liberal messaging came from Canberra, echoed by a compliant Matthew Guy, so the Morrison Government shares the responsibility for the loss.

Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton et al continually bang on about “our values” but those “values” appear to include mean-mindedness, misogyny, homophobia and outright cruelty.

If these are truly Australian values, then I’m a Martian.

To search your soul in self-reflection, first you need to find it.

Has the Liberal Party lost its soul?

Does a Zombie Government even have a soul?

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