Day to Day Politics: Making Sense (or…

Tuesday 28 March 2017 Anyone interested in politics who says they don’t take notice…

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Australian Drug Policy: ‘hypocrisy’ is not a strong…

By James Moylan The 3.6 million dollar study testing the sewage in our…

Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade beats Turnbull’s…

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“Peace, love, and ice cream”

I feel sorry for George Christensen.  Having so many people to hate…

We Need The Freedom To Offend So This…

Freedom of speech, I have heard recently, is a near-sacred concept and…

Day to Day Politics: Both beyond redemption.

Sunday 26 March 2017 You have to wonder about the sanity of people…

Marching for a better Australia

A joint statement from march organisers Members of the March Australia movement have…

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Why Barnett lost

By Tracie Aylmer

As the election finishes up and Upper House votes with preference deals are finalised, I would like to give another perspective on how Labor won so significantly. There were a number of issues. Two of those issues involved the selling of Western Power and Fremantle Port. A third issue was the destruction of the Beeliar Wetlands.

Recently, I had been involved with the protests against the Roe 8, 9 and 10 highway. It was an incredibly dumb idea, particularly when there was another option that is going to be much cheaper and more worthwhile.

As someone with a Masters degree, I saw highly educated people, grandmothers, mothers, teenagers, Councillors in local government, grandfathers, fathers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers and many other members of the community not just protest, but also be arrested at that site. Many people were happy to put their hands up. During rallies, people were divided into groups – one group unable to be arrested and the other group deliberately going out of their way to be arrested as the cause was too great. I was one of the people arrested. All I did was touch a fence.

When Barnett started bulldozing, a concerted effort was made to kick him out at the election. Groups of people got together to find ways in order to show exactly how bad an idea the destruction was. Signs went up, then Barnett’s followers took those signs down and put their own signs up. It led to a type of sign war, where signs were changed, then amended, then changed back again. People were fined or arrested for tooting their horns while driving past ‘No Roe 8’ signs, although in the end there were too many people tooting their horns and the police couldn’t arrest or fine everyone.

In four key electorates, a leaflet was letterbox dropped. Those electorates were Bicton, Southern River, Jandakot and Cottesloe. They were anti-Barnett leaflets designed to educate voters on just how much debt WA is now in due to Colin Barnett’s policies. It appears that those leaflets had made a difference. Key areas had a reduction in liberal votes.

Then there was that photo. A few Rethink the Link protesters wrote on their arms, then made sure to have a photo taken with Barnett. It was hard work getting that photo taken, as others had heckled Barnett shortly beforehand. The protesters had talked their way into it, and then the photo went viral. Barnett had no idea, and had a nice chat with one of the protesters. He hadn’t even realised that this particular protester had been arrested a few weeks prior, at the construction site.

Last week, another photo with Barnett had gone viral, this time with a person donning the prop for Barnaby the Carnaby Black Cockatoo. Barnett had continually stated that this threatened species had offsets for which they could fly to. It was a ridiculous statement. Since I live near the area, these cockatoos have been flying around trying to find out where they can settle. They are now displaced and even more threatened.

Then there was the video footage of a Pauline Hanson lookalike in a wedding gown, demanding to know what was going on with the preference deal and why he didn’t like her.

In addition were the Senate inquiries, of which there have been several throughout the last few years, as well as question upon question upon question. The secrecy had gotten to the whole community. We knew there was no business plan. We knew it was a case of throwing money away to the contractors that were Barnett’s mates. We saw through the poor excuses, and didn’t accept one single excuse that came out of Barnett’s mouth.

Then there was the land grab that tried to steal Native Title land off the Noongar People for the whole south west area of WA. This was completely unethical. Barnett had given funding to the organisation, in order to make sure that the deal happened. The Noongar People have wanted to unite ever since. They deserve much more respect than what they have been given. Barnett wanted to steal everything way from them, and give them a pittance in return. This included the area in the Beeliar Wetlands, which had been a birthing place for tens of thousands of years. The secret areas in the Wetlands were bulldozed without a second thought a few weeks ago. Many of us united with the Noongar People to shed streams of tears. Barnett does not like women.

All of the above showed not just creativity, but also how much we in WA did not want Barnett nor the Liberal Party. It was a concerted effort amongst the whole of the community. It wasn’t just one person. We had all united to overthrow Barnett and his lack of vision.

That is why Barnett lost so severely. We had all simply had enough. We joined together, and this is the result.

If McGowan shows any reconsideration for what the community wants and needs, we will show him exactly how we feel. We are strong in our community. We cannot be divided any longer. We know how to fight, and we will win whatever battle comes in place, of course using non-violent direct action.

McGowan has been placed on notice – include all of us or he will be shown the door. It’s that simple.

 

Brisbane school continues dominance of 4×4 STEM technology competition

By Craig Hingston

Representing Australia at World Finals for third year in a row.

Pine Rivers State High School from Brisbane has totally dominated the National Finals of the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge in Adelaide by taking out every award.

Two student teams, Fair Dinkum 4×4 and Mud Ruts, claimed all seven engineering, innovation and marketing awards after two days of intense judging. Fair Dinkum 4×4 tool out five of them and were crowned National Champions

This means for the third year in a row Pine Rivers State High School will be competing at the World Finals of this STEM competition, in Abu Dhabi.

The same school won the World Finals in 2016 and came third in 2015.

The students had to design and construct a remote controlled off road vehicle which could tow a trailer through an extreme 4×4 course in the least amount of time.

They learned about suspension, electronics, centre of mass and other engineering principles.

Teacher Corey Geiskens who has been responsible for introducing the school to national STEM programs (they were also World Champions of the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge) was honoured for his work by being made a Fellow of Re Engineering Australia Foundation, the not for profit organisation which has spent 19 years encouraging students into technical career paths via its hi-tech STEM activities.

 

When the rules don’t matter

By Kyran O’Dwyer

We are now three and a half years into the worst attempt at government the IPA has ever launched. At any level, it has become easy to be distracted by the incessant noise, whilst losing track of the major issues.

We now have a band of miscreants who are so enamoured of their own voices, they no longer tolerate any criticism of their utterances. We now have a band of miscreants whose incompetence borders on the criminal. We now have a band of miscreants whose wilful ignorance of the reality of those they claim to represent borders on the negligent. We now have a band of miscreants whose sense of self entitlement borders on the corrupt.

In the absence of any scrutiny, oversight or governance, they cannot be accused of incompetence, criminality, wilful ignorance, negligence or corruption. They have made the rules.

And the rules don’t matter. Well, not to them.

In the off chance that anyone wishes to challenge them, or their utterances or edicts, rest assured the challenger will be subjected to the most forensic and personal scrutiny by their enforcers.

Not the police, or Border Farce, or the AFP. They don’t have enough power, yet, to be able to regulate the behaviour of those they claim to protect.

The media. The ultimate enforcer. Name and shame. Make the conversation about the critic, not the criticism. Make the issue about the personality, not the substance. No need for gathering evidence, laying charges and costly trials. Slur, innuendo and inference will do just fine.

Noise, noise, noise. Avoid the substance, at all costs.

From the Merriam Webster dictionary:

The Multiple Meanings of anarchy
“Anarchy exemplifies how words may have similar yet distinctive meanings. The earliest recorded use of the word, from the early 16th century, meant simply “absence of government,” albeit with the implication of civil disorder. A similar but ameliorated meaning began to be employed in the 19th century in reference to a Utopian society that had no government. The establishment of these two senses of anarchy did not stop the word from being applied outside the realm of government with the broadened meaning “a state of confusion or disorder.” The existence of definitions that are in semantic conflict does not imply that one (or more) of them is wrong; it simply shows that multi-sense words like anarchy mean different things in different contexts. Another example of a sense-shifting word relating to government is aristocracy. When first used in English, this word carried the sole meaning “government by the best individuals.” It may still be used in such a fashion, but more commonly, it is encountered in the extended sense “the aggregate of those believed to be superior.”

The IPA government extols the virtues of the ‘absence of government’ theorem, with the threat of ‘civil disorder’. The ‘market’ should be the ultimate arbiter. Any dissent is of no consequence. If the media is not subject to any oversight, other than ‘self governance’, they can be unleashed anytime and anywhere. The prospect of any resultant ‘civil disorder’ is either minimized or negated.

The rules don’t matter. We should only have enough rules to hold the loopholes together.

The number of times – just in the past few months – that we have seen the disparity in the application of rules beggars belief. A politician should be excused for transgressions against their rules, on the basis ‘It was merely an oversight’. Whilst any ‘welfare’ claimant can, and, apparently, should be accused of a transgression against their rules and be demanded to produce evidence to the contrary.

Our ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, subject only to the oversight of two industry appointed self-regulated bodies, will provide advice to the government on tax law, and provide advice to their clients on how to avoid the laws they have proposed.

Our ‘Big Four’ banks, currently subject to no more oversight than APRA, will provide advice to the government as to why other financial institutions should not get the benefit of ‘the guarantee’, going back to the GFC.

Our environment is in trouble too. Therefore, we need to defund science and deprive scientists of any voice. Silence the scientists and fund the abusers of the environment.

Our children are in trouble too. Do we educate them through Gonski, or simply say we can’t afford it? Or do we avail our children of services to enable their parents to do both of their jobs? Parent and provider.

Once upon a time, we had NDIS, NBN, Medicare, minimum working wage, minimum working conditions.

We now have domestic violence (DV) as a major problem. Economically. That is the only language our government understands. We have a current Minister for Women that has actually retreated from the last Minister for Women’s strong position on hating DV, whilst defunding all of the services that would support the victims of those very crimes.

We no longer tolerate the notion of equality. Whether it be colour, gender, religion, sexuality. No matter, it doesn’t matter.

One of the most egregious of recent transgressions is the signing of OPCAT, only in the sense that it is the ultimate ‘fire sale’ of our soul.

“Attorney-General George Brandis said the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) would be ratified by the end of this year.”

By the end of this year, we will ratify a treaty that aims to address issues such as ‘Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment’.

Let’s be perfectly clear about this.

In 1948-1949, “Doc” Evatt was one of the authors of the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ through the UN. FFS, it’s 2017. The best we’ve got is Brandy, ratifying an agreement, subject to exclusions, of a concept that was not only agreed to nearly sixty years ago, but was co-authored by an emissary of the Australian government.

“The aim is not to shame, it is not to engage in an act of moral vanity, it is to cooperate in a mutual endeavour to bring about a tangible improvement to the treatment of people in detention.

The ratification of the treaty would not affect the Manus Island offshore processing centre because Papua New Guinea has not ratified the same treaty.

The Government of Nauru ratified the treaty in 2013.”

My contention is that the rules only apply to some. And only apply under certain circumstances. And, worst of all, if you can afford ‘good’ advice, they won’t apply to you.

Our IPA government is on a hiding to hell. Who cares?

Until such time as governance and government are restored, we remain in their image.
Anarchic.

Unions can no longer call a general strike, without observing the rules. There is a place for civil disobedience, however. It was demonstrated last week.

Most Australians are perfectly aware of the issues that they face on a daily basis.

March in March? Feck, yes (In Australian, “f*ck, yeah”). If enough of us turn out, we might make a difference. A Utopian society does not require rules. Any Utopian society would be based on respect and dignity, for one and all. These anarchists rely on a ‘state of confusion or disorder’ to justify their absence of rules.

I’m no fan of aristocracy. But democracy should not deprive us of “government by the best individuals”.

(I tried fitting this into a sign to march with. My bad).

 

Twenty Twenty-Four – our Orwellian destiny?

By Ad astra

Have you ever felt overtaken by the velocity of world events? Have your ever felt overwhelmed by the pace of change? Have you ever wondered what the world will be like in Twenty Twenty-Four, forty years after George Orwell’s prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four?

Studying the facts and contemplating what the world will be like in just seven years is alarming, such is the pace of change we see all around us. We can avoid distress by burying our heads in the sand, or we can take a clear-eyed look at the future and reflect on how best to manage it. Many choose the more comfortable option; in this piece let’s choose the latter.

This piece draws heavily on an article in Scientific American on 25 February of this year Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, which carried the subtitle: We are in the middle of a technological upheaval that will transform the way society is organized. We must make decisions right now. The article was written by an illustrious group of authors: Dirk Helbing, Bruno S. Frey, Ger Gigerenzer, Ernst Hafen, Michael Hagner, Yvonne Hofstetter, Jeroen van den Hoven, Roberto V. Zicari and Andrej Zwitter. Their CVs are at the foot of the article.

Most of you will not wish to read the Scientific American article in full, as it is very long. To make this piece readable, I have attempted to distill the essence of it, but to portray its message accurately I have quoted much of it at length. Therefore, this is a rather long piece, but as it focuses on an issue of critical importance to our future, I have not attempted to oversimplify its content. I hope you will have time to digest it.

If you think that our society is light-years away from acting out Orwell’s fantasy, reflect on the current angry debate around clause 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, the way in which the Department of Human Services has given the media personal details of a complainant against Centrelink in order to punish her publicly, and on the recent emergence of ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ in the US.

To remind you of the plot of Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four, here is the beginning of a summary:

Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother.

Image from openculture.com

The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thought-crime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.

The rest of the summary, provided by sparknotes can be read here.

First, some facts from the Scientific American article. Remember, some of these are predictions, and therefore may not be accurate. They may, indeed likely will, change over time.

As the digital revolution accelerates, how will it change our world? Here are some statements from the article:

The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words, in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015.

Every minute we produce hundreds of thousands of Google searches and Facebook posts. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel.

Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet.

It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than all the people on Earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours.

This is known in the artificial intelligence world as Big Data, a phrase we will hear more and more.

Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. Should we also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet?

Artificial intelligence is contributing to the automation of data analysis. It is now capable of learning, thereby continuously developing itself.

Algorithms can now recognize handwritten language and patterns almost as well as humans and even complete some tasks better than them. They are able to describe the contents of photos and videos.

News content is, in part, automatically generated.

In the coming 10 to 20 years around half of today’s jobs will be threatened by algorithms.

Today, algorithms perform 70% of all financial transactions.

40% of today’s top 500 companies will have vanished in a decade.

Just reflect on that – during the next ten years, by 2027, 200 of the top 500 companies will disappear – 140 of them in the seven years to 2024!

What will replace them? What will workers in those companies do after they have gone? Will there be alternative work? If not, how will they live? Are governments planning for this eventuality? Are there any who are?

The article continues:

It can be expected that supercomputers will soon surpass human capabilities in almost all areas somewhere between 2020 and 2060.

Technology visionaries, such as Elon Musk from Tesla Motors, Bill Gates from Microsoft, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and physicist Stephen Hawking are warning that super-intelligence is a serious danger for humanity, possibly even more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

One thing is clear: the way in which we organize the economy and society will change fundamentally. We are experiencing the largest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars, the automation of society is next.

With this, society is at a crossroads, which promises great opportunities, but also considerable risks. If we take the wrong decisions it could threaten our greatest historical achievements.

In the 1940s, the American mathematician Norbert Wiener invented cybernetics. According to him, the behaviour of systems could be controlled by the means of suitable feedbacks. Very soon, some researchers imagined controlling the economy and society according to this basic principle, but the necessary technology was not available at that time.

Today, Singapore is seen as a perfect example of a data-controlled society. What started as a program to protect its citizens from terrorism has ended up influencing economic and immigration policy, the property market and school curricula.

China is taking a similar route. Recently, Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Google, invited the military to take part in the China Brain Project. It involves running so-called deep learning algorithms over the search engine data collected about its users. Beyond this, a kind of social control is also planned. According to recent reports, every Chinese citizen will receive a so-called ”Citizen Score”, which will determine under what conditions they may get loans, jobs, or travel visa to other countries. This kind of individual monitoring would include people’s Internet surfing and the behaviour of their social contacts.

With consumers facing increasingly frequent credit checks and some online shops experimenting with personalized prices, we are on a similar path in the West.

It is also increasingly clear that we are all in the focus of institutional surveillance. This was revealed in 2015 when details of the British secret service’s “Karma Police” program became public, showing the comprehensive screening of everyone’s Internet use.

Is Orwell’s character ‘Big Brother’ now becoming a reality for us?

Under the heading ‘Programmed society, programmed citizen’, the article goes on to describe how all this happened under our very eyes:

Everything started quite harmlessly. Search engines and recommendation platforms began to offer us personalised suggestions for products and services. This was based on personal and metadata that has been gathered from previous searches, purchases and mobility behaviour, as well as social interactions. While officially users’ identity is protected, it can be inferred quite easily.

Today, algorithms know pretty well what we do, what we think and how we feel – possibly even better than our friends and family or even ourselves.

Often the recommendations we are offered fit so well that the resulting decisions feel as if they were our own, even though they are actually not our decisions. In fact, we are being remotely controlled… The more is known about us, the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others.

This is startling. It is only a small step from manipulating our buying behaviour to manipulating our political and social thinking and behaviour, just as happened to Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four via the Thought Police.

The alarming predictions continue:

But it won’t stop there. Some software platforms are moving towards ‘persuasive computing’. In the future, using sophisticated manipulation technologies, these platforms will be able to steer us through entire courses of action, be it for the execution of complex work processes or to generate free content for Internet platforms, from which corporations earn billions.

The trend goes from programming computers to programming people.

These technologies are also becoming increasingly popular in the world of politics:

Under the label of ‘Nudging’, governments are trying to steer citizens towards healthier or more environmentally friendly behaviour by means of a ‘nudge’ – a modern form of paternalism. The new, caring government is not only interested in what we do, but also wants to make sure that we do the things that it considers to be right.

The magic phrase is ‘Big Nudging’, which is the combination of Big Data and Nudging.

This appears to be a sort of digital sceptre that allows one to govern the masses efficiently, without having to involve citizens in democratic processes. Could this overcome vested interests and optimize the course of the world? If so, then citizens could be governed by a data-empowered ‘wise king’, who would be able to produce desired economic and social outcomes almost as if with a digital magic wand.

Can you imagine how George Brandis would use the metadata he insists he must gather to ‘protect us from harm’. The fact that he is unable to explain what metadata is leaves us exposed to the manipulations of others who do know.

‘Nudging’ is already happening here.

When Centrelink client Andie Fox wrote an opinion piece for Fairfax Media claiming Centrelink had ‘terrorised’ her while chasing her for a debt she believed she did not owe, as reported in ABC News, Fairfax published an article from the Government’s perspective, suggesting Centrelink was being ‘unfairly castigated’. In the article Ms Fox’s personal information, including her history of claiming the Family Tax Benefit and relationship circumstances was exposed. The Department of Human Services, with the approval of the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, supplied the information. Subsequently, the Department defended its ‘right’ to expose such intimate details in defence of its position, thereby ‘nudging’ any other potential complainant to back off, or else!

There is a downside though to such ‘nudging’ behaviour.

The scientific literature shows that attempts to control opinions…are doomed to fail because of the complexity of the problem. The dynamics of the formation of opinions are full of surprises. Nobody knows how the digital magic wand, that is to say the manipulative nudging technique, should best be used. What would have been the right or wrong measure often is apparent only afterwards.

During the German swine flu epidemic in 2009, for example, everybody was encouraged to go for vaccination. However, we now know that a certain percentage of those who received the immunization were affected by an unusual disease, narcolepsy. Another example is the recent attempt of health insurance providers to encourage increased exercise by handing out smart fitness bracelets, with the aim of reducing the amount of cardiovascular disease in the population; but in the end, this might result in more hip operations.

In a complex system, such as society, an improvement in one area almost inevitably leads to deterioration in another. Thus, large-scale interventions can sometimes prove to be massive mistakes.

Criminals, terrorists and extremists will try to take control of the digital magic wand sooner or later – perhaps even without us noticing. Almost all companies and institutions have already been hacked.

A further problem arises when adequate transparency and democratic control are lacking: the erosion of the system from the inside. Governments are able to influence the outcomes. During elections, they might nudge undecided voters towards supporting them, a manipulation that would be hard to detect. Therefore, whoever controls this technology can win elections by nudging themselves to power.

In order for manipulation to stay unnoticed, it takes a so-called resonance effect, where nudging is customized to each individual, an ‘echo chamber effect’. In the end, all you might get is your own opinions reflected back at you. This causes social polarization, resulting in the formation of separate groups that no longer understand each other and find themselves increasingly at conflict with one another.

In this way, personalized information can unintentionally destroy social cohesion. This can be currently observed in American politics, where Democrats and Republicans are increasingly drifting apart, so that political compromises become almost impossible. The result is a fragmentation, possibly even a disintegration of society.

Owing to the resonance effect, a large-scale change of opinion in society can be produced only slowly and gradually. The effects occur with a time lag, but they cannot be easily undone.

It is possible, for example, that resentment against minorities or migrants get out of control; too much national sentiment can cause discrimination, extremism and conflict.

Are we not already seeing this play out before our very eyes as Hanson supporters and right wing bigots vent their spleen?

Let us suppose there was a super-intelligent machine with godlike knowledge and superhuman abilities: would we follow its instructions?

This seems possible. But if we did that, then the warnings expressed by Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Stephen Hawking and others would have become true: computers would have taken control of the world. We must be clear that a super-intelligence could also make mistakes, lie, pursue selfish interests or be manipulated. Above all, it could not be compared with the distributed, collective intelligence of the entire population.

Let’s jump to the end of this very long piece to give you ‘the bottom line’. Here is the heavily redacted conclusion written by Yvonne Hofstetter, lawyer and artificial intelligence expert: When intelligent machines take over societal control, Orwell style!

Cybernetics is the science of information and control, regardless of whether a machine or a living organism is being controlled. Cybernetics promises: “Everything is controllable.”

For Norbert Wiener, inventor of cybernetics, the digital era would be a paradise, as the world has never produced such amount of data and information as it does today.

In the digital age, machines steer everyday life to a considerable extent already. We should, therefore, think twice before we share our personal data.

Control refers to the control of machines as well as of individuals or entire social systems like military alliances, financial markets or, pointing to the 21st century, even the electorate. Its major premise: keeping the world under surveillance to collect data. Connecting people and things to the Internet of Everything is a perfect to way to obtain the required mass data as input to cybernetic control strategies.

Wiener proposed a new scientific concept for cybernetics: the closed-loop feedback. Feedback, such as the ‘Likes’ we give, and the online comments we make, is a major concept of digitization. Does that mean digitization is the most perfect implementation of cybernetics? When we use smart devices, we are creating a ceaseless data stream disclosing our intentions, geo position or social environment. While we communicate more thoughtlessly than ever online, in the background, an ecosystem of artificial intelligence is evolving. Today, artificial intelligence is the sole technology being able to profile us and draw conclusions about our future behavior.

An automated control strategy, usually a learning machine, analyzes our actual situation and then computes a stimulus that should draw us closer to a more desirable ‘optimal’ state. Increasingly, such controllers govern our daily lives. As digital assistants they help us making decisions in the vast ocean of options and intimidating uncertainty. Even Google Search is a control strategy. When typing a keyword, a user reveals his intentions. The Google search engine, in turn, will not just present a list with best hits, but also a list of links that embodies the highest (financial) value rather for the company than for the user. Doing it that way, i.e. listing corporate offerings at the very top of the search results, Google controls the user’s next clicks. This, the European Union argues, is a misuse.

But is there any way out? Yes, if we disconnected from the cybernetic loop. Just stop responding to a digital stimulus. Cybernetics will fail if the controllable counterpart steps out of the loop. Yet, we are free to owe a response to a digital controller. However, as digitization further escalates, soon we may have no more choice. Hence, we are called on to fight for our freedom and our rights afresh during the digital era and in particular with the rise of intelligent machines.

Is that frightening enough? It ought to be. Not only are we being subsumed in the cybernetic loop where we inadvertently give the very feedback that the manipulators of our choices crave, but also we are largely unaware that we are being categorized, manipulated, ‘nudged’ and inveigled into positions not of our choosing, but those chosen by others – chosen for their own purposes, whether they be commercial, or more sinisterly, political.

Be afraid, very afraid!

Big Brother is watching you!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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An open letter to the LNP regarding the Cashless Welfare Card

By Tina Clausen

After having worked as a professional Social Worker for twenty years, including in agency management and interdisciplinary team leader positions, then having to leave the workforce due to illness, how dare you assume that I am suddenly incapable of managing my own income and decide that I should be treated like a child and a criminal.

You are taking away my basic Human Rights of dignity, self-determination and social freedom. You are also illegally disadvantaging me by letting Indue retain interest earned on money in my account as well as forcing me to access goods and services that are more expensive than I get them for now. Money is tight and I’m managing my budget accordingly, you and private for profit company Indue will blow my budget out the window.

Logistically and practically the card is not working and is a nightmare for the general public, whom you are employed to serve in their best interest. This is in no ones best interest except Indue and its shareholders. The $4000 or more the scheme costs to manage per person could be better spent on increasing beneficiary payments, at least that way the money would be funneled back into local communities and thereby stimulating the economy.

The card was initially brought in to support people that had difficulties managing their income appropriately due to addiction issues. That is where it can be targeted, at an individual level for people identified within existing frameworks as being at risk eg via police, child safety services etc.

It is not appropriate to bring the card in wholesale across entire communities and eventually across the nation. We all have the right to live without excessive government interference in our day to day lives. This card only benefits Indue and the big chain stores especially. It is big brother in full action.

Another issue is that whereas Newstart recipients can leave the scheme when they find employment, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities will be stuck on it for life. They already have a hard time and now you want to punish them further?

I would not be able to continue my cheap insurance with Budget Direct, I would have to go to more expensive insurance providers. People can’t shop at cheap fresh food markets or garage sales but can go to Woolworths or the very expensive David Jones. 20% cash does not come close to meeting costs where you are unable to use the card, can’t even pay off a credit card debt or a mortgage with a re-draw facility if some people have those loans as you are not allowed to transfer money to those.

Unscrupulous individuals as well as shop owners are already taking advantage of people on the card and ripping off the most vulnerable in our society. They do this by taking a percentage of desperate peoples money in return for a cash exchange and shops in areas with little competition massively increase their prices. We are talking 200-400% price hikes.

The sad thing is the card doesn’t even address the initial issue the card was brought in for – those few who might actually need such assistance have found ways around it out of sheer desperation or embark on crime sprees to make up their shortfall.

We are a free country and as politicians there to serve the people you have no right to impose such a punitive and draconian scheme on unwilling Citizens. We NEVER voted or said “yes” to such a scheme.

Faithfully,

Tina Clausen.

March in March protests against pay cuts, welfare cuts and the Cashless Welfare Card will be held around Australia on the 25th of March.

To support the most vulnerable in our society, please get involved. Visit the March Australia Facebook page for list of marches in a town or city near you.

 

The slo mo train wreck that is Pauline Hanson’s One Nation

By petermcc

Aussie politics has been pretty interesting of late, though I imagine some folk aren’t enjoying it as much as I am. That comes from not appreciating the subtlety of backroom deals and the forlorn hope that there will be a sudden outbreak of common sense where the good of the country coming first.

How long can you hold your breath?

As negative as that sounds, I believe things are on the improve but more about that later.

Overriding our own trials and tribulations is the spectre of the Donald Trump experiment which has entered high farce now that smart decisions are required instead of just “bitching about the Gov’mint”. It’s turned out that Donald is so gripped by Obamaphobia he can’t think straight and running the government was way more complex than he realised. (Who knew? Certainly not the self described King of Debt).

This throws a dark shadow across Aussie politics because when Donald gets his war with China, and he is going to need it for the Polls, our Economy goes straight down the toilet. With Donald’s America First, he won’t be interested in paying for the damage and sadly our current government is still so besotted with America that we will sign up for any lunacy that Trump imagines. It’s no shock that Hanson wants to be besties with Donald too, and in her case there appears to be no recognition of how damaging the Donald will be. At least the Libs have some trepidation.

But all is not lost.

One positive thing that Donald has achieved is exposing some Aussie pollies who celebrate brain-dead ideas. Populist rubbish that doesn’t stand up to clear thinking. Finding minorities and beating up on them for personal gain. It’s given these self-centred individuals an ill founded confidence that is rapidly fading as the full impact of their stupidity takes effect.

Like her last time around, Pauline is hitting the media at every opportunity and Pauline fatigue is building. This would not be a problem if she had any clear ideas about what she wants to achieve but she is a walking disaster area of contradictions. Just last weekend she proclaimed that Malcolm Turnbull was too bossy but Vladimir Putin was what Aussies want. Just think on that for a moment.

She also decided that playing the anti-vax card would be good for a few votes, seemingly unaware that quite a lot of older folk in her camp know what an iron lung looks like and remember how vaccinations made a huge difference to those requiring its use.

Consider yourself a “battler” and believed Pauline would stick up for your pay and conditions? Shame about that. Pauline votes Liberal 87% of the time which is not surprising when you realise she was too hard core for the Liberal party when it was a more centrist body of people. She is happy to take your vote but don’t expect support, or even respect. Apparently nearly half her support comes from notionally Labor voters. They must be starting to realise she might not be there for them.

Climate Change is another area where Pauline thought she could pull a few votes but that boat has sailed long ago. Apart from a few die hards, the country has mostly accepted the science and is requiring action. Even Malcolm is getting beaten up over the environment and he has a much more agreeable media presence.

It’s tempting to depict Pauline Hanson’s One Nation as similar to the ill-fated Palmer United party, but it’s way less sophisticated than that. Clive lost control quickly because those in his party wanted to make their own decisions but at least it was after the election that the wheels fell off. With PHON, Pauline tells us everyone has to do as she tells them because they represent her. Somehow representing the voters fell off the back of the truck long ago.

The upcoming WA State election is on this coming weekend and it is going to be one to watch. It sounds like support for PHON is already falling after the bizarre pro-Putin rubbish but WA is often hard to pick. They claim they like stability but who knows if that will turn their vote away from Pauline on polling day.

Whatever the outcome, when it comes to the Eastern States, hitching your wagon to a nutter like Trump, or an anti-Democracy chap like Vladimir, is really going to test voters loyalty. With Pauline not realising public appearances can be seriously damaging, I think we are looking at a repeat of Pauline’s last foray into Aussie politics where folk got sick of the thoughtlessness. It’s great fun to have a bitch, but when voters are looking for clever decisions, Pauline’s name is unlikely to be foremost in anyone’s mind.

This article was originally published on 1petermcc’s Blog.

 

John Howard “hardened the hearts of many Australians”

By Tony Dewberry

How is it newsworthy that a retired politician was heckled in the street? Is ours a society where deference is demanded by the rulers from the ruled?

John Howard represents, for me, everything that is hateful, cruel and stupid about Australia. He hardened the hearts of many Australians against the legitimate rights of asylum seekers.

He ordered Australian troops on to the Norwegian vessel the Tampa to kidnap and imprison those fleeing persecution. He sent troops into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Howard committed us to wars in the Middle East that have turned into endless bloodbaths. He tried to break our union movement.

This shows that with power you can command many things, but power cannot command respect, which must always be given freely.

Should I outlive Howard I will be part of the opposition to giving him a state funeral and, I promise, no matter how old I am I will be part of the protest should such a state funeral go ahead.

He was such a key player in so many of the changes that make me grieve for the country I grew up in.

 

Turning our backs on cultural diversity: thoughts on Harmony Week

By Jane Salmon

Growing up in bland suburban 50s, 60s and 70s middle-class Australia was all about enforced conservative norms.

You fitted in or were teased. You moved around in private cars where possible and kept to suburbs as uniform as possible. You treated foreign foods like spaghetti as exotic. When travelling, you were blithely ignorant of the benefits of tabouleh while strenuously fearful of being offered eating sheep’s eyes by Arabs. You were even assured you had nothing to personally feel “Sorry” about, whether or not you believe it. You stereotyped yourself by size, height, blondeness, occupation or interests: a Brady Bunch or Womens Weekly style template. You also mentally dismissed “chinks”, “gooks”, “wogs”, Nazis and Jews, “Abos”, males and females. To some extent, you still do. Privately.

These days Harmony Week is supposed to make a dent in the Aussie Anglophile smug. It’s generally a festival of traditional national food, music, costumes and dance.

Does it create change and encourage us to accept the gifts of other civilisations and cultures or does it reinforce difference?

“Harmony” seems needed more than ever.

Many Australians seem only too keen to accept Trump’s or Hanson’s permission to be selfish, angry, ignorant, unaware, fearful and above all, racist.

Despite SBS and the internet, far too many Aussies are opting for a festival of ignorance-fuelled fear and hatred right now. Exploring extreme stereotypes seems so much more satisfying than accepting the ordinariness of peace-loving people who just happen to grow up in different countries.

Refugees and migrants “take” jobs rather than “create” them. Many voters tacitly concur that resources are finite and that any generosity will cost them, that  every transaction is part of a zero sum game, that you cannot grow the pie.

The belief that bigger demands on the rich to share wealth will harm the economy is well established. Far better to punish the vulnerable poor.

On Wednesday, IWD, a pro-refugee group of volunteers called “People Just Like Us” solicited members of the public to put messages of welcome to refugees on a sculpted metal tree made to celebrate Harmony Week. The work was sponsored by City of Sydney and completed by refugees.

The group has a level of fellowship. There is artist Jason Koh who came from Singapore 20 years ago. There is Angelika Treichler who was raised in post war Germany. Joyce Fu is from Taiwan. Fabia Claridge is from everywhere.

The sculptor is an Iranian called Majet. I also enjoyed meeting Amir, a smiling and very cultured estate agent whose achievements in Australia began with learning English and then representing his own immigration case in the Federal Court.

Passers-by either seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the concepts represented by leaflets and tree or to passively resent and ignore them. There was very little in between.

Many folk seem to avoid any challenge to their immediate preoccupations, goals and/or prejudices.

Getting past white entitlement is hard to do. We still fear difference. I still bumble and fumble the interactions, emphasising difference.

A phalanx of private school boys paraded past our demonstration yesterday. Their disinterest was polite. The blonde, slim, be-whistles teacher seemed warier of controversy than they.

But yesterday a few lovely folk had the leisure and grace to stop and chat. They seemed to be widely travelled, warm, educated and thoughtful.

One tourist sadly told me about the rise of COP18 & extreme National Front groups in poor parts of Britain, of polarisation that seems to grow out of poverty and ignorance. Brexit voters had no idea of the implications, he said.  Nostalgia and nationalism are a heady mix. Colonialism and world wars are based on racist stereotypes.

Our government detains vulnerable men, women and children on Nauru. They isolate visa overstayers as hostages offshore in indefinite detention in our name. This seems to be at great expense to taxpayers and to mutual respect, trust and even peace. Australians can somehow afford to bomb Syria and Syrians from the air, to force people to stagnate in camps, but not find positive ways to embrace them when they coming looking for a fresh start.

Every one of us can take a step on the road to Harmony by getting to know a wider range of people. If you have time, wander down to Customs House on Sunday. Enjoy the cultural riches that newcomers bestow upon our country. Hear about the reasons ordinary folk flee extremists in their own homelands. Look a detainee of four years in the eye. See the needless damage and also celebrate all that they have achieved since.

Perhaps they’re not so dangerous after all.

And maybe we can all afford compose a message on a coloured leaf and tie it to an already bristling tree.

I’ll be there to enjoy dance and music, poetry (whether traditional or slam), build bonds and see those leaves of welcome burgeoning on every branch.

Hope you’ll join us.

 

Girls and STEM go together

By Craig Hingston

Whilst the traditional education system in Australia has found it challenging to encourage female students to want to take part in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects there is a privately operated organisation which is defying the national trend.

Thirty eight per cent of high school students engaged in STEM programs established by the not for profit Re-Engineering Australia Foundation are girls. In one state, Tasmania, the female to male ratio is an amazing 67 to 33 per cent. And, more than half (58 per cent) of all girls say that as a result of REA they have changed their career direction to one which involves STEM.

REA tapped into the psyche of young students almost 20 years ago when it launched a series of hands-on applied learning STEM competitions. They were based on the premise of giving teenagers a highly technical challenge and providing them with real-world technology to solve it. It wasn’t a case of learning from a textbook. They had to be self motivated and pursue the knowledge they needed.

The most well known competition, which attracts upwards of 40,000 students each year, is the F1 in Schools Technology Challenge. Others include Subs in Schools, the Land Rover 4×4 Technology Challenge and Jaguar Primary School Challenge.

Founder Dr Michael Myers OAM confirmed the effectiveness of his unique methodologies with an extensive national survey of thousands of students which revealed their key drivers. Interestingly, the girls gave similar answers to the boys…

“I liked learning about cars. I liked being part of a team.”

“Designing the cars and racing them with other teams.”

“Teamwork designing the car.”

“Designing the car…manufacturing…everything!”

“I enjoyed the new experience it gave me and the hands on part.”

“I now have a much clearer understanding of STEM as a career.”

“Liked the fact that they use the same technology as industry.”

“I thought the project was cool.”

Girls of all ages have found a ‘perfect fit’ in many of the team roles, predominantly those of team manager, marketing manager and graphic designer. A number of teams feature female engineers and car designers.

The trend of female participation began early. When REA sent their first team to the F1 in Schools World Finals in England it was an all-girl team (Brisk In Pink). Since then female students have managed four teams to the World Finals competition resulting in three World Championships, a second place and a world speed record. Girls led both Australian teams to the 4×4 World Finals in 2015 and ’16 and returned with a World Championship and third place.

The first National Champions of the Subs in School program were all-girls and the newly crowned National Champions of F1 in Schools (Golden Diversity) are five girls from a high school in Launceston.

The F1 in Schools National Finals in Adelaide was a good indicator of just how well girls are embracing STEM. More than half of the teams (17 out of 30) included girls. Four were girls only and one had four girls and a lone boy. Nine teams were led by female managers and four had female design engineers.

A closer look at Golden Diversity – four 15 year olds and a 14 year old – reveals that although these young female teens weren’t aspiring to become engineers or technicians they were still intrigued by science and maths.

Their name comes from the diverse family origins of each member: Iraq, India, Vietnam, Scotland and England (plus Greece and Afghanistan for two original members who have since left).

“We saw it as a opportunity to extend our learning. Our school always taught us to take every opportunity offered to us so we decided to take a chance”, said team manager Yara Alkhalili about their simple beginnings back in 2015. They had no idea that 12 months later they would be runners-up at the National Finals and a year after that named the team that will represent their nation at the 2017 F1 in Schools World Finals.

Golden Diversity believes that women and men should receive equal opportunity in the area of STEM employment.

“Coming into such a male dominated competition, as an all girls team, we felt that we were underestimated because of our gender by other teams”, added Yarra, “The attitude towards us from other girls has been extremely positive with many young women coming up to us and saying that we have inspired them to pursue STEM opportunities. One example was the first development class team from the Illawarra to make it to the National Finals. They came up us to say that they met us at the last Nationals and we inspired them to take part in the competition. And here they are.”

The five girls aren’t yet certain which careers they will choose but they do say that exposure to STEM has opened an unimaginable number of doors.

“Through F1 in Schools we have gained important life long and transferable skills that will aid us in any career we want to pursue. It has had a considerable influence on how we approach the areas of careers we will pursue by giving us the practical and authentic learning environment in which to advance our skills and abilities. As well as giving us more opportunities within our schooling.”

Dr Myers, a Fellow of Engineers Australia, says the holistic platform of REA Foundation’s programs  address a breadth of key learning areas as well as ‘soft skills’ to maximise students’ employability,

“We link Schools, Industry, TAFE, Universities and parents in a collaborative and experiential learning environment focused on changing the metaphor of the education process. The challenge is multi-faceted and multidisciplinary. It encourages students to collaborate with industry partners within the context of their projects to learn about engineering principles such as physics, aerodynamics, design, manufacture, leadership/teamwork, media skills and project management, and apply them in a practical, imaginative, competitive and exciting way.”

 

Understanding Orwell: His teachings for a time of extremes

George Orwell and his dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four‘ have been widely discussed recently amidst the furore around the White House’s stream of dishonesty, but the conversation often misses the mark, writes Jake Watson, and at best undervalue Orwell’s still relevant political lessons. At worst, the far-right attempts to claim him for themselves; as seen in the comments sections across the media and in articles from the likes of FOX News and Breitbart.

This is harmful, writes Jake, and a clearer image of his lessons would be beneficial as the extremisms of his time are widely considered to mirror ours. In his article, Jake presents this image, by fairly taking quotations and facts of Orwell’s life and using them to provide meaning and historical context to the political and social context of the present.

The re-emergence of George Orwell in the media and public discourse is always a bittersweet occurrence. On one hand, the discussion of great political and literary minds is always beneficial; on the other, the mention of Orwell can only mean that something he warned us about is happening. As a writer who came to prominence during a time of extremes-as ours are becoming-his words are more than ever worth reading.

His relevance lately has been peaking, with lies flowing from the White House daily and the line between true and false concealed. The discussion-in comment sections across the web, and publications like FOX News and Breitbart-reveals a deep misunderstanding of the man, but also a lack of appreciation for the scope of his lessons.

Focus goes usually to the clearer points of his most famous work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, particularly his staunch opposition to controlled, deceptive language. This has been spurred on lately by the term ‘alternative facts’ and the more egregious examples of utterly disproved voter fraud and bans that aren’t bans. In his words, “Sanity was statistical. It was merely a question of learning to think as they thought”. And, “The very concept of objective truth is fading out in the world. Lies will pass into history”.

What’s important to remember is that this, like all Orwell believed, is fundamentally nonpartisan. Dishonesty is something to be resisted coming from the left, right or centre; political language, he says, and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists-is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectful, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

Many people rightly attack Donald Trump for his lies, while being lenient of those from Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. This occurs just as often in reverse. But Orwell’s statements are not mouldable to ideology; they are unabashedly unbiased principles. However, many use them only in one direction, particularly when using Orwell to aid their anti-political correctness beliefs. Though many of the people who rally against politically correct speech are undoubtedly bigots, unfashionable criticism of ideas which we’ve every right to critique is too often unfairly silenced. As Orwell wrote:

At any given moment, there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question … a genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing.

Written as a preface to Animal Farm in response to the pre-WW2 hypocrisy of the British press and intelligentsia who criticised Churchill’s government while leaving the Soviets untouched (“serious criticism of the Soviet regime … is next door to unprintable”), these words could apply today, particularly to discussion on Islam. It currently has a special place as the most controversial and most protected religion in Australia. While Christianity, an astoundingly similar faith, can be openly derided and mocked, if such treatment occurs to Islam it is ‘Islamophobic’, and highly unfashionable. This means that measured discussion of the religion often gets lumped in with the genuine xenophobia-of which there is plenty-against Muslims themselves. It seems likely Orwell would have disagreed both with the hatred for the almost entirely peaceful followers of the faith, and those who shut down criticism of the faith itself.

His talent for nuance and equivocation are seen not just in his writing but in his life. An avowed socialist, he was largely excommunicated from Britain’s literary class at the time for not supporting Stalin, who was seen as the strongest opponent of Fascism. But Orwell-who literally fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War-knew that Stalin was the same beast as Hitler: Totalitarians both, but in different outfits. He knew their downfalls were not each other, but something more difficult, which was to fix the causes of their ascendancies. To him, this meant middle-class unemployment, though he did not believe this was merely a matter of jobs; it was that

By about 1930 there was no activity, except perhaps scientific research, the arts, and left-wing politics, that a thinking person could believe in comparisons of Trump to these maniacal despots are gross exaggerations, but Orwell’s analysis seems to fit closely with what many have blamed for his election. Again near the mark is his diagnosis of the surge of support for Stalin by Orwell’s peers:

It was simply something to believe in … All the loyalties and superstitions that the intellect had seemingly banished could come rushing back under the thinnest of disguises. Father, king, leader, hero, saviour-all in one word, Stalin.

You could, reasonably, replace the last word of that quote (a small excerpt from his 1940 essay ‘Inside The Whale’) with the name of any populist leader currently on the rise worldwide. The renaissance of nationalism, driving and driven by these leaders, is “the product of fear and the ghastly emptiness of machine civilization”, says Orwell. So the aim, if it is accepted that our times bear any resemblance to his, is to fill the gaps and give people what Orwell, and Stalin, and Hitler, knew they need: something to believe in. Something to support, not oppose. How to do this is a much harder question, as is how to fix the problems of today, the problems of ever more-opposing factions, of the increasingly indiscernible line between true and false, of the seemingly universal lack of ability to equivocate, and so once more I request the help of the vastly more eloquent Orwell:

A truly objective approach is almost impossible, because in one form or another almost everyone is a nationalist…The most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, or evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified.

George Orwell cannot fix these things for us, but what he stood for and exemplified can. Truth over lies; principles over politics; lonely right over popular wrong. Perhaps this is why we have never let Orwell leave – because we never stopped needing him.

 

The Turnbull Government: Doomed to Failure!

By Michael Griffin

Malcolm Turnbull took a policy of ‘jobs and growth’ to the federal election in 2016. Since being elected, Turnbull has continued to espouse this ‘jobs and growth’ mantra whenever it’s been convenient for him to do so including recently when he accused the media of being ‘celebrity focused’ and not ‘jobs focused’. Yet the Liberal government has had no success at creating jobs and the minimal economic growth that has occurred in the Australian economy during Turnbull’s term of office has been achieved despite his policies and by factors outside his and his government’s control, in particular, by rising iron ore and coal export prices on the global market.

Turnbull’s strategy to increase employment and growth is rooted in the discredited neo-liberal ‘pseudo-theory’ referred to as ‘trickle-down’ economics. The trickle-down ‘theory’ holds that Governments should resist adopting regulations, laws and arrangements that facilitate a broader and fairer distribution of national wealth and, instead, favour policies that enable an elite few to keep a higher share of the profits and of the national wealth generated from the use of publicly owned resources such as roads, ports and minerals. The trickle-down ‘theory’ holds that because this wealthy elite will then invest their gains and create new enterprises, increased employment will follow. This ‘theory’ has been discredited for many years now. It is the theory that lead to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. It is now considered to be merely a myth, a fiction or self-interested ideology, without an objective, rational or a scientific basis, conceived by its chief proponents, such as, Milton Friedman at the Chicago School of Economics, under sponsorship from beneficiaries of the theory. That is, under sponsorship from the wealthy elite. The ‘theory’ itself was ‘tested’ only by selectively using facts and data that fitted the pre-determined and preferred conclusions and that were consistent with the personal interests of the wealthy elite who sponsored Freidman’s work and who had much to gain from its widespread acceptance. That is, it was verified by selecting and relying upon facts that support its validity while concealing and ignoring other data that refutes its validity.

Not one single economic school of thought in the world today counts Freidman amongst its principle ideologues, yet the Turnbull Liberals still revere this discredited economist and the neo-liberalist trickle-down ‘theory’ he concocted. The reverence for trickle-down and its adherence can be traced to the fact that it suits the Liberal Party’s rich donors and the personal interests of their own members. The reverence for the trickle-down ‘theory’ amongst the Liberals also indicates that the party itself has been captured by self-serving elitists seeking to advance their own interests at the expense of others and of the nation as a whole. Given Turnbull’s personal wealth, and the extensive loans he has made to the Liberal Party, it is open to conclude that he is one of the conservative elite who has captured the party and diverted it from its liberalist beginnings.

Research findings in the 2015 report of the International Monetary Fund Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective (‘the IMF 2015 Report’) exposes Turnbull’s preferred trickle-down economic strategy for the fiction it is. This is the IMF, an organisation that could hardly be described as ‘left leaning’ or ‘left bias’, and its report concludes that:

…increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth – that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.

And, more specifically:

If the income share of the top 20 percent increases by 1 percentage point, GDP growth is actually 0.08 percentage point lower in the following five years, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.

On the other hand the report concludes that:

…a similar increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with 0.38 percentage point higher growth.

As the report points out, the positive relationship between a fairer distribution of income and national wealth and higher economic growth continues when a greater share of the national income and wealth is also distributed to the middle class.

The findings in the IMF 2015 Report directly contradict Friedman’s economics and the trickle-down ‘theory’ underlying Turnbull’s strategies and policies. It confirms the findings of earlier IMF research by economists Ostry, Berg, Tsangarides and Stiglitz that show there is no objective or rational basis to assume that the trickle-down strategies, which Turnbull has deployed to implement his ‘jobs and growth’ policy, can ever achieve the goals that Turnbull professes to seek. In practice, Turnbull’s policies – giving tax cuts to the wealthy and to corporations, cutting welfare payments and cutting penalty rates and wages to the low paid – are completely inconsistent with the IMF research findings and with the achievement of his stated jobs and growth objectives as they will have the opposite effect. That is, his strategies will lead to lower growth and less jobs.

If ever proof was needed of the invalidity of trickle-down ‘theory’ and that it cannot, in practice, produce the jobs and growth Turnbull professes to seek then there is no need to look any further than recent economic data for the Australian economy. Company profits are up by record levels yet wages and employment are down. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that business profits are up by 20.1 % across the board for the 3 months to December 2016 and COMSEC reports that profits for companies listed on the stock exchange were up a whopping 123% for the whole of 2016. Despite these profit results, wage growth was down 0.05% and unemployment was at 5.8 % in December 2016, up from the previous month, and had been trending upward over the whole of the 2016 period while profits were growing. For the trickle-down ‘theory’ relied upon by Turnbull to have some credibility one would expect that wages should have increased and unemployment decreased for the period that profits were rising. But that did not occur. Instead unemployment trended upward for the whole of the year. Moreover, the upward trend in unemployment will continue throughout 2017 as the withdrawal of government spending on the Australian automotive manufacturing industry means that industry will shut down over the course of 2017 causing further job losses of up to 200,000 nationwide into the future.

Given his reliance upon the trickle-down ‘theory’, it is inevitable then that Turnbull’s policies will lead to lower economic growth and to higher unemployment. This is so because, as the IMF 2015 Report also points out, income inequality:

…reduces aggregate demand and undermines growth, because the wealthy spend a lower fraction of their incomes than middle and lower-income groups

In other words, the concentration of incomes and wealth in the hands of the few, who spend a smaller proportion of any gain they obtain, has the effect of reducing the total level of spending and consumption in the economy, and, thereby, reduces the amount of people employed to service that spending and consumption. In a nut shell, the unproven trickle-down ‘theory’ is inconsistent with the proven principle in Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. That principle is, in order to increase jobs, total demand and spending in the economy must rise and those rises can only occur if either the wages of low and middle incomes earners, including welfare recipients, increase, or by increases to government spending or, alternatively, by a combination of both of those measures.

Given the Liberal’s history of reducing and undermining wages and their persistent attacks on welfare, and given the recent Fair Work Commission decision to cut penalty rates, it is highly unlikely that we will see any increase in the spending power of low and middle income earners coming from wage and welfare rises in the near future that will be sufficient to generate the consumer demand necessary to drive the jobs and growth that Turnbull promised in 2016.

Graphic by Stephen Griffin

Moreover, it also unlikely that we will see increased government spending to generate the consumption necessary to produce the jobs and growth Turnbull has promised. For the Liberals to increase government spending would not only require them to abandon their adherence to the myth, as all other developed countries with a power to generate their own currency now have done, that government spending needs to be limited to the amounts of tax it collects, but it would also require them to admit that the discourse on the need for austerity that they have engaged in since coming to office in 2013 was wrong and little more than ideology and propaganda. Given the capture of the Liberal Party by the wealthy elite seeking to advance their own individual interests at the expense of all others and of the nation, such an admission and a subsequent increase in government spending to the benefit of the lower and middle income earners that was sufficient enough to generate consumer demand, and, hence, jobs growth, is not likely to occur under the Turnbull government anytime in the near future.

As a result, on the basis of the limited suite of policies and strategies Turnbull has adopted, there is no-where from where the jobs and growth he promised in 2016 can arise.

Examined in the context of the IMF 2015 Report, then, it is apparent that Turnbull will never be able to deliver the ‘jobs and growth’ he promised at the 2016 election. If Turnbull was ever genuine in his professed intention to create ‘jobs and growth’, rather than being set on some clandestine course of transferring wealth to himself and his Liberal Party cronies, then he and his government have adopted the wrong strategies to achieve those professed objectives. The austerity and trickle-down strategies he has adopted militate against the achievement of those objectives and, instead, produce the opposite result, that is, lower growth and more unemployment. Those strategies are, and always have been, inconsistent with Turnbull’s professed objectives as the transference of the national wealth from the less well-off and from the middle class to the already wealthy elite, who do not need and who cannot spend more than they already have, dampens consumer demand and spending. In doing so, Turnbull’s strategy decimates the small businesses that depend upon consumer spending and that generate the jobs so sorely desired and needed in the economy.

The policies of the Turnbull government are self-defeating. Judged against his election promises of ‘jobs and growth’, Turnbull’s Prime Ministership is doomed to failure. If it ever was Turnbull’s intention to achieve the stated objectives of ‘jobs and growth’ then the neo-liberalist trickle-down and austerity strategies he has adopted will never allow him to do so.

Those voters who supported Turnbull at the last election in the expectation that he will achieve increased economic growth and more jobs are fated to become increasingly disappointed with Turnbull by the time of the next election because the trickle-down and austerity strategies he has adopted make it inevitable that he will fail to satisfy those expectations. On that basis, it is pointless for the Turnbull government being allowed to continue any further.

 

Social Market Solutions: Affordable Housing

A crisis of unaffordable housing and rental levels afflicts Australian metropolitan and regional cities. Negative gearing taxation rewards are decreasing housing affordability, particularly at the lower-income levels of the housing market. Do strategies exist to fix this affordability mess? Denis Bright reports.

The desperate problem of housing affordability is well publicized in the mainstream media. The electorate would  welcome more focus on the solutions to this impasse which might require a reappraisal of the ideal of a house in leafy suburbs at great commuting distance from work and educational institutions.

As portrayed by the director Bobby Cohen, Sam Mendes and Scott Rudin in Revolutionary Road (2008), Frank and April Wheeler could not cope with the demands of life in suburbanized Connecticut in the 1950s when life was still very affordable in this hypothetical movie set away from the real politics of the McCarthy Era.

Are our leaders aware of the toxic mix of unaffordable housing prices and rental levels at a time when real wages of lower income workers are now in decline in the new social realities of urban Australia?

The Demographia Index of median housing prices as a multiple of median income levels housing prices in some locations with overseas examples is all too familiar.

With median home prices in Sydney now running at over 12 years of median salaries, the financial challenges are almost impossible as shown by the latest saga of the Demographia Index (ABC News Online 7 November 2016).

The Demographia Index in action

As much of this subsidized negative gearing investment goes to the middle and upper ends of the housing market, generous taxation concession do little to to extend the housing and rental supply curves for lower income families.

Without a progressive paradigm change at the lower end of the property market, property investors are keen to buy up every available workers’ cottage and habitable packing shed.

Former whistle stops on the way north to the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane will be recycled into new outer suburbs in the 2020s.

This interactive and innovative real estate web site talks up the benefits of investing in Elimbah in the twilight zone between the urban sprawl from the Brisbane Metropolitan Region and the Sunshine Coast.

Federal taxation concessions to the tune of $11 billion to support negative gearing could be better spent to support lower income families.

As investments in strategically located communities like Elimbah became a haven for property investors, the prospects for affordable houses and rental levels for lower income families are somewhat diminished. Median housing prices of $545,000 and rental levels of $450/week are hardly affordable at close to 60 kilometres north of Brisbane’s CBD.

Replacing Australia’s current housing model with Singapore’s regulated housing market would not be an acceptable policy change here because of the widespread attachment to market fueled diversity in the property market. Ninety (90) per cent of residents live in public housing (Singapore Housing and Development Board Online 2017).

Pragmatic policy options do exist to ease Australians out of their reliance on the market for the delivery of housing and related community development options such as public transport, sporting and cultural networks. This does not mean a return to the public housing suburbs which were available for the first post-1945 generation and the changes might attract bipartisan support.

In South Australia, Elizabeth certainly delivered affordable housing and rental options through the integrated state planning models of the SA Housing Trust (ifech Media Online 2016).

Rentals were available for a few dollars a week near permanent jobs which could be the envy of a new generation of Australians.

The South Australian Government retains an Affordable Homes Programme.

Properties available are largely newly built houses, house-and-land packages, and former public housing properties which are all available for less than $370,000. Applications are means-tested and available only to first home buyers (https://affordablehomes.sa.gov.au/).

Former public sector houses still have a respectable commercial value in Elizabeth and adjacent Salisbury as shown in a recent Ray White advertisement.

On Brisbane’s Southside, in Coopers Plains, global real estate giant Colliers International is redeveloping former public house estates. This has attracted an investment of $600 million in town houses for sale or rent.

Demolishing former public housing estates adds to housing supply problem at the lower end of the housing market.  For such corporate giants, recycling these former public housing estates is just another niche in the wider property market of inner city home units, office complexes and industrial estates.

There is scant evidence that market forces alone can deliver such outcomes. It is hardly the fault of property developers if the current negative gearing system is oriented towards the middle and upper ends of the housing market.

State governments have the policy capacity to steer property developers in more positive directions by rebuilding an affordable social market in housing and community development. Current housing prices are moving in radically different directions.

The price for units developed by Colliers International at Killara on Sydney’s North Shore Line commences at $1.050 million for units without garage space. Units in Collier International’s Mary Lane in Brisbane with one car space are priced from $830,000 for a two bedroom apartment.

The opportunism shown by political leaders in negative gearing property investments should be a cause for real concern:

Almost one in two federal politicians own an investment property, according to an analysis of their registers of interests.

The publicly available forms show that at least 97 federal members and senators, or their partners, own an investment property.

A handful own more than 10, while 50 MPs own more than two investment properties.

But as all sides of politics debate the merits of negative gearing – how many federal politicians are negative gearing their own investment properties?

Consolidating Remnants of the Australian Social Market in Housing

Just some of the $11 billion that is currently being allocated by the federal LNP to negative gearing taxation concessions could provide the initial seed capital for housing funds in the states and territories. Additional investment could be encouraged from the Australian and overseas corporate sectors as commercial and public relations priorities.

Such integrated development packages could be provided through public-private partnerships with the housing funds at minimal cost to the government sector.

Hedge-fund investments in corporatized public sector housing funds at national, state or territory levels could provide immense advantages to business corporations and entrepreneurs from adjacent Asian markets in particular. The appeal of investment in a stable economy with a strong currency could be irresistible in the context of current global financial volatility.

For Australian corporations, the prestige in being involved in delivering integrated development projects with a quota of affordable housing units might have immense public relations value. Corporate logos were clearly visible on the recyclable bags offered to support the recent Clean Up Australia Day. Why not extend this to support for affordable housing and community development strategies?

Although the housing components of the Central Park Development Project on Sydney’s Broadway are directed largely to the upper end of the housing market, the capacity of developers to recycle similar residential and industrial land near transport hubs is worth more consideration as an achievable option through new private-public partnerships.

Even without these social market structures, co-operation between the Ipswich City Council and major construction firm Sekisui House is delivering new communities in the Ripley Valley within the constraints of existing market-oriented housing models.

The $1.5 billion Ripley Town Centre is leading the way in smart and sustainable design, by re-imagining how a community interacts with its surrounds. Once complete, the world-class destination will be a shining example of urban construction living harmoniously with nature, featuring tree-lined streets and laneways, parklands, leafy walkways, green rooftops and so much more. But it’s not just nature that will feel the benefit of this sprawling 25-hectare precinct.

This style of development has its limitations as the preferred housing supply curve usually favours commercial priorities without the infusion of government-sponsored social housing priorities.

In the case of the West Village Project in Inner Brisbane, the Queensland Government has intervened to reduce the intensity of development which was approved under the Brisbane City Council Plan to modify the intensity of redevelopment.

Policy steering mechanisms should have been available to widen housing affordability levels in this project (ABC News Online 7 November 2016).

Property developer Sekisui House has responded predictably with a restatement of the financial advantages of its local construction projects to the Queensland economy.

Japanese development giant Seki­sui House is forging ahead with $3.7 billion of works in southeast Queensland, including its controversial Brisbane and Sunshine Coast developments.

The Tokyo and Osaka-listed company — among the world’s biggest residential builders — is set to launch its $800 million West Village mixed-use development in Brisbane’s West End and is ­pursuing its $900m hotel and residential complex at Yaroomba Beach, near Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. It is also beginning construction of its $1.5bn ­Ipswich development, Ripley Valley Town Centre, with the appointment of Hutchinson Builders for the $40m retail first stage Largely absent from the current debate over the future of West Village is the up-market nature of the housing options.

Progressive future housing funds can assist in adding new diversity to the outcomes of integrated property developments without compromising the profitability of the entire projects.

The best defence against the high levels of support for One Nation in disadvantaged outer metropolitan, regional and and rural electorates at the forthcoming Queensland state election is surely to offer solutions to real affordability problems at a time when wage rates and employment levels are being systematically eroded by the federal LNP.

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 promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.

 

 

March to show you have no confidence in the Turnbull Government

On the weekend 15th – 16th of March 2014, a group of concerned citizens called out for people to take to the streets in a show of “No Confidence” in the policies of the current government. Up to 150,000 people responded, joining 30 marches and rallies around Australia. An estimated 40,000 in Melbourne alone.

Unfortunately, the time has come to call out again. We were promised better government, and not only has this not been delivered, it appears that daily, the elected members of this government find new levels of abhorrent behaviour, and out of touch policies to inflict pain and distress on workers, families, low income earners and welfare recipients.

March Australia (formerly March in March) will be holding a weekend of peaceful assemblies, nonpartisan citizens’ marches and rallies around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.
 This signifies a people’s vote of “no confidence” in the Coalition government policies and their budget, that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness, social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage.

In Melbourne, the March will take place on Saturday 25th March, 2017 at 1.00pm., starting at the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street.

March Australia, Melbourne would like to invite your organization and its members to march alongside other concerned citizens and groups in a show of concern and “No Confidence” in the current Australian government.

We would be grateful if you would help us spread the message among your workers, friends and networks.

The Melbourne March event and page can be promoted on your social media or web page by attaching the link:  https://www.facebook.com/MarchInMarchMelbourne2014. RSVP to our event https://www.facebook.com/events//.

A flyer has been attached (see below) for you to print out and put up in your lunch rooms, local businesses, clubs or  any other place that will help people to see that we are calling out to March in March.

More information about March Australia can be found here: marchaustralia.com or at maai.x10host.com.

The Melbourne March Australia team will be happy to answer any questions you may have via marchinmarchm@gmail.com.

The March Australia organizers request that all participants respect the non-partisan, lawful, peaceful and family-friendly nature of the march.

Andrea Gorman
Event Coordinator, March Australia, Melbourne

Thirty pieces of silver

By Ad astra

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, desperation, desolation, despondency, and above all simmering anger – these are the emotions so many Australians have had, and still are experiencing when they reflect on Malcolm Turnbull’s period as prime minister. And this applies to many Labor supporters, who welcomed Turnbull’s overturning of Tony Abbott. Surely, they thought, nothing could be worse than the appalling Abbott.

Yet, despite Turnbull looking and speaking like a prime minister, in such stark contrast to the malevolent Abbott, with his reckless abandonment of the values and principles we all know Turnbull once embraced, in just over a year he has killed off any respect he initially had. We deplored so many of Abbott’s principles, but at least he stuck to them. Turnbull has turned out to be a shameful turncoat, ready to betray his beliefs for thirty pieces of silver.

We are astonished, dismayed and saddened.

This piece is a companion to the last published: Abbott’s legacy of destruction. It exposes the other side of the deeply tarnished Abbott/Turnbull coin. The two pieces need to be read in parallel.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon climate change action
Of all his fine principles, shall we ever forget Turnbull’s stand on climate change!

He supported Kevin Rudd’s push for an emissions trading scheme – even crossing the floor to do so! You will remember his much publicized proclamation:

I will not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am.

What a tragedy it was that Rudd reneged on his promise to work with Turnbull to achieve bipartisanship to bring in an ETS. We could have had one many years ago. We now are as far away from an ETS as ever.

In December of last year, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was foolish enough to utter the words: “…we know there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme”. Hard right-wingers Cory Bernardi and Craig Kelly went ballistic, Tony Abbott chimed in to repeat his longstanding opposition, and Murdoch’s Chris Kenny wrote a column in The Australian warning Turnbull that it was ‘political madness’ to re-consider an ETS.

Turnbull’s retreat was rapid. Within 24 hours he was insisting: “We will not be imposing a carbon tax and we will not be imposing an emissions trading scheme, however it is called, an emissions intensity scheme is an emissions trading scheme. That is just another name for it. That has been our policy for many years now.”

Suitably chastened, Frydenberg soon echoed Turnbull’s words, adding apologetically: “I have never advocated for a carbon tax and an emissions trading scheme; that is why the Government won’t proceed with one.” Ben Eltham, writing in New Matilda commented: Somewhere…a rooster crowed twice.

Although we all remember Turnbull’s 2009 proclamation, he has made many other utterances, from which he has retreated. They can be found in the archives. Some may surprise you. Take a look at them: You will find them here:

Here are a few of them:

“Climate change is a global problem. The planet is warming because of the growing level of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. If this trend continues, truly catastrophic consequences are likely to ensue from rising sea levels, to reduced water availability, to more heat waves and fires.

“I do not believe we can effectively move Australia to a lower emission economy, which is what we need to do if we’re going to make a contribution to a global reduction in greenhouse gases, without putting a price on carbon.”

“…some years from now if there’s a global emissions trading scheme agreement, as many have hoped for, then I’m sure Australia would be part of it.”

“The question of whether or to what extent human activities are causing global warming is not a matter of ideology, let alone of belief. The issue is simply one of risk management.”

“If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously and believed that we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism.”

“We are already experiencing the symptoms of climate change, especially with a hotter and drier climate in southern Australia – the rush to construct desalination plants is an expensive testament to that.”

“Look at countries like China, they are determined to dominate all clean technology areas, putting lots of money into wind, solar, electric vehicles and battery storage. America’s political impotence, caused by their terrible partisanship, will see them left behind.”

“Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.”

“Direct Action is “a con, an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing” and a “recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale”.

“First, let’s get this straight. You cannot cut emissions without a cost. To replace dirty coal fired power stations with cleaner gas fired ones, or renewables like wind let alone nuclear power or even coal fired power with carbon capture and storage is all going to cost money. To get farmers to change the way they manage their land, or plant trees and vegetation all costs money. Somebody has to pay. So any suggestion that you can dramatically cut emissions without any cost is, to use a favourite term of Mr Abbott, “bullshit.” Moreover he knows it.”

“I believe that politicians should speak the truth all the time. Invariably there will be occasions when you make statements that are factually incorrect due to an error.”

“I’ve been around in public life for a long time. I think people know what I stand for. They know that I have strong convictions, committed principles and I’m prepared to stand up for them.”

How laughable! Turnbull has shown over and again that he will not stand up for his principles when members of his rabid right wing stamp their feet and demand that he toe the line he agreed to get their votes to topple Abbott. We have seen that time and again, but nowhere more flagrantly than over the issue of climate change.

The man who so strongly supported an ETS now refuses to have a bar of one.

After Turnbull replaced Abbott, climate pundits were excited. Corporate advisor, Paul Gilding, insisted that there was great support from Malcolm Turnbull on renewable energy and climate change: “Turnbull actually supports climate action and has long understood the economic implications of the transition required. And rather than being fearful of those implications he embraces them – seeing the inherent opportunity in a transition away from coal and towards a technology-driven transformation of the renewable energy system. The influence of this over time, on the business community and on public attitudes will be long lasting and leave a legacy for a generation.” How disillusioned Gilding must be now!

But as we have seen in the last couple of months, ever since September when in South Australia a ‘once in fifty-year storm’ tore up transmission towers and blacked out the entire state, Turnbull has become a fierce critic of the targets set for the adoption of renewable energy, initially blaming the state’s dependence on renewable energy for the disaster, later capitulating in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary.

He and his minders, having decided that ‘energy security’ will be the defining issue in the months ahead, have attacked Labor and the Greens relentlessly as ‘ideologically driven’ incompetents whose ‘utterly unrealistic renewable energy targets’ will not be achievable, and will drive energy prices skyward. Turnbull has ruthlessly abandoned his long-held principles in the pursuit of political gain, for himself and the LNP.

Turnbull castigates those who seek to transition to renewables rapidly, and now supports coal mining. He even allowed his Treasurer to bring a lump of coal into parliament to mock Labor. He now talks of ‘clean coal’ technology, as if it was an imminent and financially viable possibility, which experts in the field insist it is not. His behaviour is no different from that of Abbott who proclaimed that ‘coal is good for humanity’ and would be around as a major source of energy for many decades!

Image from smh.com.au

He is Abbott personified, but without a skerrick of principle left!

Now, a coalition of eighteen business, energy, investor, climate and welfare groups, including the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Social Services, and the ACTU, has called for an end to partisan energy politics and urgent action on global warming in the knowledge of its devastating effects on business, investment in energy, agriculture, the environment, and indeed life on this planet. But Turnbull and his government are not listening!

This whole piece could be about Turnbull’s shameful retreat from the urgency of global warming, but let’s visit some other of Turnbull’s inglorious retreats.

Ten pieces of silver to ‘demolish the NBN’
Who will ever forget PM Abbott’s infamous instruction to his then Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull: Demolish the NBN? Abbott wanted it destroyed only because Labor had proposed and designed it, a groundbreaking Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) proposal that would have placed Australia at the forefront of modern Internet communications, and would have given it a competitive advantage over its neighbours and overseas’ rivals. After the Abbott intervention, thanks to the lily-livered, mendacious response of Turnbull, a tech-head who made his fortune in Internet communications with the sale of his OzEmail, we now rank a lowly 45th in the world for Internet speeds.

Although Turnbull knew full well that FTTP was the superior option, he messed around trying to convince us of the merits of a Multi Technology Mix (MTM) that included Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial (HFC), Fixed Wireless, and a Long Term Satellite Service, as well as Fibre to the Node (FTTN) where fibre was rolled out only to street corner boxes, with ageing copper wire making the connection to the premises. Turnbull’s selling spiel was that Labor’s FTTP was prohibitively expensive, too slow to roll out, and sotto voce unnecessary for Australia’s needs. FTTN, with its lower speeds, would be OK for this nation, which he continually implores to be ‘agile and innovative’.

The facts are that the FTTN rollout is arguably no faster than was planned for Labor’s FTTP, the speeds are poorer, and the cost is likely to be the same as for the FTTP, or higher. In other words, to placate the malevolent Abbott, Turnbull’s counterintuitive interference with the original FTTP plan has resulted in Australia gaining nothing, and we have lost a golden opportunity to be world leaders.

Once more, Turnbull has sacrificed his ideals, abandoned his technical know-how, and deliberately deceived the public about the touted merits of the Coalition’s FTTN MTM hotchpotch, leaving us no better off financially or logistically, but much worse off technically with an already out-of-date NBN that will soon need expensive upgrades.

Moreover, he has tried to convince us that the fast 100Mbps speeds promised by FTTP are not necessary, as many taking up the NBN are choosing slower speeds. But what about business and industry that need to send large files around the world; what about farmers who need to be in rapid touch with world prices and trends? Turnbull seems to be channeling the tech-ignorant Abbott who said that the speeds needed only to be good enough to send an email, or for his daughters to download a movie!

Turnbull, who does know the technical facts better than anyone else in his party, has sold his principles and values simply to gain political advantage for himself and his party. He has lied.

In answer to a question about the Coalition’s NBN on Q&A last year Turnbull obfuscated. Writing about it in Delimiter Renai LeMay said:

“On last night’s episode of Q&A, Turnbull did nothing to address persistent criticism of the Coalition’s NBN policy. Neither did he address – at all – Labor’s reworked NBN vision.

“Instead, what we got was a repeat of the standardised set of talking points which virtually every Coalition MP has been parroting about the NBN for the past two to three years.

“I find this insulting, to say the least.

“Turnbull is clearly aware that the NBN debate has moved on and that the country is now having a nuanced discussion of how the NBN project should proceed over the next decade, incorporating technologies such as HFC cable, FTTP and perhaps even new models such as Fibre to the Distribution Point.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to address that debate in any way, shape or form shows his lack of respect for the public; and also his determination not to meaningfully engage on the matter of the NBN. The increasing likelihood that the Coalition will not refine its NBN policy for the election reinforces that impression.”

Once more Turnbull has recklessly sacrificed his ideals for a pottage of political advantage.

Ten pieces of silver to abandon marital equality
This piece is already long enough; so let’s conclude with Turnbull’s shameful retreat from his principles on this contentious matter.

Turnbull has always advocated marriage equality, and believes that a parliamentary vote would secure its legislative passage. Yet, despite public opinion strongly favoring marriage equality, and a majority in favour of a parliamentary vote to settle the matter, Turnbull will not budge from his commitment to the hard right of his party to have a plebiscite, which we all know was Abbott’s delaying mechanism that would give opponents the opportunity to disseminate emotive dissent, thereby creating doubt in voters’ minds, which the religious right hopes will result in a negative vote.

Turnbull has no religious, social or ideological objection to marriage equality – indeed the contrary is the case. Yet he is shamelessly sacrificing his long-held principles on the altar of political expediency, simply to placate the rabid religious right in his party, and thereby hang tenuously onto his prime ministership.

Do you need any more evidence that Turnbull has sold his political soul for thirty pieces of silver? On three crucial fronts: global warming, the NBN, and marriage equality, he has sold out so that he could grasp, and now cling doggedly onto leadership. There are many more of his values that he has sacrificed for silver: The Republic, Medicare, urban planning, and asylum seeker policy. But enough is enough.

What are voters feeling about him now, just eighteen months into his prime ministership?

Disappointment, disillusionment, disgust, disrespect, despair, despondency, desolation, and above all, intense anger.

What a political and personal price he has paid in return for his thirty pieces of silver!

What do you think?

What are your views about Malcolm Turnbull?

Have you other examples of how he has sold out his principles and values?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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An Open Letter to Indue on the Welfare Card Scheme

Indue Ltd
C/- Stargroup Ltd
(Formerly ICash Payment Systems, Formerly Reef Mining).

PO Box 523 Toowong
QLD 4066 Australia

P: +61 7 3258 4222
F: +61 7 3258 4211
E: indue@indue.com.au

5 March 2017

Re the ‘Healthy’ Welfare Card.

Dear Indue Ltd – its Board, Directors and Shareholders,

I am aware that the Commonwealth Human Services Minister in the Turnbull government, Alan Tudge, is intending to transfer all welfare recipients to the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’ for income management purposes in the near future. As an Australian citizen I am aware that levels of unemployment in Australia are high and unlikely to fall soon due to the policies of the Turnbull government and that, therefore, there is a high risk that I may become unemployed in the near future and, hence, subject to the income management welfare card scheme initiated by the LNP government and, specifically, by the Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and the Social Services Minister Christian Porter.

I am also aware that Indue and its owners are to be paid between $4000 and $7000 from the Australian budget as fees for each person on the income management card system including possibly for myself in the future. I understand that how much Indue actually receives of tax payer’s money for each person in its management scheme as an administrative fee, including possibly for myself in the future, will depend upon whether the person resides in an urban or regional location. However, given that the Turnbull government intends to extend the operation of the income management welfare card scheme to all welfare recipients soon then the profit Indue can anticipate making from the scheme is in the region of $4.6 billion dollars. I note this amount is an additional amount of expenditure on top of the existing welfare budget as I understand the implementation of the welfare card system does not create any savings for the government that can be accredited against the alleged budget deficit. In my view this money would be better spent on reducing the alleged debt or on the people of Australia as a whole and not on creating profits for a private company with political connections such as Indue.

I am further aware that those amounts are to be paid to Indue as fees from the Department of Human Services budget which departmental budget is itself obtained entirely from the Australian Consolidated Revenue Fund that belongs to all the Australian people. I am aware that the fee amounts Indue is to receive, or that it has already received so far, for performing its income management duties to welfare recipients, have been, or will be, appropriated by the Department of Human Services from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purported purpose of providing welfare for the Australian people and not for misuse as payment of profits to a private company such as Indue.

I consider that if I am compelled to participate in the card scheme and become subject to Indue’s income management scheme in the future then Indue would become my fiduciary. In the case Hospital Products Ltd v United States Surgical Corps Justice Mason of the High Court of Australia said the following:

The accepted fiduciary relationships are sometimes referred to as relationships of trust and confidence or confidential relations …The critical feature of these relationships is that the fiduciary undertakes or agrees to act for or on behalf of or in the interests of another person in the exercise of a power or discretion which will affect the interests of that other person in a legal or practical sense. The relationship between the parties is therefore one which gives the fiduciary a special opportunity to exercise the power or discretion to the detriment of that other person who is accordingly vulnerable to abuse by the fiduciary of his position. The expressions “for”, “on behalf of” and “in the interests of” signify that the fiduciary acts in a “representative” character in the exercise of his responsibility…

Given that the Turnbull government is intending to transfer all welfare recipients to the income management welfare card scheme in the near future and given that I am likely to become unemployed in the future, it is almost certain that Indue will manage my income in the future and that it will do so purportedly in my interests and on my behalf as my fiduciary. On that basis, Indue would owe me the duties and obligations that usually accompany fiduciaries. Those duties would include, but would not be limited to, the obligation of complete disclosure to me, the prohibition against personally profiting from the performance of its duties to me, the obligation to avoid a conflict of interests and duties and a duty to protect me from any possible or actual losses from its management of my income. Losses that I would likely sustain from the income management welfare card scheme would include losses of opportunities to buy cheap goods or services at a cash price that I could not obtain by use of the card due to the restrictions on access to cash in the card system. Anticipated losses would also extend to any additional financial service fees I will incur due to me being forced to use the card in being denied access to cash. In those circumstances, in its capacity as my fiduciary, I would be entitled to hold Indue liable for those and any other possible losses I incur due to the operation of the card and Indue’s management of my income.

I also note that in the Hospital Products case his Honour Chief Justice Gibbs said:

A person who occupies a fiduciary position may not use that position to gain a profit or advantage for himself, nor may he obtain a benefit by entering into a transaction in conflict with his fiduciary duty, without the informed consent of the person to whom he owes the duty.

By this correspondence then, and on the basis that Indue will likely seek to become my fiduciary in the near future and stands to gain from that capacity, as it has already done with the huge profits it has already obtained from the income management welfare card scheme so far, I give notice that I do not consent to Indue managing my income or becoming my fiduciary at any time or of obtaining fees from anyone, including from the Government, for any income management services it purports to undertake for me or on my behalf.

I give further notice that if I am compelled to participate in the card programme I will hold Indue and its owners liable for any and all losses or liabilities I sustain due to the operation of the welfare card and of the income management system. Those losses and liabilities will extend to any legal costs I incur in challenging or remedying Indue’s management of my income without my consent.

Regards,

An Australian Citizen 2017