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War, religion, and a half billion dollars

By Henry Johnston

When you do the maths, you realise almost a half billion of your dollars has been set aside by the Morrison Government to redevelop the Australian War Memorial. Add to this $100 million spent on the Monash Centre in Villers-Bretonneux. Now add almost $13 million to document the official histories of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor. Then add the $40 million dollars lavished on the refurbishment of Sydney’s ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park.

So far I’ve tallied almost $653,000,000. I am innumerate, so this figure might be off the mark, but you get my drift. I do not know how much money has been set aside on war memorials or their equivalents in other states of the Commonwealth, but the tally might approach three quarters of a trillion dollars.

So, what is going on? The 100th anniversary of the Armistice of World War 1 comes and goes on November 11 2018, but the question is, does this sad anniversary justify this massive expenditure?

Social media is taking the pulse of Scott Morrison’s largesse, and the indirect beneficiary of this near half billion dollar grant, the Australian War Memorial’s Director and failed Liberal leader, Dr Brendan Nelson. All I detect is a general consensus suggesting the dough be spent on the health and well-being of men and women injured in Australia’s most recent conflicts.

As a writer I’ve woven the effects of war into my novels and short stories. I am of a generation directly affected by World War 2. My father worked in war industry and before him long-dead nameless great uncles survived the horrors of World War 1.

My first reaction is ANZAC Day and war memorials large and small in Australian towns, villages and cities, serve as a substitute for a national religion. The Dawn Service held at Gallipoli, Turkey on April 25th each year, is a rite of passage for thousands of young Australians. These rituals are not uncommon. Young European men and women tread the path of Camino de Santiago in Spain, or complete the five routes to achieve Ireland’s Pilgrim’s Passport.

Religion and war freely borrow one another’s iconography to snare this youthful optimism and I reckon the half billion dollars earmarked for the decade-long redevelopment of the national war memorial, continues this tradition.

I doubt the Labor Opposition will criticise the expenditure because there is no political mileage in so doing. Indeed, former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Dr Brendan Nelson Director of the Australian War Memorial, and the good doctor will now be comfortably remunerated until he retires.

So on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of World War 1, it is worth considering two examples of religious iconography deployed by propagandists, during that awful period of our history.

The first is the Angels of Mons. The second the Miracle of the Sun, known among pious Christians as the Miracle of Fatima, a village in Portugal. Both occurrences are inextricably linked with the actual apocalypse.

The Angels of Mons occurred shortly after Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914. A mere 19 days later on August 23rd, the British Expeditionary Force clashed with the German Army. After the shock and awe of battle, the BEF somehow managed an orderly retreat, and staved off a major defeat.

An account of events in Mons, written by journalist Arthur Machen, described heavenly bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt shielding the retreating British forces. Machen’s item became a cause celebre among home front spiritualists. His story eventually morphed into the myth of the Angels of Mons, and was deployed to boost morale. The Angels of Mons fantasy is documented by the Australian War Memorial, but not so the Miracle of the Sun, or Fatima. The latter is probably ignored because Portugal’s involvement in World War 1 focused principally on its imperial possessions in Africa. However, the date of the Miracle of Fatima 13 October 1917, is significant. The Russian Czar is in custody. The Bolsheviks in power, and with Russia out of the war, the redeployment of German divisions to the Western Front means defeat. Three of Fatima’s children describe visions of the Virgin Mary. The sun dances in the sky as an accompaniment to the miracle, which remained a powerful example of Marian piety until the reign of Pope John Paul the Second. In reality the Miracle of Fatima was used by the Vatican in its campaign against Communism.

And so to our own great myth; the debacle of the landing at the Dardanelles where 8,709 Australians died. By the end of the obscenity of World War 1, 61,522 Australians perished.

I do not belittle those who take spiritual nourishment from the story of Gallipoli or the Angels of Mons, or the Miracle of Fatima, but I hope a tiny portion of the half billion dollars will be set aside by the Australian Government to valorise the memory of young Aboriginal men and women, killed in battle to defend their Australian home lands. I doubt this will happen because as of now those frontier wars do not fit our view of who we are, and how we became Australians.

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

Shackled by Ideology

By Ad astra

Can the body politic ever be freed from entrenched beliefs?

How many of you despair of our politicians? How many of you fume at the incoherence of the positions they take? How many bristle at their intransigence, their stubbornness, their adherence to outmoded dogma that is no longer supported by the facts? How many of you have a feeling of hopelessness about their conduct?

We watch incredulously as they appear on our media to announce their intentions, to denounce their opponents, to avoid answering questions, or simply to gain exposure. And they do this seemingly oblivious of the palpable disregard the electorate has for them, and the scorn that voters heap upon them every day. They often refer to ‘the Canberra bubble’, as if somehow it is occupied by others, not themselves. Yet it is they who exhibit the behaviour we might expect of those disconnected from the daily reality of ordinary folk.

Take the recent conference called by PM Morrison to discuss the present severe drought. Its object was laudable and the timing appropriate. It offered the opportunity to review the factors that are creating the unprecedented drought conditions we are enduring, to reflect on what the future might hold, and to consider how we might better prepare for future droughts. There was an elephant in the room though – climate change. Being a central issue, it ought to have been the focal point of the discussion. But the proponents could scarcely mouth the words. Pressed by journalists, Morrison turned on his usual loquaciousness, ducking and weaving to avoid the connection between the drought and climate change. The words eventually tumbled out, diluted in a torrent of obfuscation.

The only explanation I can give is that his, and the Coalition’s denial of the reality of global warming, creates a dissonance that renders words such as ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ verboten. Like an ecclesiastic being forced to utter blasphemy, to use obscenities, or to denounce long-held and cherished beliefs, Morrison is so repulsed by these words that they struggle excruciatingly to escape his lips.

How can we ever hope for a rational approach to the enduring and recurrent problem of drought when a major factor in its genesis is shunted onto a back road because of ideological roadblocks?

In recent weeks there has been a number of authoritative reports from reputable scientific bodies, not only documenting the reality of increasing greenhouse emissions, but also the extent of steady rises in global temperature, in sea levels, and in ocean acidification, which have already occurred and will continue to do so. Yet these reports have been ridiculed by the so-called Environment Minister, Melissa Price, and ignored by the Coalition and the PM. The message seems too indigestible for them to stomach. So wedded are they to coal, that they cannot bring themselves to contemplate a world without coal-powered electricity generators. The fact that renewables are overtaking fossil fuels economically, and will soon replace them, seems impossible for them to accept. Entrenched beliefs block their thinking and distort their reasoning. They behave like clerics wedded to their catechisms, chanting them mindlessly. All the while industry cries out for a coherent climate policy, and a previous Liberal leader, John Hewson, insists that it’s irresponsible not to have one.

What hope is there that change can ever take place?

When Kerryn Phelps won the Wentworth by-election, she said it was “a victory for democracy”, and signalled “a return of decency, integrity and humanity to the Australian government”. Laudably, she imagined a change in the behaviour of politicians towards what we expect of them. But what hope is there?

Writing in The Conversation, Clare Wright, Associate Professor of History at La Trobe University, said: ”As well as taking a progressive stand on social issues, Phelps vowed to represent all those who were disgusted by the internal brawling and destructive power plays of Australia’s elected officials.” She continued: ”One commentator rejoiced that people who were ‘tired of the spineless and incompetent politicians who are intent on destroying the joint’, were finally getting their moment in the sun.”

But it will take all of Phelps’ considerable skill and persuasion to dent the intransigence of PM Morrison and his party members on the subject of global warming. They are wedded to fossil fuels as ‘part of the mix’ of sources of energy, no matter how much damage they continue to inflict on the environment.

PM Morrison and the Coalition are permanently shackled by their climate change ideology.

The Coalition’s entrenched beliefs don’t stop with climate change. They contaminate every discussion of refugee policy.

There is rapidly gathering momentum in the electorate towards bringing to Australia the residual refugees on Nauru. It will prove to be irresistible. The government will have its hand forced.

Morrison’s though is still choking on what to do with them when they return. The New Zealand option, while an obvious solution to sensible voters, is anathema to Morrison, who is gripped with the entrenched belief that such a move would be an invitation to people smugglers to resume business, as they would then be able to bribe people to pay good money to board their boats by promising that they will eventually be able to get to Australia, even if by the circuitous route of a third country, in this case New Zealand. The obvious parallel though – the resettlement of refugees in the US – seems to Morrison not to constitute a rationale for people smugglers to induce people onto their boats. His logic escapes me!

So here is another example of a government and its leader shackled by ideology, petrified that any move to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees will ‘open the floodgates’, encourage people smugglers, and result in flotillas of boats arriving on our shores. The government’s fear is heightened by opinion polls that show that voters overwhelmingly want the Nauru refugees repatriated here, but they still want strong border protection! Morrison and his immigration people simply don’t know how to achieve both. They have created the desire in the electorate for ‘strong border protection’ with all their exaggerated talk about hordes of refugees invading our shores in waves of Indonesian fishing boats. Now they have to deal with the feelings among voters that they themselves have shaped with their menacing rhetoric. They simply don’t know how!

We are left disillusioned and feeling hopeless because our government is so shackled by ideology that it can scarcely move, so immobilized by fear of contravening its entrenched beliefs that it cannot solve our nation’s problems, so sterile of ideas that it cannot think clearly, plan strategically, or put into action the changes the nation desperately desires and needs.

Is it any wonder voters despair?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Murdoch strikes at democracy

By Stephen Fitzgerald

The first German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, said there were two sights the public should not see: The making of laws and the making of sausages. To this list of enduringly nauseating spectacles we should add one more: The political machinations of media moguls. It’s called “one-sided censorship.” So, it only goes half way towards removing freedom of speech but, it goes all the way to undermining democracy.

The headlines read: “Murdoch press a threat to democracy: Cameron”. Senator Cameron said he would take a motion to Labor caucus seeking to widen the existing inquiry into the media to look specifically at News Limited’s “absolute hatred” of Labor.

Going after Labor leaders is one of Rupert’s favourite pastimes. Rather than hunting lions in Africa or tigers on the Punjab – That’s way too dangerous and way too hard and goes nowhere towards right wing corporate control and exploitation of society.

As an example, the response from the average bucko in the street is that Bill Shorten is an idiot. Oh really, on what do you base that powerful observation? The response is always the same – “Because he is.” Whereas, the truth would be: “Because Rupert Murdoch told me so.” It only takes a little tiny bit of observation to work out who the idiots are in politics and, it’s not Bill Shorten, as the polls are now showing.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd launched an incendiary attack on Tony Abbott and News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, who he claims have undermined Australian democracy and contributed to the “orgy of political violence” that led to Malcolm Turnbull’s ousting.

Murdoch blew in to take a swipe at Turnbull for being too conservative and usher in the extreme right wing of the LNP. Right-wing media have given a megaphone to reactionary forces in the Liberal Party. ABC political editor Andrew Probyn outlined what look like the very plausible entrails of the evident involvement of Rupert Murdoch in the recent Liberal Party leadership spill.

I vaguely remember, somewhere back, Turnbull having a go at Murdoch. Now, would Murdoch really be that vindictive, that he would make a concerted effort, to get rid of our elected Prime Minister, because Malcolm wouldn’t play ball?  Yes, it’s diabolical.

In the U.S. the headlines read: “Corruption? Is Rupert Murdoch Hacking our Democracy?” Reagan exempted Murdoch from foreign ownership rules and eliminated the “Fairness Doctrine.” Rupert Murdoch then became the propaganda recruit for Reagan. A Reagan bitch or, was it the other way around?

Rupert Murdoch bought the Rockefeller mansion in New York for $44 million in cash. The fact that the house used to belong to a Rockefeller shows that Murdoch understands his spiritual ancestors and his role in the world. Every era needs an evil, heartless elitist it can blame its problems on and Rupert foots the bill for the James Bond villain.

If there’s one man in the world who might ever possibly build a device to control the weather and freeze us all unless the governments of the world pay him several hundred billion dollars and recognize Fox News’s copyright of the phrase “Fair and Balanced,” it would be Rupert.

The man has amassed a giant fortune and news empire through consistently pandering to the lowest common denominator and relentless shock journalism, in true William Randolph Hearst fashion. He got big in Britain by putting topless girls on page three of The Sun and the Daily Mirror. If you recall, he was unable to use this tactic in the U.S. They are not so easily titillated so he had to latch on to stuff like the non-existent killer bee threat to get a foothold.

Of course, he also owns the Fox networks, which have given the world some great TV shows, but mostly tasteless sitcoms and horrible reality shows about gold-digging idiot whores. And then there’s Fox News. Rupert must have gotten up one day and said, “I don’t like Labor, so I’m going to start my own news channel where I can hang shit on them all day. Excellent. It’s not really the politics of Fox News that are entirely objectionable as much as Murdoch’s ability to start up his own blatantly obvious propaganda news network.

With all the talk about evil corporations around today, and yesterday, even those clowns at Enron and the drop kicks on Wall Street couldn’t compete with a good old-fashioned robber baron like Murdoch. He’s a super-rich, selflish jerk who doesn’t even attempt to hide it. The only constant for Murdoch is power, money and self-interest.

“Thanks, Rupert. What, you don’t have enough already! You feel the need to suck the life out of society along with the rest of your parasitic cronies. We have independent and social media now and we see straight through you. Leave our democracy alone or we will switch you off.”

‘Click,’ Murdoch’s gone. It’s that easy.

The Demtel Man

Those who remember free to air television in the 80s and 90s will remember the advertising for ‘as seen on TV’ products marketed by a company called Demtel. A quick Google search will remind you of the process if you are fortunate enough to have either not lived through the era, only watched Channel 2 (the only ABC Channel in those long-gone days) or have completely and probably mercifully forgotten how annoying the advertising really was. Alternately, watch one of the TV shopping channels that infest digital television for ten minutes and think about how much they would have to speed up the delivery if they had to fit the product advertising into a minute or so long spot on one of the commercial television stations.

Demtel’s favourite ‘spruiker’ was Tim Shaw. He is famous enough to have a Wikipedia stub article. While the time-worn joke ‘but wait there’s more — ring in the next ten minutes and receive a free set of steak knives’ probably had its origins in a Demtel advertisement spruiked by Shaw, the promise of gold bullion or fame and riches beyond compare as the ‘free extra’ is probably an exaggeration. However, Shaw did attempt to sell the proverbial ice to Eskimos (with the previously mentioned steak knives as a free gift) with some initial success.

A bit like Scott Morrison really. Morrison has made a lot of announcements since his rise to the Prime Ministership. It’s almost looking like he’s back in the advertising agency brainstorming slogans to get the mug punter to buy the pretty shiny new toy they neither want or need. Former Liberal Party Leader (and co-incidentally also a former Member for Wentworth) John Hewson recently wrote an opinion article for Fairfax listing Morrison’s various policy announcements/backflips during the Wentworth by-election.

the lingering image of him hugging a lump of coal; his defence of advertising on the sails of the Opera House, wanting to see not just horse racing but also car racing; his mishandling of the issues of funding and independence of the ABC generated by the dismissal of chief executive Michelle Guthrie; his multiple positions on the treatment of gay students and teachers; the white supremacist/neo-Nazi parliamentary vote; announcing the possible shift of our embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (even after most devout Jews in the electorate would have already pre-voted, to avoid having to do so on the Sabbath); the possible rejuvenation of a New Zealand deal on refugee resettlement; and then, finally, the assertion that a Kerryn Phelps win meant “instability”, conveniently ignoring the instability in his own party that had resulted in the byelection in the first place.

Fortunately, it seems others with some influence aren’t buying the slogans either. A group who manages substantial Qantas shareholdings have asked the company to review its policy of transporting refugees and asylum seekers at the behest of the Australian Government citing

Qantas is “exposed to certain human rights-related risks”.

“Allegations of human rights abuses can inflict, at a minimum, reputational damage and may dramatically affect shareholder value … We believe that a thorough review of how this issue is being handled would be in the best interests of shareholders.”

Shareholders of Whitehaven Coal are likewise concerned about climate change, possibly moving a resolution at the Annual General Meeting in the next few weeks that

calls on the company to disclose climate change-related risks to shareholders, in line with recommendations of the Financial Stability Board’s taskforce on climate-related financial disclosures.

Another proposal says that shareholders call on the board to make strategy and capital expenditure decisions “consistent with the climate goals of the Paris agreement” in order to safeguard the longer-term success of the company and respond to risks and opportunities posed by climate change.

The same article also reports that the rail transport company Aurizon acknowledged at their Annual General Meeting that parts of their rail network may be stranded assets at some point in the next 50 years due to reduced demand for coal.

Even Hewson has a problem with Morrison’s lack of real management ability. From the same article as above

Morrison’s only hope is a new beginning. He will surely last until the next election, so he should seize the opportunity by leading a complete policy reset, a complete repositioning of the Coalition. Not just a remarketing exercise, but a substantive reset, addressing issues such as climate, refugees, integrity in government, the cost of living and broad-based tax reform. Policy boldness would be his electoral friend. He simply must be seen to be attending to the health of the government horse, putting other potential jockeys in their place.

I doubt he is capable of even thinking about this. I fear he will continue to slide from bad to worse. The COAG energy ministers are to meet this Friday. Energy is mostly a state responsibility, the Commonwealth having only a limited platform for influence. Yet, apparently Energy Minister Angus Taylor is attempting to heavy them to ditch anything to do with emission reduction strategies and an effective transition to renewables in favour of his “socialist” regulation of the “gentailers”. In the hope of a genuine energy/climate action plan, the states must stand their ground.

Morrison doesn’t have a quality product to sell and while there are always those that will fall for the fancy new thing regardless of its actual usefulness or quality, as people realise they are getting poor value for their money, they’ll move on. Morrison has been in power for a couple of months and there has been no improvement in the polls, continual criticism of his actions by his own side of politics and amazement that he still can’t articulate why Turnbull was so bad he had to go (while continuing to implement Turnbull’s policy settings).

Maybe we should go back to Demtel to see how this ends. Tim Shaw is now the breakfast announcer of Canberra’s ‘talk radio’ station (which also relays Alan Jones and Ray Hadley) while the company owner spent nearly five years in jail for money laundering. ‘But wait- there’s more’ indeed.

What do you think?

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

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Morrison’s Bell

By Barddylbach

So I’m thinking about kids on Nauru, global warming, the recent by-election and our idiot politicians who dish out cruelty like Smarties, smirk and think they’re smart. 

“No party seizes the imagination of the people unless the people know the party stands for certain things. And we’ll fight for those things until the bell rings” (Robert Menzies, c.1944).

Alas, today what the Liberals stand for and what they do are two different things, and both are very different from what Robert Menzies stood for and did all those years ago. He must be turning in his grave today.

Alas, Morrison’s ‘Until The Bell Rings’ (6 September 2018) speech in Albury was (still is) hogwash, full of holes, a sieve, a drain pipe, a sewer; and yes you can call it hypocrisy and sophistry, but hogwash will do. Morrison’s bell is already ringing after just a few weeks since the serpent crept in pretending to be Christian and a family man, a community man, an honest Australian.

That smug smirk, so this is his creed, believe what you will, but it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, not when you hold up a lump of coal in Parliament, mock and grin and hold the nation to ransom on behalf of the coal mining lobby, big banks, no energy policy and total contempt for climate change and global warming.

Not when you refuse to release children and their families dying from suicide and Resignation Syndrome, from false imprisonment, torture and access to basic medical health care offshore for five years with no hope in sight, can you claim the values and beliefs he claims to uphold in this ‘Until the Bell Rings’ speech. Menzies would be turning in his grave.

And when the world is held upside down and out to dry, besmirched and lost, tachyons glowing by the Morrison-Dutton Liberals; when our children’s children cry out in their anger and their shame on a dying world, Scott Morrison is the man who should have resigned – ‘Morrison’s bell, a treasurer’s creed’ and here’s my poem (below).

Yes, Australia, we should all be ashamed – road to damnation. And still Morrison ‘the original architect of a system that brought about the torture, the deaths in detention, both physical and mental, is holding firm’, still he lies to us telling us he has been slowly-quietly getting them out of detention, (that was Howard’s secret recalcitrant and grumbly way a long time ago before the current misguided regime). Dutton and Morrison’s Border Force and Department of Home Affairs, their wretched excuse for a government are still being mindlessly dragged through the Federal Courts over and over again to the point Dutton now seeks to overturn the Law of this Land, contesting the Judicial system’s jurisdiction, our constitution, separation of powers, the very fabric of society that protects us all – and Morrison lets him.

The bells are ringing loud and clear on our streets, (and Menzies words here to haunt us). Yes, it has taken many years for the Australian public to recognise this evil. It’s not too late for Australia to act, but too late to save our souls – dammed already, should have thought about that before locking up innocent children and refugees in the first place all those years ago, destroying their lives, ignoring the Rule of Law and International Law, ignoring our own duty and responsibility to justice, morality and fair go. What hypocrites we are! But certainly no reason for us to maintain the same direction, for to do so will destroy our own way of life, our children’s and our children’s children, not just the children on Nauru who reached out for our help while we continue to torture them and their families.

‘Kids off Nauru’

Morrison’s Bell – A Treasurer’s Creed

It was not the Pacific,
it was not the Great Barrier Reef,
it was not the Indue cashless welfare scam,
Baghdad or Jerusalem.

We know it was not the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia,
it was not control of the press, ABC
or the government lotto giveaway
to Adani and the mighty corporation.

It was not that banks could rip the hearts out
of every working Australian
or silence the majority,
the war on security,
freedom of speech,
privacy, the right to earn a decent living.

Abbott, Turnbull, Dutton, Morrison,
there were many others,
no greater lie than denial of humanity,
we missed that boat.

We all thought it was Islam, global warming,
refugees and over population,
violence is an offshore, off-world thing,
Nauru, the innocence of
little migrant children,
coal and original sin.

The drought,
the floods
they rage
and I shall not resign

It was not a Ring of Fire,
the total destruction of democracy,
the planet and our oceans,
the Trump and Putin smirk,
China, DMZ or North Korea.

But as I live and breathe
it was the loss of Wentworth,
the feast of Pentecost,
and our beloved country.

The storms,
the fire
they rage
and I shall not resign.

It was a Mexican standoff,
I missed the apology,
the final solution
I spun the world around
and turned it off,
tachyons glowing,
I hung it upside down
besmirched, and lost.

The children,
our children’s children,
they rage
and I,
I shall not resign.



Poem: Morrison’s Bell – A Treasurer’s Creed by Barddylbach, 25 October 2018

Cartoon: For Whom the Wentworth Tolls by David Pope – via Twitter 20 October, 2018 (David Pope is editorial cartoonist for the Canberra Times).


What Goes Around, Comes Around by John Kelly (News & Politics) – The AIM Network, 28 October

Was Wentworth unworthy of the Liberals? by Jack Waterford – The Canberra Times, 27 October 2018

Dutton’s department challenges federal court’s authority to order Nauru transfers – The Guardian Australia, 26 October 2018

The children, the children! by George Theodoridis (Social Justice) – The AIM Network, 26 October 2018

Claimed emissions reduction from land use are very doubtful and must be verified by Kaye Lee (News & Politics) – The AIM Network, 26 October 2018

A Message to the World – Hashem Al-Ghaili, 11 October 2018 (FB)

The Saudi Arabian Model: Blueprints for Murder and Purchasing Arms by Binoy Kampmark (News & Politics) – The AIM Network, 26 October 2018

Labor says banking inquiry failed to expose how legal system used to crush customers: Labor’s banking royal commission submission says Australians being forced into ruthless court processes – The Guardian Australia, 26 October

Even for Trump, There Is Such a Thing as Too Far by Matt Barreto – The New York Times, 24 October 2018

‘I Call ‘Pigsh*t!: Helen Razer On The ‘Historic’ Wentworth Win – New Matilda, 22 October 2018

We May Have Escaped Prime Minister Dutton, But Scott Morrison Is Also Pretty Shit by Sam Langford – Junkee, 24 August 2018

Until The Bell Rings – Speech By Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Albury, 6 September 2018

What is resignation syndrome? The condition is spreading among children on Nauru – The Economist, 24 October 2018

Resignation Syndrome – YouTube video


Well done, Tony – now you’ve destroyed the Coalition

By Ad astra

He’s been this way for years. Like a kid playing a violent video game such as Call Of Duty, he has aimed his high-powered rocket at his opponents, forcing them to duck or blowing them to smithereens, destroying them utterly. And then he claps his little hands in delight. Destructiveness has consistently been his modus operandi. He has no equal in Australian political history.

When looking for a scapegoat for the Wentworth by-election catastrophe, several columnists targetted Peter Dutton as the culprit. Bad a result as it was, they canvassed how much worse it would have been if Dutton had succeeded in wresting the prime ministership from Malcolm Turnbull. Of course their proposition was valid. But it missed the point. It was not Peter Dutton who conceived the coup – it was the master of destruction, Tony Abbott. Dutton was simply a compliant proxy for Abbott in his quest to utterly destroy his nemesis, Malcolm Turnbull. I suppose we are fortunate that Dutton’s mates didn’t understand simple arithmetic – they couldn’t count. I suppose we should be grateful that doing simple sums eluded them. Otherwise, it may have been PM Dutton at the by-election urging voters to vote Liberal!

Destructive Tony was delighted when Malcolm Turnbull was upended on 24 August. Although his dream was always that he would replace Turnbull and assume the leadership that was taken from him on 15 September 2015 so abruptly, so indecently, so disrespectfully, even his over-inflated ego could not fully accommodate that eventuality. But if he couldn’t be PM again, if he could at least dislodge Turnbull, that would be an acceptable bonus.

Abbott’s destructiveness goes back a long way. As Kevin Rudd said in his recent interview with Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne radio about his new book: The PM Years”Ninety-nine percent of Abbott’s political life has been about destroying things.”

During his university days he smashed a glass door when he lost an election. He threatened a female opponent. At Oxford, where as a Rhodes Scholar he won a university blue in boxing, he said that smashing a bloodied opponent to the canvas gave him great delight.

Jumping to his parliamentary days, think back just a few years. Remember how he verballed Julia Gillard over and again until she came back at him with the full force of her angry rhetoric in her famous ‘misogyny speech’, which attracted worldwide acclamation.

When he couldn’t destroy her with his oratory, he set about destroying her policies. Peta Credlin, Abbott’s Chief of Staff, admittedthat the climate change policy promoted by Julia Gillard was never a carbon tax; he simply used that label ”to stir up brutal retail politics…Abbott made it a ‘carbon tax’ and a fight about the hip pocket rather than the environment, and it took him only six months to cut through and when he did, Gillard was gone. ” Who will ever forget ‘Axe the Tax’? This climate policy – a price on carbon pollution – was, and still is, central to reducing carbon emissions. Abbott destroyed it, and much of Julia Gillard’s reputation with it.

Abbott extended his destructiveness to demolish other policies, notably the mining tax. He cast himself as the nation’s saviour, putting the tax on mining super-profits at the centre of the his campaign to win the election, pledging to wind it back if he won government.

His three word slogans became a hallmark of his campaign: ‘axe the tax’, was joined to ‘stop the boats’, ‘repay the debt’, and ‘stop the waste’. In these trios, Abbott was able to put his destructiveness in a nutshell. Each carried a punishing condemnation of Labor’s policies, and by implication Abbott’s remedy. The electorate embraced these easy-to-remember slogans. ‘Stop the boats’ remains a powerful slogan even today.

Unable to topple Labor in 2010, the election resulted in a hung parliament. Abbott was incensed that Julia Gillard outmanoeuvred him to obtain the support of two rural independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who, with a Green and another independent enabled her to govern successfully for the next three years, passing around six hundred pieces of legislation. Abbott’s anger was palpable, his desire to destroy her unabated. His sexist language continued, climaxing in her ‘misogyny speech’ in October 2010.

Abbott eventually grasped the prize in 2013 when the Coalition won and he became PM. His destructiveness continued.

Not satisfied with his victory, Abbott continued his campaign of destruction as he attacked Labor policies relentlessly. His retaliatory 2014 budget, one that he and Joe Hockey fashioned, was designed to hurt those on welfare, and punish Hockey’s ‘leaners’. It is still regarded as the most punitive budget in recent times. It was widely condemned by economists and progressives. Yet Abbott revelled in its destructiveness.

But as Abbott continued on his destructive path, he failed to look over his shoulder to see that Malcolm Turnbull had his measure, until that fateful day, 15 September 2015, when Turnbull challenged him for the Liberal leadership, and won. Abbott’s upending of Turnbull in December 2009 by one vote over Turnbull’s support for an ETS, was avenged. Abbott was forced onto the backbench, where he vowed there would be ”no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping.” The promise was hollow; Abbott continued with his unrelenting destructiveness. His prime aim was to destroy Malcolm Turnbull, no matter what the cost to his party.

So it came to pass that Abbott and his conservative mates were able to persuade the party room that Turnbull could not lead them to an election victory, and therefore had to be replaced. Abbott realized that he was unlikely to be chosen as Turnbull’s successor, so he worked on Peter Dutton’s over-inflated ego long enough to persuade him that he was ’a better man’ to lead the party to victory. Once Turnbull threw down the gauntlet, Dutton’s innumerate colleagues began to do their sums, but managed to get their numbers so wrong that Dutton lost to Scott Morrison, who unexpectedly came through the centre of the field to win the race. But although Dutton failed, Abbott was delighted – he had at last destroyed his nemesis.

But in the process, aided and abetted by the party’s conservative dinosaurs, Abbott had destroyed the Coalition. Perhaps he didn’t see it coming, so hell bent was he destroying Turnbull.

The result of his destructiveness is writ large in the outcome of the Wentworth by-election. Although there were many factors that led to this disastrous result for the Coalition, there is no escaping the naked truth that behind this calamity was the phantom of the nation’s most destructive politician, Anthony John Abbott.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Through the looking glass darkly

By Henry Johnston

October 2019. The Australian Labor Party is the government of Australia holding a whopping majority in the lower house, but it must deal with a pesky senate.

Bill Shorten’s government develops into an effective technocracy. The Federation of Australian States is positive about the carve-up of the GST. Victoria and New South Wales are in the Labor fold. House prices continue to tumble. A stimulus package is mooted courtesy of a fulsome budget crafted by Treasurer Chris Bowen. Wages rise.

Kevin Rudd is short odds to be the next Secretary General of the United Nations. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is gravely ill. Rupert Murdoch is dead. Brexit negotiations continue. Elizabeth Warren announces she will contest the 2020 U.S. elections for the Democrats and Elon Musk reveals a breakthrough in cheap, hydrogen energy.

Back home Prime Minister Shorten enlists Paul Keating as spokesperson for the looming referendum on an Australian Republic. Julia Gillard is the firm favourite to be the nation’s first president. Royalists are outraged. Alan Jones collapses on-air from apoplexy on the day Anthony Albanese turns the first sod on a national very fast rail service.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hosts high-level talks with Foreign Minister Penny Wong. It seems there are ructions about some of the refugees resettled in New Zealand. Peter Hartcher opines in the Western Sydney Morning Herald it has something to do with the large number of Kiwis deported to New Zealand from Australia.

The drought worsens. Oil prices fluctuate. Wall Street is about to crash. Global warming continues.

Parliamentary debate, especially Question Time, is quiet, almost cordial. A large cohort of independents sit in the lower house.

A split looms in the Liberal Party. At the behest of the former Member for Warringah Tony Abbott, Gerard Henderson joins John Roskam writing A Manifesto for Renewal. Meanwhile Malcolm Turnbull enlists Peter van Onselen to craft A Conservative Dialectic: Finding Menzies’ Forgotten People.

Paul Kelly writes a two-volume history of The United Australia Party, and a descendant of Archie Galbraith Cameron becomes leader of the National Party, now arguing to maintain its status as a legitimate political entity.

Near Mt Isa a geologist-cum prospector uncovers an enormous seam of scandium and yttrium also known as Rare Earth Elements. Clive Palmer lodges an Intent-to-Mine document with the Queensland Government. The Australian Financial Review describes the discovery as ‘the next great mining boom of the north,’ and predicts domestic high-tech industries will expand.

Elon Musk meets with Prime Minister Shorten who kicks off a national debate about reviving the Australian car industry by building Tesla electric cars in South Australia and Victoria. China lodges a protest with the World Trade Organisation.

Barnaby Joyce threatens to retire as the Member for New England if a local Aboriginal land council continues to lobby to change the name of his Federal seat to Anaiwan.

Senator Pat Dodson is set to chair a national discussion in Old Parliament House Canberra to define Australia’s first Makarrata.

Sky News announces the Liberal split is underway.

Footnote: An incomplete snapshot of political party splits. The United Australia Party (UAP) forms as a new conservative alliance in 1931 with Labor defector Joseph Lyons, its leader. In 1939 Robert Menzies becomes prime minister as war looms. Menzies resigns as leader of a minority World War II government, amidst an unworkable parliamentary majority. The UAP led by Billy Hughes, disintegrates after defeat in the 1943 election. Menzies calls a conference of conservative parties and other groups, opposed to the Australian Labor Party. From 1942 onwards, Menzies maintains his public profile via an ABC radio series entitled, The Forgotten People.

During the 1954 federal election, Labor receives more than half the popular vote and wins 57 seats to the Coalition’s 64. Two key political players emerge; B.A. Santamaria and H.V. Evatt. In the subsequent election, the newly formed Democratic Labor Party directs its supporters to give their electoral preferences to the Liberals, ahead of the ALP. In 1961 and 1969 Labor wins a majority of the two-party vote, but DLP preferences result in Labor coming up short of the Coalition’s hold on government. The DLP still exists.

Tony Abbott describes B.A. Santamaria as his formative political hero. Herbert Vere ‘Doc’ or Bert Evatt serves as the third president of the United Nations General Assembly from 1948 to 1949 and helps draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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

Implications of Wentworth: Can Progressive Liberalism Triumph Across Australia?

By Denis Bright

As the days pass since the Wentworth by-election, a new level of resistance has emerged in the federal LNP on the best responses to the arrival of Dr Kerryn Phelps in Canberra. The blind-spots are evident in both the progressive and conservative wings of the LNP.

The federal LNP’s electoral successes in holding electoral jewels like Wentworth are the product of over seventy years of largely successful campaigning. As the Cold War intensified, the LNP mastered a shrill conservative populism which predated the excesses of Margaret Thatcher and Richard Nixon. The LNP had become an entrenched conservative party. It is stubbornly resistant to change despite the 18.8 per cent swing against the Coalition in Wentworth.

Commitment to market ideology and the US global military alliance are the cornerstones of Australian LNP politics as in the late 1940s.

In the closely contested national elections of 1954, Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party Sir Eric Harrison was not opposed in Wentworth. Sir Eric Harrison (1892-1974) represented Wentworth from 1931 to 1956. He was appointed High Commissioner in London (1956-64).

The by-election to replace Sir Eric Harrison on 8 December 1956 contained some of the elements of last weekend’s by-election. It produced an even stronger swing against the LNP.

Local leadership transitions for a long-standing representative can be sticky affairs for both sides of politics as shown by aberrant swings in Bass (1975), Oxley (1988), Wills (1992), Canberra (1995) and Ryan (2001).

Despite warnings from Prime Minister Morrison, the tidal wave of aberrant by-election results re-surfaced in Wentworth. Coping with the loss of Wentworth to Dr Kerryn Phelps has brought defensive explanations in door-stop interviews from LNP insiders:

Josh Frydenberg has played down the need for a significant shift in the Morrison government’s stance on climate change before the next federal election after the strong protest vote in the seat of Wentworth.

The treasurer and former energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday people in Sydney’s eastern suburbs were concerned about climate change, but he said the government did not intend to “reduce emissions at the expense of people’s power bills.

Defence of the status quo continued in Prime Minister Morrison’s hard-line against the resettlement of refugees in New Zealand:

Scott Morrison has shot down an overture by Labor aimed at breaking the political deadlock over Nauru, declaring “you don’t horse-trade on border protection”.

Labor on Tuesday proposed three amendments to government legislation designed to close off re-entry to Australia for any asylum seekers resettled in New Zealand – legislation the opposition has previously rejected outright, and the shift was welcomed by several Senate crossbenchers.

Other high-profile figures, including the former human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs, have backed the bill as a pragmatic solution to get children and families off Nauru, and lower house crossbenchers have urged the Coalition and Labor to come to an agreement.

Initial signals during the Wentworth by-election campaign did suggest that Scott Morrison was charting a new policy direction for the LNP government. Scott Morrison offered bipartisan support to protect gender diversity in private schools and the passing on of reduced company tax to medium sized businesses.

The second last week of the Wentworth campaign brought a retreat to old time LNP values.

With an unguarded impromptu comment at a beach-side interview, Dave Sharma gave support to move the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. Prime Minister Morrison supported the casual aside. As the former Australian ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dave Sharma should have been aware of the negative consequences of this diversionary issue which would have divided Jewish opinion in Wentworth.

Dave Sharma’s connections to Israel extended far beyond his appointment as Australian Ambassador to Israel (2013-17) as part of an impressive career path within DFAT since 1999.

As the Non-executive Chair of Israeli technology firm Shekel Brainweigh Ltd, Dave Sharma’s corporate profile features prominently in biographies of its Board of Directors:

Some of the strategy confusions in the federal LNP extend to some of its other electoral jewels in metropolitan electorates.

In Brisbane’s electorate of Ryan, inclusive, but still conservative LNP member Jane Prentice, was by-passed in pre-selection in favour of BCC Councillor Julian Simmonds against the advice of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull:

Malcolm Turnbull has admitted he went into bat for Jane Prentice at her recent preselection – urging her branch in Queensland to keep her as its representative – and was ignored.

The prime minister, who referred to the assistant social services minister as “a friend of mine”, said he believed he had done all he could to boost her chances of preselection for the seat of Ryan, but would not be intervening to insist she was reinstated.

Letting go with the past is difficult for LNP strategists as it means abandoning the fear strategies about fragility of market ideology and security threats to Australia which have been used so successfully since the 1940s.

In today’s circumstances, giving more autonomy to the National Party to work co-operatively with far-right parties in regional electorates, could perhaps co-exist with a more progressive interpretation of liberalism in comfortable metropolitan electorates like Wentworth. Independent cross-bencher, Cathy McGowan has ruled out supporting this possibility through the return of Barnaby Joyce as National Party leader (AFR 22 October 2018).

Meanwhile back in Wentworth, there was no outbreak of class politics against unaffordable housing prices and falling real wages at the Wentworth by-election. The property market in Bondi Junction is going through a correction but housing affordability is still geared to the big end of town.

Images from

In Bondi Junction, Dr Kerryn Phelps gained 31.64 per cent of the primary vote. The LNP vote had plummeted from 56.32 per cent in 2016 to 38.5 per cent in the current by-election. Endorsement of a new style of progressive liberalism emerged as the real winner.

At the boutique Vaucluse polling booth with its 527 voters, the LNP’s primary vote dipped from 96.3 per cent in 2016 to 63.4 per cent. Only 19.8 per cent of voters went with Dr Kerryn Phelps.

Others perhaps thought about the prospects of cashing in on the property market before the current correction gains momentum. Gaining Dr Kerryn Phelps as the local federal MP for Vaucluse was surely a curious political miracle as life went on as usual in the leafiest exclusive lanes of Australian society.

Future generations will surely look back on the Wentworth by-election as a real game changer in Australian political history. The LNP has been pushed by voters themselves to embrace a more progressive version of liberalism but its leaders simply will not take the plunge to break with 76 years of ideological successes since Robert Menzies espoused the case of The Forgotten People in 1942 (ABC News Online 22 May 2017).

Dr Kerryn Phelps is one of Sydney’s ethical success stories. Her leadership is quite   independent of changing political fortunes. Fortunately, she has decided to work towards democratic renewal as the political compasses of the Prime Minister’s frontbench are more firmly fixed on the old charts to future electoral successes.


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


Oh dear – our new PM is not up to the job

By Ad astra

We know Scott Morrison has held several portfolios, immigration and treasurer the most important. The electorate might have hoped that these experiences would have endowed him with a modicum of general knowledge about how government works, some feel for how international diplomacy is carried out, some notion of what to say, to whom, and when. But, after just a few short weeks, we are left disillusioned. Our accidental PM seems to have learned almost nothing of these crucial political skills – every day he shows he’s not up to the job.

His proclivity for incessant talking, too often before putting his brain into gear, has landed him in hot water. It’s almost as if he’s become overawed with his recent elevation, and can’t adjust to the high office of PM, where common sense, balance, perspicacity, knowing when to speak and when to shut up, are essential attributes.

Of course his exaggerated sense of his own importance, not a recent phenomenon mind you, exacerbates his verbal diarrhoea, which we see every time he appears in the media. He’s always got an answer, always confident that he knows best, his words always accompanied by his all-knowing smirk.

We knew he was terrified at the prospect of losing the Wentworth by-election. With his one seat majority, a Wentworth loss could lead to loss of government. So it was unsurprising that he took every opportunity to shore up the LNP vote, throwing tidbits to the voters, many of whom are Jewish, in the hope of gaining another vote or two. This is the only rational explanation observers could find for his recent off-the-cuff comments about recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and re-locating the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Did he for a nano-second think that while these thought bubbles just might appeal to Jewish voters in Wentworth, they would attract worldwide attention, hearty applause from Israeli PM Netanyahu and President Trump, and equally voluble condemnation from the Palestinians, much of the diplomatic world that is hoping for an eventual two State solution, and fury from Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation, which insisted that such moves would threaten an important trade deal being negotiated, which if negated would leave Australia much worse off?

Shadow Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, said that the move Morrison floated was “a position that was not held by Alexander Downer, was not held by Julie Bishop, was not held by Malcolm Turnbull – and guess what, wasn’t held by Scott Morrison just a couple of months ago … He’s floating a change in Liberal foreign policy … just to try to hold on to the seat of Wentworth. And does anyone actually believe he’ll carry this through?”

So here we have our amateur PM angering half the world and threatening our economy, all in one fell swoop. And what’s more, he was scarcely aware of the damage his words had done. His attempts to ‘play down’ the consequences of his actions underscored his naïveté, amateurishness, and just plain stupidity.

Not satisfied with the grenades he had already thrown, he also announced:

  • Australia would vote against a motion on the Palestinian Authority taking the chair of the Group of 77 of developing nations.
  • The government would “review without prejudice” Australia’s support for the Iran nuclear deal, to determine whether its current policy was still fit for purpose.
  • Australia and Israel would strengthen their defence and security co-operation with the appointment of defence attaches in their respective embassies.

And it wasn’t as if he was not warned: An ASIO bulletin, marked secret, Australian eyes only, circulated on 15 October, the day before his announcements, noted that the shift in policy would ”Attract international attention … any announcement on the possible relocation of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem or consideration of voting against Palestinians in the United Nations may provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank.” It also warned that it was possible Australian interests could be the target of protest activity following such an announcement, and noted that “attacks and violent protests” have occurred at times of heightened political tension. The bulletin noted too that Australian diplomatic facilities in Iran could also be the focus of protest activity if the Morrison government withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

The bulletin also highlighted the possibility of protests within Australia, although it says domestic protests are unlikely to be violent. It said ASIO was not aware of specific threats to Jewish interests in Australia, although it said that Israeli and Jewish interests remain “an enduring target of extremists globally … While a small number of Australian-based individuals maintain a violent Islamist extremist ideology that includes a strong anti-Semitic element, we are not aware of any specific or credible terrorist threat to Israel or Jewish interests in Australia.” In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Shaath, a former foreign minister, said Morrison’s announcement was a hostile action that destroyed the chances of peace. “This doesn’t really help. It might increase the chances of the government winning Wentworth in Australia … but if this is the way you do Middle East politics in order to win a by-election, then please allow me to be very negative towards this policy … it will bring nothing but ruin.

As if his own diplomatic blunders were not enough, his accident-prone environment minister, Melissa Price, piled on with her own when she insulted the former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who was dining at a restaurant in Canberra with: “I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific, it is always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?”.Sarah Hanson-Young nailed Price with “She dismisses the science of climate change, and she now dismisses the views and the very heartfelt advocacy of leaders in the region.”

Then, on the eve of the by-election, idiot Nationals decide it’s time for another leadership scrap, and Barnaby Joyce pokes his florid face above the parapet announcing he’d be happy to be leader again! Morrison has no control over these morons – why would they listen to him anyway?

Whichever way our clumsy PM turns, he makes the wrong call, upsets those he ought to be fostering, talks incessantly but says nothing, thinks he’s an oracle but is perceived as a fool. He is an embarrassment to his party and to the nation.

The result in Wentworth captured the intense disillusionment that voters feel, not just in that electorate, but across the nation too – disillusionment with the Liberal Party, the Coalition, and in our newly minted PM. No leader can escape the ignominy that inflicts the party he leads. Yet in facing Liberal supporters afterwards, Morrison, truculent as ever even in the face of a humiliating outcome, gave us a pulpit-thumping dose of evangelical claptrap. Channeling his Pentecostal mentors, he extolled the resilience of true-blue Liberals, whom he insisted would rise from the dead – Phoenix-like from the ashes of the appalling Wentworth result. We can expect even more of this.

But it doesn’t alter the fact that Scott Morrison is a rank amateur in the PM arena, is not up to the job, or to use one of his favourite phrases, is ‘not fit for purpose’. Using Aussie vernacular though, he is simply a dud. Oh dear, we really do have a dud PM.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Royal Commission findings could fix broken family law system

Family Law Reform Council: Media Release

PROTECTIVE parents and law reform advocates called for concrete action today in the wake of the National Apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Family Law Reform Council Co-Director, Mishka Hudson, has demanded the urgent application of the findings of the Royal Commission to Australia’s family law system.

“Most child sexual abuse occurs in family contexts,” Ms Hudson said. “This was not addressed by the Royal Commission, and not directly encompassed in the PM’s National Apology speech.”

During his delivery of the National Apology to victims of child abuse in Canberra today the Prime Minister acknowledged that “the many survivors who were abused in their own homes” were not covered by the Royal Commission. In response, Mr Morrison announced the establishment of a national research centre aimed at understanding the impacts of child sexual abuse and developing “best practice for training and other services.” However, he stopped short of mentioning the family law system.

In his response to the apology, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the findings of the Royal Commission must apply to all Australians, not only those who were abused in institutions.

“We are sorry that the abuse of children is still going on right here in this country … Too many Australian children are still living unsafe lives,” Mr Shorten stated. “We hear you now,” he said.

Mr Shorten continued, “the words of this apology must come with action,” noting this is “the true test of our words.”

However, Ms Hudson expressed concern at Mr Shorten’s description of children escaping institutions to report abuse, only to be returned by police to these abusive situations. “Do our leaders understand that this occurs every day to Aussie kids under Family Court recovery orders?” she asked. “Do they fully comprehend that parents and children who report abuse to our police and child protection departments are ridiculed and disbelieved when they explain their case is before the Family Court?” she asked.

When sexual abuse occurs in the home, child protection issues are commonly dealt with by Australia’s family law system, including the family courts, state police and child protection departments.

“The family law system is in crisis,” said Ms Hudson. “It is critical that the work of the new research centre applies, directly and urgently, to our family law system, including our family courts, police and child protection departments”.

“The vast majority of Australians would agree that children need to be protected from sexual abuse, wherever it occurs,” Ms Hudson said. “Our Prime Minister said, ‘I believe you. We believe you. Your country believes you.’ If this is so, the Government will take action to protect all Australian kids, immediately, by applying the findings of the Royal Commission directly Australia’s family law system.”

“We need concrete action to protect Australian kids – right now, today.”

Oh, for a government that values values

By Loz Lawrey

I constantly hear the word “values” bandied about in public debate. What are values?  The label commonly refers to moral and ethical principles or standards of behaviour, but what do the politicians who pepper their rhetoric with the term really mean by it?

If you google the term you’ll lose yourself in a plethora of examples and definitions of “core” and “personal” values, but according to Department Of Home Affairs Fact Sheet 07, “Life in Australia: Australian values” are:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individuals
  • equality of men and women
  • freedom of religion
  • commitment to the rule of law
  • parliamentary democracy
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
  • equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

That sounds OK to me and resonates completely with my own progressive views. It reassures me that beneath all the bluster Australia just might be at heart a modern, forward-looking nation, doing its best to learn and grow with the times. But do the priorities and policies of the (currently Morrison) Coalition government reflect those values?

Most applicants for Australian visas are required to acknowledge this “Australian values statement” as part of entry application process:

Perhaps this requirement to understand and acknowledge our society’s values should also apply to those who seek public office, because it’s clear that some of our federal parliamentarians subscribe to values sets of their own, ones that bear no correlation to the Home Affairs definition. What are these people even doing serving as representatives of the people?

We’ve often heard Pauline Hanson bandy the term “Australian values” about (they’re “Judeo-Christian”, according to her) as she advocates for her divisive hate-driven white supremacist agenda.

Where do her priorities align with the Home Affairs template, if at all?

We’ve heard Peter Dutton wave the “values” flag as he has, on multiple occasions, sought to whip up communal antipathy towards Somali youth (“African “gangs”), Lebanese Muslims, refugees and anyone who dares to contradict him or call him out.

When he was Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (remember him?) would refer to “Team Australia” and its “values” whenever the ABC’s reporting irritated or embarrassed him. His own sense of self-importance would take a hit when the reportage mirrored the facts, rather than his simplistic sloganeering. Like Pauline Hanson, he also used “Australian values” to support a “ban the burka” (read “anti-Muslim”) motion put forward by Nationals MP George Christensen.

The war on welfare recipients conducted by the Coalition was hardly rolled out under the banner of “a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good”.

Values? “Equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background” clearly does not apply to those desperate refugees who came to us by boat. They get abuse and torture instead, as they are driven to insanity or suicide on Nauru by the Coalition’s calculated cruelty.

Shouldn’t values inform our public policy-making? Shouldn’t they be the overarching first principle of government? Sadly, “values” is now officially a weasel word, an often racist dog whistle of the political right. It is a useful tool in the conservative arsenal, a term that somehow implies an unearned moral superiority. It is often used to silence dissent and shut down debate. After all, who would dare argue with or call “values” into question?

We live in an age of spin, a time when political messaging often has more to do with expedience than honourable leadership. Our current Prime Minister (this week) happens to be a former marketing man, a salesman. He embodies the Coalition’s preference for salesmanship over substance. It never occurs to them that electoral rejection of their policies may be based on the shortcomings of the policies themselves rather than the way they were “sold” to voters. From their perspective, Barnaby Joyce’s skills as a “retail politician” made him an excellent Honourable Member and Deputy PM. (Pause for laughter).

Scott Morrison keeps saying things like “what Australians want is …” or “the Australian people want us to …” as if he actually knows what we, the Australian people, value.

He clearly does not. If he did, we’d have a clear policy for addressing climate change and reducing emissions. We would be endorsing renewable energy as the only way forward. We wouldn’t have the cruelty and abuse of offshore detention. We wouldn’t see the dismissal, with the Coalition’s customary contempt, of the concerns of Indigenous Australians. We wouldn’t have been subjected to a divisive plebiscite on same sex marriage.

And then there’s religion. Ay ay ay! What can we say? I intend no disrespect to people of faith. I believe that we are all people of faith one way or another, not just those who embrace Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Guru Nanak, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity. At the end of the day, we all believe in something, even if it’s sport, sausage sizzles, Scientology or Dale Carnegie’s self-improvement for salesmen program.

We each live by our own understanding and concepts, regardless of how we came by them. The fact that so many belief-systems exist is surely the greatest argument for secular government and the separation of church and state there can be. A secular system is the only place, the only platform upon which many differing faiths can co-exist. Without it we’re living back in the time of the crusades and the inquisition, not here in 2018.

I have no problem with religion but I do object to the endorsement of homophobia as a “value” by religious institutions. A weasel word in itself, wrapped in the weasel-skin cloak of “religious freedom”, the term “values” is put forward as justification for an agenda of discrimination against a minority not on any proven, scientific or evidence-based grounds, but on outdated, archaic prejudice and bigotry which should have no place in the modern world.

According to Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, however, “Church schools should NOT be forced to play by secular rules. It goes to the very heart of religious freedom that religious organisations should be able to operate according to their religious ethos.”

What is he actually saying? The subtext appears to be: “We religious folk are special. We are superior.

We can flout the laws of the land. We will use funding from secular taxpayers to promote our agenda of homophobia and social control. We will claim tax-exempt status while doing so.”

“Religious ethos.” Now there’s a weasel term! You could endorse any hateful agenda to divide and conquer with that one.

Scott Morrison became, just a few days ago, the latest in the conga line of inadequate Prime Ministers to lead what is apparently now known as the ATM government, a failed government which has now wasted years of Australia’s precious time.

In the name of “leadership” we have, over several years, been force-fed slogans and catch-cries, lies and misrepresentations. Ideology seems to be the problem. This Coalition ATM government simply does not subscribe to the values promoted by its own Department of Home Affairs.

The “public good”? “Mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion”? Forget them, they are “leftist values”, part of a “leftist agenda”. Remember Peter Dutton’s warning that “a single act of compassion” could destroy the cordon of cruelty his government has erected in the name of “border security”?

“Leftist” or otherwise, our country deserves a government that values values. Not weasel pretend-values, not a list of definitions to be ignored but actual heartfelt real dinky di ones that truly define our aspiration to become the best, most humane society we can be.

Poor planning causes overcrowding

Population Minister Alan Tudge has suggested that Melbourne and Sydney are experiencing significant pressure from excessive population growth. He’s probably got a point, but his ‘solution’ — forcing immigrants to live in areas with less population pressure for at least five years after permanent residency is granted — demonstrates Tudge’s complete lack of knowledge of the subject matter he is responsible for implementing on behalf of the Australian Government.

That’s not to suggest for a minute that there are not any other places worth living in across Australia — there are thousands of them. Small towns do generally have a greater sense of community, and clearly if immigrants move into regional communities with lower levels of population growth, there is an increase in demand for goods and services in those communities. That’s not a bad thing, but according to former Border Force Commissioner Quaedvilieg, the proposal to link residency visas with residential locations is difficult to enforce, even if it is theoretically legal.

The Department of Home Affairs and Border Security produced a report in January 2014 that concluded

The migration program has been one tool with which governments have attempted to support regional development by helping to meet the skills needs of regional employers and of adding to the stock of residents living in regional areas. However, one of the key challenges in utilising the migration program to assist in regional development outcomes has been in ensuring that migrants who do settle in regional areas stay there over the long-term. But the extent to which migration-based interventions actually facilitate long-term regional retention remains unclear. In order to develop more effective policies and programs in this area, the academic literature suggests that it is therefore important to develop an understanding of the factors that contribute to regional retention.

Loosely translated — there is more work to be done than to just tell people they have to stay in an area for five years which isn’t necessarily the person’s first choice.

Tudge, like a lot of coalition politicians is taking population growth, in part caused by migration, and comparing it with the infrastructure difficulties that are encountered in Sydney and Melbourne (as well as other areas of Australia such as South East Queensland). The connection is to a large extent nonsensical.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened in 1932 and photos of the bridge in the ‘good ole days’ show rail lines where they are now, tram lines on the other extremity and six traffic lanes in between. While the tram lines were converted to traffic lanes, the Harbour Bridge was constructed with plenty of room for future expansion. It’s the same with the Storey Bridge in Brisbane, opened in the 1940’s with six traffic lanes.

Fast forward a few decades and the Harbour Tunnel was constructed to relive pressure on the Harbour Bridge. It opened in 1992 and has two lanes in each direction. By 2008, the tunnel was being used by up to 90,000 vehicles a day. Brisbane’s ‘Clem7’ tunnelwhich runs close to the Storey Bridge is also a two lane each way tunnel and has never met the traffic expectations of the proponents since it opened in 2010, probably because the ‘time savings’ do not justify the toll charge. Brisbane’s Clem7 could have been constructed with three lanes each way for another $20million on the $3.2billion construction cost, but the decision was made not to do so.

And there is the problem in a sentence. If you are buying clothes for your 2-year-old child, there is always the temptation to buy the next size up, even if it costs a little more upfront as the child will grow into the item of clothing and your dollar will go further. The alternative is going back to the store of your choice within a few weeks because of a growth spurt. Likewise, we know that (in this case) South East Queensland is growing rapidly. While a road tunnel with two lanes in each direction comfortably handled the traffic flows at the time it was opened and probably will for some for some years to come, it will reach capacity quicker than the three-lane tunnel proposal. Back in the first half of the last century they knew that cities, like children, would grow and built accordingly.

There was no need to build the Harbour Bridge, the Storey Bridge, St Kilda Road or any number of other pieces of infrastructure constructed in the first half of the last century to the scale they did, but they did it anyway. However as these structures that were designed with room for growth do eventually reach their capacity, there is frequently a decade or so of political infighting and sledging before the solution commences construction so we are stuck in a perpetual cycle of catching up to current demand.

In Melbourne, clearly the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne is at capacity — they are building a companion tunnel only 40 or so years after the bridge opened as poor planning has made it the only direct connection between Melbourne’s CBD and the western suburbs. The tunnel to act as a companion to the Westgate Bridge was first mooted in 2006 — it will apparently open in 2022.

While it seems that a lot of recent immigrants have settled in Sydney and Melbourne, it is disingenuous at best to suggest that infrastructure capacity problems are solely caused by immigration — it’s more to do with politicians lacking the vision that their predecessors from a century ago obviously had. After all, it’s not only recent immigrants that live in Sydney, Melbourne and other parts of Australia that are growing faster than the average.

The Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government has a long history of dog whistling to turn opinions against those who don’t look like them (generally middle-aged to elderly white men). First we had ‘stop the boats’, then the ‘gangs of African youths terrorising Melbourne’ and now the same people are being blamed for failures of politicians over the past 40 years to argue the case for additional capacity when expensive infrastructure is built. Because in the long term it’s cheaper to build it once with some growing room — just like the 2-year old’s new t-shirt.

It’s time to call Tudge’s thought bubble out for what it is — racism.

What do you think?

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

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Climate recalcitrance

By John Haly

“Recalcitrant” is what Prime minister Keating once described Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir over economic considerations with APEC. In this century, “recalcitrance” has become a term more readily applied to the current persistently pro-coal conservative Government over issues of ecology.

On the 8th of October 2018, as I was leaving Korea, I noted the first Green Climate Fund’s Global NDA Conference at the Hyatt Conference Halls had commenced next door to where I had been staying.

Having addressed climate and economic policy failures by the Australian Government recently, I became interested in how these representatives of the global community were discussing climate investment opportunities to facilitate the reduction efforts against greenhouse gas emissions.

Later the next day, I learned that during the opening sessions it was reported that Thelma Krug, the Vice Chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) saidThe IPCC report is a bridge between the science and policymakers – limiting the temperature increase to 1.5℃ is not impossible.

At the same conference, Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group noted, “Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.

Jim Skea, Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group

There was an evident emergence of urgency arising within this conference that repeatedly referenced the IPCC Special Report of Global Warming. It is only with immediate and focused effort can we prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5°C. (The report is available at which includes its summary for policymakers.)

The question on everyone’s mind is, of course, are we up to that challenge and can we do it in time? It is well observed in literature and public commentary that the greatest obstacle to adoption of climate change mitigation is not the science, but the political policymakers and their conservative media support. Notable is their reluctance to take scientific advice over significant business lobbying and financial donations. Hence the desire to either shift the climate change discussions away from the political arena or build a “bridge” the economic policymakers of the world have to cross. The later is what the IPCC report attempts to address.

Back in Australia, the IPCC report bridge to our policymakers seems to have suffered the same fate as that of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in 1945 at the end of World War 2. It similarly, has been captured by allied forces (western political democracies such as Australia and America), and they are hell-bent on no one crossing it. Hopefully destroying that metaphysical bridge will be as difficult as was the physical one. Although that analogy is troublesome because when they eventually destroyed the Ludendorff Bridge, it was never rebuilt.

Regarding climate change mitigation policies, legislation, measures and institutions the CLIM index (for measuring these factors comparatively for 95 countries) places Australian 55th in the world somewhere after Mongolia and Egypt but doing marginally better than Belarus and Uzbekistan both of whom have economies that are heavily based on fossil fuels. Just as a point of comparative interest, the United States is 45th in the world.

Meanwhile back in South Korea (18th on the CLIM index), the participants at the Global NDA Conference know that the South Pacific and Asian regions have the most to lose if climate change is not mitigated.  Across the continent from the Korean NDA conference, the South China Morning Post had previously reported. “Australia’s new prime minister will not revive plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law, a thorny issue that triggered the ousting of his predecessor in a party coup.” It is not merely a matter of “revival” of policy plans but hostility to even considering implementing any. Pressure by the Institute of Public Affairs (the policy lobbying arm of the Liberal conservatives) to exit the Paris Climate agreement is exemplified by their policy propaganda piece, “Why Australia must exit the Paris Climate Agreement”.

In the early history of that “party coup”, it was evident the conservatives held out hope that Dutton’s potential rise to power meant an end to the Paris Climate accords. While the emerging choice of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has ruled out exiting the Paris Climate accord, he has decided to deny any further funding to the global climate fund. Claiming in an interview; “I’m not going to spend money on global climate conferences and all that nonsense.” So I can assume it is safe to imagine that the Australia government was not contributing to the NDA conference in Korea, despite Australians having contributed to the IPCC report.

Australia’s recalcitrance in following the leadership of European and British nations in preference for American policy adherence is disheartening and irresponsible. The failure of leadership on climate change by Australian Politics is well recognised even abroad in other countries. Ironically, the delays on mitigating climate change risks instituted by one Australian Prime Minister had previously been considered a luxury we could not afford.

Strong opinions held by Malcolm Turnbull

While the political ideology denies the science in preference for economic overtures and lobbying of financially significant fossil fuel interests, the future of the planet and our collective ability to survive climate change is at stake.

Back on October 9th the Deputy prime minister and leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack stated:

I’m very much supportive of the coal industry. I understand the IPCC report, and I’ll certainly consider what it has to say, but the fact is coal mining does play an important part of our energy mix in Australia and will do so going forward. [The government is not about to change policy] just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do.”

Since the report has emerged, the government has not backed down from this position and confirmed their rejection of the IPCC report to back away from coal power over the next 30 years.

For a country replete in land and sunlight for setting up solar power generation, the excuses against transitioning our energy supply are feeble. Options include intermittent power supplies provided by solar panels, to the 24-hour power supply of solar reflectors heating molten saltsWind and geothermal, although intermittent, backed by the hugely successful battery storage exemplified by the much faster supply response by the South Australian Tesla batteries set up by Elon Musk, is also potentially plentiful.  Scotland expects to harvest all its electricity via renewable means by 2020 and California expects to be complete by 2045. While this nation and state had both different starting points, what has made the difference is not technology, but a political imperative to pursue the goal to not continue to heat the planet.

We have untapped employable resources in Australia, with already 2.383 million people under and unemployed and not enough job vacancies to absorb even 8% of that number. We have the educational resources with 42 universities and 59 TAFE institutions dispersed across metropolitan and regional areas of Australia. This is, despite a concerted effort by conservatives, to restrict access to education. Spending money on innovation, employment and educational resources to boost climate change mitigation infrastructure is a clear growth strategy for our economy, according to the Treasury. Other Nations have demonstrated evidence that climate mitigation has been economically prosperous. What we don’t have, is the political will to act to survive anthropomorphic climate change.

Fear mongering about climate change mitigation by the Liberals, the IPA and mining/coal lobbyists is not based on evidence or the examples of nation-states on this planet. Climate change disharmony (evidenced by increasing global heatwaves, and abnormal climate events) on the other hand, are increasingly apparent. Scientists and experts at these conferences have for decades repeatedly warned us, time is running out, and we need to act soon and fervently. If big business lobbying and political ideology are all that stands in the way of averting a climatic breakdown, then we as Australians need to vote out of office anyone who even remotely risks the future of our planet, in preference for greed and power.

This article was originally published on:

Australia Awaken - ignite your torches

The predators behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership

By Stephen Fitzgerald

Most of the problems we face, in Western society, are a result of the ravages of corporate greed. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is another example of corporates expanding their power base to the detriment of the countries they overrun.

In the news today, you will hear the distant rumblings of the true intent, and the inevitable impact, of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If we participate, the TPP will leave Australia exposed to unfettered corporate exploitation and abuse.

Misnomers that hide what the strong and rich control, and aspire to control, help promote our world’s numerous political and social ills. “Spreading democracy” in the Middle East and Africa has been used to excuse much slaughter, ruin and higher risks of wider war for purposes not remotely connected with democracy. It’s all about money, power and control driven by greed.

The designation “trade” used by politicians and the media when talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact and the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement is another perfect example of a misnomer thanks to which a new shadow will be cast over the generally more fortunate parts of the world including Australia.

If signed and ratified, the trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic agreements, which seek to organize business activity under one gigantic umbrella of new rules, are likely to change our living environment in ways very different from what elected officials have been misled to imagine.

They have been peddled as trade treaties, and hence as being wonderful for economic growth, job creation, social well-being and general happiness. But, the TPP agreement, which aims to tie a dozen pacific nations together is not in the first place about trade and may hardly be significant at all for stimulating genuine exchanges traditionally labelled that way.

The TPP accord is about power, not trade. More specifically, the agreements are about changed power relations between a collective of politically well-connected large corporations and the sovereign states in which these entities want to sink their roots. In particular, these treaties would allow huge corporations to engage in conduct unchecked by national rules of the participating countries. In eyes not fogged over through neo-liberal dogma, such a thing would be recognised as predation.

Corporate clout veiled in secrecy

The most striking aspect of TPP negotiations has been the utter secrecy. Only “cleared advisers” most of them linked with the businesses that stand to gain from the deal, have had access to the agreements, and critics among them have been sworn to remain silent about what they consider unacceptable.

We do know a little of what went on behind closed doors. For example, we have seen that negotiators have concentrated on controlling labour laws, environmental legislation and intellectual property rights. Since traditional tariffs hardly appear to be an obstacle to trade nowadays, what else could they do? But it does go to show that the TPP is primarily a political program.

It is political because it aims to change the power relations between transnational corporations and foreign governments. It is political because it will create patterns of colonial dependence through agricultural agreements. It is political because it seeks to place the governments of the participating countries under a kind of legal discipline that has nothing to do with the rights of citizens and everything to do with the ability of powerful corporations to become even stronger.

Many details of the TPP agreement have yet to be divulged, but what is clear is that participating governments can violate its intended rules only at their own great disadvantage. In effect, the legal stipulations tied to the TPP agreement will created a new element of corporate groups operating internationally beyond any kind of accountability. The TPP will not be about economic development but about wholesale power shifts.

Those who can still make a political difference in Australia ought to study the reason for and, the nature of such shifts. Numerous large, politically connected transnational corporations operate in colonizing mode in the context of recently evolved methods of profit-making in the current phase of late capitalism.

The political class of the participants of the TPP agreement and the Europeans, who watch from the sidelines with the companion TPIP treaty in the back of their minds, are still affected by the lines of seduction about unfettered trade always being good for everyone.

Hence corporate hopes are specifically vested on two areas opened up by the TPP deal in participating countries permitting rent seekers and financial firms to become the top predators. The TPP agreement will massively expand their hunting territory and give them fierce fangs in the bargain.

Power play by the corporates

A new category came into general use in the last decade of the 20th century named “intellectual property” for the purpose of maximising rent extraction and the creation of monopolies. The expected intellectual property stipulations of the TPP accord related to medicine have drawn much attention, as these will enlarge the oligopoly power of pharmaceutical companies.

Global public health is likely to suffer from this because, from what is already known, the new rules will lengthen the period before the use of generic drugs is permitted, and these are the only affordable medicine for patients in poorer countries. Nongovernmental organisation Doctors Without Borders has concluded in a July 2015 press release that “the TPP agreement is on track to become the most harmful trade pact ever”.

Then there is an even bigger beneficiary in the shape of the 21st-century global casino of speculating banks, which make untold multiples of capital with their money while bypassing the complication of investing in production. For them, the TPP deal is a dream come true. From what we know, the TPP agreement would ban capital controls, prohibit any kind of future taxes on speculation and block any move to separate investment from retail banking.

It would also block efforts to ban toxic derivatives that created the credit crisis of 2008. As with the manufacturers of controversial products, the financial industry will be given the means to demand compensation for regulations and policies that in their assessment may undermine their expected future profits. They will sue the governments who legislate against them.

It is difficult to understand why the TPP participants have not guessed that consequences of what they will be signing will bring social misery upon themselves as the TPP agreement is part of a full-spectrum dominance campaign. This leaves us with the puzzle of why those same participants have been mouthing job creating nonsense around the TPP rhetoric and appear unable to tackle intellectually the dominant power aspects of the treaty.

Perhaps this is because the world in which they exist is politically sterilised and those incapables, have been brain washed into believing they should give corporates whatever they want without question or analysis.

Since the political dimension to economic arrangements remains hidden in most discourse because political and economic reality are routinely treated as separate realms of life, few notice that what is justified by reference to “market forces” is frequently the result of heavy lobbying, political negotiation, interference and favours to corporates.

Politically well-connected corporations, paying for the election expenses of the political parties who help create their business environment, need not fear market forces. If the banks responsible for the credit crisis of 2008 and the subsequent global recession, that is still with us, had not been lifted out of “the market” by the state, they would no longer exist. They were bailed out by cohort governments with money from tax payers they had already plundered.

Buyer beware

Powerful corporations have been allowed to swallow the state; they have, as economist James Galbraith explains, created a “predator state,” which they naturally exploit for their own expansion. There is no frame of reference with which we can more convincingly define the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Politicians please read the small print and beware, if you sign up to the TPP you will be selling Australia down the river.

Sailing into irrelevance

The sails of the Sydney Opera House were being used as a billboard for a horse race a few days ago. Regardless of the value of the horse race, or the ethics about using a UNESCO listed landmark for promotion of gambling, there is a problem about the way it was done.

According to The Guardian,

Racing NSW applied to the Opera House to use it as a venue to promote a horse race on Saturday 13 October, but Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron drew the line at projecting horses’ names, the name of the race and the numbers of the barriers onto the Opera House sails.

Then Alan Jones interviewed Louise Herron. A couple of weeks after Jones, and by association his employers, had been found guilty of defaming the owners of a quarry in South East Queensland and ordered to pay $3.7 million, clearly he hasn’t yet learnt that his opinion is not necessarily fact, and bluster doesn’t change the facts. Jones

was furious and took up the case for Racing NSW on his program. “Louise I’m sorry I think you’re out of your depth here,” he said. “You should put your resignation on the table today … if you can’t come to the party, Louise, you should lose your job.”

Jones also threatened to ring NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and demand Louise Herron be sacked. Berejiklian hasn’t sacked Herron but has overruled her decision to only allow horses’ colours to be displayed on the world-famous sails. Jones was reported as haranguing Herron by suggesting

who the hell do you think you are, you don’t own the Opera House, we own it … you manage it,” Jones said.

To that extent Jones is correct, Herron doesn’t own the Opera House. However, the NSW Government pays Herron to manage the facility on behalf of its owners — all those who live in NSW. So, by the same token Jones, the management of the Daily Telegraphor Berejiklian don’t ‘own’ it either.

All this happened on Friday 5 October and media reports the following Tuesday suggested that over 270,000 had ‘signed’ online petitions asking the NSW Government to reverse their decision. Accordingly it would be reasonable to suggest that a large group of the Opera House’s owners are aghast at the gambling promotion pushed by Jones and News Corp (with support from NSW Premier Berejiklian) being projected onto the building.

On Tuesday night about 1,000 people shone torches to dilute the projection and peacefully protested the use of the Opera House for the promotion of gambling. Racing NSW and the Premier claim they have heard the message ‘loudy’ and the stunt won’t be repeated. Waleed Aly also ‘went to town’ on the crass commercialisation of the Opera House by vested interests, including the two major political parties .

There is a significant cost to gambling across Australia. Tim Costello, a director of Alliance for Gambling Reform, detailed some of them in an opinion piece published in The Guardian. While Jones has given an half-hearted apology four days after the event for his bullying of Louise Herron, it still demonstrates that Jones and Berejiklian persist with accepting the cash over the ethics, and still steamroll those with alternative viewpoints.

Sadly, we should not have expected better. Also demonstrating an alternative world view of acceptable is the LNP’s Stuart Roberts. Roberts, Morrison’s choice for Assistant Treasurer and former ICT Executive, has been charging the Australian taxpayer (that’s you and me) over $1,000 a month for his 4G Internet connection since 2016. As the linked article reports, Roberts lives in a ‘semi-rural’ area behind the Gold Coast and the NBN has yet to reach his home. The article also reports that

Roberts told Fairfax Media he racked up a high bill [over $2,000] in May because he used 300 gigabytes of data, so had to pay for extra after exceeding his 50GB limit.

Optus currently offers unlimited 4G broadband for $90 a month, while Exetel offers 250GB a month for just $70.

Now it has become ‘an issue’, Roberts is apparently going to pay it back, despite claiming he had done nothing wrong. Those in his electorate that rely on Newstart are receiving not much more than $1,000 a month to live on.

Matthew Lesh, a research fellow with The Institute of Public Affairs has recently released a book suggesting that the major parties have a lot of difficulty in being relevant to those that live in the inner and outer suburbs of Australia’s major cities. Lesh suggests the politicians are aligning themselves too closely with the ‘inners’ and leaving the ‘outers’ to splinter groups such as Katter, Palmer and Hanson. Then, when the splinter groups can’t achieve what they promise (because they don’t get enough seats in parliaments across the country), people living in outer suburbs then get frustrated and disengage with the process.

There could be something to Lesh’s theory. In the electorate of Warringah, former PM Abbott has been the elected Member of Parliament for a considerable period of time. A group of people who live in the electorate, rather than disengaging, have a plan to crowbar Abbott from the seat at the next election by following the process used by Cathy McGowan’s supporters when they removed Sophie Mirabella from the seat of Indi in country Victoria. The President of WoW (Women of Warringah)

Louise Hislop, told Guardian Australia the group was created after Abbott’s refusal to engage on issues considered important to constituents, including climate change, plastics pollution, traffic issues, same-sex marriage and mental health services

Warringah, despite Abbott’s public posturing, recorded 75% support for the same sex marriage vote and it seems there is considerable community disquiet about Abbott’s role in the destruction of the Turnbull Government. Abbott’s schtick however does go down well in areas that support the Katters, Hansons and so on of this world.

If Lesh is correct, Jones, Berejiklian, Roberts and Abbott are all sailing into irrelevance as they clearly are not representing significant sections of their communities. Why do these people believe they don’t need to consider the views of others? It must be because those on the right are prettier and more confident!

What do you think?

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

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