Israel/oPt: UN experts appalled by reported human rights…

United Nations Media Release UN experts* today expressed alarm over credible allegations of…

Identifying Imperial Venality: Day One of Julian Assange’s…

On February 20, it was clear that things were not going to…

Urgent call for Australian Centre for Disease Control…

Public Health Association of Australia Media Release Public health experts are calling for…

The Hero Haunted World

By James Moore I do not understand. Perhaps, I never will. Does anyone? As…

Swiftie Nonsense Down Under

Gaza. Palestinians. Israel. Genocide. Taylor Swift? This odd cobbling of words is…

New research highlights the growing prevalence and economic…

New research by the e61 Institute presents five facts on the use…

Ok, So This Is A Boring Post... Or…

Gloria Sty, bud Iyam riting this coz I wanna mayk sum poynts…

Border Paranoia in Fortress Australia

The imaginative faculties of standard Australian politicians retreat to some strange, deathly…

«
»
Facebook

Barnaby, just another inebriated pollie

By Bert Hetebry

How sad to see the image of Barnaby Joyce on the pavement, cursing at himself as he talks to his wife on the phone.

Dear Barnaby is not the first politician to find himself in an embarrassing situation after having enjoyed one or two too many drinks, in fact the list is long of politicians who seem not to be in full control while enjoying the company of a few drinking buddies, or perhaps leaning lonely on a bar after every one else has retired for the night. In fact, the list is a long one including Prime Ministers and dating back to the very first Federal Parliament and the first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton.

Adam Brereton wrote in The Guardian of 29 December 2015 of Jamie Briggs who resigned from the Turnbull ministry over “an error of professional judgement” in a Hong Kong bar.

Listed in the article are former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser, discovered wearing a towel instead of trousers and missing a very expensive Rolex watch and a wallet with $600 spare change.

Apparently drugged.

And a memorable story about John Gorton who on boarding a VIP jet in Melbourne to take him to Canberra, fell asleep and was woken by the noise of engines and vomited… apparently airsick but the plane was still on the tarmac.

Who can forget the confession Kevin Rudd made of visiting a strip club in New York but being too drunk to remember the details.

And John Barton, and Tony Abbott… the list goes on.

But drunken shenanigans are not restricted to politicians in Canberra when we look at the sad case of Brittany Higgins on a fateful night drifting from pub to club with a work colleague.

The wheels of power it seems need the lubrication of the odd drink now and again, from kids just out of their teens seconded to helpful roles assisting the parliamentarians to the most senior members within the ranks of government and opposition.

Politics can be a brutal game, where the image and trustworthiness of the politicians are grist for the campaign mill, and yet we see that alcohol and the subsequent lapses of demeanour are all too frequently used to undermine the credibility of politicians. Or as with Christian Porter allegedly behaving inappropriately while drinking with young female staffer. The incident had been photographed by another staffer but fortunately Alan Tudge was on hand to delete the photograph from the phone, so the story goes.

Interestingly, despite the allegations, Malcolm Turnbull considered Porter of enough upright character to appoint him as Attorney General a couple of weeks later.

Simmering in the background had been stories of misogyny, alleged rapes and a group of senior male members who proudly proclaimed themselves to be members of the ‘Big Swinging Dick’ club.

The drinking culture within Parliament House was addressed in a review the workplace environment within Parliament House by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins in 2021, and while the review focussed very much on workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault, it was noted that the significance of drinking and a drinking culture were risk factors in the prevalence of the issues addressed in the report.

But alcohol is still available in Parliament House, in the dining room and at very reasonable prices.

It would be difficult to actually ban people who work in Parliament House from drinking, but it surely would be a good idea to limit drinking, ban it completely within Parliament House. Parliamentarians would doubtless say that would be impossible since there are many official functions held which may well include meals with toasts and so forth, so limit the alcohol to those functions but ban alcohol at all other times.

A most noteworthy book on the topic of drunkenness and the inevitable lapses in demeanour is the aptly titled ‘The Psychology of Stupidity’ in which, through various contributors it is pointed out that even the most gifted, talented, intelligent people do stupid things, and to see a drunken politician berating himself while talking on the phone to his wife and admitting that he should not have been drinking because of his prescribed medication is an absolute act of stupidity. The other qualifiers mentioned above, gifted, talented, intelligent, I will leave to the reader’s judgement, but one would be forgiven for thinking that the lessons of previous alcohol fuelled indiscretions appear to have not been well learned, at least by some.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Higher education staff winners in workplace law reform

National Tertiary Education Union Media Release

The National Tertiary Education Union has strongly endorsed changes to workplace laws which will benefit university staff.

The Albanese Government’s Closing Loopholes Bill, which passed federal parliament on Monday, helps restore some balance towards workers.

Under the changes, the Fair Work Commission will have to ensure workers don’t go backwards when intractable bargaining disputes are sent to the workplace umpire for arbitration.

The bill also gives workers the right to disconnect and strengthens the path for casual employees to convert to permanent roles.

NTEU General Secretary Dr Damien Cahill said the reforms were a major win for workers.

“These changes will make it harder for vice-chancellors and senior executives to game workplace laws in attempts to drive down pay and conditions,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we were seeing some universities stalling negotiations in an attempt to push for arbitration.

“The NTEU exposed this agenda last year and it is good to see that the government has responded with much-needed changes.

“Now workers will have a guarantee that any final call the workplace umpire makes when arbitrating bargaining disputes will leave no one worse off.

“This bill also creates the right to disconnect which is incredibly important for university staff who have been swamped with increasingly dangerous workloads.

“Our union has led the way on some of the first right-to-disconnect rights enshrined in enterprise agreements and we wholeheartedly welcome similar rights being extended to all workers.

“With casualisation rampant across higher education, this bill clears some of the hurdles for staff to convert to permanent jobs.”

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Making super fairer: Federal Budget changes that would increase retirement savings for more women

Super Members Council Media Release

Lower paid women would have $40,000 more at retirement if at this year’s Budget the Federal Government committed to paying super on Commonwealth parental leave and re-aligning tax offsets, a new report has found.

The Super Members Council (SMC) report, Securing a Dignified Retirement for More Women, provides new insights into the drivers of the gender super gap, highlighting that this Budget presents an opportunity for immediate action to improve outcomes for women while working towards further substantive, long-term structural changes.

And to make super fairer, SMC also urges the government use this Budget to better recognise First Nations and Indigenous kinship structures in super and further boost unpaid super enforcement.

SMC Interim Chair Nicola Roxon said poorly targeted tax concessions, the lack of super on paid parental leave and inequities in both pay and workforce participation rates are all persistent barriers to many women achieving economic security in retirement.

“Super has transformed the lives of millions of Australians, yet for many women, who retire earlier and live longer than men, the system is still falling short.” Ms Roxon said.

Women typically retire with a third less super than men. Bridging this gender super gap will require considered, society-wide change over time. But action on long overdue polices at this Federal Budget would make a meaningful difference to retirement outcomes for women, including:

  • Paying super on the Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay scheme could mean a mother of two is $12,500 to $14,500 better off at retirement. This would benefit thousands of working mums each year.
  • Increasing the low-income superannuation tax offset (LISTO) so workers earning up to $45,000 receive a full tax refund on their super guarantee (SG) contributions. This change would boost the super of more than 1.2 million Australians – 60 per cent of whom are women.

New SMC cameo modelling shows these measures combined could mean lower paid women retire with $38,000 more, boosting their final retirement balance by between 18% and 21%. (See Table 1)

“Paying super on parental leave and better aligning tax offsets for lower paid workers can be enacted almost immediately and will make a meaningful difference to women at retirement,” Ms Roxon said.

“We need to ensure super tax concessions are directed to those who need it the most.”

The report adds further evidence to the many voices that have come before, including the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, to highlight the significant opportunity to improve equity in Australia’s world-class super system.

The Super Members Council Pre-Budget submission – its first since forming out of a merger between Industry Super Australia and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees – also suggests a series of other measures that would improve equity in super and retirement outcomes, including:

  • Formally recognising traditional Indigenous kinship arrangements inside super
  • Setting unpaid super compliance targets for the ATO
  • Paying super to all under-18 workers, not just those who work more than 30 hours a week – this would mean an additional $2,600 in super contributions to the average underage worker.
  • Improving data sharing arrangements, so de-identified tax data can better help super funds create more tailored and targeted retirement solutions for members.

And outside super, lifting the childcare subsidy would increase parents’ workforce participation and pay – especially for women – which would, in turn, boost their super balance at retirement.

Table: Increase to retirement balance from paying super on Commonwealth Parental Leave Pay (PLP) and increasing the Low-Income Super Tax Offset (LISTO)

 

Income LISTO LISTO + PLP
Percentile Dollar value Per cent Dollar value Per cent
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
P10 $11,135 $13,957 4% 11% $12,116 $26,403 5% 21%
P20 $4,074 $26,351 1% 13% $4,956 $38,797 1% 18%
P30 $4,545 $12,559 1% 4% $5,428 $25,005 1% 9%
P40 $2,261 $6,999 0% 2% $3,143 $19,445 1% 6%
P50 $0 $7,221 0% 2% $882 $19,667 0% 5%
P60 $0 $8,977 0% 2% $882 $21,423 0% 4%
P70 $0 $10,567 0% 2% $882 $23,012 0% 4%
P80 $0 $0 0% 0% $843 $12,446 0% 1%
P90 $0 $0 0% 0% $845 $12,338 0% 1%

 

 

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Audit Committee to scrutinise the Commonwealth Financial Statements

Parliament of Australia Media Release

The Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) has commenced an inquiry into the 2022-23 Commonwealth Financial Statements which are audited each year by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

This audit provides the Parliament with an independent examination of the Commonwealth’s accounts and identifies financial statement risks, issues with governance arrangements, and problems with any internal control frameworks of Commonwealth entities.

The Chair of the JCPAA, Mr Julian Hill MP, said that “The traditional focus on legislative breaches and more serious findings will continue. There will also be a focus on thematic issues including governance for Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies, the role of internal audit functions and how equity injections to an entity are treated in the accounts when an investment has elements of social and economic benefits. It is concerning that most of the legislative breaches identified relate to incorrect remuneration payments to executives.”

Areas of likely focus for the Committee will include:

  • Lack of governance frameworks for managing the use of emerging technologies including Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation and risks arising.
  • Role of internal audit and whether guidance would be beneficial to enhance the Australian Government’s system of internal control.
  • Weaknesses in consideration of legal matters in the preparation of financial statements.
  • Appropriateness of Finance’s return-on-investment forecast model and guidance on the accounting treatment of equity injections when an investment has elements of social and economic benefits.
  • Information Technology governance.
  • Key areas of financial statements risk and timeliness of financial reporting.
  • 9 Significant and 36 Moderate audit findings identified by the Auditor-General.
  • 14 legislative breaches identified, noting the majority relate to incorrect remuneration payments to executives and/or non-compliance with decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal.

The inquiry will examine Auditor-General Report No. 9 of 2023-24: Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the Period Ended 30 June 2023.

The Committee invites submissions to the inquiry addressing the terms of reference to be received by Friday, 29 March 2024. Details of the inquiry – including the terms of reference and public hearings – will be made available on the Committee website.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Judicial Review of Environment Minister’s assessment of new coal mines in Federal Court today

Climate Media Centre Media Release

The appeal hearing relating to the Living Wonders Cases will begin on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 February, where three Federal Court judges will assess whether ​​Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, is required by law to scrutinise the climate harm of new coal and gas projects.

The Environment Council of Central Queensland (represented by Environmental Justice Australia) is challenging the Minister’s risk assessment of the Narrabri and Mount Pleasant coal mine proposals in NSW, marking the first court challenges to a coal or gas decision made by Australia’s current Environment Minister.

The Council is appealing last year’s decision of a single judge to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.

The litigation stems from a series of reconsideration requests submitted by the Council under the current Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act. The requests asked Minister Plibersek to reconsider 19 coal and gas proposals because of their climate risks to our environment.

The outcome of these cases could impact the consideration of all future fossil fuel projects in the country, including Australia’s largest proposed new coal mine, Winchester South, which the Queensland government approved on the 7th of February.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Scratchings in the Dirt

By James Moore

“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.” (Hasidic saying).

I’ll take the old guy.

Joe Biden could be 90 and drooling, barely in control of his faculties, and he’d still make a better president than Trump. The argument is very easy to make that the President is sufficiently competent to conduct the affairs of state. If you are looking for a priori evidence, there is an abundance in just the economy, which has acquired around 15 million new jobs and maintained almost two solid years of unemployment below 4 percent, and 800,000 of those new jobs are in manufacturing. That’s a hell of a performance for a “well-meaning, elderly man.” Nothing even remotely close to that happened in the four years of the Trump administration.

Need more proof an octogenarian can bring an A game? Without a majority in the House and only a narrow edge in the Senate, Biden got through a massive infrastructure law that has launched 40,000 projects in more than 4,500 communities in all 50 states, including Native American Tribal lands, and the District of Columbia. This $400 billion dollar act will provide broadband internet for millions more Americans, build roads, a national network of recharging stations for electric vehicles, high speed rail, and airports and bridges. Amtrak is getting $16.4 billion just for the modernization of the Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston. Trump did nothing more than endlessly promise an “infrastructure week.”

 

High Speed Train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas Gets $3 Billion from Biden

 

The doddering, shuffling President also managed to pass the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion dollar funding vehicle to get the country, its businesses and citizens, through the Pandemic with reduced harm. Every adult received a $1400 check and small businesses got non-recourse loans to pay employees when work was no longer available. Tax credits were offered or increased for children, dependents, and on earned income. Washington provided funded extensions on unemployment insurance for workers who lost their jobs while also lowering health care premiums and delivering a 100 percent federal COBRA subsidy. Trump stood around talking about how he expected the virus to disappear in days and when that didn’t happen he suggested drinking bleach or downing horse tranquilizers.

Biden’s fairly accomplished for a guy who surely drinks his Geritol hourly in a closet so no one can see his feebleness. Between gulps, though, the President managed to pass the Inflation Reduction Act to invest in domestic energy production and manufacturing with a goal of also reducing carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030. The Affordable Care Act program was expanded and extended to 2025 and millions of Americans who were previously without, now have health care, and Medicare has been empowered to negotiate prescription drug prices and patient out-of-pocket costs were capped at $2000. Hundreds of billions are also being invested in paying down the deficit and the permitting process for new energy projects has been reformed and expedited to accelerate the construction and development of domestic resources. Changes in the tax code bring in $437 billion from IRS enforcement and is supplemented by a 15 percent minimum corporate tax. All this is accomplished without adding new taxes to families making less than $400,000 annually.

 

States with New Semiconductor Plants Under Construction

 

Maybe while he was taking one of his many old man naps, the president dreamed about the CHIPs Act, which provides around $53 billion dollars, including $39 billion in subsidies and a 25 percent investment tax credit, for semiconductor computer chip manufacturing in the U.S. As a result, there are already massive facilities under construction and nearing operation in Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Idaho, Florida, and New York. In addition to bringing chip-making plants back to domestic operators, the act also funds $11 billion to create a National Semiconductor Technology Center that will perform research and development to keep the U.S. out front in competition for new products instead of perpetuating a dependence on off shore vendors. Innovative companies will be helped with speeding their new technology to the marketplace with these advancements.

Ol’ “Sleepy Joe” has done a damn good job of caring for America’s veterans, too. The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT Act, commits hundreds of billions of dollars to care for former service members who were exposed to toxic burn dumps, agent orange, or other deadly substances. Veterans had been without an ability to make health care claims with the Veterans’ Administration unless they were able to prove a connection between service and their diseases, which tended to be nearly impossible. The PACT Act eliminates the assumption such claims are unfounded and provides screenings and presumption of needed care. Veterans from Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq War, Afghanistan, and any contemporary conflicts will be covered for health issues caused by toxic exposures. The president’s son, who served in Iraq, was reportedly exposed to a toxic burn pit, which might have been a cause of his fatal brain tumor.

Maybe the reason Mr. Biden’s memory stumbles is because his gray matter and synapses are clogged with all the data regarding legislation he has championed and made law to improve the lives of Americans. Under Trump, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to lapse when it was left out of the federal budget. The law delivered funding for services to prevent violence, support of crime victims, and changing public attitudes about violence against women. After three years, the measure was reauthorized by the elderly gentleman who today is resident in the Oval Office. Maybe he got that done while taking rest breaks between codifying marriage equality into federal law or when he was improving gun safety with federal regulations or cancelling $136 billion dollars in student loan debt for 3.7 million borrowers who can now begin to save and spend and take more realistic steps toward the futures they had planned.

I’m not sure how somebody so old can cause the DOW and the S&P 500 to surge to record highs while also presiding over an economy where real wage growth is outpacing inflation and consumer sentiment is increasingly positive. Interest rates are almost certain to fall, too, by mid-year, right in the middle of the presidential campaign. Trump will still be trying to figure out whether Nikki Haley or Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House during the January 6th insurrection he can’t seem to remember that he started. Hell, Trump cannot even recall a woman that a jury confirmed he raped in a department store dressing room, nor recognize a picture of his former wife. His memory is so bad he remembers things that never happened. When he made a speech to the Boy Scouts of America in 2017, the former president said he had gotten a call from the group’s national leader to inform Trump that the speech was the greatest one ever made to their organization. The Boy Scouts, however, confirmed to CNN that no such call was ever made to Trump. And don’t forget, like he did, that he made a payment to Stormy Daniels, the porn star with whom he had transactional sex.

The person who is making America great again is Joe Biden even as the opposition tries to portray him as a lost old soul, bent in the back, scratching pictures in the dirt with a short stick, alone and mumbling. Media and analysts will continue to snort and sniff about his age even as he keeps working and building coalitions to accomplish goals that have left other leaders confounded. A measure to resolve the border crisis moved through the Senate and ran into Speaker Moses in the House because Republicans don’t want to solve the immigration problem and rob Trump of the issue he plans to use as a campaign cudgel. Party before country in the Trump cult. No voter should have to struggle with their decision in November. As President, Trump did nothing but hand out a giant corporate tax cut and bungle the pandemic response and cause millions to die through his incompetence. Joe Biden’s leadership and legislative accomplishments are transformative and will continue to improve life in the United States.

Long after he has stiffly shuffled off into the sunset.

 

This article was originally published on Texas to the world.

James Moore is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bush’s Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential,” three other books on Bush and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as two novels, and a biography entitled, “Give Back the Light,” on a famed eye surgeon and inventor. His newest book will be released mid- 2023. Mr. Moore has been honored with an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his documentary work and is a former TV news correspondent who has traveled extensively on every presidential campaign since 1976.

He has been a retained on-air political analyst for MSNBC and has appeared on Morning Edition on National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, CBS Evening News, CNN, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Hardball with Chris Matthews, among numerous other programs. Mr. Moore’s written political and media analyses have been published at CNN, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Guardian of London, Sunday Independent of London, Salon, Financial Times of London, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. He also appeared as an expert on presidential politics in the highest-grossing documentary film of all time, Fahrenheit 911, (not related to the film’s producer Michael Moore).

His other honors include the Dartmouth College National Media Award for Economic Understanding, the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television News Directors’ Association, the Individual Broadcast Achievement Award from the Texas Headliners Foundation, and a Gold Medal for Script Writing from the Houston International Film Festival. He was frequently named best reporter in Texas by the AP, UPI, and the Houston Press Club. The film produced from his book “Bush’s Brain” premiered at The Cannes Film Festival prior to a successful 30-city theater run in the U.S.

Mr. Moore has reported on the major stories and historical events of our time, which have ranged from Iran-Contra to the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the border immigration crisis, and other headlining events. His journalism has put him in Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, the UK, and most of Europe, interviewing figures as diverse as Fidel Castro and Willie Nelson. He has been writing about Texas politics, culture, and history since 1975, and continues with political opinion pieces for CNN and regularly at his Substack newsletter: “Texas to the World.”

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Refugees roll up their sleeves for love this Valentines Day

By Jane Salmon

Who: A dozen refugees and their supporters who have joined the Lifeblood donor team called “10,000 Refugees Contributing to Australia”.

Craig Foster, Humanitarian, Former Socceroo Captain, Broadcaster.

Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia.

Professor George Newhouse, human rights lawyer.

Where: 22-30 Oak St Rosehill NSW (near James Ruse Drive). Gathering outside Lifeblood.

When: Valentine’s Day Wednesday 14 February 11am.

Refugees in Australia are redefining their Valentine’s Day goals. Instead of roses, they’re rolling up their sleeves to donate blood under the “10,000 Refugees Contributing to Australia” campaign. They’re all about love, but not just the romantic kind. They are spreading it by giving back. Each is aiming for a future where they can call Australia home, hug their families without fear, and maybe even start new ones.

Nasir from Sydney, despite facing his own challenges, is leading by example. He is swapping roses for blood donations: all while dreaming of a day he can use his IT degree freely.

Some refugees who have escaped bloodshed are now in the position to save lives. This is their heartfelt initiative.

This act of love is not entirely reciprocated.

There is not much love lost between refugees who have spent a decade on temporary visas and the Immigration Department.

Our message: Refugees give blood, sweat and tears. Perhaps Cabinet can give kindness.

Join the Lifeblood team this Valentine’s Day to share love that goes beyond borders.

Refugees challenge all Australian politicians to donate blood or plasma, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Democratic Socialism vs Communism: Unveiling the Truth

By Denis Hay

Introduction: Navigating the Complex Terrain of Political Ideologies

In the contemporary political landscape, the terms “democratic socialism” and “communism” often spark intense debate, confusion, and misconceptions. Misunderstandings between these ideologies blur the lines of discourse, leading to polarized views and a diluted understanding of their principles, goals, and societal impacts. This article aims to demystify democratic socialism and communism, providing a clear, factual comparison that distinguishes their historical roots, core tenets, and real-world applications.

By diving into this comprehensive analysis, readers will gain insight into the importance of these distinctions in shaping informed, nuanced political discussions. Join us as we unveil the truth behind these often-confused ideologies, fostering a deeper understanding of their roles in contemporary and future socio-political landscapes.

Whether you are a political science enthusiast, a student seeking clarity, or a concerned citizen navigating the complexities of modern governance, this exploration offers valuable perspectives on two influential, yet widely misunderstood, political theories.

Historical Background: The Roots of Ideological Diversity

Democratic socialism and communism share a historical foundation in the critique of capitalism, yet they diverge significantly in philosophy and implementation. Karl Marx laid the groundwork for both ideologies, envisioning a classless society.

However, the paths diverged with figures like Vladimir Lenin emphasizing revolution to achieve a communist state, while democratic socialists sought change through democratic means, highlighting the importance of political pluralism and social justice.

Defining Democratic Socialism: Equity Through Democracy

Democratic socialism focuses on achieving social equity and justice within a democratic framework. It advocates for significant government intervention in the economy to redistribute wealth, provide essential services, and ensure public welfare, all while supporting democratic freedoms and elections.

Scandinavian countries often serve as case studies, with their comprehensive welfare states, progressive taxation, and high standards of living. Figures like George Orwell and Nelson Mandela exemplify the ideology’s broad appeal, emphasizing its commitment to democracy and social justice.

Unpacking Communism and the Evolution of China’s Socialist Model

The Ideals and Realities of Communism

Communism, as envisioned by Marx and Engels, aspires to create a society devoid of classes and states, where the community collectively owns and manages all resources. This ideology advocates for the elimination of private property to achieve a society that is both stateless and classless, epitomizing equality and collective governance. Despite its lofty ideals, the implementation of communism in countries like the Soviet Union and China often diverged significantly from these principles, resulting in central planning, state control, and, often, authoritarian regimes. This divergence underscores the inherent challenges in transforming theoretical ideologies into practical governance.

From Maoist Communism to “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”

China’s political and economic journey presents a fascinating case study in the adaptation and evolution of socialist principles. Under Mao Zedong, the People’s Republic of China initially embraced a strict form of communism. However, the landscape began to shift dramatically with the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping in the late 20th century. These reforms marked the transition to what is now recognized as “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” a system that marries state oversight of crucial economic sectors with market-driven practices. This approach helps private enterprise and foreign investment, albeit within a framework controlled by the state. By using market efficiencies, China aims to fulfill socialist goals, creating a distinctive system that stands apart from both traditional communism and capitalist models prevalent in the West.

Bridging Ideology and Practice in China’s Unique Socialist Model

The evolution of China’s governance and economic model illuminates the complexities involved in applying political ideologies to the nuanced realities of a country’s historical, cultural, and economic fabric. Today’s China, governed by the Communist Party, stands for a hybrid system that deftly combines socialist principles with market economics. This blend not only challenges the binary classification of countries as purely communist or capitalist but also reflects a pragmatic approach to achieving socialist goals of development and prosperity. Through this lens, China’s current model underscores the nuanced reality of its political and economic systems, rooted in socialism but dynamically engaging with global market forces to chart its own path forward.

This narrative repositioning offers a clearer understanding of communism’s theoretical ambitions versus its practical applications, especially in the context of China’s unique adaptation. It highlights the country’s journey from a rigidly communist ideology towards a flexible, market-influenced socialist framework, illustrating the dynamic interplay between ideology and pragmatism in shaping modern governance and economic strategies.

Key Differences: Governance, Freedom, and the Economy

The primary distinction between democratic socialism and communism lies in their approaches to economic management, political freedoms, and the role of the state. Democratic socialism supports a mixed economy and political pluralism, advocating for social reforms through democratic means. Communism, in contrast, pushes for the abolition of private property and the establishment of a communal economy, which historically has led to centralized control and limited political freedoms.

Democratic Socialism in the Modern World: Perceptions and Realities

Today, democratic socialism influences several global policies, advocating for social welfare, environmental sustainability, and economic equality. Despite misconceptions, its modern proponents look to address the inequalities worsened by pure market economies, arguing for a balanced approach that fosters both economic dynamism and social welfare.

Critiques of Neoliberalism: A Comparative Analysis

Neoliberalism, with its emphasis on free markets, deregulation, and privatization, contrasts sharply with both democratic socialism and communism. Critics argue that neoliberal policies worsen inequality and neglect social welfare, calling for a re-evaluation of its dominance in global economics and proposing alternatives that emphasize social equity and public welfare.

Case Study: The Liberal National Party (LNP) of Australia

Examining the LNP’s policies offers insight into contemporary political dynamics, contrasting its neoliberal tendencies with democratic socialist principles. The LNP’s approach to economic management, social welfare, and environmental policy provides a practical lens through which to assess the impact of neoliberalism and the potential benefits of alternative ideologies.

The Role of Political Labels and Misconceptions

The misuse of political labels in public discourse often leads to confusion and misunderstanding, hindering productive political dialogue. By examining the nuanced differences and contexts of these ideologies, we can move towards a more informed and constructive political conversation, emphasizing the importance of understanding over labelling.

Through this comprehensive exploration, we aim to foster a deeper understanding of democratic socialism and communism, challenging readers to engage with political ideologies beyond surface-level misconceptions and to take part actively in informed discussions about our collective future.

Conclusion: Navigating Ideological Landscapes

As we reach the culmination of our exploration into democratic socialism versus communism, it is imperative to reflect on the key insights uncovered through this discourse. The journey from their historical roots to their modern implications highlights the necessity of distinguishing these ideologies, not just in academic circles but in everyday political conversations.

Summary of Key Findings

Our analysis revealed significant distinctions between democratic socialism and communism, notably in their approaches to economic policies, political freedoms, and the role of government. Democratic socialism advocates for a mixed economy where the government and private sector coexist, emphasizing social welfare and democratic governance. In contrast, communism aims for a classless society where the means of production are communally owned, often leading to authoritarian governance in practice, diverging significantly from its theoretical foundations.

The Importance of Informed Understanding

Understanding the nuances between democratic socialism and communism is crucial in today’s political landscape, marred by oversimplifications and misrepresentations. Mislabelling and misunderstanding these ideologies can hinder productive discourse, leading to polarization and misinformation. An informed electorate is essential for a healthy democracy, where decisions are made based on correct representations of political theories.

Engage in Informed Discussions

We encourage readers to delve deeper into the principles and practices of these ideologies. By fostering informed discussions, we can move beyond stereotypes and engage with the complexities of political ideologies. Let us challenge ourselves to look past the labels, understanding the substantive differences and similarities, and what they mean for our society.

In conclusion, the journey through democratic socialism and communism offers more than just academic insight; it provides a lens through which we can examine our values, policies, and the kind of society we aspire to build. As we navigate the changing tides of political discourse, let our discussions be guided by knowledge, empathy, and a relentless pursuit of justice.

Call to Action

Become a part of the conversation. Educate yourself on these ideologies, discuss them with others, and contribute to a more nuanced and informed political dialogue. Your voice matters in shaping a fairer and understanding world.

Engaging Question: Do you think understanding the differences between democratic socialism and communism is vital for informed political discourse? Why or why not?

Call to Action: Share your thoughts on the topic and engage in a respectful, informed discussion about the role of these ideologies in shaping our world.

#DemocraticSocialism #Communism #PoliticalIdeologies #SocialJustice

References

The Communist Manifesto

Envisioning Real Utopias

Where we go from here

Less is More

Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic

The Chinese Economy Transitions and Growth

A Brief History of Neoliberalism

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future

The Populist Explosion. How the Great Recession Transformed America and European Politics

Development as Freedom

 

This article was originally published on SOCIAL JUSTICE AUSTRALIA.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Access to local TV services and free sport under threat unless laws are strengthened

Free TV Media Release

Millions of Australians will be unable to watch the biggest sporting events or find free TV services on their smart devices if crucial changes are not made to a federal bill, according to Free TV.

The peak body for free TV broadcasters, including Seven, Nine and Ten, said the Prominence and Anti-siphoning Bill must be strengthened to achieve its intended outcomes.

“In its current form the bill does not guarantee the availability of free sporting coverage for those who are reliant on the internet for their free TV viewing and sets an unnecessarily long timeframe to secure the availability of free local TV services on smart TVs,” said Free TV CEO Bridget Fair.

“These two major oversights must be fixed to protect the free universal access of local TV services and sport for every Australian.”

The bill prevents subscription streaming services such as Amazon, Apple and Disney from buying exclusive terrestrial broadcast rights to iconic sporting events like the Olympics, AFL, NRL and cricket, but they can still acquire exclusive digital rights and lock out the millions of Australians who watch free sport on services such as 7plus, 9Now and 10 Play.

“As the proportion of households watching TV online grows to half by 2027, the anti-siphoning list will be fundamentally undermined if it does not apply to digital rights,” said Ms Fair.

“Bidding for sport will become commercially unviable if free-to-air broadcasters can only acquire a narrow range of terrestrial rights, leaving paid services to acquire all sporting events.

“This is exactly the nightmare scenario the government is trying to avoid with this bill – so it must be amended to reflect modern viewing habits.

“Many new homes do not even have antennas installed. All Australians deserve access to the great sporting events, trusted news and great entertainment programs that bring our nation together, regardless of their income or whether they have an antenna on their home.”

Meanwhile, the bill only requires the free apps of local broadcasters and a Live TV tile be available on new smart TVs that are manufactured 18 months after the legislation receives assent.

“This needless delay will mean millions of people who buy new TVs will unnecessarily miss out on the benefits of this bill.

“There is no good reason to delay enforcing the rules beyond six months after they become law at the absolute maximum,” said Ms Fair.

“The government should also apply the new rules to existing TVs – not just new ones – with expert analysis showing software can easily be updated to benefit people who already have a smart TV. The problem of not being able to find local TV services is something people are experiencing already. If we wait until 2026 to even start addressing the problem it will simply be too little too late.”

Free TV is calling for the following changes to the bill:

Prominence

  • Reduce the implementation period from 18 months to a maximum of six months
  • Extend the rules to existing TVs that receive software updates
  • Ensure that viewers are presented with both free and paid options when searching for content
  • Require electronic TV guides to include local free TV services

Anti‐siphoning

  • Require that both the free broadcast and free digital streaming rights be acquired by a free broadcaster before the event can be acquired by a pay TV or subscription streaming provider
  • Do not extend the automatic de-listing period from six to 12 months as many sporting events are acquired within this timeframe

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

God’s people and colonialism

By Bert Hetebry

In the Bible book of Exodus, chapter 20 gives the people of Israel the Ten Commandments, the sixth says “Thou shalt not kill” and the eighth says “Thou shalt not steal”.

Through the rise of Christendom in Europe these commandments were well known and became part of the legal structure in all European kingdoms and later nation states.

The Ten Commandments also form the basis of laws in Judaism and Islam.

But to whom do the laws apply? Who is protected by those laws?

It is interesting to place them on a timeline of sorts, starting with the story of Moses meeting with God on Mount Sinai shortly after the Israelites had escaped from slavery in Egypt where God inscribed those laws on rock tablets for the people to learn what God’s will was for them.

40 years later, the next generation of Israelites are near the city of Jericho and a command is given that the city be sacked and all living things in it be killed except for Rahab and her family because she had sheltered the spies sent to case the city. The silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron were placed into the treasury.

Reading this account of the destruction of Jericho and reflecting on the acquisition of the ‘New World’ by the European Colonists from the time of Columbus in 1495 or there about, it seems that the law applied only to those considered to be ‘God’s people’.

Early explorers commented how they were experienced hospitality and kindness from the Indigenous peoples they came across, especially those who had not encountered the explorers previously. There is a story from the early days of settlement in Western Australia where an explorer in need of water had befriended a couple of Aboriginal boys, fed them salted meat and tied them down in the evening, setting them loose in the morning so they could be followed as they sought to quench their thirst. The explorers were greeted in a friendly manner, but the boys were abused to satisfy the explorers’ need for water. They were probably more fearful of the strangers after that encounter.

There is the amazing story by Robert Macklin, Castaway, the story of a French cabin boy who is abandoned in 1858 and is taken in by the local Aboriginal people, adopted and initiated into the tribe, and is eventually ‘rescued’ and returned home to France. The story tells of the protocols of living in tribal territories and the punishments for not following those protocols, the respect afforded to territorial rites and customs. The story is set in the Daintree region of Far North Queensland, and the young man’s ‘rescue’ in 1875 was at the time of the colonial land grab which ignored the Indigenous protocols and wrested the land and spiritual connections from the Aboriginal inhabitants.

Much the same in Australia’s early exploration. When the Batavia ran aground at the Abrolhos islands in 1628 several teenaged boys who were involved in the mutiny on that ill-fated journey were put ashore on the main land, and when 200 years later settlers arrived in the Geraldton region it was noted that the were blue eyed, blonde Aboriginals and a rock painting inland near Mullewa depicted a skeleton of a sailing ship swell as more permanent structures that found elsewhere in region, following a European building style, rock walls and beams used for a roof.

As with most Indigenous peoples, strangers were initially greeted in more or less friendly manners but that changed when bullets were fired from guns or the visitors seems to want to stay, taking land. Ironically, the flag raising ceremony at Sydney cove 236 years ago included a worship service thanking God for the safe passage and asking for His blessing on the newly founded settlement. The land was effectively being stolen and the Aboriginal people who resisted were killed, a pattern which was repeated time and again as the settlement expanded… well maybe not with calls for God’s blessing, but murder and land theft were the principle means of acquiring the land, followed soon after by missionaries to preach the gospel of grace to replace the spiritual connections the Indigenous had with the land, the cycle of life, everything coming from Mother Earth and returning to Mother Earth.

Essentially, Aboriginal people were not considered to be God’s People, and so the laws did not apply, killing those who resisted the theft of their land could be killed.

That is a pattern which was repeated throughout the period of colonisation, Indigenous people were not God’s People and could be taken to be enslaved on the sugar plantations of the Caribbean, or displaced in the quest for farmlands rather than the wasteful hunter gatherer means of sourcing sustenance.

Likewise, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835 of the condition of the American Indians that “By dispersing their families, by obscuring their traditions, by disrupting their chain of memories… European tyrannies made them more unruly and less civilised than they were before.” (Joe Keohane: The Power of Strangers. P60)

The impact of the loss of identity, the arrogance of colonisers not respecting the cultures of Indigenous peoples, the replacement of cultures through removing people from their lands and placing them in missions to learn about a foreign God and to prepare the people for subservient roles in the invading society. In essence, a ‘lesser minds’ situation, where the Indigenous peoples are considered less than the invader, less to the extent that they may be considered sub-human, dumb, not like ‘us’. Or to take them from their lands in chains to be slaves in the new agricultural industries, whether sold as slaves in faraway places or forced labour on what used to be their land.

We cannot turn the clock back, and I am not suggesting that we should, however when we look at the ‘Closing the Gap’ failures we see that the paternalism of ‘in-group favoritism’ is applied, where lip service is paid to the very obvious needs of the Indigenous population but the money and structures used to deal with them are controlled by politicians and bureaucrats, well-intentioned but essentially self-serving and falling short of respecting the real needs and real cultural imperatives which are denied because they are seen as ‘lesser minds’.

It is interesting to note that the problems addressed in the ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative are similar to most colonised peoples, high rates of imprisonment, drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, lower life expectancy and so on, and are linked very closely to the denial of original cultures, the stripping away of language and the spiritual elements which formed so much of Indigenous way of life, whether Australian First Nations people, North American Indians, Inuit people or any other we could name. Their lands were stolen, dissenters were killed, identity disparaged, people dehumanised and missionaries took over the role of educators and culture replacers which without any sense of irony taught the Ten Commandments as the basis for the new laws of the land.

It seems that not a lot has been learned when we view the ongoing crisis in Palestine/Israel, where since the late 19th Century Zionists have sought to colonise, take back the land promised to Abraham by God in the book of Genesis. Since 1948 the explosion of the Palestinian peoples has been an ongoing activity, culminating in what we currently see, the devastation of Gaza and the perpetual dehumanisation of those living on the West Bank, with the rhetoric from the Israeli Prime Minister quoting Biblical calls to destroy the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-15) for the annihilation of Palestinians.

It really does seem that the laws, you shall not kill, you shall not steal only apply to those who are ‘God’s People.’

I wish that God would give me an answer to that deep conundrum.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

The ethical dilemmas of preventing the next pandemic

La Trobe University Media Release

Could protecting one group of people from disease, and exposing another to it, be the best way to prevent as many deaths as possible and reduce the impact of a future pandemic?

A study led by some La Trobe academics says yes, but the ethical dilemmas it raises might not be worth it.

Disease Modellers have determined an effective way to reduce the impact of infectious diseases like COVID-19 – but the results are likely to pose an ethical dilemma for decision and policy makers.

The study, led by Dr Joel Miller, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at La Trobe University, found that locking down the most at-risk group of people for a significant period, while simultaneously promoting infection in other groups in order to reach herd immunity, could be the best way to protect the high-risk groups.

However, increasing the exposure of one group to a disease would create an ethical dilemma and potentially result in the most disadvantaged groups in the community – usually with the least political power – becoming the highly-infected group.

“With COVID-19, the elderly were at high risk, so if we were to isolate them for a period of time, during which we enact policies that would cause younger age groups to interact more (not less), then the disease likely would not spread well once the isolations were lifted and interactions returned to normal,” Dr Miller said.

“If we set aside the question of whether such a strategy is logistically feasible, in a sense this is an optimal intervention. However, there are major ethical challenges that result – the intervention makes younger age groups worse off from an infection point of view.

“Our goal in this paper is not to advocate for such a policy, but rather to highlight some ethical dilemmas that emerge from intervention strategies. It is important that policy makers recognise the trade-offs that an ‘optimal’ strategy might require.”

The paper, Ethical dilemma arises from optimising interventions for epidemics in heterogeneous populations, has been published in Royal Society Interface and includes co-authors from La Trobe University, University of Melbourne and Northeastern University London.

The researchers used “SIR and SIR-like models” which assume individuals in the population are Susceptible, Infected, or Recovered (with immunity) to study the optimal intervention, such as lockdowns and isolation, required in a community to reduce and delay the peak of an epidemic, and ensure there is no further risk of a future epidemic or second wave of infections. They explored what would happen if different groups within the population, such as different age groups, have different risk factors for severe infection.

Using data from a Netherlands survey that determined how often people in different age groups came into contact with each other, the researchers simulated different scenarios to determine the best outcome for an entire population, assuming that an intervention altering the contacts would be in place for a limited time.

It found that if the intervention did not reduce contacts sufficiently then a large epidemic would occur. However, if the intervention reduced contacts too much there would be a modest epidemic and once the intervention was lifted, many individuals would still be susceptible, and a second wave would occur.

The optimal intervention occurs where contacts are reduced so that the initial epidemic is as small as possible while still infecting enough people to prevent a second wave.

If there are multiple groups with varying risk, the same general principles apply, but sometimes the optimal intervention increased the number of infections in the lower-risk groups to reduce the risk of a second wave once the intervention would end.

“This calls for a discussion around the ethics of subjecting certain groups to a higher rate of disease incidence, and the feasibility of this policy,” the study says.

Dr Miller said this was the first study to consider the ethical implications of an increase in infections as a strategy for optimal outcomes, without the use of vaccines.

However, Dr Miller says choosing which groups to lockdown, and those in which to actively promote infection, was an ethical dilemma for governments and the community.

“Mathematical models of epidemics can throw light on possible choices of policy and may even help us pick the ones that lead to optimal outcomes. But the decisions made by policymakers are intertwined with political will, their popularity, and social attitudes,” the study says.

“These eventually determine whether a particular intervention is favoured by a decision-making body.

“Disadvantaged groups, across the world, do not exercise sufficient political power to represent their interests in decision-making bodies. In such a case, a decision-making body may find it convenient to subject a disadvantaged group to a higher final size in order to decrease the net final size for the whole population and achieve herd immunity.

“The intervention strategy presented here, always carries such risks with it; and representation of disadvantaged groups thus becomes essential, especially for a policy such as this one.”

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Oxfam warns of growing hunger crisis in Tigray as families resort to extreme measures to survive

Oxfam Australia Media Release

Families still reeling from the aftermath of a two-year conflict in Tigray are now resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive. The conflict and erratic rainfall have further exacerbated the planting season which threatens to plunge the region into deeper humanitarian catastrophe if nothing is done, warns Oxfam.

Hareyat (50), a mother of four girls in Kola Tambien at Meles Preparatory school which is now sheltering displaced people, said: “We are hungry, our children have nothing to eat sometimes for an entire day. Pregnant women and mothers with small babies are suffering. The hunger is so unbearable that mothers are forcing their children to sleep for longer hours to avoid hunger pains since there is nothing to feed them. Mothers are also having to feed their children roots meant for animals in order to survive.”

Nearly 400 people according to the national Ombudsman in the Tigray region – mostly children and elderly – have already died of starvation in the last six months. 3.5 million people in Tigray are in urgent need of food assistance with one million people facing acute hunger. Unless humanitarian efforts are drastically scaled-up, the region could risk plunging into further starvation.

Oxfam in Ethiopia’s Country Director Gezahegn Kebede said: “It is morally and politically bankrupt to watch people starve. This is only the tip of the iceberg, millions more people are having to resort to unimaginable ways to stave off hunger and find their next meal.”

Food shortages are at critical level as millions face extreme challenges accessing food in parts of eastern, southern, and central Tigray, and more people are expected to follow from now to May, according to FEWSNET.

Despite the ceasefire between Ethiopian government and the Tigray forces in November 2022, the ongoing conflict in parts of the Amhara region have forced over 1.55 million people to flee their homes, leaving 9.4 million people – or one in three people in northern Ethiopia – in extreme hunger.

The drought, the shortage of seeds and the desert locust invasion which started in late 2023 and persisted to the first weeks of 2024, has halved the harvest from the planned 1.32 million hectare to 660,000 hectares. Even worse, of the reduced harvest, at least 132,000 hectares of crops have died, and tens of thousands of livestock have perished during the current dry season. If the rainy season is delayed further, millions of people will be pushed into further destitution.

The drop in production of crops has caused food prices to surge to a five-year-high and caused a shortage of seasonal farming work, making food unaffordable for millions of people. Many farmers have also lost their main source of income due to these successive and compounded shocks.

Despite being one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, the Northern Ethiopia remains unfunded. Only 34% of the $4 billion UN appeal for Ethiopia last year was funded.

USAID and WFP suspended food aid for six months, in response to allegations of food diversion in 2023, which has deteriorated the food security, cutting the lifeline of emergency food supplies to millions of people displaced by conflict and climate change. Even though aid has resumed, it’s only a drop in the desert given the immensity of the needs.

“Without an urgent and major inflow of aid and increased humanitarian efforts by donors, the lives of many more people are at risk,” said Kebede.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Phone and internet complaints increase following outage, but year-on-year decline continues

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Media Release

The latest data from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reveals that consumers and small businesses made 14,671 complaints between October and December 2023, an increase of 13.4 percent compared to the previous quarter, but a 17.9 percent decrease compared to the same time last year.

Explore the interactive data dashboard

The most notable increases were in complaints related to a network outage and complaints about no phone or internet service, following the Optus Outage on 8 November 2023.

The TIO received 919 complaints from consumers who were impacted by the Optus outage, with 20 percent of these from small businesses. Most consumers sought outcomes including credits, a refunded or discounted service, financial compensation, exiting a contract early, or apologies from the telco.

Overall, six of the top ten issues increased compared to last quarter, with complaints about customer service and problems with a bill continuing to be the top issues for consumers.

Following complaints about a network outage or no internet or phone service, the largest increase was for complaints about a delay establishing a service (25.8 percent increase). The Local Government Areas (LGAs) with a significant increase in complaints about a delay establishing a service were all in Queensland – Gold Coast (43.7 percent increase), Moreton Bay (16 percent increase), and Logan (72.7 percent increase).

Complaints from small businesses made up 12 percent of all complaints, and increased 7.2 percent in volume compared to the previous quarter. Complaints about business loss increased 35.7 percent and was the third most complained about issue for small businesses, after customer service problems and problems with a bill.

This quarter 451 people contacted the TIO about problems with financial hardship or repayment arrangements. Of these contacts, 331 were raised as complaints, a decrease of 5.7 percent compared to the previous quarter.

Other key points:

  • Complaints about internet services increased 23.3 percent compared to the same time in 2022 and made up more than a third of all complaints to the TIO.
  • The top five LGAs with the highest complaints were Brisbane (602), Gold Coast (323), Moreton Bay (291), Sunshine Coast (213) and Wyndham (206).
  • The TIO received 402 complaints from consumers who identified as First Nations – a substantial 78.7 percent increase from the previous quarter. This jump is attributed to improved data collection as more First Nations consumers share their information with us.
  • After English, Arabic and Hindi continued to be the most used languages spoken by consumers who approached the TIO.
  • Complaints about Telstra comprised 36.8 percent of all complaints, and complaints about Optus made up 31.4 percent of all complaints.
  • By volume, nine of the top ten providers recorded increases in the last quarter, with only Southern Phone registering a decrease of 28.9 percent, from 294 complaints to 209.

Quote attributable to Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert:

“Whenever there is disruption in the telco industry, we see complaints increase – and this is exactly what has happened with the Optus outage on the eighth of November.

“For some people, the offer of free data to compensate for a full day outage is fair and reasonable. But businesses who lost profit, people who couldn’t call triple zero, or who experienced other significant losses told us that free data is not enough.

“Despite the increase in complaints this quarter-on-quarter, it’s really pleasing to see that financial hardship complaints have decreased, along with the continued year-on-year decline.

“If consumers or small businesses need help resolving a phone or internet problem with their telco, they should contact us on 1800 062 058 or make a complaint online.”

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Skills Training Legislation Needs Safeguards to Avoid Over-reach

Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia Media Release

Legislation introduced into the Australian Parliament to amend the skills training system’s regulatory framework could be strengthened by the addition of provisions to avoid regulatory overreach. That’s the position of the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), the peak body representing independent providers in the skills training, higher education, and international education sectors.

“ITECA will always welcome measures that seek to put students at the heart of the skills training system and protect them. Although the Australian Government’s legislative amendments have this broad intent, there are also some concerning aspects to what’s proposed,” said Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

The amendments to the National Vocational Education Training Regulator Act 2011 (Cth) appear to create a power that would allow the government to effectively ban the establishment of new independent Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). It would also place a ban on some RTOs expanding the support provided to students by offering new nationally accredited courses.

“This is a degree of market intervention that we’ve not seen before, not only in the skills training system but elsewhere in the economy. It would be concerning if the legislation to be introduced into the Parliament today did not clearly articulate why and for how long the government may act to stop the creation of new RTOs, nor spell out in what circumstances it would stop existing RTOs from seeking to offer new accredited courses,” Mr. Williams said.

ITECA has written to the Australian Government recommending that safeguard measures be put in place. This may necessitate an amendment to the Bill as currently before the Australian Parliament.

“ITECA wants to see amendments that strengthen the legislation by putting in place safeguards. These include placing a limit on the amount of time that a ban on new RTOs would be in place. It’s also sensible that the government publish the underpinning reason for making such decisions,” Mr. Williams said.

As the peak body representing independent RTOs, ITECA has been a long-standing proponent of reforms that put in place stronger student protection mechanisms. This is important given that independent providers support more than 89% of the 4.6 million students in skills training, including more than half of all apprentices and trainees.

“Official data shows that on many key metrics of student and employer satisfaction, independent RTOs achieve the best outcomes. It’s in this context that we’re seeking amendments to put in place safeguards that allow RTOs with a commitment to quality to grow,” Mr. Williams said.

ITECA is convening a briefing for independent RTOs on 21 February 2024 to update senior executives from the skills training sector on the legislation.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

Governments must act faster and listen to Productivity Commission recommendations to Close the Gap and tackle Aboriginal homelessness

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association Media Release

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness crisis will continue to deteriorate should Australian governments maintain their “business-as-usual” approach to progressing the National Agreement on Closing the Gap priority reforms.

The Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing Association (NATSIHA) are calling for a separate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Housing and Homelessness plan to address the housing emergency faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and communities.

The Productivity Commission’s Final Report on the Agreement, released February 7 2024, underscores critical themes that demand immediate attention and robust action to rectify the ongoing challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

The Close the Gap agreement, signed under the Morrison Government, necessitates continual bi-partisan support to ensure accountability in addressing enduring disparities. This commitment demands consistent policy implementation, resource allocation, and scrutiny, avoiding symbolic gestures and guaranteeing sustained efforts for tangible and lasting change.

In Victoria alone, the number of Aboriginal women accessing specialist homelessness services increased 20 per cent over the last five years, compared to a nearly 14 per cent decrease over the same period for non- Aboriginal women in the state. Addressing these devastating discrepancies will require good faith bipartisanship.

Governments must take immediate and tangible steps to strengthen accountability mechanisms for housing solutions. This requires a radical shift in behaviour and mindset within governments and institutions.

Rob Macfarlane, CEO of NATSIHA, says, “We have brought the call for a separate First Nations Housing and Homelessness Plan to the government and are in conversations about the development of a specific schedule for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities, and organisations. But are yet to see any real commitment.

“It is time for governments to move beyond rhetoric and embrace true power-sharing. The First Nations Housing sector, with its long-term experience and innovative approaches, holds a unique and essential power in driving sustainable solutions. Our communities have demonstrated expertise, cultural understanding, and local knowledge necessary to lead decisions impacting their lives. The gap will widen for our people if attention is not given to addressing the housing emergency faced by our people.”

Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Forum Secretariat Lead and Aboriginal Housing Victoria Director of Strategy and Performance Lisa Briggs said the Report showed the need for a greater focus on housing and home ownership because safe and secure housing is central to closing the gap in all areas of Aboriginal disadvantage.

“Secure housing is the missing policy piece. It is fundamental to human safety, economic participation, psychological resilience, and physical health – all the areas in which governments are falling behind,” she said.

“The data shows us that in Victoria, by 2036, the number of Aboriginal households will more than double. To maintain existing levels of social housing in line with population growth, we will need an additional 5000 social housing units just so existing, catastrophic levels of homelessness do not escalate.”

When all Australian governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations signed the Agreement in 2020, they committed to mobilising “all avenues available to them” to overcome the entrenched inequality faced by Aboriginal people.

Of the 17 socioeconomic targets included in the Agreement, only four are on track to be met.

“They need to do better, for our children, our Elders and our communities. The Report reinforces the need for the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement to include a specific schedule for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities and organisations,” Ms Briggs said.

“It shows us how desperately we need a specific National Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Housing and Homelessness Plan.

“Now is the right time to expand on the existing Closing the Gap housing targets to include an Aboriginal homelessness target to respond to the rapid increases in homelessness experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.”

Rob Macfarlane, CEO of NATSIHA said a robust response is needed.

“The Productivity Commission’s report is a wake-up call for all levels of government. We cannot afford to let Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander homelessness continue to rise. The governments must prioritise and implement the necessary measures to address this crisis.”

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button