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The inhumanity around gig economy jobs

By William Olson  

The ever-increasing practices of home delivery of Chinese food, “Taco Tuesday” tacos, burgers, pizza, and other lunch or dinner items agreed upon as being quite delectable to one’s palate may be quite convenient in the realm of our fast-paced society.

However, do spare a kind thought or two for the good men and women who deliver your food on behalf of delivery services such as UberEats, Deliveroo, MenuLog, or DoorDash, and so on.

As well as those who drive for ride-sharing services such as Uber, Didi, or Ola, to name a few of those.

In a multi-university survey commissioned by the Victorian state government, workers in the gig economy – to the surprise of no one, really – are worse off in their compensation than regular casual workers are, and certainly versus those in secure employment.

The Victorian government’s report, from a survey done under the auspices of treasurer and industrial relations minister Tim Pallas, involved the legwork research performed by Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and University of Technology Sydney, with the intent of uncovering justifications about community concerns over wages and conditions in the gig economy.

Furthermore, the survey revealed unknown information about the nature and inner workings of the gig economy and its workforce – and perhaps some statistics that would shock the public.

While the report revealed that while nearly two-thirds of all Australians use gig economy delivery services, its workers are exploited in a manner even more shocking than originally assumed.

Some of the statistics, among roughly 14,000 respondents:

  • Among more than 100 different companies in the gig economy, a ratio greater than one in three of its workers are employed by more than one platform, often via a variety of platform apps.
  • The demographics tend towards younger people, and males.
  • Those who speak English as their second language are 1.5 times more likely to engage as platform workers.

And then it gets more shocking – and, arguably, more inhumane and exploitative:

  • More than 30 percent of respondents did not know whether their platform has a dispute resolution process.
  • Nearly half report that their platform does not provide them with work-related insurance.
  • Two out of every five respondents, when asked about the details of their remuneration, did not know any of those details. (Here’s a hint: as for salary alone, it’s less than the legal minimum wage outlined by the Fair Work Commission.)
  • Gig economy workers are spending upwards of five hours per week on unpaid platform activities, ranging from seeking work, updating profiles, and ultimately quoting and searching and bidding for work.

Is the ignorance in a state of bliss here? Truly a case of not knowing terms, conditions, or even their own rights. Or even if they have any. Truth is, their rights are less than those of the typical worker – even those on casual status.

For gig economy workers, these are basically sweatshop conditions – if the ultra-modern sweatshop is comprised of any of a multitude of restaurants and anything between two and four wheels. And in many cases, pedal power.

Makes one ponder what recourse workers in the gig economy even have.

How can they right the wrongs thrust upon them? Can they unionise, even in a means of banding together? Can they collectively bargain? Or do can they even gain the rights to take any action whatsoever?

One would presume that as long as the perception exists that one not being an employee but rather that of a freelancer or independent contractor, for one company or several, those rights would be hard to come by. A ruling from one Canadian tribunal over the ability for gig economy workers to unionise earlier this year does give their Australian comrades a glimmer of hope. But how likely is that precedent to repeat itself in Australia?

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), at the height of its “Change The Rules” campaign two years ago, called for gig economy workers to be put on an equal footing as those with secure employment.

“Everyone deserves these rights. We need to change the rules so everyone has basic rights, including the right to collectively bargain,” said ACTU national secretary Sally McManus at the time.

It is a slow and arduous process to make those changes happen, but at least McManus and the ACTU have let the growing sector of the gig economy know that the union movement is on their side.

In any event, reform is needed to bring gig economy workers in line with the minimum national employment standards. Whether that happens in tribunals or the courts, or via collective bargaining, remains to be seen.

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Solar farm powering Newcastle operations and revenue

City of Newcastle Media Release

A solar farm built by the City of Newcastle on a rehabilitated landfill site has exceeded expectations in its first six months of operation, generating almost twice the revenue it was expected to make annually.

The five-megawatt facility, which spans an area equal to five football fields at the City’s waste management centre, generated more than $420,000 in revenue between mid-November and the end of April, well above original forecasts used in the business case of $250,000 a year.

Selling energy back into the electricity market, the 14,500 photovoltaic-cell facility saw the Council become a net exporter of electricity when the January bush fires damaged the state’s energy grid.

A renewable power purchase agreement with a wind farm that came into effect on 1 January, making Newcastle the first NSW Council to be powered 100 per cent by renewables, saved the City a further $30,000.

“The business case showed the solar farm would save rate payers around $9 million, after costs, over its 25-year lifespan – and so far, it’s on track to do even better,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The solar farm at our Summerhill Waste Management Centre has helped us exceed our renewable energy goals under the Newcastle 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, which targeted 30 per cent of our electricity needs from low-carbon sources.

“By combining solar installations, battery storage and the purchase agreement to power all our operations, the City has created a resilient energy strategy that will protect us from future electricity price spikes.

“Working in concert with the power purchase agreement, these investments give us price stability, create financial savings for rate payers and have already enabled us to reduce our operational carbon emissions by 77 per cent, compared to the 2008 baseline.”

Partly funded with a $6.5 million loan from Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the solar farm is a “fantastic accomplishment” by a local government, says Climate Council of Australia’s Cities Power Partnership Director David Craven.

“City of Newcastle has again stepped up as leader in renewables and as a leader amongst local governments taking significant action on climate,” Mr Craven said.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy generation and is proving to save Novocastrians millions, while creating a healthy future for this community.”

The City is also paving the way for electric transport by converting its fleet to electric vehicles and installing a charging network powered by solar panels and battery storage.

Meanwhile, the City is increasing solar-energy generation on its buildings.

“We recently added an additional 100-kilowatt roof top photovoltaic system to our Waratah Works Depot, doubling the capacity of the system installed onsite in 2013 and taking total generation of our 12 solar systems to almost 9 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year,” Councillor Nelmes added.

“Our five-megawatt solar farm and over 660 kilowatts of rooftop solar provide the equivalent energy needs of more than 1,770 Newcastle households a year with clean, renewable energy.”

For its commitment to renewables and reducing carbon emissions, the City won the prestigious Local Government Sustainability Award in 2019 and is currently a finalist for Environmental Leadership and Sustainability in the 2020 NSW Local Government Excellence Awards.

Aerial footage of the $8 million solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre west of Newcastle is available here.

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In defence of an arts and humanities education – and critical thinking

By William Olson  

Recently an old friend of mine from California sent me a nice little relic that took me down memory lane: a copy of the old student newspaper from my university days that contained my first real byline, and thereby my initial entry into journalism.

That newspaper, a weekly summer edition of the Cal State Pioneer based at the California State University at Hayward (now the CSU of the East Bay), has survived very well, for a 30-year-old piece of eight-page newsprint. The aging of time has turned the newsprint’s parchment into an orange-to-brown hue, but the memories inside are still quite sharp. I served as a community sport reporter for the paper – quite challenging in the university community during the summer months – in addition to being the lead copy editor in the run-up to publication on Wednesday nights ahead of a Thursday lunchtime release on campus.

Mind you, these were the days before the world wide web, and long before any viral activity on social media. We even did layout by hand, with the aid of an archaic version of PageMaker, and sticky tape. But those of us who worked on that newspaper, we thought we had hit the big time. Since I received this lovely relic, I’m wondering if any of those who I worked with on that project in that summer are still around the traps in the journalism profession. Such was our tight-knit group, amid pizza runs to get us through each publication night – and a final weekly 1:30am beer run to celebrate, once the paper was “put to bed”.

The Cal State Pioneer represented a quality staple of not just on-campus life in the summer of 1990, but it was a cornerstone of the mass communication department at CSUH. And as such, that which constituted a highly enriching liberal arts and humanities-based education in the CSU system at that time.

Fast-forward 30 years, and such a broad-based education path has come under attack in Australia, by the federal government, and specifically Dan Tehan, the Minister for Education.

Last week, Tehan proposed, in an effort to stimulate the “jobs and growth” agenda by the federal government, a blueprint reform of the tertiary education system – to basically halve the course fees for degree programs leading to vocational jobs in areas such as nursing, teaching, agriculture, information technology, and other sectors anticipating high employment growth, while virtually doubling fees for any study pathways relating to the arts and humanities.

A shocking development, considering it was the LNP which significantly slashed funding to TAFE schools and the VET sector since 2013 to the point where their budgets are now severely compromised. It would figure that if the Morrison government wants to inspire the economy through that “jobs and growth” agenda, why not simply re-invest in the TAFEs and the VETs?

Moreover, this revelation by the federal government in tertiary education fees policy, intended to drive young people of university age towards vocational-based degrees, is also seen as an attack not just on the arts and humanities, but also on critical thinking. And the lively university experience of a well-rounded education as well.

Especially without a Bill of Rights in Australia which would broadly define what residents’ rights and liberties are, a gradual attack by the LNP governments over the years upon those who oppose its policies and attacking the right to protest and dissent has been underway for quite some time – and the abilities around intellectualism and critical thinking are deemed essential to defend these actions.

Hypocrisy abounds in the halls of the federal parliament in this proposed policy, given the number of LNP ministers and senators who are in possession of Bachelor of Arts degrees from their university days. Not only does Tehan hold one, but so do 12 others in the LNP alone, with a majority of all MPs from all parties holding a double degree in law and some form of the arts.

The reason why arts degrees among our movers and shakers in Canberra exist is quite simple: a liberal arts education with a grounding in critical thinking skills better prepares one for the real world and how it operates, than that of a vocational background alone does. While work and employment can define who a person is, one’s experiences should be greater.

It’s done me no harm over the last 30 years living in two countries, and the same goes for countless hordes of others like myself globally since then. An education in critical thinking, the arts and humanities, it has been said, may not prepare one for a career, but can prepare one for several of them. And for the diversity of life itself.

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Change the Meaning not the Date: Australia Day, Meet ANZAC Reverence

By Jennifer Michels  

Australia’s special day of celebration; 26th January, the date Aussies have branded Australia Day. For others, a date for mourning. The Aboriginal people have heavily objected to Australian Day since its introduction. For those who do not understand why; 26th January 1788 is the date Captain Arthur Philip raised the Union Jack (the flag of Great Britain) and Australian soil was proclaimed British Territory. For the Aboriginal people, this date signifies the beginning of 200+ years of war, loss and hardships that can only be described as slavery by many who are still alive today.

With all the discussions regarding racial discrimination lately, I have taken time to contemplate both sides of the story as they apply to me personally. Considering I am a descendant of Aboriginal background, and as much as I may wish to just close my heart to what for years my own prejudice called “that other side” of my ancestry; I should not! My hands were not responsible for what we now know are “atrocities.” And although I grew up with family members who experienced some of these “atrocities,” my hands did not personally experience these either. Therefore, I should not feel the guilt as I believe a child does not shoulder the errors of their forefathers. Yet I cannot escape the guilt or the other emotions that travel hand in hand with both sides of the Australian story.

My eyes cannot close to these injustices as the effects are still relevant in our society today. This means my feelings are amplified in January. Amplified because it seems my fellow citizens show a lack of empathy towards the pain celebrating and discussing Australia Day creates. Because we chose this date to celebrate a special patriotic connection to each other. While simultaneously failing each other in recognition of the sacrifices and benefits, both parties have and still do bring to the table.

Drawing my own conclusions from discussions flying around social media I will admit some of my opinions have changed forever, but not in the way I would have imagined! If someone asked me last month what I thought about changing the date, I would have instantly replied with a blunt explanation backing the call. Yet I have been forced to admit the prejudices and ignorances within my views; after the frenzied replies to online comments challenging my opinions regarding Australia Day and the call to change the date. I was forced to admit I feel the same way about other dates of mourning within Australian history and culture, namely Remembrance Day, ANZAC Day, and the bombing of Darwin.

After contemplating these challenges of my opinions, it is hard not to draw parallels between ANZAC Day and Australia Day. Especially as it seems to be a popular reason to undermine the call for changing the date.

I am by no means trying to say these days should not be celebrated. They are extremely important dates for me, as they rightfully are for many Australian and New Zealanders in the case of ANZAC Day. Without these heroes in our history, I might not be here or have the freedom today to even write this. Especially when one considers the fact my great grandmother was evacuated from Groote Eylandt during the bombing of Darwin.

However, the biggest difference I personally draw from these days is the reverence applied to our days of mourning such as ANZAC Day. Reverence that brings us together.

Australians memorialise the sorrow and celebrate the freedoms saved by some aspects of our history. Each year speeches are heard around the world recognising not only the support, but also the losses of our fellow ANZAC heroes. Including acknowledgements of these same impacts on those who were on the opposite side of our lines. Ceremonies are conducted to commemorate the Australians who fought to protect Darwin when it was bombed in 1942 by Japan. Commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice saving a country they never saw again.

Those same principles of reverence have not been applied to a date that left a deep scar in our history books, a date that is of similar significance to many Australians. The date that changed everything for both sides. The date that signifies the conception of the Australian society as we know it today. The same society the ANZACs and our other heroes in history fought so hard to protect.

This deep scar that has been talked and argued about for decades, without successful resolutions agreed upon. Remove either party’s involvement in the Australian story and our country would not be the multi-cultural community it is today. Nor would our fellow citizens know and understand the sacrifices nor the benefits both our ancestors have contributed to this beautiful land.

Now I ask, if our ANZAC heroes are so highly regarded; if the Bombing of Darwin and Remembrance Day have ceremonies still held in their honour; why are similar ceremonies not practiced around Australia to commemorate the founding of the country we all love today?

Recognising the fallen Aboriginal ancestors? Commemorating the fallen British Settlers, Convicts and Soldiers? Bringing an aspect of recognition? Clearing the misunderstandings? Resolving at least some of the feelings of both sides to our historical story?

Ceremonies from both sides of our proud cultures provide platforms for all Australian voices to be heard equally. Finally achieving political correctness, with what should be one of the most highly regarded and celebrated days in Australian culture.

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‘Parent of the nation’

By Robert Wood  

In the national discourse around violence, there seems to be a fetish for land, for resource, for nature. This comes in everywhere from bushfires to mining to farming. It is all about land be that burning or sacred site desecration or settler colonialism in general. That is where we see the common invocation of terra nullius as a guiding principle and a fiction that nevertheless has real world effects. What we know as part of this is that terra nullius is a dangerous myth that justified and reflected the white invasion of the continent. We must remember that. And yet, we must also make another entry in the ledger when we consider violence here. This is the violence done to people, not only country. And so, if terra nullius is something we all know, something that gives rise to the response of land rights and other actions of sovereignty, perhaps we should also learn about parens patriae.

Parens patriae is the doctrine that connects children in foster care to prisoners to mental health detainees. Here violence is not only done to land, but to sovereign individuals. Parens patriae is what justifies how people are treated and it disproportionately affects Aboriginal communities.

But it is not exclusive to them. Terra nullius not only affected Aboriginal people, but also their trading relations with Macassans and others, then we know parens patria impacts on many individuals. You might know this legal concept through the term ‘ward of the state.’ I myself have been a ward of the state. I was institutionalised in 2010, where I spent three blacked out days in a public mental asylum before waking up for another four days of treatment before being released into the community. I was technically, and legally, a ward for a further 23 days. Once committed, this was the minimum time of my sentence before I was allowed my freedom. Thirty days was a short stay and the people I met were very different to my usual set, but I am grateful for the experience. It was humbling to realise my privilege. I was in Locked Room Ward B of Graylands in Perth with homeless white drug addicts in their twenties and Aboriginal Elders from remote communities. I am not white nor Indigenous, and, people like me, people of colour from migrant backgrounds made up the majority of nurses if not doctors.

The lesson I learnt most of all from being inside is that the state is failing in its parental responsibilities. It is failing when we consider parens patriae. Translated from the Latin, this means ‘parent of the nation’ and is often used as a way to recognise the leader of a state, say a monarch or a ruler, or even a dictator like Julius Caesar. It is also the principle that underpins the justification for taking parental responsibility away from traditional custodians and replacing that with institutional forms of authority. My parents committed me and then the West Australian state government became my legal guardian. This was because I was not of sound mind, but you can have your rights taken away for protest, for addiction, for racist reasons. Why does this matter?

Parens patriae matters because it is the logic that allows the state to remove children from their parents, to incarcerate people, to lock people up if their ideas are insane. The response, of course, would be that the state is an adequate parent, maybe even a good one. That Queen Lizzie does a fine job looking after her subjects. It undermines though the responsibilities of individuals, and, as we know from terra nullius, it justifies violence on the pretext that there is no pre-existing expression of care. Quite simply, it attacks the role of parents, especially First Nations people, who are more likely to become wards of the state as children, people in custody, prisoners, mental health detainees, and others who are not free.

Parens patriae is a dangerous fiction that has real effects on real people. It undermines a more complex, diffuse, and co-ordinated network of care, and seeks to make a sole authority replace a parent or a guardian. The pastoralism in communities is often one that permeates to many members and people share the burden when it comes to looking after each other from the vulnerable to the sick to the elderly to the wronged and the accused. What matters for sovereignty is how we re-imagine what our governance can be and how people are looked after when it comes to state treatment of our most vulnerable. That parens patriae continues to be invoked does a disservice to what we are truly capable of.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland, edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories.

 

 

 

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Double standards

By 2353NM  

There has been general praise for the Australian Governments (at all levels) and their management of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the politicians signed off on the decisions, they listened to and generally acted on the advice of the state and federal Chief Medical Officers. In comparison to a lot of other first world countries, Australians have suffered far less loss of life and illness to date.

The reality is while the Premiers and Chief Ministers wielded the power, as suggested by The Saturday Paper (paywalled) Prime Minister Morrison

went along, enthusiastically serving as chief marketer for their collective decision. At no point did he cavil on the basis that jobs might be lost. Instead, he followed the advice of the experts and did what had to be done in order to avoid a greater catastrophe.

Sadly Australia has lost 103 people to the COVID-19 pandemic at the time this was written. Australian Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy is on the record as saying Australia’s quick and decisive action potentially saved the lives of somewhere around 14,000 Australians. We have also succeeded in ‘flattening the curve’ to the extent that if you do succumb to COVID-19, there will be an ICU bed, ventilator, staffing, medical equipment and medicine to give you the best chance of regaining your health should you need it. Given the facts (and a comparison with the ravages COVID-19 has reaped in other countries), it demonstrates that if you listen to and act on the advice of the experts, the outcome is frequently better than expected.

If only politicians always took the advice of experts.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, better known as the Bushfire Royal Commission commenced hearings at the end of May. As discussed on their website

the Commission will examine coordination, preparedness for, response to and recovery from disasters as well as improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions and mitigating the impact of natural disasters. The inquiry will also consider the legal framework for Commonwealth involvement in responding to national emergencies.

In the first week of hearings,

The Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza, gave a PowerPoint presentation filled with alarming graphs and maps, showing the extent to which carbon pollution had altered Australia’s climate, and how much worse things will get in the absence of action.

Already, he told the commission, the fire season is starting three months earlier in much of south-eastern Australia. Fire danger index readings that would typically have occurred at the start of summer in the 1950s are now recorded at the start of spring.

Additionally

Dr Helen Cleugh, a senior principal research scientist with the CSIRO, said that the frequency of extreme El Niño, La Niña and Indian Ocean dipole events under global heating meant Australia would experience more extreme weather events in future, and that those events would not be able to be mitigated, or their severity predicted, by looking at what had occurred in the past.

“Climate change means that the past is no longer a guide to future climate-related impacts and risks,” she said.

Cleugh said modelling conducted by the CSIRO in 1992 was “very consistent” with the changes in climate that had occurred in the 28 years since.

“The key point I want to make here is that these climate projections are credible and salient, and most importantly they are still current in 2020,” she said.

But probably most telling

The fires . . . caused 33 deaths, destroyed more than 3,000 homes, and burned more than 10m hectares of bushland

And from the same report

The commission heard modelling done by health researchers found 80 per cent of Australians were affected by bushfire smoke at some point over the 2019/2020 season.

Associate Professor Fay Johnston, from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, said her team estimated around 445 people died as a result of the smoke, over 3,000 people were admitted to hospital for respiratory problems and 1,700 people presented for asthma.

“We were able to work out a yearly cost of bushfire smoke for each summer season and … our estimates for the last season were $2 billion in health costs,”

The experts were giving the evidence-based impartial advice before the ‘black summer’ of 2019/2020 but the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government certainly hasn’t been listening. Like the COVID-19 health experts, there has been disagreement on the depth of the problem — but not the realisation that we have a problem. Rather than taking advice from the experts in climate science, we have Energy Minister Angus Taylor being awarded the RMIT University/ABC ‘FactCheck’ 2019 ‘Golden Zombie’ (given for an incorrect assertion that refuses to die) for the apparently often repeated claim that the Coalition inherited a 755 million tonne greenhouse gas emissions deficit when it gained power in 2013. The lack of effective action on climate change is not a new Coalition policy either. Remember the claims of the $100 lamb roast and ‘wipeout’ of industrial cities such as Whyalla that will happen because of the ALP’s ‘carbon tax’ (that years later were described as just ‘brutal retail politics’ by then Opposition Leader Abbott’s Chief of Staff)?

What was Morrison doing last Christmas while every state and territory in Australia was burning, lives were being lost and untold damage was being done to property, livelihoods and the economy? Was he acting as ‘chief marketing officer’ for the collective governments of Australia, explaining the ongoing and catastrophic risk of doing nothing? Was he implementing measures to reduce the effects of climate change on Australia’s lifestyle and economy now and into the future? Well not exactly.

As reported everywhere including the satirical The Chaser (after his office tried to hide the fact out of either shame or guilt) — Morrison was in Hawaii on holiday.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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Colonial oppression: it still exists

By Robert Wood  

One of the unconscious influences in Australian politics is the nineteenth century German philosopher George Hegel. His ideas come through in Australian Labor rhetoric often via Karl Marx who drew on Hegel to think about class consciousness and class conflict most of all. And while both are never invoked by name, they do influence the debate. Central to Hegel’s ideas is the dialectic, which he expressed as a relationship between lord and bondsman. Marx updated it to be about master and labourer, and now we hear of unionist talking of bosses and workers. The dialectic is about the relationship between the two.

For Hegel, it is the bondsman or the servant who has true power. They are the one who does the labour, who the lord relies upon, and the process of coming into consciousness is about realising the strength of the oppressed by the oppressed. They exist in a dialectical relationship where there is a thesis, an overcoming or antithesis, and then a synthesis. What this means to some extent, is that the bondsman need simply realise the truth of their situation so they can come into an awareness of their world and change it for the better. This is where we get the Marxist revolution, or decolonisation, or another way of creating a better world. It is a neat understanding for politics between two groups of people, or even two individuals.

So, why does it matter for sovereignty in Australia today? It matters when it comes to the nation state and the traditional owner. Here power is actually with traditional owners and many realise it, but are prevented from creating that by a system of colonial oppression upheld by many white settlers today. This is where the fundamental conflict of Australia, the nation if not the continent, is revealed to us.

Here we can cite the ongoing failure of Closing the Gap, the struggle to have Uluru recognised, the ongoing rates of incarceration. The state is, quite simply, failing Aboriginal people, but it does not mean we should assume it cannot do better or that it is the best way to respond to difficulty. The state does not represent me even if I am inside that tradition as well. In that way, when we look at Treaty we have to think who are our representatives that speak for us as non-Indigenous people too. Making the state better means making it better for all of us, in the hope that we invest in a dialectic of sovereignty based on values of care, compassion, fairness, equity and inclusion.

Our role then, as non-Indigenous people, is to support those coming into re-connection with a consciousness of their sovereignty. This is about repatriation, retrieval, return, all of which are the role of servants helping other servants in actions of solidarity that overturn our oppression by lords. This is where we work as a group to help people get their country back when we know it was taken from them. That is the work to do when we look to Hegel and Marx and apply it to settler colonialism in contemporary Australia. It does not only, or mainly, mean advocating for our specific class interests but about coming into a greater awareness of how we can support traditional knowledge, including ownership.

So if it is lord-bondsman, what about traditional owner and guest? I am not, will never be, a custodian of any country. I am a guest on land, being a saltwater person, even if I can point to 600 years of written records for my ancestors in a place called Puthucurichy in the present day Indian state of Kerala. That is a drop in the ocean of time, and, it does not even come close to the recognised 60,000+ years of sovereignty of groups that are here, on this continent, and have always been. Always was, always will be Noongar land, Whadjuk land, Ngarluma land. To be a guest though is liberating for it allows us to realise we must be in service – to the oppressed, to nature, to traditional owners, which is why we must turn to them for leadership no matter what the big-wig politicians suggest.

Sovereignty then is an ongoing set of conditions that cannot be resolved if we are to resign ourselves to the narrow collective perspectives that have dominated our history. It is about transcending our moment through a deep-time return to a moment when people were in control of what was possible. That land and people were supported and cared for over a long period means we must continue to respect and learn from Elders and the archive in shifting the balance towards justice and healing, and, away from genocide. The state has many ills contained within it, but just as the bourgeoisie are their own grave diggers, we can suspect that the seeds of its destruction are sewn into its very fabric.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland, edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories.

 

 

 

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Australia needs to ditch dependence on diesel imports

By Scott Hamilton and Michael Nolan  

Amidst the COVID-19 global health and economic shock we have seen Australia’s vulnerable supply chains exposed. As an island country with 98% of our international trade reliant on shipping, we are more at risk than most other nations. Global oil supply markets are shaky and dependence on importing essential vehicle fuels from other countries is a major concern.

As of the end of May 2020, Australia has just over two weeks (18 days) diesel storage supply and we have limited heavy oil reserves (26 days) to produce our own diesel and petrol. Our heavy vehicles such as trucks, tractors and freight rail are dependent on diesel. What would happen if the global supply is unable to reach us due to global conflicts, trade disputes or pandemics?

The truck industry would be hardest hit from a shortage in diesel supply. This risk isn’t the burden of the trucking sector alone. They provide an essential service, especially for food security. Diesel supplies are also critical supplies in mining and manufacturing around the country. Sure, the Minister for Energy has recently purchased crude oil reserves while the prices are low, a strategic petroleum reserve – but they are located on the other side of the world and would take about three weeks to get here. And that’s crude oil – not diesel or petrol!

There would be a real and sustained loss of food at the local supermarket, a real loss of crucial medical supplies in pharmacies – not just a COVID-19 panic buy. There would be limited trade of goods, closure of industries, farms and supply chains. The remaining diesel would be prioritised for ambulance, fire trucks and military. The Australian economy would grind to a halt, probably when it needs to accelerate in response to global conflict or other crises.

Reducing our dependence on diesel and other fuel imports has multiple benefits and can help make Australia a renewable energy exporting superpower rather than a net vehicle fuel importer.

The primary solution is a transition of freight transport (trucks and trains) to locally produced cleaner fuel sources – electric, hydrogen and biodiesel alternatives. This is also an emerging focus globally in the pursuit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the freight sector which is the only sector projected to increase carbon intensity in the coming decades.

An early opportunity would be to develop a series of low emission heavy and passenger vehicle charging developments along the Hume Highway between Melbourne and Sydney and along the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane. Re-imagine hydrogen or electric trucks across the Nullabor and 21st century road trains up the centre of Australia. Innovative public private partnerships, creating thousands of jobs and giving Australia fuel security in a post COVID-19 world.

We can learn from elsewhere. COPEL (power company) and the State of Parana in Brazil worked together to maximise transition to electric vehicles by investing in re-fuelling developments that included commercial, residential and government services. COPEL had determined that it could make more money from selling coffee at refuelling stations than it would ever make from selling electricity for vehicles, therefore it made sense to invest in the developments themselves and offer a 10-year guarantee for free electric vehicle re-fuelling.

Our proposal accelerates the purchase of new electric vehicles, boots local manufacturing of electric vehicles, brings forward the hydrogen economy and diversifies the power company’s revenue. The model also allows for government services, accommodation, professional and recreational facilities integrated into the developments up and down Australia’s energy and mobility spines.

Government(s) would need to contribute to by providing a 10-year guarantee of zero (or low) cost power for the refuelling stations and the private sector invests in the trucks and the new commercial developments. This approach would incentivise private investment from the major trucking companies and other financial investors such as superannuation funds to transition their truck fleets off diesel.

The added industry bonus for Australia, is our internationally recognised truck design and development industry can leverage this opportunity to further advance R&D in retrofitting existing trucks, fuel cell and battery technology suited to this global freight transition that is inevitable in the coming decades. Australia is at the cross-roads and we have the chance to secure our energy supplies for the long-haul post COVID-19.

Australia needs to tackle emissions from freight, mining and manufacturing, and when you consider the imperative for food security, transport of goods and the economy – we must ditch our dependence on diesel imports for our island home to have a resilient future.

Michael Nolan and Scott Hamilton are Melbourne based consultants.

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Seeking the Post-Corona Sunshine: Time to Consolidate the Australian Social Market?

By Denis Bright  

From Deloitte in May 2020: Businesses have halted any plans for investment … Leaving a lasting impact on future productivity.

Throughout Australian history those dire events like the Great Depressions of the 1890s and 1930s, the Pacific War or even the cost of the Great War in lives and government debts have been the great forces for social change with consequences for voting patterns at state and federal elections. There have been fluctuations in commitment to the Australian social market as a result of these upheavals. Sometimes, expected outcomes do not eventuate.

Both the Great War and the Great Depression eroded some of the historical advances in the Australian social market from the Federation era. Cold war politics brought great reverses prior to a more tolerant phase of federal LNP domestic policies after the Credit Squeeze and implementation of the recommendations of the Vernon Report. The way had already been paved for the Rise of Gough Whitlam after he became Opposition Leader in 1967.

The recommendation of the Vernon Report brought federal funding for rail standardization and assistance for Australian Industry Development Corporation (AIDC), Commonwealth  Development Bank and expansion of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Both major political parties can indeed achieve consensus on proactive commitments to the expansion and diversification of the Australian economy. Labor’s commitment to consensus-building about the value of the social market has always paid political dividends.

There is a possibility of course that this bipartisanship can be expanded to repair economic disruptions associated with the coronavirus. Insiders in Canberra are surely well aware of the longer-term implications of the current coronavirus crisis. Without JobKeeper and JobSeeker, there would have been unrest across Australia as in previous economic crises. The Australian trade union movement has completely supported such contemporary initiatives and seeks the extension of these programmes beyond September 2020.

Contrast this situation with the social unrest associated with the Great Depression of the 1890s.

The social unrest in the 1890s occurred at trade union hotpots such as the shearing sheds of Central Queensland, the mining fields at Broken Hill and the wharves of large ports. Mass unionism confronted attempts to lower wages and working conditions. Employers justified these actions as business profits were eroded by the serious economic downturns.

At Barcaldine in Central Queensland, the arrival of police squadrons and colonial troops to quell potential unrest is still acknowledged nostalgically each year on the Mayday Weekend (Tree of Knowledge Festival):

The ghost gum, Eucalyptus Papuana, which grew outside the Railway Station, earned its claim to fame as the founding site of the political movement we now know as the Australian Labor Party. In 1891 Barcaldine was the centre for the striking shearers during the “Great Shearers Strike” when they met under its boughs. In May 1891, about 3000 striking shearers marched under the “Eureka” flag to put forward their protests against poor working conditions and low wages. Because the area beneath the Tree of Knowledge was the scene of actions and decisions which had a profound effect on the future of labour and politics in Australia, it has become an icon of the Labor Party and Trade Unions.

The Tree of Knowledge was included in the National Heritage List on 26th January 2006. Sadly, it was poisoned in 2006 and did not recover.

What was once a one day float parade on the Labour Day Monday and known as May Day Parade & Celebrations has grown to a full weekend of community celebration embracing a diverse range of activities including Street Festival, Rev Fest, and Goat Racing now known as the Tree of Knowledge Festival.

Now in Queensland’s safest federal LNP seat of Maranoa, conservative elites have little to tremble about in the voting trends at the Barcaldine Polling Booth in 2019:

Preferences from the assortment of minor candidates, built up the One Nation Vote in Barcaldine from 13.04 per cent to 25.60 per cent. Federal LNP Member David Littleproud won this local booth with a 74.40 per cent vote after preferences.

It was a different scenario in 2016 when Labor won the Barcaldine Booth. Back in 2007, Labor won the federal seat of Flynn when Barcaldine was located in that seat. Other Queensland seats of Leichhardt, Dawson and Capricornia were won by Labor. The Labor Heartland will rally to the call if the political communication is exciting and credible enough. If Labor can retain the seat of Eden Monaro on 4 July 2020, some traction will be generated for the 2022 federal election.

At this stage, there is still significant apathy in the Labor Party’s potential heartland support base. Boasts about branch stacking in Victoria are contrary to Labor values and have brought a swift response from National ALP President Wayne Swan and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

There have been similar instances in Liberal Party Branches particularly in the electorate of Ryan in Brisbane (ABC News 7 June 2019). The abuse of political office to advance personal over social market goals has become quite systemic.

While discussion of political issues might continue to excite a section of the community on both sides of politics, the vast majority are turned off by discussion of formal politics. For the majority,  political involvement is simply a personal choice rather than a core value in Australian democracy.

Evidence of non-participation in formal political processes is not difficult to find.

The AEC’s estimates of electoral non-enrolment exceed 10 per cent of potential voters in 45 federal seats. In four federal seats the non-enrolment rate exceeds 20 per cent. The federal seats most affected are Sydney, Melbourne, Lingiari and Durack. Even a non-enrolment rate of 5 per cent translates into almost a million absent votes in contemporary national elections as noted in Dr Greg Kramer’s doctoral thesis at the Queensland Institute of Technology (2018).

Neglect of Indigenous communities by the federal government extends to the administrative management of electoral rolls by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). AEC estimates show that 24.4 per cent of indigenous Australians were not enrolled to vote on 30 June 2019. Electoral outcomes could have been affected in the Labor seats of Solomon, Lingiari and Blair as well as the marginal LNP seats of Longman, Leichhardt and Forde in Queensland.

More systematic checks of electoral enrolment are of course not in the interest of the LNP in its most marginal seats. Some voters have never been enrolled to vote and others take advantage of the federal LNP’s EasyPay service to cover the token administrative fines for failure to request a vote.

Beyond the administrative challenges of failure to vote or to enrol to vote is the evidence of high rates of informal voting and the appeal of protest votes for populist candidates.

The dire warnings from Deloitte Economics should justify more emphasis on the relevance of the alternative visions for our future within mainstream political parties. Labor should highlight the divide between hard right neoliberal agendas and progressive agendas to advance The Politics of Us.

Dire Short-Term Economic Projections

The prospects of a return to normalcy in the Australian economy are not sustained by forecasts from Deloitte Economics. This makes a farce of the curtailment of the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programmes from September 2020.

Image: Deloitte May 2020

The Reserve Bank (RBA) has responded to the current economic crisis by lowering official interest rates and offers of assurance to financial institutions in a similar vein to commitments made during the GFC. Last week’s reverses on share markets threaten dividends on superannuation assets particularly for self-funded retirees who are means-tested out of the receipt of part-pensions. Recovery will be difficult for at least two quarters if the global battle against COVID-19’s second wave are kept at bay.

The combined effects of the evolving global economic recession and the trade war between the US and China will have a major impact on Australia’s recovery from the current crisis.

The level of net Chinese investment in Australia and related investment through Hong Kong has been greatly exaggerated by senior LNP ministers. Even with the inclusion of investment from Hong Kong, investment from China in Australia is currently running at about 6-7 per cent of all net investment in the year to December 2019 (ABS 5352.0 Released 7 May 2020):

Even before the current COVID-19 Crisis, the contribution of Australia’s investment multiplier was burning like a damp fire as revealed in the latest data on capital expenditure in the March Quarter (ABS 5625.0 Released 28 May 2020):

All sectors recorded negative capital expenditure growth with the exception of mining (+4.2 per cent) and manufacturing (+5.7 per cent).

Another bright spot is the strength of the Australian dollar which hovers in the 65-71 cent exchange range to the US dollar.

With overseas tourism grounded, there may be opportunities to attract more capital flows into Australia, particularly from Asian countries where investors are looking for a safe-haven currency.

Failure of the senate to endorse a lowering of company taxes for all companies, left the Morrison Government awash with revenue prior to the 2019 elections. Largesse was possible for business support, income tax redistribution and even those grants to sporting clubs.

It was the government sectors at both state and federal levels that were already carrying the Australian economy prior to the current COVID-19 crisis when Australia’s GDP was growing at just over 2 per cent for the year to December 2019 (RBA Charts for June 2020):

Crush time will come for the federal LNP well after the Eden-Monaro by-election date when the perceived generosity of JobKeeper and JobSeeker programmes are curtailed. In the short-term, the Sports Bet predicts a close result in Eden Monaro which has not yet been updated since the problems of branch-stacking were identified in the Victorian ALP. This corruption has tainted the image of the Labor Movement nationally at a most critical time for Australian politics during our first recession in almost 30 years.

Initial financial over-commitment level to the cost of JobKeeper is now being followed by the first signs of the austerity measures which will be followed in the future to ease the blow-out in the federal budget deficit by the premature removal of childcare subsidies (ABC News 10 June 2020):

But the COVID-19 smash-up is already looking like the “pink” recession, with women disproportionately affected by the shutdowns.

Think retail, food services and hospitality for a start. Women make up the majority of workers in these low-paid areas of employment, all of which have been hit hard.

“Health crises can exacerbate existing gender inequalities,” the relevant Government agency observed last month.

So why the Federal Government should choose the childcare sector as the first to prematurely lose the JobKeeper wage subsidy is rather perplexing.

Of any sector, it is one of the most female dominated.

“A lot more women have either lost jobs or lost hours than men and I would’ve thought that involvement in early childhood was one of the best things Government could do to protect jobs for women,” Early Childhood Australia chief executive Sam Page told the ABC.

“Both to support women who are relying on childcare to get back to work, but also to support nearly 200,000 who work in this sector, of which 97 per cent are women.”

If the Australian economy was already relying on government expenditure and consumer debt to keep everyone afloat prior to the COVID-19 Crisis, a minimum wage freeze is taking us back to the Fraser years and the onset of the 1981-82 recession. There is no hint that this freeze on the slender incomes of lower income casual workers should be balanced by a deferral of tax concessions to higher income workers and a freeze on executive salaries.

Even Channel Nine News dared to expose the take—home incomes of some of our political and financial elites (8 June 2020):

The chiefs of some of Australia’s top public offices are earning close to $1 million a year as the nation works to attract top talent to its most remunerated jobs.

Publicly available figures from the Australian Government Remunerational Tribunal show wages of full-time offices – which does not include the positions of parliamentary secretaries or CEOs of government-owned businesses – top out at more than $886,750 a year.

The top total remuneration was earnt by Wayne Byres, Chair of the Australia Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) with $886,750.

A three-way tie for second place with a total remuneration of $775,910 was Rod Sims (Chairperson of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), James Shipton (Chairperson of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission) and Dr. Stephen Donaghue QC (Solicitor-General).

Then comes CEO of Services Australia Rebecca Skinner with $748,210 followed by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw with $720,480.

Two other positions on the same remuneration of $720,480 were the Commissioner of the Australian Public Service Peter Woolcott and Director General of the Office of National Intelligence Nick Warner.

Instead of deferring the tax concessions for middle to upper income families, the federal LNP will campaign on the benefits of lower taxes and a return to the normalcy of corporate ideology and the generation of patriotic fervour against the resurgence of China as a global superpower.

Progressive Australia must have some real alternatives to a repeat of the fear strategies which won Scott Morrison another term of government in 2019 and depressed Labor’s heartland vote in electorates like Capricornia and Blair. The federal LNP is adept at the development of communication strategies which torpedo essential initiatives like more equitable access to specialist medical services for the treatment of cancer through fairer bulk-billing incentives as extravagant extras.

The appeal of tax relief by neoliberal parties has worked well internationally in Britain and Germany. Where social democratic parties hold power in places like Spain, Denmark and Sweden, it is usually with the co-operation of minor parties to from workable coalitions. Unless economic conditions really deteriorate, it will be difficult for social democratic parties here and beyond to break out of the bind which is being imposed by the tax weapon used by neoliberal parties to project their credentials. Are there any alternatives to this communication bind?

Prospects for New Australian Progressive Options?

One way out of the current impasse over the risks of higher taxes might be to allow national and state investment funds to take investments from the local and especially the overseas corporate sectors to diversify available funding for essential and potentially income earning essential services.

State investment funds such as the Queensland Investment Corporate (QIC) have routinely managed essential services such as motorways, ports or housing projects. Some of these investment projects were sold off by the state LNP but a balance of portfolios still exist.

Cut-backs in public broadcasting are a real threat to our integrity as a sovereign nation and investment in innovative ABC programming could be a key export of both programmes and technical services internationally.

In NSW, the state LNP is still cautious about public sector investment which potentially creates dividends for local and overseas corporate investors. NSW has sold public electricity networks to assist in funding its NSW Generations Fund (NGF) which can certainly assist with the delivery of essential services and public infrastructure.

Yet the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet appropriately talks up the value of the Fund without too much attention to its dark past in the sale of public assets to seed the new fund (First Annual Report):

The NSW Government announced the NGF in June 2018, a world-first sovereign wealth fund to guard against intergenerational budgetary pressures and keep debt sustainable in the long-term, while also delivering for communities today.

Seeded with $10 billion in late 2018, $7 billion following the sale of a 51 percent stake in WestConnex and $3 billion from balance sheet reserves, the NGF had a balance of $10.9 billion as at 30 June 2019, outperforming expectations.

The overall vision and purpose of the NGF is to support the State’s Triple-A credit rating over the long-term and ensure the NSW Government can plan for the future by responsibly delivering the essential productive infrastructure for the people of New South Wales without burdening future generations with debt. It is legislated that funds within the NGF can only be used for the purpose of paying down debt, or funding community services and facilities projects.

Perhaps more NSW Public Assets could have been retained under state or corporatized controls if the NGF was opened to voluntary corporate funding. Dividend payments would always be at the discretion of the NGF as with returns on the superannuation contribution of wage-earners. In contrast, NSW T-Bonds are largely long-term options from traditional fixed interest arrangements. NSW Treasury is welcome to clarify the situation.

Perhaps opportunities exist to achieve bipartisan support for unwelcome privatization programmes in the quest for new investment capital when corporate providers both here and overseas are willing to make an investment contribution that delivers wealth generation for the wider community through sustainable programmes such as catchment and coastal management, alternative energy projects, or affordable housing linked to transport oriented developments (TODs) in urban and regional planning.

Similar initiatives should be taken at a federal level to overcome the backlogs in our essential services through the creation of a National Investment Fund either as a separate entity or a complementary financial additive to the Future Fund. There is a possibility that investments in any future Australian Investment and Essential Service Funds might also attract some taxation relief for individual investors and especially for major superannuation firms.

The usual hassles about funding the ABC and other public broadcasting networks could perhaps be eased by corporate investment in creative programmes that inspire domestic audiences and add to export revenue. The technical expertise of public broadcasting is indeed an exportable service for consultancy services to the Asia-Pacific Regions.

The relative strength of the Australian dollar is a great national asset in attracting new investment in state and federal infrastructure and essential service funds.

Being able to invest in sustainable development programmes in Australia would have instant appeal to corporate sectors in countries with more unstable currencies particularly from our Asian and Middle Eastern neighbours. Currency conversation rates are always on the move in a volatile market and all these rates have moved ever so slightly against the Australian dollar in the last week since I accessed the data (Morningstar Currency Converters 8-13 June 2020).

The appeal of a relatively stable Australian hedge-fund currency is an asset which will also strengthen the profile of our own financial sector globally and offer capital flows to our state and federal governments without those nasty election debates about the value of neoliberalism as the best mechanism for sustainable economic development.

From Less Stable Currencies to Australian Hedge Fund Investments?

Alienated constituents across Australia are more likely to respond to the politics of hope based on some daring bipartisan initiatives. Progressive Australia needs to support strategies to promote political involvement even if some degree of risk-taking is involved in challenging cautious assumptions about Normalcy in Australian Democracy. Talking up the value of the social wage offered by Medicare, affordable housing and income support programmes in difficult times must always be a part of that return to Normalcy which the federal LNP so desperately wants to foster to return to business as usual practices. The generation of wealth through a broadened investment multiplier would indeed become a bipartisan priority for sustainable economic and social recovery in the post-coronavirus sunshine which everyone welcomes.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

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People trusted Holden

By 2353NM  

In the 1970s and 1980s the slogan was ‘People trust Holden’; and they did. General Motors Holden had spent a lot of time and money over many years marketing Holden vehicles as Australia’s own car and as a result Holden sales were going gangbusters.

While a considerable amount of design, engineering and manufacturing was done here for a long time, it was always General Motors Head Office in Detroit, Michigan that called the shots. The message we got from General Motors in 2013 when they announced they would shut Australian vehicle manufacturing down in 2017 was that Holden was nothing more than a General Motors business unit where return on investment was the key requirement. Admittedly, the Abbott/Hockey 2014 budget didn’t help.

The cars produced across Australia were commodities, as were the staff who did their best to provide a product they were proud of, as were the people in the distribution network and the consumers who bought a Holden. We were reminded how ‘Australian’ Holden was during February this year when GM announced that they would no longer sell Holden badged vehicles (imported from manufacturing plants around the world like lots of other commodities) anywhere as they were concentrating on their ‘home‘ (read USA) market and China.

Those that manage GM believe like all commodities, the Holden vehicles on the road today will outlive their usefulness and be disposed of. Some will mourn the passing, some (inside and outside Australia) will retain and treasure an example of Holden engineering and production, others will gradually forget the commodity ever existed and from General Motors viewpoint, once all the statutory obligations are addressed (to the letter of the law at least), the world will move on.

So much for trust. Trust is a mutual relationship where both sides have an implicit belief that everyone is looking after the interests of all parties to the agreement. Arguably, Holden did deserve our trust in the 1970s and 80s as for the majority of that time they were producing well designed and safe (by the standards and technology of the day) vehicles in Australia and selling them domestically and internationally.

GM aren’t the only body to have forgotten people aren’t commodities. It’s not hard to make the argument the Coalition Government came to power on a promise of trust in 2013 and have been breaking that promise ever since — by treating us all as commodities.

While the current A(bbott), T(urnbull) , M(orrison) Coalition government is not the first in Australia’s history to leverage income support for those that need it for political ends, the use and often threatened widening of the compulsory use of the system that requires 80% of income support to be placed onto a debit card is a new depth in the persecution of those that for some reason have the need for help — not belittlement. It is a scandal that parents cannot pay for school excursions, uniforms and the like with the card because the schools are not ‘approved’ by Indue ,the contractor that manages the ‘Cashless Welfare’ debit card for the ATM Government.

Indue cards can’t be used at cash machines as converting the balance on the card to cash is against the rules and if the communications or EFTPOS systems go down you can’t buy anything either. The stigma is real and ongoing and the whole process seems to be designed in a manner to dehumanise people and treat them as a (unwelcome) commodity. However Indue is certainly cashing in on the system. Reports in 2017 claimed the card system costs the government about $18.9 Million during the trial phase in a few locations, or around $10,000 per card issued, with no evidence to suggest there is any benefit or subsequent cost reduction as the card gets rolled out elsewhere. If it cost the banks that much to issue a debit card we’d all still be filling out withdrawal forms for our passbook accounts and hoping to get to the bank before it closed for the weekend.

Until Australia was affected by COVID-19, the Australian unemployment rate has been bouncing around 5% for quite some time. Some ‘unemployment’ is inevitable, for example on the day of the survey some will have left their previous job and not started their new job, school leavers or new arrivals in the country have yet to find work or companies like GM have determined that a number of employees are no longer required given the strategy worked out in the boardroom usually in some place far removed from the ‘factory floor’.

While ‘assistance’ to find other employment will probably be given by GM as an act of appeasement to public relations, a lot of the soon to be ex-Holden employees would be fearful of under-employment. According to the Government, if you are working at least one hour a week you are considered to be employed and while that is probably correct in a literal sense, the rate of pay would have to be considerable to ensure those employees working one hour a week could live comfortably on their income. The University of New South Wales noted the underemployment — usually those employed casually and for various reasons needing more hours — to be at 8.1% prior to the last Federal Budget — discussing why there needs to be some attention paid to the issue by the ATM Government. Of course there wasn’t, commodities are there to do the bidding of corporations and then thrown on the scrap heap.

As further evidence of the ATM Government treating people as commodities, while the companies such as Paladin who have contracts supplying the ‘guards’ and ‘support staff’ at the ‘detention centres’ are raking in millions while treatment of refugee seekers over the past decade who have been sent to detention centres offshore is nothing short of abysmal. Also consider the underfunding (and even greater underdelivery) of the NDIS, or the second rate NBN delivered by those who should have known better. Minster responsible at the time, Malcolm Turnbull was one of the founding directors [his merchant bank held a 25% share] when Ozemail (one of the first hugely successful ISPs in Australia) was floated on stock exchanges in 1996, and clearly demonstrated little regard for those that have no alternative to NBN technology.

The pre-COVID-19 and (currently) post September 2020 Newstart/JobSeeker payment (the income support for the unemployed or underemployed) is described by the Business Council as one of the elements of ‘entrenched disadvantage’, rather than allowing those who rely on the support payment to live with some dignity, the ATM Government chooses to spend taxpayer money on Community Development Grants that according to The New Daily is a scandal far bigger than ‘sportsrorts’, propping up environmentally damaging industries, and only attacking the Victorian and Queensland (ALP) state premiers that choose to listen to the advice of their health officials, despite the Liberal premiers of Tasmania and South Australia making similar decisions.

Unforgivably and worse than the examples above, when a $60 BILLION error is made in the forecasting of the need for the COVID-19 specific JobKeeper payment, rather than extending the blanket of care and concern to those that were left in the cold the first time around (those in employment for under 12 months, university and local government staff, workers on most visa arrangements, arts workers to name just a few), Morrison and Frydenberg’s initial reaction is to claim that they don’t intend to make ‘massive changes’ to the temporary assistance measure.

Just as people trusted Holden in the 1970s and 1980s and eventually saw the reality of a foreign multinational that really didn’t deserve the trust, Australians have demonstrated time and time again in the past few weeks that they understand and respect those that treat them as individuals such as the national and state medical officers in their COVID-19 briefings. We acknowledged a lot of them this time last week. However, once the world stops talking about COVID-19 (which will inevitably happen), the ATM government will expect us all to be back in the salt mines making money for the entitled few like good economic units always do. Which is exactly what conservative governments have always done.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Will Smirko jump the shark?

By Grumpy Geezer  

Will it be the 100,000th U.S. death from corona virus, their 44 million unemployed, the jackbooted response to the BLM protests following George Floyd’s murder or a plummeting Dow Jones that historians will mark as the tipping point for the orange globule who infests 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

After a continuous, four year stream of outrages from the sickbag residue of Dr Evil mixed with Sideshow Bob and sprinkled with Papa Doc Duvalier that is Donald J. Trumplethinskin it has become apparent that the depths of his depravity are bottomless, that no immorality is beyond his embrace; none of which has deterred his enablers, sycophants and collaborators. With an appalling track record of corruption and incompetence is it possible to point to any one circumstance as the beginning of the end for him, his demon spawn and their crime syndicate?

Perhaps it is his reported cowering in trembling, pee-stained fear in the panic room at the White House, that icon of American presidential power and prestige, that is the most appropriate symbolic moment.

But the tipping point could be the immediate aftermath of that humiliation when he had peaceful citizens tear-gassed and clubbed to stage-manage a cowardly photo-op where he looked as natural as a orangutan on a unicycle when with witless silence and vacant expression he held aloft an upside-down bible, the contents of which are as unread by him as they are by the metaphorical orangutan.

Image from usatoday.com

In comparison, how good is Australia? A prime minister does not have the powers of a U.S. president, nor do we suffer such an imbecilic, syphilitic madman at the helm. We had an idiot in charge two Prime Ministers ago after which farcical fuckwittery was removed from the Tory’s list of essential skills for high office.

Our man is not insane. Smirko Morrison’s messaging is not Trump-like, off-the-cuff, incoherent ramblings. His forté is market-tested, focus-grouped propaganda and glib slogans that camouflage rather than amplify the mendacity and grift that is at the core of the us-&-them RWNJ mindset – “unfunded empathy”, “a fair go for those who have a go”, “separation of church and state was set up to protect the church from the state, not the other way around.” Smirko doesn’t do nuance – he does the dog-whistle.

Smirko does not sexually assault women, he doesn’t party with high profile paedophiles, he doesn’t brag about his own wealth, he doesn’t sport a ridiculous, yellow merkin on his head, he doesn’t suggest sticking a lava lamp up your arse as a virus cure. Trump has had multiple wife-changing experiences, Smirko has stuck by his first. Morrison’s not Trump-like. But he is Trump-lite.

Morrison’s standards may be higher than Trump’s but then Trump does set a very, very low bar. Smirko’s eye-fluttering, fan-girl crush on Trump means not just that his staff need to towel-dry his chair after a phone call from the tangerine ballsack but also that his morals are quite flexible, and that in line with his prosperity gospelling principles, wealth is the measure for his mangina-frothing admiration.

Unlike Trump, Smirko attacks the media by stealth not by megaphone – raiding journalists, defunding the ABC and using his tame propaganda outlets 2GB, Sky News (sic) and, primarily, the Murdoch muckers where many millions of our dollars are shovelled to bolster the withered billionaire’s empire of sleaze and disinformation, no questions asked.

As with the Republicans, the L/NP modus operandi is the game of mates and as with the Republicans it has become shamelessly blatant. They duck and weave and smirk and giggle at their cleverness in dodging accountability.

Sports rorts, regional swimming pools, the Regional Growth Fund, Building Better Regions Fund, government advertising on the tax-payers’ dime, Climate Solutions Fund, Urban Congestion Fund, Drought Communities Program, Regional Jobs and Investment Package – an eye watering $8 billion in nods and winks to Tory and marginal electorates in an asymmetric war against those electorates that do not meet the qualification criteria of contributing to the Tories’ hold on power.

(See Michael Pascoe goes back over the maths on government grant rorts – The New Daily).

But it doesn’t stop there – the Tories are nothing if not shockingly avaricious. Shadenfraud is the arousal a Tory politician experiences from gaming the system. Barking Barmy Joyce’s legover-of-the-moment must’ve been apprehensive after Barmy’s $80 million buy-back of dehydrated water from Angus “Fingers” Taylor’s old outfit Eastern Australia Agriculture! What became known dryly (!) as Watergate is but one dodge in Fingers’ portfolio of #gates whereby a coincidentally high number of Taylor familial enterprises benefited from unknowing taxpayers’ contributions – “Speaking of rorts,” Kaye Lee, The AIMN.

Hand-in-hand with the Tories’ graft comes a paranoid fear of scrutiny. The prospect of a federal integrity commission puckers the sphincters of the pillaging Tory hordes. And so supplementing the standard dissembling and obfuscation comes the stacking of boards with cronies, the disenfranchising of the public service, the politicising of the AFP and the quashing of dissent.

When Trump’s time comes he will not go quietly. The notion of him getting four more years seems more outlandish with each outrage. Surely the underlying strengths of American democracy will see this abhorrent aberration dragged by the ankles, drooling and gibbering, from under his bed.

In contrast, Smirko’s demise will be more pedestrian. There is not likely to be a jump-the-shark moment for him as there was with the Mad Monk’s plan to knight Prince Philip. Morrison is simply reverting to type – a mean and tricky, belligerent marketer of ragged neo-liberal ideology. His recent brief reprieve will come to an end, the shine will fade from this buffed beige jobbie and he’ll be told by a disillusioned electorate to “get off my lawn.” I can’t wait.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Anangu Mayatja say “no” to reopen Uluru

By Tjimpuna Ruby, and supported by the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders  

Please refer to the media release from Parks Australia below.

My Grandfather and two aunties were not called into this meeting as decision-makers on the Board for this to be in concrete.

Our entire Western Desert Block is closed as a biosecurity zone and that includes ULURU – KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK.

Anangu are not happy with the threats from Tourism NT and Voyages to reopen.

 

Media Release from Parks Australia

Staged re‐opening plans announced for Kakadu and Ulur̲u‐Kata Tjut̲a National Parks

Parks Australia has today announced staged re-opening plans for Kakadu and Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a and National Parks, with both parks to welcome visitors from Friday, 19 June 2020.

Director of National Parks, Dr James Findlay said due to COVID-safe arrangements and infrastructure upgrades, some areas of the national parks will not be open to visitors during the initial re-opening, but there will be plenty of opportunity to seek recreation and relaxation in these much-loved parts of Australia.

“Kakadu National Park will be open for day use only, between 8 am and 5 pm. Most boat ramps will be open, meaning visitors will once again be able to enjoy some of the Top End’s best fishing.

“Mamukala Wetlands, Mangarre Rainforest, Bardedjilidji, Gungural, the Yurmikmik area and the Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) region will also be open, allowing for some stunning walks and access to Kakadu’s wildlife and world-class rock art,” Dr Findlay said.

“Overnight camping will not be permitted in Kakadu during the first stage of re-opening, however there are many accommodation options for visitors at Jabiru, Cooinda and Mary River.

“In order to keep flattening the COVID-19 curve, all tour operators will be required to carry their COVID-19 plan when with visitors.

“Currently, we are continuing to make some urgent infrastructure repairs across the park, including at the Bowali Visitor Centre which will remain closed for several weeks, district ranger stations and staff housing. These are a priority in supporting increased visitation.

“At Ulur̲u-Kata Tjut̲a National Park, walking tracks and sunrise and sunset viewing areas will be open. Visitors can take a walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole, hike around the base of Ulur̲u or explore Kata Tjut̲a’s breathtaking views. There are plenty of opportunities for walking, wildlife watching, photography and other activities.

“The Cultural Centre and associated businesses will remain closed during this first stage of re-opening, as will organised group activities and tours.

“We ask visitors to continue maintaining social distancing. We’ll be conducting additional cleaning of high contact areas and extra hand wash stations will be set up at key high-contact locations throughout the parks. Some paths or areas may be one-directional or have other health and safety restrictions related to COVID-19, so we request visitors please observe arrows and signs,” Dr Findlay said.

 

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Has COVID-19 finally put a nail in the neo-liberal coffin?

By Dr John Töns  

Has COVID-19 finally put the nail in the neo-liberal coffin? Morrison is rather self-congratulatory as to how well Australia has handled the crisis. Certainly, compared to other neo-liberal economies we have done rather well. But how do we compare to an economy that is not a neo-liberal economy?

When we compare the way the Marxist government of Kerala responded to COVID-19 to those western democracies committed to some form of neo-liberal agenda one is hard pressed to see merit in the neo-liberal ideology. The facts speak for themselves. Canada and Kerala have approximately the same size population; 37 and 35 million respectively. Canada has a per capita GDP of about $50,000 contrasted to Kerala with a per capita GDP of $2,700. Based on just those figures one would expect that Canada would have more resources to protect its population than Kerala. However, Canada had 97,114 cases resulted in 7,960 deaths whereas Kerala had a total of 2096 cases resulting in 16 deaths.

When we look at what sets Kerala apart, we can see that it was not just a case of responding better to the virus but rather that the country was simply better prepared. In many ways Kerala did much the same as most other countries. It had adopted the WHO protocol of ‘test, trace, isolate and support.’ This is much the same as Canada’s response. Arguably Kerala acted much faster than other polities. But that does not seem to be the full story.

Since 1957 Kerala has initiated land reforms, a robust public health and education system. The infrastructure was in place to enable it to respond quickly and efficiently to a pandemic. That infrastructure is publicly funded. The public sector is designed to respond to what people need, not to what people are willing to buy or can afford. The state identified a risk to the health and well-being of its citizens very early. A rapid response team was in place long before the virus had escaped Wuhan. How could a state with fewer resources than a wealthy country like Canada have fewer cases? Nor is it just an Asian thing – on a per capita basis Kerala outperformed both South Korea and Singapore. Singapore does also provide an interesting point of comparison. Singapore had a ‘second wave’ outbreak.

The world had been busy congratulating Singapore on its ability to contain the virus, but its second wave gave us a better insight into what was happening. The second wave occurred among the many thousands of migrant workers who lived cheek by jowl in cramped conditions. In Kerala 150,000 migrant workers were trapped by the national lockdown. These 150,000 people were well looked after given three meals a day for six weeks whilst they waited for the lockdown to be lifted. They did not add to their COVID-19 infections. Yet migrant workers in Singapore did. Why was there such a marked difference?

Writing on Facebook, Bilahari Kausikan, an ex-diplomat, put it bluntly: “We did drop the ball on [foreign workers] which are invisible to most Singaporeans.” But why would they be invisible? Marx referred to the reification of labour within an advanced capitalist economy. In Singapore and in many other parts of the world some workers are rendered invisible by the role they play in society – they may be employed as cleaners, construction workers and the like but they are not part of society – they are tools that shape the society and as such little attention is paid to them by public officials. As a result, their role in society renders them invisible. Public policy does not deal with the invisible – the invisible do not vote; it is only when the invisible impact on the lives of the visible that they come to our attention. One sees this around the world.

When a major city holds a major event like the Olympics the homeless are quickly rounded up – seeing homeless people sleeping on the streets is not a good look when a city wishes to show case itself. In the lead up to the 2016 games in Rio Catalytic communities launched a programme to bring visibility to the favela community voices in the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. The blog was so successful that ten years later it is still bringing the plight of the invisible people to the world’s attention. Thus, as Tokyo was preparing its bid we find that in order to create a good impression for The International Olympic Evaluation Commission. Tokyo’s Metropolitan Government welcomed the Commission by spending nearly US$5.5 million on the trip. Preparations included two weeks of city sweeps, removing homeless people’s tents and other possessions along the streets where the IOC Evaluation Commission members would pass by on their luxury bus tour.

These largely invisible people also seem to have the highest rate of infections and deaths. They are another denial that black lives matter or perhaps we should refer to it as a denial that invisible lives matter. These people at the bottom of society keep the wheels of the neo-liberal economy grinding along. In a neo-liberal economy, the poor, the disadvantaged do not count. One only has to look at the rapidity with which the Morrison government is dismantling its expenditure on the poor. Not only is the plan to revert the dole to its pre-covid status but job seekers are required to demonstrate that they are busy applying for the non-existent jobs. Childcare funding is being ripped out – again impacting adversely on women and single mothers.

Thus far Labor has been muted in its criticism. It is time Labor made an unambiguous stand and showed that the impact of COVID-19 was as bad as it was because we have a government that is more concerned about the economy than the welfare and the health of all Australians. For a little while we were all in it together. But no longer.

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Listen to the experts

By Ad astra  

Are you as impressed as I am with Australia’s response to COVID-19? It is regarded as perhaps the most competent reaction, amongst similar nations, of how to manage an outbreak of a vicious virus.

Why is it so?

In my view, this outcome has resulted because our decision makers at both federal and local levels have listened to the experts, and have followed their advice.

We are fortunate to have such expert advice in abundance: scientific, medical, psychological, nursing, epidemiological, and public health.

This piece names many of these experts. Their images have not been included, as the piece would have taken too long to load on your device. However, photos of most of them have been linked to their names. Should you be unfamiliar with them, click these links and their images will appear. Some experts may have been inadvertently omitted. If so, we apologize. Some images may be copyright.

You will be familiar with the clutch of professors and specialists in medicine, mental health and community health that have appeared in the media countless times: You will remember particularly Brendan Murphy and Paul Kelly who give regular updates, Michael Kidd, AM, who provides us with the general practice viewpoint, Ian HickeyPat McGorryRuth VineChristine Morgan, and Georgie Harman of Beyond Blue, who address the mental health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Alison McMillan, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, and Annie Butler, of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, who cover nursing aspects.

Behind the scenes we have our senior sages in medical science: Peter Doherty who heads the Doherty Institute, one of his directors, Sharon Lewin who often provides sound advice to the public, and many other outstanding scientists, and Stephen Duckett of the Grattan Institute.

Dr Norman Swan

Everyone admires the daily updates that Norman Swan gives us on radio and TV. He has become the face of timely, lucid, reliable, and richly informative advice, which all of us value greatly.

You will have admired the lucidity of the several deputies who have explained the evolving status of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we should do. Often striking young doctors, they have impressed us with their clarity, the depth of their knowledge, and the ease with which they have addressed their audiences. Nick Coatesworth is a classic example. Brett SuttonJeanette Young and Jenny Firman of the RAN are three others.

As a medico, I have admired their expertise and communication skills. Our medical schools ought to be proud of these graduates. To me, their straightforwardness, their plausibility, and the absence of political spin make a striking contrast to the spin and deceptiveness with which politicians habitually assail us as they try to make a political point, no matter how distressing the situation is to ordinary folk.

The result of these expert ministrations is a well-planned program of remediation and prevention that federal and state political leaders have implemented, with encouraging results. Australia’s approach is already being hailed internationally as a model for handling pandemics. The spread of the virus has been limited, and in many places controlled, with relatively few new outbreaks occurring, and where they have, they have been assessed rapidly and ameliorated.

We have become familiar with ‘flattening the curve’, and have watched with satisfaction as it steadily did so.

We have noted too the disastrous consequences of leaders ignoring expert advice, and substituting their own inexpert, stupid and dangerous solutions. Donald Trump leads the field, and we can see where that has taken the US: almost 2 million cases and over 112,000 deaths so far!

Even Labor supporters acknowledge the success of our government’s program at both federal and local levels, and support it strongly. They too know that most of the success has been listening to the experts and following their advice, based as it is on science and experience.

What a pity it is that politicians ignore expert advice from scientists working in other fields, notably the study of climate change and environmental protection because it conflicts with their ideological position.

If only they would listen to the experts and use their advice!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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Seeking the Post-Corona Sunshine: Time for More Momentum on Sustainable Environments and Social Justice

By Denis Bright  

Nationwide support for Black Lives Matter demonstrates our capacity to over-ride cautions from political elites during the current public health crisis if the demand for protest is urgent enough.

After 70,000 years of human settlement in Australia, the spirit of the Dreamtime is just as relevant as ever in advancing human rights and ecological sustainability.

Mainstream environmental education can be a refocus of Dreamtime Interpretations and extend from environmental education itself to literature and natural sciences.

The appeal of our exotic landscapes has surely been rekindled by the isolation imposed during the COVID-19 era. Australians might largely be prevented from embarking on non-essential overseas travel for the foreseeable future beyond the proposed COVID-safe travel bubble to New Zealand and some adjacent Pacific Islands.

Neo-conservatives will be nostalgic  about a rapid return to the perceived normalcy of a corporately driven society. Promoting fear of China will damage our own economic recovery from the current public health crisis.

Fair scrutiny of overseas investment and commercial franchises are always necessary. These controls should not just be directed at one country which now has frosty relationships with the Trump Administration.

It may indeed take decades before there is a return to even-handed Chinese investment in Australia. In the interim corporate investment will always be at the behest of multinational corporate leaders with their penchant for systematic tax evasion through overseas tax havens and dodgy accounting practices (Nassim Khaden in The SMH 20 May 2018):

Fast-food giant McDonald’s has defended its long-standing practice of paying hundreds of millions of dollars of royalties offshore, which reduces its local taxes, as a legitimate business practice.

The American company’s latest financial accounts for the year ending December 31, 2017, show McDonald’s paid its head entity – previously based in Singapore but now based in Britain – a “service fee” amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. Payment of the fee reduced McDonald’s Australia’s tax bill because it lowered its taxable profit.

McDonald’s Australia reported paying a service fee of $388.8 million to related entity McDonald’s Asia Pacific (up from $374.6 million in 2016). The company confirmed the entire $388.8 million was a royalty fee.

Environmental education should indeed be a focus of school curricula options in the post-corona era in most subject areas in contrast to the negative outcomes generated saturation advertising of junk-foods. This not so remote landscape at Chillagoe, just 250 kms west of Cairns hardly needs the enhancement of fried chicken packs.

Focus on Protecting Species and Ecosystems: Image of the Limestone Cliffs from the Chillagoe Caving Club in N.Q.

Creative focus on environments justifies an introductory focus on just how local environments at Chillagoe fit onto the broader patterns of tropical savanna ecosystems.

As with most overseas educational resources, some fine tuning of the Distribution of the Key Global Biomes is required. The main shortcoming of the global distribution map is surely the category of Mixed and Deciduous Forests which needs more sub-classifications and some fine-tuning of inaccuracies in the colourful  mix provided for students.

It is for students and their teachers to clarify the diversity of natural and built environments in each of the ecosystems covered. In this recovery phase from a major public health crisis, environmental awareness is good for morale even if it is simply a local walk or bicycle ride.

Even a quite accurate Geology Map of Metro Brisbane is far-too generalised to cover all the habitat niches in local areas where rock formations present a baffling challenge to students and educators alike. Here past heritages, present realities and future trends interact.

Advancing Earth and Space Science (30 April 2020) has provided some topical anecdotes on the easy access available to the Gold Mine Picnic Area at Mt. Coot-tha in Brisbane which I hope to visit myself for the first time. (Report by Evelyn Mervine):

One of our favourite hikes at Mount Coot-tha is along the Ghost Hole Track, which takes you past some old gold mine workings. At Mount Coot-tha, there is gold mineralization is located in small quartz-rich lenses that are located in meta-sedimentary rocks, specifically in the Bunya Phyllite and the Neranleigh-Fernvale Beds.

The gold mineralization at Mount Coot-tha is not spectacular. However, there was intermittent gold mining on the mountain from the 1890s to the 1950s. Today, no gold prospecting or mining is permitted in the forest, but you can take a walk along an easy hiking trail to see an old gold mining shaft and some remnants of mining infrastructure. You can even have a picnic at the “Gold Mine Picnic Area”.

We really enjoy our little hikes through the former gold mining area. The forest is beautiful, and the remnants of gold mining and associated informational signs are interesting. The hike is perfect if you want an easy, but interesting, hike to go on with a toddler.

Image from blogs.agu.org/

Our international perspectives might also be so different if Australians identified with the Biomes on the North-South Divide between the Arctic and the Antarctic.

This perspective takes us such a long way from the mainstream media perspectives of international affairs with an artificial focus on a Washington DC.

The deafness of the Trump Administration to the problem of climate change in the Indo Pacific Basin is indeed one of the gravest security threats of our times. No amount of militarisation of our region will address the problem in the future.

Contemporary geopolitical boundaries do exist. However, the focus on divisions and perceived strategic threats should not be opportunities for the spread of militarism as welcomed by the federal LNP during the Trump era (The Canberra Times, 24 August 2019):

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has opened the first phase of the expanded naval base at Lombrum on Manus Island, it has been reported.

Australia has been working with the US and Papua New Guinea to upgrade the strategically significant deep-water port into a key staging point into Asia.

The base will host Australian and US naval ships as part of a deal signed with Papua New Guinea and is seen as a potential counter to China’s rising influence in the contested South China Sea.

Manus Island now has a new wharf, facilities for maritime infrastructure and long-range communications, and troop barracks, News Corp reports.

The Australian Navy and Air Force have also been involved in training PNG forces and overhauling local aircraft, and four patrol boats are set to be gifted to the Pacific nation.

“It has always been a very strategic location in our region, and this is a base the Papua New Guineans have identified that they would like to further develop,” Senator Reynolds told News Corp.

“This is strategically important … in a military context it has always been important and remains so.”

Senator Reynolds said the defence deal with PNG was worth $42 million per year and included training, infrastructure and hardware.

Base commander Peter Tupma claimed the expansion was necessary.

“The world is shifting and there are power plays in our region and we are very blessed to be in partnership with Australia,” he said.

Does Australia indeed speak for a diverse region when it imposes a militaristic future on an island which served as the location of a refugee detention centre and now a high-profile defence base at the expanded Lombrum Naval Base?

Giving Peace a Better Chance in the Post-Corona Era

Australia: Still Girt by Strategic Seas (image from Jane’s Polynesia Home Page Online 2017)

It was the government of Peter O’Neil in PNG which ordered the closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre which was the scene of riots in 2014. Does the anguish of the 2014 riots justify a militaristic future for the island in a bizarre power game about perceived strategic threats from China to our region? (The Guardian 1 June 2020).

Compulsive obedience to great and powerful friends abroad within the US Global Alliance carries too many blind spots which this weekend’s rallies in both Australia and the USA have sought to expose. A renewed focus on Dreamtime values will surely assist in tempering our obedience to great and powerful friends with alternative visions of new military bases and space warfare as future distractions to the Australian Spirit.

Two leaders from the Five Eyes Intelligence network are already offside with the antics of the Trump Administration from New Zealand and Canada. Australian activism can tip the balance in favour of more dissent in the Echelon surveillance network.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

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