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Death by a thousand cuts

By freef’all852

Living by a simple philosophy

“1983 … Business of survival. With the death of Richard I must now manage alone, on one pension. The house seems in good condition. No large account, only the small loan I had taken out, which finishes in June 1985. Must try not to take out anymore loans, to (sic) much drain on my low income. I must try to live on produce from garden, with eggs to help out. Try to cut down on weekly food bills, most of all on meat. The animals take quite a lot (money) for food, reg, etc. As the fowls are all getting old, must breed up some new hens.“

That quote was from an aged pensioner’s diary. Sure, we know she was not going to die of hunger or homelessness. Or do we? She certainly was afraid of some vague uncertainty, and therein lies the simple truth: “A lifetime of habit, creates a certainty of belief … a moment of uncertainty doubts a lifetime of belief ”. For that lady, her entire life was constructed around hard work. The old-age pension that Labor and the unions put in place gave her a measure of security so she could live out her final years in dignity. That is a word well worth praising; “Dignity”. Let’s put that up there at the top of the page of Labor principles.

Dignity

And damn if a person who applies their pension to contribute toward the social betterment of their family, friends and neighbours. They are denied that most basic of respects; Dignity! And it only comes from others who have walked that same path. The speculator, always on the make, always on the lookout for the next “win”, the next “deal”, has neither wish nor capacity for dignity. He has traded it away with a Faustian deal with capital. No need to look to him for a “fair go”, his motto is; “Opportunity”. But does he seriously believe that if he did not exist, there would be no work to do?

Actually, the name that lady called her late husband was not quite correct. His name really was Riccardo. He was an Italian, she was born in Australia of Irish/Cornish stock (now there‘s a mix!) But it is not at all uncommon. Of the three sisters in that lady’s family, after the war, one married an Italian, one married a German (third generation Australian) and the third a Polish man. This idea that we are just lately become a multi-cultural nation is not true; for many years there has been intermarriage in the community. Sure, the surnames may be Anglo, but there is mixed ethnic in the family somewhere, and we should be proud of this. Love knows no boundaries, children know no race.

Anyway, moving on …

I keep hearing this catch-cry; ”What does Labor stand for?” To my mind, Labor stands for what it was raised for; a simple measure of dignity … in work, in leisure, in the fair go for all people. I remember when I was about ten years old – with my older brother – selling newspapers at the Royal Show. The manager would allocate you so many papers for the day, you’d sell them, putting all the coins into a leather bag at your hip and at the end of the day you’d give the bag over to that manager and he’d count out what you owed for the papers and any over (you’d get tips, but most times didn’t have the time to separate the tip from the coinage) including tips he’d give back to you along with your pay. But there was this one big bastard manager one year who’d keep most of your tips. My older brother, being a stroppy sort of young fellow, challenged him (my brother was canny enough to keep a careful watch on his tips) and the manager got angry, saying; ”If you don’t like the way I do things, you can get off with yourself !” … and thatincluded me. So a thirteen and a ten year old couple of kids get cheated by an unscrupulous manager (News Limited, by the way!). Nothing new, neither then nor now! MacDonalds do it all the time. It’s called “cheap labour” But to cheat kids! what sort of people are these? Vermin who steal the rights of their fellows. Labor, with the unions, stand up for those rights. Let’s put that up on the list.

Rights

And damn if a person applies their advantageous position to cheat even paper-boys. What sort of bastards are we up against? And they ask; “What does Labor stand for?” Labor stands for what it was raised to stand for: the Rights of the everyday people to stop the vermin from ripping off the wages of all people and to bestow on all of us what Gough Whitlam called for and what Labor calls for now: “A fair go”.

Moving on again …

Labor must think carefully before they pass these new “security laws” put up by Brandis and co. They are not to protect us from terrorism, but are deliberately being put in place to track and control our own citizens. It is as obvious as the nose on your face. There has to be a measure of restraint in how far we go to cower and threaten the populace. There has to be a measure of dignity and rights in our confrontation of any threat. Better we offer safe harbour to the majority of whom have been driven from their homelands in fear of their lives or livelihood, like those three men-folk above, than attempt to cower and oppress a minority for little more than their own particular culture.

Now read these comments and tell me they are irrelevant today:

“ As rivers glisten in different colours, but a common sewer everywhere looks like itself … so the all powerful rule of capital ruined the middle class, raised trade and corporate agriculture to the highest prosperity, and ultimately led to a – hypocritically whitewashed – moral and political corruption of the nation…”

And:

“The leisure class lives by the industrial community rather than in it. Its relations to industry are of a financial rather than an industrial kind. Admission to the class is gained by exercise of the financial aptitudes—aptitudes for acquisition rather than for serviceability. There is, therefore, a continued selective sifting of the human material that makes up the leisure class, and this selection proceeds on the ground of fitness for financial pursuits.”

Both the above pieces are over one hundred years old. The first, by Theodor Mommsen on ancient Rome, the second by Thorsten Veblen on post Victorian capitalism. Yet they could both have been written today. Why is it that such rational observations go unheeded in our society? I read such and take them in and use them (as you see here) as moral and ethical fodder in my own life. Where do we see such civilized observations used widely? I don’t know. I don’t hear or see it in everyday life. Where is the scholarly debate among political higher learning in this nation? Education abandoned, that’s where. Let’s put that word up there too …

Education

And damn if the multitude of tomes of wisdom that have been written in the tears of humanity over millennium get abandoned for stupid, facil , quick-fix slogans. What sort of people are these who, flaunting their higher education, claim the high ground of public debate, yet cannot or will not learn from history and will not read from the wisdom of the ages? There are those who cannot claim education beyond the third year high school, who read and revere such books … their shelves a proud display of well-thumbed volumes. And some ask “what should Labor stand for?” Education. Labor stands for what it was raised for: Education for all peoples, not the abandonment of an age of learning, but education.

The many different ethnic groups that come to these shores, from the earliest to the latest have one goal in mind: ”Betterment” … of their family fortunes, their security and their children’s education. It is that simple, sure, (and I mean no disrespect, only metaphor) … they brought their metwurst and salami and tabouli and prayers with them. That is their immediate security. We all take a bit of “home” when we go on holiday: How many Victorians have gone on the summer holidays to the Merrimbula Caravan Park with a couple of dozen slabs of “Vic’ Bitter” in the boot? When one is driven in haste and fear from one’s house, what would you grab? A piece, any piece of home? That is what “culture “ is … a little piece of the past to carry with oneself into the future. In the worst case it could be but a poem, a prayer, a song from the motherland. In the best case it is the family. How can one reject the call of assistance, not charity, but assistance to a family in need and still shelter under the common name of humanity?

So there are the players, and there are the situations. We know what the problems are today, but what can be the solution?

There is a secret desire; the realization that there is really a need for time off from work. But it can be more than that. It can be the barricade between capital demand and producer compliance. A demarcation line between demand and supply. I have never liked sacrificing my weekends for overtime, ever! Damn their work. No-one should be compelled to work on the weekend, and if they must – as in the emergency services – then they ought to be suitably, very suitably rewarded. Work will be around a long time after we are all dead and gone! And there can be the solution to differentiating labour from capita … the inviolate weekend … the compulsory time off for R&R.  For as long as one stays healthy, one can always earn money. But time is of the essence. You will run out of time before you run out of money. Take the time. Screw the money. Let capital know it has no price for your free-time. And they still ask what Labor stands for. Labor stands for what it was raised for: honouring the eight hour day (or its modern equivalent) – honouring family time, personal time, resting time. Those who would try to reduce the vulnerable to a kind of 24hr slavery would love to claim ownership of the whole of our weekend. Bugger them! They can’t have it!

The solution is that we who are the producers, the consumers, the life and breath of business, take control of our working lives. We draw a demarcation line between being compelled to work and a time for life. We stop the machine for a pause in production so we can enjoy our family and friendships. I say we take back our lives and deny the vermin their pound of flesh! It has never been the speculator who physically laid the foundations, never the stock-broker who mixed the mortar, never the wealthy who carried the “hod of bricks” to build our house. They don’t own it … they don’t own us … they owe us!

That, is Labor policy. Dignity, rights, and education, and whatever else flows automatically from those simple entitlements. Stake your ground, claim your rights and serve your people.

”The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes“ … (Shakespeare).

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

The Finkel Review isn’t bad … it’s weak.

By John Barker

Put Trump and May aside for 10 minutes. It’s what is happening in the Great Southern Land that’s making me cross.

Twinkle, Finkel – you’re not a star. What to make of the “Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market” (NEM), Chaired by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

I turn to the Bard for guidance:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeits of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance… I should have been that I am, had the maidenl’est star in the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing (King Lear).

I have been involved in the “energy futures debate” for almost half a century. Over that time, the four guiding stars of clean, renewable energy have inexorably moved into conjunction: the science, the technology, the markets and community understanding.

But, over that half-century, the incumbent suppliers of energy – the coal-diggers, the oil-drillers, and the electricity supply organisations – have resisted at every step; denying the problem, deriding the technology and besmirching the “renewalists”, who have been depicted, essentially, as enemies of the State … “greenies, hippies, idealists, communists”.

As the science of both solar energy and climate change became irrefutable, the “Carbonistas” shifted their attack to the nature of the emerging technologies – they were “unreliable” – and their role was to “provide reliable energy to the whole community at the lowest cost”.

But as the cost of renewables has inexorably and dramatically declined, the emphasis of resistance has focused on “reliability”. But, consonant with the zeitgeist, the language has shifted from “reliability” to “security”. In these dangerous times, you can never have too much “security”.

“Security” has become a quixotic quest, as though every wind generator were a giant, a monster attacking the “security” of our society’s stable and benign power stations.

But we know that our power stations are neither stable or benign. Indeed, they are fairly stable, but who has not experienced a brown-out or black-out due to a storm or some poor soul ramming him or her self into a suburban power pole, or restrictions due to over-use of air conditioners in a heat wave? Yes, the lights went off and the fridge started to defrost … but we survived it.

Most people in the east of Australia probably don’t know that Western Australia tried to address the “energy (ie electricity) security” problem after a heat wave in 2002 led to electricity restrictions and defrosting of supermarket freezers. A massive over-supply of generating capacity ensued, culminating in a massive subsidy (about $0.5 billion/year) to keep electricity prices at about the national average of 25c/kWh. Un-subsidised, the price would be more like 35c. And the oversupply is reducing the WA Government’s ability to support renewables.

I think that the Finkel Review will lead to a similar situation in the Eastern States’ NEM; higher prices in the name of “security”. And, no doubt, a subdued pursuit of renewables and climate change mitigation.

The simple facts are that solar and wind are cheaper than carbon-power – and getting cheaper – and that their impact on reliability and security at present are minimal; they are at the 5% level, but growing. Of course, we need to plan for change, but change will be in terms of decades, not days. Increasingly, energy-intensive industry is finding that there is greater security and reliability and economy available in renewables, rather than coal, diesel or gas.

Renewable energy technologies are following the same dynamic as most “disruptive” technologies. They start out to solve an existing problem, but, with time, they create new possibilities that re-define the problem. For example, a friend of mine has developed a PV-powered water heater that will deliver hot water at a cost of less than 5c/kWh and last for 30 years. It is about 3-4 years away from large-scale production. Hot water becomes the “battery” for PV electricity. Other examples abound.

The basic problem is that governments – both State and Federal – are forced into being subservient to sectional and private interests, rather than serving the public interest by using the “common-wealth” of public financing and public information. Change is difficult if your “loyalty” (to use a Trumpism) isn’t to the “truth” ( to use a Comeyism).

In summary, the Finkel Review isn’t bad … it’s weak. It’s just that, if, as Turnbull and Shorten hope, it takes the energy debate off the table, it will lock in the status quo, leaving us all poorer and therefore less secure.

We can’t blame Finkel for this. He’s very bright and trying to preserve what little respect there is left for scientific opinion in this dull-witted, lawyer-dominated political environment. Remember, we elected them.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings …” (Julius Caesar).

 

An advanced society? Surely not.

By freef’all852

In his book The Road to Serfdom, Freidrich Hayek asserts that the economic freedom of capitalism is a requisite of political freedom … with continual growth being the mechanism that feeds such “economic freedom”.

So we have to propose the question: What makes an “Advanced Society”?

Could it be that as proposed by Hayek above? Or is it something more basic, more durable, more sustainable than the capitalist notion of continuous growth or continuous consumption? Can it be presumed that a technological advanced society holds greater ethical dominance and therefore deserved racial dominance over the more stable tribal structures that once were spread throughout the Australian environment for tens of thousands of years?

Consider these examples:

Eucalyptus Largiflorens (Black Box) : Distribution and occurrence: Local community dominant, in grassy woodland on heavy black clay soils in seasonally flooded areas.

In this area of South Australia it is primarily restricted to what were once swamplands. This tree, like many that have evolved to an environment-specific location can be found near my residence in the Mallee. Like the Mallee trees everywhere, it has evolved in a stable, static environment over many thousands of years. Indeed, you can see that a multitude of trees and understory in the Mallee bio-forest were reliant on such a stable environment for them to spread so wide, so far in such profusion. Any extreme disruption of climate or landscape would have changed the appearance and bio-diversity of the entire forest and its denizens that is a “given”. We have to accept that the very existence of such a bio-forest system proves beyond argument that the geography where they settled, took root and evolved, was stable, static and sustainable for a very long period of time.

This is an important point to my argument; we have to understand and accept that the Mallee bio-forest, from the dry lands to the swamplands, from the canopy to the forest floor is a unique interconnected species specific/environment specific entity that relies upon a stable, static geophysical situation to maintain it’s integrity. Certainly, that integrity has been corrupted over the last two hundred years since settlement to the point where we cannot truthfully claim that pristine Mallee exists anymore at all. It has become a victim of “continual economic growth” … and one has to logically conclude that in the last resort of sustainable life; if the environment fails, then so too will the society that killed it.

Likewise, if we look at the Indigenous peoples who lived and thrived for many thousands of years along the Lower Murray and The Coorong in South Australia, I will not even attempt to disassemble the complex tribal structures that existed along the lower Murray River. It would be presumption on my part and liable to insulting error. Enough to point out that settlement is proven for many thousands of years. Indeed, carbon dating of one site of middens (discarded mollusc shell-heaps along The Coorong) alone put it back to 2.500cal BP (2.500 years old) … so we have evidence that of the many sites scattered along the seaward-side of The Coorong there was regular gathering and consumption of a reliable food source by the Indigenous peoples for thousands of years. I saw these middens many years ago. Scattered amongst the site were numerous camp-fire circles, denoting the practice of stopping, gathering, cooking and consumption of the food and presumably the social intercourse that accompanies such moments.

For such feasting to have taken place (these middens are huge!), would prove the reliable, regular supply of the molluscs and the reliable, regular harvesting by a group of peoples familiar with and capable of attending to such a chore on a continual basis for thousands of years. I know the geography of The Coorong well: On the seaward-side we have bountiful harvest of shell-fish, on the landward-side we have bird and mammal life, and the evidence of Indigenous people’s fish-traps on The Coorong, indicate regular harvesting of food there. The abundance of fresh water from the natural South East drainage system then in place guaranteed the presence of kangaroos, emus and sundry wildlife for food and clothing. In all, one must admit, that along with the temperate climate, not a bad place to reside. Indeed, it could be considered almost an idyll – and reside here people did – undisturbed for many thousands of years. Mark that! Food, clothing, shelter of a quantity and quality that remained in situ for many thousands of years, exploited but not over-exploited, harvested but not depleted, lived with but not dominated … and perhaps it could have gone on for time immemorial … like it already had … if not finally destroyed by the kind of “advanced society” lauded by Mr. Hayek at the start of this article.

So tell me: What constitutes an advanced society? Is it the one who uses its developed technology to invade, subjugate, desecrate and finally, perhaps, annihilate that very environment it relies upon for its life? Or is it the other who, with astute observation recognizes a “line” between sustainability and destruction, and by managing its population, refuses to be tempted by the possibility of a gluttony of temporary riches and maintains a judicious, salubrious lifestyle and culture for many thousands of years, visiting the same locations for food, clothing, shelter without desecration nor selfish accumulation?

So you tell me: Who has the most “advanced society” ?

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

 

House without love

By freef’all852

Such is the “House of God”… be it of the three Abrahamic faiths that most torment us in these times, or any number of deity worshiping beliefs held sacred upon altar or plinth. There has been never plague nor pestilence, tyrant or warmongering horde of barbarians of such severity that could in fear or hate set brother against brother, father against son, citizen against state till every hint of architecture or vestige of civilisation has been torn asunder and then in a final gesture of total vindictiveness ground to dust … than the scourge of fanatical religious belief that there is greater reward in a kingdom of heaven.

There is no love in the breast of organised religion, though it may profess such and even call its proselytisers to promote such. There is no love in the House of God … there is only blind obedience, discipline and fear. There is no sincere exchange of human devotion between devout religious lovers, lest the jealousies of a God scorned, deliver their souls to perdition. There is procreation with neither lust nor desire, charity without empathy and prayer only with a reliance on fear: “A man cannot serve two masters”.

Religion is a house without love:

“The condemnation of the wisest and most virtuous of the Pagans, on account of their ignorance or disbelief of the divine truth, seems to offend the reason and the humanity of the present age. But the primitive church, whose faith was of a much firmer consistence, delivered over, without hesitation, to eternal torture, the far greater part of the human species. A charitable hope might perhaps be indulged in favor of Socrates, or some other sages of antiquity, who had consulted the light of reason before that of the gospel had arisen. But it was unanimously affirmed, that those who, since the birth or the death of Christ, had obstinately persisted in the worship of the daemons, neither deserved nor could expect a pardon from the irritated justice of the Deity. These rigid sentiments, which had been unknown to the ancient world, appear to have infused a spirit of bitterness into a system of love and harmony. The ties of blood and friendship were frequently torn asunder by the difference of religious faith; and the Christians, who, in this world, found themselves oppressed by the power of the Pagans, were sometimes seduced by resentment and spiritual pride to delight in the prospect of their future triumph. “You are fond of spectacles,” exclaims the stern Tertullian; “expect the greatest of all spectacles, the last and eternal judgment of the universe. How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs, so many fancied gods, groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates, who persecuted the name of the Lord, liquefying in fiercer fires than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in red-hot flames with their deluded scholars; so many celebrated poets trembling before the tribunal, not of Minos, but of Christ; so many tragedians, more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers.”

“But the humanity of the reader will permit me to draw a veil over the rest of this infernal description, which the zealous African pursues in a long variety of affected and unfeeling witticisms.” (Gibbon’s Decline and Fall … Christian Religion pt 4).

One need not go through the separate faiths, as the above could suffice for the many. It seems a universal doctrine that one blind faith has no sympathy for the other of whatever shade of deity or doctrine. However, one has to take into consideration the times of the rise in influence of these three Abrahamic Faiths.

Judaism rose in an ad hoc series of tenets from the mists of ancient Persia and environs, pulling bits and pieces of texts and doctrine from many sources including a touch of Zoroastrian. It survived many oppressions and pogroms to finally gain state attention and legitimacy in the times of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and the “Jewish wars” … and afterwards competing for regal favour with the rising “new kid on the block”: Its own “bastard child”; Christianity.

Islam too rose from the result of war between Mohammad and his pagan relatives in Mecca. No love lost there, and still none! And the consequence of the fourth Christian crusade invading and sacking Constantinople, in lieu of payment to the Doge of Venice, on their way to the Holy Lands where they got done like a dinner by the Islam armies once again, who didn’t stop this time until they crossed the Bosphorus to take the once impregnable Constantinople, now left wide open because the brilliant strategy of the Christian Crusade destroyed the last outpost of Christianity that was a solid buffer against the oncoming tide of Islam from the east. Brilliant strategy, again no love lost there.

“There are two very natural propensities which we may distinguish in the most virtuous and liberal dispositions, the love of pleasure and the love of action. If the former is refined by art and learning, improved by the charms of social intercourse, and corrected by a just regard to economy, to health, and to reputation, it is productive of the greatest part of the happiness of private life. The love of action is a principle of a much stronger and more doubtful nature. It often leads to anger, to ambition, and to revenge; but when it is guided by the sense of propriety and benevolence, it becomes the parent of every virtue, and if those virtues are accompanied with equal abilities, a family, a state, or an empire, may be indebted for their safety and prosperity to the undaunted courage of a single man. To the love of pleasure we may therefore ascribe most of the agreeable, to the love of action we may attribute most of the useful and respectable, qualifications. The character in which both the one and the other should be united and harmonized, would seem to constitute the most perfect idea of human nature. The insensible and inactive disposition, which should be supposed alike destitute of both, would be rejected, by the common consent of mankind, as utterly incapable of procuring any happiness to the individual, or any public benefit to the world. But it was not in this world, that the primitive Christians were desirous of making themselves either agreeable or useful.” (Gibbon’s Decline and Fall … Christian Religion).

I call myself a “Rational Atheist”. The atheist part needs no explanation, neither should the “rational” bit, considering that only an irrational person would believe in a God and/or a religion to save their soul from some sort of described above “eternal damnation”. That we have a ”soul” is certain. I can sense the spirituality of the day when I go to feed the animals in these cold mornings; I step outside and at once the chill of the air touches my skin and I can feel the cool zephyr as it courses over my face as I move about..the chipped, crusty-bark of the mallee trees, the cries of strange birds, the call of the chooks in their yard give delight to my senses and focus the mind on the duties to perform … and sometimes a remembered song will enhance the mood as I sing it to the horses as I give them their morning feed. All is well with the soul.

These senses, some would say give evidence of God’s creation, yet we know through a millennia of concentrated scientific inquisitiveness where each and every one of those senses derive Science has taught me the structure and evolution of both flora and fauna … the origin and transmission of both sound through air and fury of wind. I walk out in the morning not thinking nor philosophising upon these realities, but aware of the necessity of preparing against the extremes, so I wear warm gloves where practical, rug-up with warm clothes and pull on a beanie against those chilled, crispy ears, because I know that whatever some may declare about a “loving , caring Jesus”, a “kind and benevolent God”, there’s really only one person (I here acknowledge the caring partner who reminds one to “put a warm pair of daks on or you’ll freeze your cute arse off in that air!) who will look to my well-being in this life. And that is yours Truly with a capital “T”.

Yes, it is only the irrational person who would go to a “God” to resolve their trembling fixations. And while there could be said; “There are no atheists in foxholes” I would rather believe that there is “Too much fear of going to meet one’s death in foxholes”. Because if you believe in a God who cannot even save the life of one sad drowning toddler washed up on a beach in Turkey … then you’ll believe in anything, because if there is one certainty in this life as in any “next”: In the “House of God”, there is no love.

Here is a short lesson on the awakening of reason … The Conversion of Father Carravalo.

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

 

The so-called “Cashless Welfare Card”

By Neil Hogan

Not too many people would dispute that there are problems in some communities that need addressing, but thrusting the Cashless Welfare Card on all for the acts of a few is not the answer.

Rather than spending a fortune to administer the Cashless Welfare Card and in the process funneling Commonwealth money to Indue, the money would be much better spent setting up local support groups where the problems exist to get to the root causes that leads to the problems, and set about to change them and help those who need help the most to change their ways.

The fact that any money spent this way would also go into the local economy instead of Indue’s coffers is just an added bonus.

Depriving people of the basic right to spend their money how they see fit is not welfare, it is punishment and will do nothing to resolve the root causes of the problems, in fact all it will do is:

a – build resentment against the people who actually need help.

b – build resentment against the government by the vast majority on welfare who are doing the right thing.

c – feather the nest beds of the few businesses approved to accept the Cashless Welfare Card.

d – promote a black market to get around the effects of the Cashless Welfare Card.

e – provide untold riches to Indue.

We all should ask ourselves; “Is that really the sort of society we want to live in or would we rather live in a society that tries to address the issues in a more humane, positive and harmonious way?”

Perhaps Minister Tudge needs experience at being unemployed

By Kate Zizys, National Branch Coordinator, AUWU

Recently the fortune of sponsorship allowed me to attend two stakeholder events that dealt with federal budget measures, specifically changes around Australia’s social welfare safety net. The Australian Council of Social Service ‘Post Budget Breakfast’, was essentially an information and discussion opportunity. ACOSS played host to Minister Scott Morrison as well as an observant panel of policy experts. Morrison left before any of them spoke. The Committee for Economic Development of Australia ‘Strengthening Australia’s Social Services Safety Net’, along with their major sponsor (and 20% of the attendees) SERCO, hosted Minister Alan Tudge in a full tilt funding primer.

The events were quite different in style and setting. ACOSS situated their breakfast in a university venue while CEDA positioned itself in the Sydney Hilton. ACOSS served up sausages and eggs and self-serve urns of hot beverage while CEDA served up big chunks of Osso Bucco dripping in rich sauce on a bed of saffron rice. A desert emulating minimalist painting followed and on flowed the fine wines throughout the entire show. Evidently it is standard to start drinking at 11.30am if you are fishing for business and networking with Government.

Both events shared the similarity of having an excess of security officers present, all sporting 2wire-Dhook earpieces with inline microphones and sharp tailored coats, CIA style, assuredly concealing standard issue fight-club weapons. They seemed slightly ridiculous, the men they were protecting appeared lackluster in their aura of celebrity and power and were more in danger of a pie in the face than any genuine risk. Morrison and Tudge both came across as glib and self satisfied. They struggled with their projections of sympathy and concern, neither man could find quite the right tempo when they spoke of those who are unemployed, both hit on something between derisive frustration and absolute contempt.

During his speech at the ACOSS breakfast Morrison was gleeful to the point of rubbing his hands together when he mentioned the PaTH Program. This pho-internship program operates much like the failed Work For The Dole scheme and will see young people interning for employment experience as part of their mutual obligation for receiving $218 per week to independently live on, up to the age of 25. This means PaTH is paid at $5.50 per hour. One of the providers is Subway, a fast food franchise. Another is the Australian Police Force. They probably need more police to patrol these kind of high risk events.

At the CEDA event Mr Tudge spoke about some inferential statistics regarding future projections that seemed unrelated to fiscal reality. He claimed that welfare recipients receive $49,000 a year in payments but on later questioning he was forced to redact that misleading tout. The Governments surreal social welfare policy measures were explained to the attendees in further weasel words. Representatives of major banks, property developers, pharmaceutical companies and recruitment agencies were treated to some heavy prose regarding the life and times of your average unemployed person. The PR company Thought Broker also attended, they are bound to land a contract, this kind of Schild und Schwert policy is going to be tough to sell. In truth these policies will effect every one of us, they are an offense to civil liberties, undermine our safety net, target vulnerable people and typecast all unemployed as criminal, violent and addicted. Considering the average working, renting Joe is close on two or three paychecks away from potential homelessness it is surprising there are so few speaking out against these proposals.

Both Morrison and Tudge also spoke of the English and New Zealand welfare model and how successfully it’s all going in those countries, when in fact homelessness in New Zealand is a growing problem and the English social welfare system is actually killing people, (see Callums List.org). These comments made SERCO’s sponsorship and attendance at the CEDA event obvious and cynical given the corporation already runs the detention racket in New Zealand and Australia and control a large proportion of the UK’s social services, including immigration services and disability support services. SERCO have a poor public reputation, they’ve been outed for overcharging the English Government by many millions for their services, they have been reportedly been involved in the abuse of detainees and exploiting immigrant labor. As this information is freely available on the internet, it seems strange that our Government doesn’t address it.

SERCO are playing for high stakes in the form of lucrative Government contracts which will be paid for by the tax payer. Any investments by private industry will only support shareholder dividends and company profits while the daily grinders now pay a proportion of their tax to private companies via Government welfare spending. Due to rampant privatization and economic rationalism gone wild, tax payers no longer have the choice to put money towards an accountable, cost effective and Government protected social welfare service designed to create social stability and be available to all households who earn beneath the taxable income threshold. The blow out cost of private industry managed welfare services is blamed entirely on the welfare recipients themselves, who live way below the poverty line.

According to Tudge’s tutorial, if you’re not at work, in any job, any job at all, you’re no longer really a functional human being, you’re a major addict of some parasitic type, “gaming the system”. Welfare recipients were described as cunning griffters, experts adept at shirking off, using major mental illness or liver cancer treatment as a poor excuse for avoiding good honest labour. There was no mention of those very awful jobs, which no one should do, such as the jobs employers don’t pay you properly or at all for. The jobs that are unsafe and break you physically. The jobs that require endurance beyond your capacities or the jobs controlled by bullies where you get physically and mentally harassed.

Both Morrison and Tudge extol values that seem to be based on the Soviet era Gulags where those in charge of the labour system were always ‘good’ and had the right to debase others. In the Minister’s world all employers are always good, honest people doing their best to accommodate workers. Tudge also told the crowd that ‘being unemployed gives you a mental illness’, this new information regarding neurological, psychological and psychiatric illnesses is sure to revolutionize psychiatric medicines approach to closed ward patients in mental health facilities around the country. Finally he pointed out that we all have low expectations of the unemployed workers and that’s why welfare recipients are not currently gainfully labouring in underpaid positions in far flung corners of tourist rich Australia.

At the ACOSS breakfast the attendees, representing peak welfare bodies and charitable not-for-profits among others, kept clapping enthusiastically after everything Morrison said even though the measures he discussed will be disabling to many people. The policies will have negative impacts on children and the aging population by financially destabilizing their guardians and carers. Clapping for Morrison’s every statement normalizes his parties negative attitude about people reliant on social welfare amoung those who should be most disturbed by it. Judging by the appearance of the crowd the applause was probably out of politeness, on a more cynical level it may have been about securing future funding. This kind of well mannered approach to policies that expand a system of suffering and entrenches a welfare industry designed to use the least fortunate communities as the main resource for company profit, or in the case of some not-for-profits as leverage to expand the organization, seems very misplaced.

Within the CEDA/SERCO event the nature of collusive politics and corporate deal making was more pronounced. The event itself cost $300 per person and there were 57 attendees. That is a total of $17,100 just for a luncheon. A small amount for many of those present no doubt but at the table kindly funded by activist group GetUp, completely dumbstruck, sat the few people in the room with genuine, lived insight into the experience of Centrelink legislation coupled with Disability Employment and Job Active Network mutual obligation strategies. Tudge yarned on about Aboriginal people before he segued into tales of those other, “similar demographics”, unemployed with substance abuse and impulse control problems apparently, who need a firm hand and no money at all unless they can give up the drugs, gambling and alcohol and be quick about it. SERCO will no doubt be managing this transition into further destitution.

The CEDA event started at 12 and finished at 2.30. It was net-worth more than a person on Newstart or DSP survives on for a full year. Those on welfare payments who receive well under the cost of Tudge’s lunch to live on, entirely, for a whole week, listened to him explaining how the demerit point system would prevent unemployed people, single parents included, access to any money in the event of non-compliance, which includes missing appointments, presumably overseen by the Job Provider industry. Four strikes and you’re out for four weeks, on reapplication you will be drug and alcohol tested and if you test positive you’ll be out again. To hear Tudge speak of welfare recipients “gaming the system” and the unacceptable cost of social security was very profound in Hilton’s plush environment where fine food was laid on and alcohol flowed freely, delivered to the tables by wait staff styled in black who chassed about offering reds, whites and chilled sparkling water.

Represented at the GetUp table were unemployed and underemployed workers, all whom work hard as parents, community volunteers and participators, IT industry workers, union members and event organizers, none were drinking. Some were in and out of paid work, one man was almost retired and had worked most of his life in the transport industry before they privatized and retrenched everyone. There were women over the age of 45, well qualified with sound experienced who have been stuck in underpaid casualised employments for over 20 years and are now on a hidden scrap heap of aging women with little access to stable paid work and almost no superannuation and there were young people who face a potentially unstable jobs market ahead, matched with education debts that are indexed and will grow very large if they are out of work for to long. The GetUp table laughed at Tudge’s funny ideas about financially penalizing people who can’t keep to appointments, forcing chronic alcoholics into acute withdrawal, denying real barriers to work, discounting the demands of single parenting, rejecting the reality of physical and mental disabilities and co-morbid drug problems alike, because if they didn’t laugh they would have been screaming and pulling out their hair.

During the speech and all through question time Tudge and some of the attendees referred to unemployed workers as “they” even though “they” were sitting right there, dining fugitive on the lam thanks to GetUp. Questions about the punitive compliance policies were directed at Mr Tudge, who has no experience of being unemployed, even though there was a table of people who could have commented with full validity about their personal successes and lack thereof, under current welfare policy and the effect that the expansion of compliance policies will have on them. Punitive policy has little positive effect on job seeking outcomes, the experience of them enacted is overwhelmingly negative for many welfare recipients and none of these Welfare to Work and Job Active measures create any new jobs outside of the private welfare industry, where under-regulated and inexperienced people gain the opportunity to police and penalize others. In fact the Job Provider system has made no difference to the unemployment rate in Australia since its inception 20 years ago. It is a profoundly failed system.

Later one of the women in the GetUp group tried to give Tudge a cardboard box containing a petition signed by 75,000 people asking for the government to fix the Robodebt problem. She was manhandled out by security. They must have been worried there was a pie in there.

 

On the other, the sun is rising

By freef’all852

The rise and rise of Public Politics.

Now, I may not be telling many of you anything new, but I am seeing there’s a new wind in the air – no, not Tony and his onions – but seriously, a touch of something different in the political discussions. Could it be that with the rise and rise of social media and political blogs like this one, we are seeing more of a joining in political discourse by the general populace … at least those interested enough to join in. Either outraged at the delinquency of LNP politics or sneering at the public demand for greater transparency of governance, such discussions are now more than possible with access to the tidal wave of social media.

The birth, perhaps, of “Public Politics”.

Perhaps what we are partaking in is the rebirth of “public speaking” in the “Speakers Corner” of the city park, except it is more now a global park. Perhaps what we are partaking in is more than mere “I say – you say” opinion forum, because if the likes of Twitter has shown us anything, is that the “direct line” to our representatives is now possible. And when you have the president of the United States of America furiously stabbing out those 140 characters or less every day and night, colliding with his fors and againsts on the ether, you got “connection”… with a capital “C”.

No longer do our politicians have to rely upon the Chinese whisper from a staffer or lobbyist to know just exactly how the electorate feels about party policy … it is spread all over the internet in no uncertain terms. No longer will leaders like Tony Abbott have to rely upon the passing slander of a person in a shopping mall to know that many think of him as a dickhead … it is there in glorious photo-shopped technicolour on an #Auspol Twitter feed!

It now takes but a mille-byte length of time to contradict those awful lies spittle’d from Chrissy Pyne’s lips on an angry social media site. The gross fumbling by the now confected “vox gravitas” of Josh Frydenberg (wannabe leadership material?) on the stupidity of “clean coal” is rubbished with fact and fancy from the four corners of the globe, and all the time he thought his forked tongue conversation with Bazz Cazz on “slip-insiders” would be taken as gospel. As if! But if there is one failure of social media that must be conceded, it is the apparent incapacity to get Mathias Corman to please, please learn to pronounce the word “obviously” correctly. PLEASE! There are NOT TWO “B’s” in the word.

Ah! Tthis social media thingo is but the start of a new democracy of the dictatorship of the citizenry, if we can have the freedom to continue the candid conversations online. After all, it must be admitted, the internet, like any other “domestic appliance” is reliant upon the continuous supply of electricity … and the patience of the powers that be to turn on or off the broadband spectrum … not that THAT is a consideration around these parts, where the signal is so weak we in this house have to watch out for eating too much carb’ in our diet lest a reckless fart cuts all forms of communication off indefinitely!

Perhaps our politicians need to be pressed to construct a “community energy source” where supply cannot be cut simply on the whim of a political or economic decision. Perhaps there ought to be a new “fourth estate” of power of the unions rather than media to “keep the bastards honest”. What ever, I think we-the public- will have to secure our lines of communications to keep the conversations open and ongoing.

These public blog sites and the creators like ‘WordPress’ need to be treasured for the tireless enthusiasm put into the running of such. I doubt (and speaking for yours T) there is any real money to be made from them, considering the time and effort put in. I’d hate to be editing one of my pieces (the result of a shithouse Catholic primary education) and I am reminded of that masterly piece of mummery from Anthony Quinn in “Lawrence of Arabia” where, as the fighter Auda Abu Tayi, he proclaims himself as; “ …  yet I am poor … because … I … am a river to my people … ” Great stuff! See it here:

I do hold one opinion on how social media is now able to “rope-in” a wider audience: we seem to have closed the distance between the reader and the teller. (By “the distance”, I mean the academic discourse distance). There were many good blog sites delivering solid, witty and in-depth articles over time over the web, but I have noticed they nearly all (the serious ones at least) “spoke” with an “educated mind”. They all talk “academic savvy” … even sites like “Loon Pond”, though thoroughly enjoyable, still echoed the cultivated grammar and the trained eloquence of a good education. There’s nothing wrong with a good education, it’s just that many people could be over-awed by such or fall into a habit – of which I was a long-time culprit – of deferring to those who are perceived to have one and therefore perceived to be “better informed”, and as a consequence, withholding much conversation that could be added to the general pool that would aid communication to a wider audience. After all, I would think we here are all interested in encouraging friendship (insert smiley).

But really, I have to say I have nothing but optimism at least for the delivery of good public conversation, and if those historical pics of the harassed “Speakers Corner” spruiker at The Domain is anything to go by, I say … Let the democracy of Public Politics begin again!

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

 

Peace be upon all

By Khaled

First and foremost, a heartfelt sorrow is extended to all the people who have fallen victim to the recent attacks in London. Know that the world is praying for you and your loved ones.

Through every media and social network, we keep hearing the words “attack”, “terrorism”, “extremism”, “radicalization”, “fanaticism”, “mental illness” and “lone-wolf” each and every time an incident or calamity transpires. And rightly so, they need to be called out for what they are. There is no denying that.

Following each incident, the occupier of the highest office of the country where the incident had taken place – as well as other leaders – the following statements are iterated; “With tackling and fighting terrorism and extremism, things have got to change … To the terrorists we say, enough is enough … The people of (whatever the country is) will stand together in solidarity in the face of terrorism and extremism and we will not be divided.”

Yes indeed, enough is enough. Yes indeed, things have got to change. Yes indeed, we will always stand together in solidarity. But what is it that both the governments and people are actually doing to address terrorism, extremism, radicalization, fanaticism, mental illness and lone-wolf attacks?

Well, governments would have you believe that they are fighting terrorism in their backyards to protect the people and citizens of our country … And that is true. Governments are fighting terrorists groups in their backyards. But is it really the right solution when the acts of terror are being carried out by our own people and not someone that is or was thousands of kilometres away? Thinking about this for some time now, I can’t help but think of the following questions;

Q: Is fighting terrorism in foreign countries actually keeping us safe?
A: No.

Q: Is this form of retaliation or action by our governments, actually working?
A: No.

Q: WHY ISN’T IT WORKING? Now this is the most complex question we are currently faced with. This is the question that no one seems to be asking nor pushing for an answer. This is the question that should be asked of our leaders. And we, the international citizens, should be demanding for an immediate answer so that the government can strategize an effective action plan.

The age of the terrorism problem that the world is faced with is almost 100yrs old (start of the 20th Century). Albeit some would disagree and say it’s either ~70yrs old (creation of the Zionist state of Israel) or 30yrs old (Desert Storm 1 – first invasion of Iraq). Whichever age you incline towards, it’s been far too long, one way or the other, to not have the right answer. It’s time for us to question the integrity and effectiveness of the currently implemented method(s) of address. It’s time to seek and demand for an answer because, quite frankly, the problem is worsening as time goes by. If governments remain on the current path, I am afraid to say that we may live the same life portrayed in the movie Mad Max.

If I was asked that one important question, my answer would be: “IT ISN’T WORKING BECAUSE THE ROOT CAUSES HAVEN’T BEEN IDENTIFIED. EVERY PROBLEM MUST BE TREATED AT THE SOURCE.”

Now I don’t claim to have the answer(s) either. I will attempt to identify the root causes; some of which may not resonate with you and that is perfectly fine. I welcome your comments, feedback, clarifications to consolidate all the applicable root causes.

The Root Causes:

Western Government’s Foreign Policies: Western Government’s Foreign Policies have failed miserably. This failure goes way back to the colonization and slavery of Indigenous and African people respectively. Post WWI, the western governments have ripped apart the Ottoman Empire within the Middle East, or specifically The Levant, and placed puppets as dictators. The Saudi Family (Capitalists), Assad (The Baath Party), Mubarak (pro-Zionist), Saddam (Baath Party), Gaddafi (Capitalist and pro-Communism) etc are all puppets placed in positions of power by the western governments. It was the British Government that initiated the Zionist Movement in Palestine (one of the biggest – if not the biggest – terrorist and oppressive organization the world has ever and would ever know).

Both the British and French governments cut up the Middle East and placed different borders around it to segregate and separate the people of The Levant. This is why the country Kurdistan no longer exists. Afghanistan was a peaceful country until Russia and USA fought over the Natural Gas-pipe Corridor rights. Sectarian war between Sunni’s and Shia’s in Iraq never existed until the USA invaded Iraq and placed Maliki in power, who oppressed the minority Sunni’s of Iraq. This was the catalyst and main cause for the uprise of ISI (Islamic State of Iraq), which then became ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant) when they joined power with the Syrian thug group Shabeeha. ISIL is now known as ISIS.

By the way, Baghdadi (head of ISIS) is one of Syria’s biggest collaborators. He was the head of Shabeeha. With Russia and Iran helping Assad slaughter Syrian people whilst USA invaded Iraq, the sectarian war in Iraq and Syria blew out of proportion. This is a 6yr old war and the only people that are intensely suffering from it are the poor public, followed by you and I. The current western policies are the same 100yr old policies only polished and made to look and sound presentable by current western living standards.

Eastern Government Foreign Policies: The leaders of the Middle East countries are as much to blame, if not more, than the western governments. No patriotism whatsoever. Not one single leader stands up in the face of wrong and tries to make right. Saudi, Qatar, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey etc are all lead by deceitful, unfaithful, unpatriotic leaders/governments. They are consumed with greed, wealth and lust whilst their people suffer immensely. The recent $420b handover by the Saudi government to USA is $60b more than what’s required to re-build the entire Middle East. Imagine if that amount of money was spent towards the benefit of the Middle East and its people. You give no person a reason to be so angry at anyone. I guarantee you there will not be a single person that would have any sense of animosity or hate towards anyone or any foreign country.

Refugees/Asylum Seekers: The wars in the Middle East are the only reason why there are so many refugees and asylum seekers trying to enter out country (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense). These innocent lives are fleeing persecution, which is instigated by the western and eastern governments policies, which I like to refer to as (corporate greed or capitalism). They are fleeing their countries seeking safety and refuge in our countries. To add to the fact that our governments play a major part in displacing these beautiful souls, they also have the hide to treat these people with such disdain and inhumane means. When the youth of our country – who may share the same faith and ethnic background as those refugees – see, hear and read about the inhumane treatment and the condescending rhetoric from our leaders that’s directed towards the refugees, how do you think they will react?

Political Disparagement: Politicians are elected to represent all the people. They aren’t elected to scorn, vilify or denigrate people of ethnic background. Politicians with dangerous views and policies shouldn’t be allowed ‘free-speech’ because their voices and speech couldn’t be further away from free speech. It’s more like sanctioned racism and discrimination. As occupants of a national public platform, they must held responsible for dangerous political demagoguery. This type of behaviour should be banned as the consequences of it creates nothing but a divisive community that’s filled with nothing but hate and resentment. Furthermore, politicians always state “Islamic Extremism” as though the word extremism is only associated with Islam. What about White Supremacy Extremism or Christian Extremism or Zionist Extremism? I agree that we should call it for what it is but we must make sure that there is only standard that we abide by.

Media and Media Presenters: The quality and methods of presenting ‘news’ nowadays is appalling to say the least. There is no checking of the credibility of the story before it is aired. The majority of media outlets seem to work on the same premise. Any person incites hate, or stands by the extreme right (Tawhidi) or has an inclination towards radicalism or if the story has anything to do with sectarian tension, they get more attention and all the air-time than those who promote peace. Think about Justin Trudeau. How many times do we see him on our screens compared to Trump, Hanson, Dutton, Marie Le Pen, Tawhidi or Geert Wilders? Imagine if Trudeau was given the same air-time. Imagine if peaceful people were given equal air-time on the national and international platforms to promote the opposite of racial vilification and hatred. Imagine if people of faith, such as Pope Francis, was given equal time to share his peaceful sentiments around the world. Imagine if our own Mufti was given any air-time for each and every time he condemned terrorism. Furthermore, the media always flags any hideous act as terrorism when the perpetrator is a Muslim. If the perpetrator isn’t Muslim, then the hideous act is labelled as a crime by a mentally ill person or a lone-wolf. Terror is terror … irrespective of who performs it.

Education: Our kids are deprived of proper education. Correct me if I am wrong, but does any school curriculum include subjects such as Race and Culture? I am all for Safe School Education as it teaches our kids tolerance with others irrespective of gender and sexual preferences. So why not incorporate Race and Culture too? Growing up in Lebanon, I was taught American, African, Asian and European cultures. At that young age, with such openness to other races and cultures, I’ve become accustomed and accepting of the vastness of cultures I am surrounded by. I see the difference between us but my education allows me to see through or beyond it. Therefore it makes no difference to me and thus my behaviour and attitude is reciprocated by the others. Our youth are lacking decent education and that stems from our governments not providing the correct funds. Basically, the same politicians that provoke racial vilification are in control of schools funding. Weed out the racist politicians and we may have a good chance at promoting Race and Culture into our curriculum. On the topic of education, the majority of hideous crimes are carried out by our own people; not refugees. Lack of proper education along with the politicians and media personnel finger-pointing against anyone’s ethnic background and faith plays into the hands of criminals trying to radicalise the youth.

Video Games and Movies: Being privy to high-level violence in current video games, such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA), movies and TV series, has desensitized us to crime and crime scenes. The current form of terrorist acts is taken out of the game GTA. Hop in a vehicle, run over the public, stab and shoot and have no regards to life whatsoever. If you sit a 50yr old and a 20yr old together and tell them an awful crime, watch who would have a gross expression on their face. The 50yr old person would be disgusted at the story whilst the 20yr who plays violet games would be thinking “yeah that’s what I do in the game” …

Proper Scripture Teachings: Needless to say that terrorism and extremism are wrong. In fact, any crime is wrong. But there is a sad reality that the majority of these bad actors are home-grown perpetrators. There is a fundamental issue with the quality of clerics being allowed to address the youth. Community and religious leaders need to take a strong stand and have better means of a vetting process to determine who is a learned cleric with the correct religious/scripture understanding and religious jurisprudence credentials before they are allowed to address anyone in any teachings or sermons. This is applicable to all religion and not just Islam.

Like I said, you may not agree with some or any of what I’ve stated here above. This is purely my opinion. I know I didn’t address every root cause but nevertheless it’s a start.

It took us 30yrs to get to this woeful state of affairs. If we implement the right solutions to the above causes, we can and will eradicate racism, extremism and xenophobia within 20 to 30yrs. Alas, until we acknowledge the above root causes along with anything else that you, the reader, can contribute with, we will never be able to eradicate extremism of whatever faith or ideology. And this brings me to my last point: Until we identify and accept all root causes, we will never be able to answer the question: “WHY ISN’T IT WORKING?”

Until then, stay safe, live to love, live to respect, live to accept, live to tolerate and remain faith and colour blind.

Love and Respect,

Khaled.

 

Is the Adani seeking funding body – the NAIF some sort of sick joke?

Redcuchulain is concerned that the NAIF – the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility has various issues to sort through before they decide upon a loan to Adani within the next few days.  This article highlights a petition which calls on the Federal Government to suspend the operations of NAIF.  That is until the Auditor General can conduct an appropriate investigation on the governance of the program.

An Unfortunate Acronym

Dictionary definition: naïf

nʌɪˈiːf,nɑːˈiːf/

adjective
1. naive or ingenuous.
noun
1.a naive or ingenuous person.
naïf

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

Of course, we are now more familiar with the NAIF as applied to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. With bipartisan support, The Government set up NAIF in July 2016. The aim was to provide concessional loans to finance development in Northern Australia. The fund has over $5 Billion dollars at its disposal. Seven independent board members sit on the board. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the Minister for Northern Australia (currently Senator Matthew Canavan) has the authority to approve the expenditure.

The NAIF board came under fire from critics in March 2017. They had yet to approve a single cent in funding, despite over 80 applications lodged. The NAIF Board had met just four times and had paid the board members a total of almost $560,000. (Under fire: NAIF board members under fire earning over $500k: Rockhampton Morning Bulletin)

Environmental groups have been arguing that the real reason behind the NAIF is to facilitate the transfer of Government money to the Adani Carmichael mine. The Australian Conservation Foundation claim that the fact that five of the seven directors have coal mining industry links are proof of this. Dirty Deeds Video – Australian Conservation Foundation. The NAIF have so far refused to comment on allegations regarding conflicts of interest.  They simply say that ‘all of their Directors are aware of their obligations’.

Conflicts of Interest

The NAIF does have a published conflict of interest document NAIF Conflict of interest policy. Under this policy ‘examples of Directors’ Conflicts of Interest are where a NAIF Director also sits on the Board of another company which is applying for a financial facility from NAIF or where a NAIF Director holds shares in a company which has applied to NAIF for a financial facility.’

These provisions are insufficient.  Particularly in the context of extremely large projects which may increase demand in a particular sector. One could reasonably expect personal gain even if not having a personal interest in an entity applying for funding through NAIF.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan has described the Governance of NAIF, which was set up with bipartisan support,  being like ‘Lehman Brothers’. Northern Australia Fund Governance as dodgy as Lehman Brothers : Australian Financial Review. The Auditor-General has indicated that a review of the NAIF may take place in the next year’s work program.

Some Shocking Revelations

This was all before the shocking revelations of the past week. The ABC, Guardian and Buzzfeed politics published stories regarding conflict of interest.  The stories allege that one of the Directors, Karla Way McPhail, has a severe conflict of interest with respect to the NAIF decision on Adani. Ms. McPhail is featured in a story (below) in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin talking up the Carmichael mine. Mining skills shortage threats if we miss training; Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

The articles published over the last week allege that Karla Way-McPhail has:

  • Business interests which place her in a conflicted situation over the Adani mine decision.
  • Appointed because she has a personal friendship with Minister Matthew Canavan
  • Is a hyper-partisan supporter of the LNP and has recently deleted some Facebook posts which would confirm this.

ABC 30th May 2017 – Potential conflict of interests of NAIF Board Members

The Guardian 31st May 2017 – Conflict of interests for Director on NAIF Board

Buzzfeed Politics 1st June ‘Director on NAIF scrubs Facebook posts’

Buzzfeed Politics 2nd June 2017 “Minister appointed Mate to NAIF board”

ABC 2nd June 2017 – “Conflict of interests over approval of $900M loan spark Senate questions

Will There Really Be an Investigation, Barnaby?

Whilst these allegations certainly look concerning and Barnaby Joyce has promised there will be an investigation, is the problem with the NAIF not at a higher level?

How can Matthew Canavan, the Resources Minister, also be the Minister responsible for NAIF? Of course, Senator Canavan wants to get Adani approved. He has put a huge amount of work into the project. He would not be human if he was prepared to see it fail at this stage. Big mistakes are often made in projects and participants are too personally invested. This effect is known as the ‘Sunk Cost’. Recovery of work done is not possible. None of us want to fail.  With failure, Senator Canavan risks a loss of political capital.

We are all human. Minister Canavan and the NAIF board members are as fallible and imperfect as the rest of us. Systems are supposed to be designed in such a manner as to protect us from our own nature.

I am in no way questioning the personal integrity of Minister Canavan, Ms. McPhail or any of the other board members. It is clear that all of these people have passion and drive and have contributed a lot to this country.

The Public Should Have Faith in the System Where Adani is Concerned

NAIF would appear to have been set up incorrectly. With a decision as important as a $900 million loan to Adani, it is imperative the public have faith in the system. A good start would be to split the ministerial portfolios a different way. This is so Senator Canavan, the decision maker, is not conflicted himself. The rest of the process regarding applicant selection, conflict of interest management and how board members should behave in the media I will leave to the Auditor-General. Needless to say, it should be to a standard which should satisfy a former treasurer.

If we fail to get the system right and leave this to the goodwill of the people concerned it may turn out badly for Northern Australia. Of course, there is always a small chance that it has been set up to achieve the results desired and that the choice of acronym is some sort of sick joke. In that case, if we fall for it, we are indeed a country of naifs!

Concerned about NAIF.

Sign the petition now.

https://www.change.org/p/malcolm-turnbull-suspend-the-northern-australia-infrastructure-facility-naif

 

Alan Tudge to be met with protests over ‘welfare card’

Snap rallies are planned for Human Services Minister Alan Tudge’s visit to Hinkler this week.

LNP MP Keith Pitt is pushing to bring the Welfare Debit Card to the entire Hinkler Electorate. Hinkler includes all towns from Bundaberg down to Hervey Bay and including River Heads to the Maryborough border. This is the biggest area being proposed for roll out of the card.

In the media this last 3 weeks, Keith Pitt has claimed “a steering committee” will be deciding which payments will be included in the “trial”. Yet when pushed on his Facebook page with reasonable questions from concerned residents from all the towns involved, all comments not in support were deleted.

Likewise, any comments containing references to the Indue Terms and Conditions or the DSS Trigger payments that show that Keith Pitt was changing position or reworking his claims from day to day.

Following “Tudge’s Fudges” we see “Pitt’s Porkies”. Most fibs and spin seem to originate with the LNP Federal Minister.

Recently Keith Pitt asked for a poll in the Newsmail Bundaberg paper that was greeted with an 84% NO vote. Not satisfied with that, Pitt then used tax payers funds to seek a selected postal vote. Some residents reported that there were 2 different letters sent to homes, some with the ability to vote yes/no, others with no choice.

After 3 weeks of local and national media interest, Mayor Allan Suter from Ceduna jump into the Newsmail and Fraser Coast Chronicle repeating the same rhetoric and spin.

Considering the amount of information and reports that have been shown to the public in the region as to how well we are seeing Ceduna and their people suffering under the loss of autonomy and the costs to business and reputation to Ceduna. Mayor Suter and Keith Pitt are reading from the same song book and ignoring the public views already being shown in the comments on all media Facebook pages of either the Fraser Coast Chronicle or Newsmail Bundaberg pages.

Saturday 3rd June saw a huge full page advert promoting the card. It quoted a 25%  pass rate from the incomplete and unpublished Orima Report. The very same unpublished report cites a 77% fail rate. 49% of the people surveyed in CDC Wave report said it has made their lives worse.  4 out of 5 said it made their childrens’ lives worse. At least one business owner now $100,000 out of pocket and facing closure after 87 yrs servicing the customers of the town of Ceduna.

It is claimed that income management does not allow enough flexibility for people to manage their own affairs. Once Indue has control of welfare money, card holders can only access a balance and a number to beg to be able pay bills not listed. They must wait to see if they will be permitted.

Given slow processing times, it is not exactly working just like any other debit card.

This week there will be actions to stop the card from coming to the Hinkler Electorate:

Monday Evening 5 June 2017 at 5.30pm in Bundaberg is a public meeting and rally at the Bundaberg Bowls Club, 21 Quay St Bundaberg.

Event link on the No Cashless Debit Card Facebook Page or on Leanne Donaldson State ALP Member for Bundaberg’s Facebook page.

Wednesday 7 June Alan Tudge will be visiting for an early coffee with “select business” to reassure them that they will thrive under the card.

Ceduna businesses received similar assurances before they began to fail). This business meeting is from 7am-8am at the bookshop next to the Torquay Post Office. The public have not been invited.

Members of the public will nonetheless will be arriving at 6.45 am on the footpath outside the Torquay Post Office  for a snap rally action.

Greet Mr Tudge and show him how we see his Fudges!

Thursday 8 June 2017 we have 2 community events.

Public rally and meeting at the Hervey Bay Community Centre. We have a lunch time session at 1pm for families and people who cannot get there in the evening.

A similar 5.30 pm session for working people and other smaller business sole operators that were not included in the “select” invite for business with Alan Tudge.

This event is being organised by George Seymour, Deputy Mayor Fraser Coast Council, and supported by the No Cashless Debit Card Hinkler Facebook page.

Event link.

Why attend?

So far the public voice is being ignored. Select groups are already being hand-picked for the “steering committee”. Do we accept this process? Who should determine the level of “steerage” Keith Pitt foists on our region?

The region consists of approx 18 towns across the electorate, with the focus on Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. It may be quietly expanded to include Wide Bay region next.

Given the experience in current trial sites, it seems fair to conclude that  our region does not want the card. It is paternalistic and disempowering. It brings division of our community and the segregation of people purely based on their economic circumstances. There is already enough shaming of people and constant media attacks on people not working or too sick to work.

The card is not only cruel but also jeopardises local small businesses, the well-being of our people, their physical and mental health.

Many are worried about being left homeless as Indue Terms and Conditions are not compatible with flexibility. The terms remove choices every other citizens enjoys.

This LNP attack on our most vulnerable to relegate people on Centrelink to “steerage class” within our society is disgusting to say the least. Classism redundant since WW2 is re-emerging. Moreover, Indue and shareholders will profit from that same disadvantage.

We are still the citizens of this country, we are human beings not commodities for non-elected billionaires and their mates to make more money from.

This program is entrenching poverty and forcing people to become totally dependant on a system outside the Social Security sector.

Privatisation of the Social Security Safety Net By Stealth (by exaggerating rates of addiction among those on welfare) is wrong. Welfare is set so far below the poverty line that feeding children is already a challenge. The Indue card which is tied to expensive supermarket chains, will not make that any easier.

Many parents are on DSP or are Carers. School leavers may never experience autonomy or privacy as all stakeholder associated groups will have access to everyones’ Centrelink, Medical and Financial Information.

This is not a free Australia. If they plan to roll this out across the country, piece by piece, town by town, region by region, how long before full time workers realise what is going to come of this, after all people working part time receiving any of the “trigger” payments will also be on the card.

“Creating Parity” was used as one of the catch cries for the Indue Welfare Debit Card. In reality the card does the opposite.  It reinforces disparity. The card effectively identifies, labels and publicly segregates people from all ages 16-64 not in full time work right at the checkout. It divides our community and society and creating social and financial exclusion from access to normal living.  Making every dollar stretch becomes harder. It prevents purchase of secondhand goods privately from FB buy sell sites, markets and private people and smaller business that do not take card.

It will have a detrimental effect on our local economy.  We are a seasonal tourist region, but local business still need money coming in the door in the off season. The multinationals will be receiving the profits and the $$ while our locals business are at risk.

We ALL pay taxes. Forty-five per cent of people over the age of 40 are already out of work. Most have worked and paid income taxes and still pay the normal taxes everyone else does. Thirty-five per cent of people on Newstart are already working but cannot get enough hours to break free from the Centrelink Job Agency Trap.  We are not “bludgers” and “loafers”, nor “layabouts” and “lackeys”.  We are families, parents, disabled, youth carers. Above all, we are the people of Australia. To remove us from the economy of our regions and funnel the “welfare money” away from our economy is stupid at best.  It will not make up for the governments’ failure to create jobs, fund training. Nor will it address any impacts of austerity cuts to vital public services. Indue is no substitute for appropriate supports like: drug rehabilitation, shelters, public housing, adequate mental health and more. $53million has been removed from the Maryborough Dental Unit alone.

To then blame the people in the regions for not having jobs is just an insult.

For local First Nations People, this is no more than history repeating as they are once again returned to what they call the “whiteman’s card” or “rationcard”.

 

On one side the night so dark

By freef’all852

South Australia was founded on the philosophic ideas of a degenerate, financed by the money of an opportunist, bailed out by the taxpaying British public and eventually prospered on the money of speculating aspirants. What sort of government would eventually grow from such riff-raff? Answer: An LNP government.

When it comes to choosing what type of person is suitable to govern a nation at election time, we are presented with a variety of choices, and if we look closely at those choices, it appears that the “preferred option” is a well-educated (as in private school/sandstone university), well-spoken (as in good English), well-dressed and morally reasonable personality. A bit of a “rat-bag” (Katter?) is OK, as is a “English as a second language” migrant – as long as they can get their message across – but one thing is noticeable by it’s impressionability, and that, at least amongst the males – and I would imagine similar with the women – is the “suit”.

We seem to luurrrve the “man in the suit”, be he the biggest bullshit artist in the country (Turnbull), the biggest con-artist in the country (Turnbull), or even the most mealy-mouth bastard in the country (Turnbull; 3 out of 3!). As long as he has “university cred” (preferably Oxford or Cambridge – but Harvard will now suffice – for the agile aspirants!) and an inherited or self-made fortune which gives the impression that he is not in the job for the money …

BULLSHIT!!!! Complete bullshitt with the double “t”.

nam dives qui fieri vult, et cito vult fieri“: for the one who wishes to become rich quickly (Juvenal).

We have fallen for this old chestnut again and again. Why? Because it is the “image perfect” for the “lady and gentleman” we, as a nation of aspirants seem to aspire to be: the image of success. God it’s horrible to watch … like a train wreck in slow motion. Let me tell you of the establishment of the colony of South Australia as an example.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield … a man who disgraces the first two names in his identity. The man was a disgrace all ‘round. A swindler, liar, fraud, pedophile and crook. It is of no wonder he was adopted by the aspiring men as a shining example of their class to write the formulae for the establishment of a “free enterprise” colony.

In 1829, the very year in which Thomas Peel’s colonists were being dumped down at Fremantle, West Australia, a man of thirty was busily writing in a room in Newgate Prison, in London. He was in prison because he had through a devious ruse: abducted a school-girl and “married” her at Gretna Green. But he was not treated like a convict. He could obtain books and pens and paper, as influential prisoners could in those days. He was writing a little book which was published in 1829. He called this book “A Letter from Sydney”, (although he had never been near Sydney, nor out of Europe). But he wrote so well and so brightly, including little bits of goss’ and “racy tales” that many people thought his book was the work of a man who had been living in Sydney for years, and who knew a great deal about Australia.

He proposed starting a new colony built on the idea of speculation and aspiration, with the proposition that:

“You must never sell land in a new colony except at a fairly high price. He called it a ‘sufficient price’. And he meant a price sufficient to prevent labourers from buying it easily. This would secure a supply of labour. When any land was sold—either to labourers who had saved money, or to emigrants who possessed money—the proceeds were to be used to bring out more labourers. No more land was to be given away, or granted cheaply, as in Western Australia.”

You start to get the idea … sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The object being that a labourer (and that title in those days included everybody who earned money for their work), if he had enough money to by his little piece of land when he reached the colony, would not be available to work for a “gentleman” for a measly wage, but would work his own land, and: “… his master would be left servantless. So the kind of life that an English gentleman loved—with plenty of (cheap) labour at hand—was impossible in Australia”.

This is the sort of bastard sets the example of those “born to rule”. Enter;George Fife Angus.

In 1834, an Act of Parliament was passed, which carved 300,000 square miles out of New South Wales, and established the colony of South Australia. But the British Government would not finance the new colony. Indeed, it might have well been a still-birth had not a wealthy financier. George Fife Angus stepped up and was appointed to a “Board of Commissioners”. He put up a surety of 200,000 pounds and the South Australia Company was formed with a prospectus enticing investors to buy into the project.

Eventually, two shiploads of ill-informed, ill-equipted “colonists” found their way to land at Kangaroo Island. The hopelessness of that as a colony capital was soon established. There was absolutely no information on the location suitable for settlement save Captain Charles Sturt’s notes on his Murray River trip. The whole fiasco was a gamble … a speculation … I leave the readers imagination to create the scene upon those two ships when the “investors” started to realise just who was in charge of their lives and fortunes in this strange land.

Fortunately, Colonel William Light – the surveyor with the party – reviled by the authority (Governor Hindmarsh), chose the present site of Adelaide as the best location to set up shop. He was chastised and challenged all along the way by those most incompetent Commissioners, and as Don Dunstan explained when he too was vilified by the “Powers that be” of also being a ” Melanesian half-caste bastard”, but he held fast and the site was settled. Eventually after a number of conflicts, a new Governor was sent and he (Governor Gawler), tried to organise the colony. However, no sooner had land been surveyed and sold, there began a chaos of land speculation:

“They had guarded against the lack of labour by sending out work-men, and by keeping up the price of land. (Later it was raised from 12s. to £1 per acre.) What they could not guard against was the desire of people to get rich quickly. Land was sold and the money was sent to England. More people came out and wanted to buy more land. But they wanted to buy it close to Adelaide and not far away from town. So the people who had bought land near the town sold it again for higher prices. Then began a wild rush of buying up land, not to cultivate, but to sell it again at a higher price. This is what is called speculation, or, sometimes, ‘a land boom’. We have had many outbreaks of it in Australia and nearly always it has resulted in misery and unemployment. But it is very hard to stop. With no farming going on, the immigrant labourers could get no work, and so they flocked to Adelaide and demanded food from the Governor. But food was hard to get. Very little of it was being grown in South Australia, and it had to be brought from New South Wales and Tasmania …”

Now we are getting into very familiar territory; the chaos of free enterprise.

The upshot of it all was that there being no farming done to employ or sufficiently feed the labourers. Governor Gawler put the men to work on civic construction – roads and buildings. – but with an empty treasury, he had to write out “promissory notes” (rubber cheques) to cover wages and goods. These notes, once presented for payment back in England were promptly dishonoured, and Gawler pissed off back home and the British Government was forced to honour the nearly 300,000 pounds owing and to take control of the colony just six years after it was formed. But that is how entrepreneurial speculation inevitably ends; the project is a disaster and the taxpayer is forced to pick up the tab either through gross incompetence or manipulative politics.

And there is where we will leave those floundering colonists..luckily the discovery of large tracts of copper ore saved the colony from bankruptcy..the gamble paid off…an early example of the “just in time” principle of survival capitalism which is then, through sheer blind luck claimed as “well planned management”.

And here we are in the twenty-first century, with another cycle of colonisation … not by an imperial power, but by mega corporations … with an administration called the “LNP Government” run by the same sort of gormless fools that ran the first … with the same principles but instead of depriving the Indigenous peoples of their lands, they now are in the process of depriving all the citizenry of their sovereignty. It is a colonisation of a different kind with the taxpayer still picking up the tab. And you can pin epaulets on their shoulders, gold-braid and medals upon their chests … you can string a long line of letters after their names and call them “sir” or “lady” … but they are still f#ckers and dickheads!

The selection of who to represent us in Canberra must no longer be chosen from the stupid, the fraudsters, the treasonous who received their coaching from the most exclusive schools and universities. They have betrayed their obligations. The future leaders must be chosen from the skilled trades and practical professions like nursing and engineering etc. We cannot risk our future with unskilled fools and speculating criminals from that class of degenerates who most believe they are “born to rule”.

They must be sent back to be retrained for at least something useful.

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

 

 

Economic geniuses perform epic backflip

By Ad astra

The sheer effrontery of our politicians never ceases to astonish me. To them black can be white, and in an instant white can be black. It is not just the monumental back flip that such a change of language involves that astonishes me, it is the bald-faced nerve they exhibit when they change course to the opposite direction, as if nothing had happened! The 2017 Budget starkly exemplifies this.

So burned into our neural networks are the slogans, the mantras, and the catchphrases of past eras that no change of heart, no change of language, no denial of history can ever erase them. Check your memory of the Abbott epoch to see if I’m right.

You will remember the Coalition’s sarcastic description of Labor’s economic team as being quite unsuited for the complex task of managing the economy during the Global Financial Crisis. It insisted they should stand aside and let the adults, the superior economic brains in the Coalition, the geniuses at economic management, take over. Labor’s team was depicted as kids playing games in a sandpit.

Let’s go back then to the time of the GFC, an emergency that threatened economies the world over.

You will remember that at that time the advice of Treasury Secretary Ken Henry to PM Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan was to provide economic stimulus, (which was plainly Keynesian) and to “go hard, go early, go households”.

They did, with cash handouts and infrastructure projects. The Rudd/Swan response was a spectacular policy success, tarnished only by poor implementation of the so-called ‘Pink Batts’ program by the Department of the Environment, during which the lives of four workers were tragically lost.

You will recall that while the Coalition supported the initial stimulus, although castigating the government for sending cheques overseas and to some deceased people, it reneged on supporting the second tranche – the bulk of the infrastructure stimulus. Prominent in that tranche was Julia Gillard’s ‘Building the Education Revolution’ that involved the construction of new and refurbished school halls, libraries and classrooms, science laboratories and language learning centres, covered outdoor learning areas, shade structures, sporting facilities and other environmental programs.

Infrastructure
You will remember the sarcasm that the Coalition heaped on these infrastructure projects, not only criticising elements of them, their suitability and their cost, but pouring contempt on the concept of infrastructure spending, which Tony Abbott and his Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey deemed a waste of money. Malcolm Turnbull too chipped in with his two-penneth. Yet that infrastructure endeavour not only gifted thousands of schools with much-needed amenities and facilities, which now enhance them splendidly, but it also gave local builders work and hardware suppliers business. It kept many a small town going at a time when many businesses were threatened with closure, and many workers were facing unemployment.

Now, in 2017, suddenly Treasurer Scott Morrison tells us that spending on infrastructure is fine as it accumulates ‘Good Debt’. To confirm his newfound belief in the value of infrastructure spending, his Budget features a plethora of such projects: road, rail, airport, hydro, and energy infrastructure, many with timelines stretching into the distant future. While there will be debate about the merits of some and their timing, Labor is not condemning them as a waste of money, as it has always appreciated what Morrison has just awoken to, that infrastructure spending, especially when interest rates are low, is good for the economy.

Here then is the first example of how the Coalition’s economic geniuses, after all their previous scathing condemnation of infrastructure spending, have finally had the scales fall from their eyes, have seen its value, and have endorsed it extravagantly. But have they acknowledged their epiphany? Of course not!

Debt and deficit
Next, let’s reflect on the ‘debt and deficit disaster’. Remember how almost daily newspaper headlines trumpeted: ‘Labor’s financial mismanagement’, ‘Debt spiralling out of control’, ‘Budget in freefall’ and ‘Labor’s debt time bomb’. There was even a truck doing the rounds with ‘Labor’s Debt’ festooned on placards.

Joe Hockey was sarcastically indignant about budget ‘blowouts’ and revenue shortfalls. He revelled in lampooning a mining tax that raised no revenue. He insisted that a Labor government would never achieve a budget surplus. “It was not in their DNA”, he asserted. But of course it was in the Coalition’s DNA. It knew what to do. But as we know it didn’t. Year after year it showed it had no idea how to achieve a surplus! Now Morrison thinks he’s found the magic formula.

Image from scoopnest.com

Scared of a downgrade by the rating agencies, Morrison’s magic formula for a surplus in the 2017 Budget curiously still includes a corporate tax cut for big businesses and multinationals, no longer costing $50 billion, but now $65 billion, still predicated on a mythical trickle down benefit for those at the bottom of the heap. Surprisingly, while he gives with one hand he takes away with the other by imposing a new tax on the five big banks, levied on various types of borrowing that banks use to fund their lending, including corporate bonds and large deposits. Good luck with that one!

Here is Alan Austin’s assessment of Rudd/Swan period in his October 2016 article in Independent Australia: Australia’s debt mismanagement under Turnbull: It’s worse than you think.

Over the entire period of the first Kevin Rudd Government, debt was added at the rate of $2.85 billion per month. This was required to deal with the early onset of the global meltdown. This rate of borrowing increased slightly through Julia Gillard’s term until the GFC was over in early 2013. Through her last eight months, the gross debt added each month averaged just $1.02 billion. For Labor’s entire duration, the monthly increase averaged $3.06 billion.

Then came the appalling maladministration of Tony Abbott, during which $4.75 billion was added each month, without any justification related to global conditions. This resulted from wasteful spending on a colossal scale and refusal to collect taxes from the rich.

Further on, Austin writes:

Malcolm Turnbull then successfully challenged Tony Abbott for the prime ministership primarily because Abbott had “… not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs.”

So what happened thereafter? Did the new regime start to repay the debt, as it had been promising to do for years? Not at all! Further fresh debt was added in Turnbull’s early months at a rate just below Abbott’s figure. That has since blown out disastrously, with more than $8.5 billion borrowed per month over the first four months of this financial year. Turnbull’s total rate has been $4.78 billion per month.

Gross debt is now $450.79 billion. This is $173.4 billion higher than the $277.4 billion Labor left in September 2013, up 62.5%. Net debt has also risen alarmingly. We only have the figures until the end of August, but these reveal a rise of $15.9 billion just since June, up 5.35% in two months to $312.3 billion. This is $137.7 billion above Labor’s $174.6 billion legacy, up 78.9%.

This was written six months ago. The situation is even worse now. The adults, the economic geniuses, have produced the situation reflected in their latest Budget.

“We don’t have a revenue problem; only a spending one”: Morrison
For as good an analysis of the Budget as you could wish for, and a scathing assessment of Morrison’s mantra, do read Greg Jericho’s article in The Guardian: Federal budget 2017: the 10 graphs you need to see:

There was a revenue problem after all!
After nearly a decade of saying the problem was all on the spending side, the 2017-18 budget is where the Liberal party has finally admitted that there is a revenue problem.

The 2017-18 budget estimates that by 2020-21 the budget will be firmly back in surplus, and it does it mostly off the back of government revenue returning to the level it was during the surplus years of the Howard government.

In the 11 years prior to the GFC, when the budget was either in surplus or balance, government revenue averaged 25.1% of GDP. In the nine years since the GFC, the highest it has been is 23.4%, and this year it was just 23.1%.

To give some context, 2% of GDP is around $34bn, so it’s a fair gap. But that gap is about to be reduced.

The budget predicts that by 2019-20 government revenue will reach 25.1% of GDP and in the following year a very healthy 25.4%. The last time we saw revenue at that level was in 2005-06.

To get there the budget anticipates revenue growing over the next 4 years by around 4.4% in real terms. That growth was not uncommon during the mining boom years, but has been reached only once in the past nine years.

And what is the revenue that is growing? Income tax.

In other words – revenue was a problem after all! The economic geniuses were wrong, again.

Morrison has now predicted that the long-wished-for surplus will first appear in 2019/20, four years from now! Let’s see if this prediction, based on very optimistic assumptions, is any better than his other predictions.

There it is. For years, the Coalition boasted about its prowess in economic management and denigrated Labor’s. For years, the Coalition decried infrastructure spending. For years the Coalition trumpeted the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, which it insisted that Labor created and turned into a ‘budget emergency’. For years the Coalition was adamant that it did not have a revenue problem, only a spending one.

Only now, with the 2017 Budget, has the Coalition and its financial geniuses tacitly admitted that infrastructure spending is ‘good debt’, that it has been even less effective at reducing debt and deficit than Labor, that it will not produce a surplus until 2019/20, and then only if its heroic assumptions come true, and that indeed it does have a spending problem, which it intends to solve with higher taxes on everyone.

It’s taken only four years to awaken to the bleeding obvious and back flip spectacularly. That’s real genius!

How much longer will it take these geniuses to wake up to the error of giving large tax cuts to the big end of town? How long will it be before they cotton onto what has been known for decades, namely that such largesse does not and never has trickled down to the masses?

How much longer though will it take for Morrison, Cormann, Turnbull, Abbott, Hockey and Co. to say: “We were wrong, very wrong”?

Don’t hold your breath!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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All you need is love

The Beatles released ‘All you need is love’, written by John Lennon and Paul McCarthy, 50 years ago this month during the first global satellite television broadcast, Our world. June 1967 was the summer of love where it is claimed that up to 100,000 people congregated in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood in the city of San Franscisco. The two events are related as far as The Beatles by that stage were a studio only band and seeking alternative lifestyles.

While the words and motives of All you need is love might be seen as idealistic in 2017, with the bombing of a pop concert in Manchester and a gunman shooting 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt both occurring in the same week, on the face of it there isn’t a lot of love in the world at the moment. Perhaps there should be more love used to retain law and order, rather than the current approach of using a bigger stick.

Various news reports in the days after the Manchester bombing have stated that the British are ‘stoic’ people and will overcome the justified sorrow and questioning that occurs after events like the bombing. They probably will, considering the British people have a history of living with domestic terrorism that precedes the current fanatical claimed Muslim extremists, or the fanatical Irish Republican Army of the late 20th Century, the bombings of World War 2 and potentially also before the days of Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators attempting to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605.

However, when confronted with some form of rebellion (be it internal or external), the authorities seem to always resort to the use of a bigger stick. For example, when the USA and the USSR both developed nuclear weapons in the 1950’s; they boasted that if attacked, they would retaliate. In a concept known as mutually assured destruction, by the 1980s

. . . the Soviet Union had many more warheads, and it was commonly said that there were enough nuclear arms on Earth to wipe the planet out several times.

Clearly there is only one earth – so having the capability to destroy the planet more than once is wasteful and frankly ludicrous. In a similar way, there is logically a limit to the size of the stick. Larger and more complicated weapons designed to kill and maim probably makes millions for those who design and manufacture the implements, but at some point, there has to be a practical limit.

Guy Fawkes was seeking religious freedom, eventually granted in England, Rudolf Hess (Hitler’s second in command) flew to Scotland in 1941 to, in his mind at least, negotiate a peace treaty with Churchill and the IRA finally agreed to cease terrorist action when a negotiated power sharing arrangement was implemented.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was interviewed by SkyNews on 25 May and, as you would expect given the timing of the interview, he was asked for his opinion on the bombing in Manchester. After the usual (and correct) condemnation of the attack, Joyce went on to say (as reported by The Guardian):

These people have always been around and every religion has them at their periphery. I’m Catholic, in Northern Ireland we had the IRA, who decided they were going to change the world by murdering people. I don’t agree with that. These people believe they are going to change the world by murdering people. We have seen it in Buddhism, we have seen it in Hinduism. It’s murder. It’s wrong and we have got to make sure as a nation, people can go to the cricket, can go to the rugby, go down the street, go to the park, enjoy life, be Australian and leave other people alone to have their beliefs because they are probably different to yours. Don’t change the world by violence, change the world by argument, cogent argument.

Joyce went on to suggest

People say it all sounds a bit old fashioned but it’s not. If you really had an empathy for other people around you, you wouldn’t want to blow them up. You would say they’re just like me. Leave them alone.

Joyce makes a good point. Rather than using a bigger stick to alter people’s behaviour to something that suits your norms, why not try empathy.

Sean Kelly, writing for The Monthly on 26 May reports of an exchange between Senator Hanson and the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis during the recent Senate Estimates process. When asked by Hanson about the threat of terrorism being introduced by middle eastern refugees,

Lewis, widely respected within his field, made the factual situation very clear, “I have absolutely no evidence to suggest there’s a connection between refugees and terrorism.”

Hanson asked about the burqa, to which Lewis said, “We’ve made it plain on a number of occasions, senator, that we have no security reason to be concerned about the wearing of a burqa – other than the requirement for individuals to identify themselves to authorities, and there are regulations in place for that.”

Hanson also asked whether all attacks and thwarted attacks since 2014 had been perpetrated by Muslims.

Lewis replied, “Of the 12 … thwarted attacks, one of those, indeed, involved a right-wing extremist … So the answer is they have not all been carried out by Muslims … But I’ve got to stress, senator – this is very important – ASIO does not make its inquiries or its assessments on the basis of somebody’s religion. We are only interested in people who are exhibiting or offering violence, and to the extent that there is violent extremism – which is very frequently inspired by a warped version of Sunni Islam – that’s when our interests are invoked.”

Duncan Lewis deals in facts which apparently do not support the claims of Hanson et al. In a similar way, we have the current Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, claiming that refugees who were settled in Australia and not yet completed formal documentation processes are ‘fake’ and will be deported if their claims are not formally lodged by October this year (while reducing the ability of staff to process claims).

Joyce seems by contrast to be on to something.

In a headline that really is quite chilling; Cops in this City haven’t killed anyone since 2015. Here’s one reason why: Huffington Post describes the de-escalation process employed by Salt Lake City Police in the USA.

The officers being trained in de-escalation are encouraged to communicate and empathize with suspects, take stock of the factors contributing to a confrontation, and consider ways to disengage before the situation spirals out of control, leading to the use of force.

The Salt Lake City Police have identified 37 occasions where de-escalation has worked in preference to the use of lethal force in the past 18 months.

It would be a huge step for the Hansons and Duttons of this world to use empathy rather than try to wield the bigger stick. Unfortunately, I have a better chance of winning Lotto tonight. Australia has been fortunate that there have been no large scale terrorism attacks in our country since the Port Arthur event some years ago. Negotiation and giving some ground has been much more effective than ‘the bigger stick’ to solve disputes across history, as witnessed by the Truth and Reconciliation system in South Africa, the power sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland and the re-unification of Germany.

As the Salt Lake City (and other) police forces around the world are demonstrating, empathy and de-escalation are useful tools to reduce injury and death while permanently resolving conflict. Barnaby Joyce has a point, just as The Beatles did 50 years ago. Rather than Hanson’s racist rhetoric or Dutton’s ‘fake refugee’ comments, when will we learn the lessons of history?

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

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On the rim of a far horizon

By freef’all852

We are all aware of that old maxim: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But are we here in Australia, particularly South Australia aware of just how close we stand to the sculptured pediment of ancient history? I suspect not … so allow me a moment of condescension and I will tell you a tale of many lives over many years.

I will point out that this is the first or two posts I hope to do with this on the subject of competency to govern by the so called “Born to rule” class. This post describes the style of “management” of governance by what can be best described as the most useless, incompetent, gutless collection of f#ckwits that ever were put in charge of administration. The second part will point out how and why we need to change the selection process … if not the descriptive adjectives!

Given the limitations of time (on the reader’s part) and space on the length of what constitutes a “readable post” on a blog-site, I have decided to forego detailed acknowledgement of my sources and steam headlong into the guts of my thesis. If you want details, you will just have to ask.

Where I live in the South Australian mallee, there is a massive amount of unrecorded history. Not in the nuts and bolts of who, what and where, but in the why and by whom … of population settlement in the district. For this area contains the “overflow” of the early German migrants who first came to South Australia as part of George Fife Angus’s recruitment program of cheap-labour from that pool of eastern Germans newly incorporated into the greater German republic in the 1850s with the annexation of the eastern states of Europe; beyond the Oder River and around the Vistula River of what is now Poland.

“Trees don’t pay taxes” was the catch-cry of the commissioners of the South Australia Company.

Those peoples, mostly Slavic in ancestry were compelled to Germanise their names, religion and culture as part of the new Republic or suffer the consequences, hence the migration of entire villages replete with pastor to Australia in the 1850s onwards until the end of the century. These eastern Europeans were known mostly to themselves as ‘Wends’ or ‘Sorbs’. And unlike the other two waves of Germanic migration – the persecuted middle-class from the German cities who settled and brought culture to Adelaide and the proletariat industrial workers from the cities, who brought trade and industrial skills to the state – they held their culture and themselves to themselves and their pastors. Hence the close-knit settlements around the Barossa Valley and Kapunda/St Kitts/Stonefield areas of South Australia. And right up to the late 1950s, English in their homes was a second language.

I have noted the many unrecorded efforts of many of those families while they battled with Angus’s swindle of their hard labour and their dedication to hold onto their land that was impossible to farm successfully; hopelessly small plots of land that in many cases were left destitute and broken by what must have been a deliberate plan to use them to clear-fell those sections of the mallee most suitable for cropping. The same as happened to many “Soldier Settlers” on the Murray Plains around Pinnaroo after the 2ndWW. When they were sent into the bush with little more than axes, picks and shovels and the remnants of their khaki uniforms to carve their fortunes and fates out of the hardy mallee, and in the end only broke their backs succeeding in clear-felling their selections for the local bush aristocrats to pick them up when they went broke or shot themselves in despair, such as …

Bachelor Bill.
“He was a bachelor, you see.
He was a soldier-settler
Out in the mallee scrub…
And he died…
Father went through his things
But he couldn’t throw these out…”
She “thumbed” out the pockets of her breeks.
“They have his army number on them, see !
He was a lovely old man , my Uncle Bill.”
But I have seen a few “Uncle Bills”,
Spurned or turned from a woman’s embrace.
Uncertain and clumsy in affection
Toward sisters or brother’s children…
“The breeks were army issue,
Part of the “deal” for soldier-settlers…
God only knows how he struggled out there.”
A soldier-settler alone in the mallee.
“God only knows.”

“Trees don’t pay taxes,” the commissioners said.

The plots of land “leased” on a strange time-payment plan to the Germans with the proviso that all produce was to be sold through Angus’s company were too small and lacked deep topsoil and water to maintain fertility past the first few years of clear felling and wind storms that decimated a land totally unsuitable for continual farming, the like of European soils. Even as soon as the early years of the twentieth century, super-phosphate was being used to fertilise the “gutless” soils. So the intrepid pioneers cleared their little plots from fence-line to fence-line trying to maximise their output … to no avail, and many had to walk away from the land and trek to distant places more fertile; places like Hamilton, Victoria, the SA Riverland, the Adelaide hills and such places, scattered to the winds along with the breaking up of families and culture, the untold story of lost dreams of so many vulnerable folk under the tyranny of a dominant culture and capital-based society.

See also: Haunted by History

When many of the East Germans arrived in the later years of the nineteenth century, many made their way north to the lower Flinders Ranges; to places like Hammond, Craddock, Gordon, Farina and others even more lost in the sands of time..

“Rain will follow the plough” they told the settlers who established themselves in those first good seasons, but then the dry set in and it all went to shit; the land collapsed, the farms went dry as dust, the people walked off their properties and the towns collapsed into rubble and then sunk back into the earth they so wearily rose from.

“Rain will follow the plough” they said, and so the ploughs went back south to Stonefield, Sandelton and Sedan – hard mallee country – with a slender top-soil and below, a layer of “calcrete” so hard every vibrating crowbar strike would ring “Gibraltar!”, and so they drained and farmed the swamps and the hilltops and the stoney flats, picking up the stones by hand and throwing them into piles from the back of the dray … they farmed them with wood and iron and steel ploughs ’til the tynes and shares were worn to a slither or blunt as a gibber. They farmed the wind-blown flats ’til their families died with the diphtheria or in harrowing births gone wrong, attended only by young girls too frightened by the ghastly complications of childbirth to do little but cry in shock of what could very soon be their own fate, or they died in fires and accidents too frequent to collate in a doctors surgery, too far from a doctor’s assistance and left buried in sad, lonely cemeteries, serenaded only through the fall of time by sighing sheoaks around the perimeter of the church yard.

This is how far they came from the Vistula River, from the deep soils of the Danube and the Oder. This is how far they brought the remnants of their culture. Here; to the rim of a far horizon.

“Trees don’t pay taxes”, the likes of Henry Ayers and George Fife Angus proclaimed from their seats in the new parliament.

And many left for greener pastures – more profitable trades – but the Lehmans stayed and made wine; the Saegenshnitters stayed as did the Rosenschwietzs; and the Krugers and the Greatzes and the Kochs. They stayed and worked the land or in the towns and built their churches and fought amongst themselves. They stayed, but forgot just exactly where their ancestors came from, and forgot why their culture mattered.

Local historian Reg Munchenberg, now deceased, wrote of the origins and the land titles held in the Stonefield area of those hardy Germans; those Wends/Sorbs, and he told of how, when many of the third generation here had retired and desired to go back to “the old country” to find their roots, many were shocked to find they had to go into Poland, them believing they were pure German stock. When in all the time they were both reviled by the Western Germans as a people who came from the east to take their jobs or later as potential Bolsheviks who they hunted down and killed with pogroms in the industrial areas of Danzig … and then upon return to their homeland after the war to find the Polish hated them for being “German” and their ancestral graveyards and records were destroyed by an angry, vengeful people.

And so we come via a circuous route back to the Roman Empire when they fought the Venerdi and the Seubi; The Wends and the Sorbs, back across the Danube, back into Germania, back into the future to await their next awakening here in South Australia, where once again they will become a part of a history they will not write, they will not control … for it is the victors who write the histories, we are told, and this area of the mallee, between the eastern hills and the Murray River is one fertile history that has yet to be written.

This article was originally published on freefall852.wordpress.com.

What’s really going on?: The reasons the US and North Korea won’t go to war over the Korean Peninsula

By Dr Strobe Driver

Introduction

At the end of June 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)— North Korea—through the actions of the North Korean People’s Army embarked on an invasion of South Korea by advancing toward Seoul.  This action signalled the beginning of the Korean War (1950 – 1953); and was the first military act of the Cold War (1948 -1989).[1]  Three years after the war had commenced the Republican Party in the United States of America (US) came to power largely on a pledge to end the war in Korea, and when North Korean and Chinese forces had been pushed back to near the thirty-eighth parallel by United Nations (UN) forces the war ended in a ‘stalemate.’[2]   Since 1953, the US has deemed North Korea to be a ‘rogue nation/rogue state.’[3] From the perspective of the North Korean government however, the war for the unification of their nation remains an ongoing and constant part of their political landscape.  Both of these standpoints have come to the fore in numerous ways in the decades since 1953.

From the standpoint of the West—the US in particular—North Korea remains a rogue state and in order for this to change there would have to be a move toward Realpolitik,[4] via the avenues of the UN to find a solution.  To date North Korea has not sought a solution through these channels.  Prior to North Korea’s current series of missile launches and through overt and persistent belligerence it remains defiant; and moreover seeks to exercise its political independence and regional preponderance through a strong military presence.  The defiance toward the US and its regional allies, particularly Taiwan, Japan and Australia has come in the form of ongoing missile tests, and the continued threat-of-strikes in the region—in recent times as far southeast as Australia.[5]   The hostility of North Korea through the Kim Jong-il regime (1994 – 2011) was brought to the fore as early as 2002, when President George W. Bush linked North Korea’s non-compliance to international norms  with an ‘axis of evil’ which included Iraq and Iran.[6]  Defining the US’ position, President Bush stated

[Rogue] States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.  By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.[7]

North Korea’s choice of allies, and the ongoing threats of Kim Jong-un, continues to underpin and inform the current crisis.  Nevertheless it should be stipulated, North Korea does have regional allies and this allows the nation to survive economically, militarily and politically.

Who’s supporting North Korea and how does it survive?

For all of its belligerence and pontificating North Korea however does receive direct and byproxy support from regional allies as it is fair to argue, no country in a globalized world is able to be completely isolated.  Whilst it is true that China recently criticized North Korea for its nuclear test in September 2016[8]  the regional strength that North Korea possesses does essentially, hinge on China’s largesse.  The support from China emanates from the political, trade and energy avenues that exist through the cross-diplomacy and other auspices of the Chinese government.  China therefore, is considered by the international community to be a ‘buffer state’[9] for North Korea.  Another regional ally is the Russian Federation operating through the prism of ‘mutually beneficial cooperation,’[10] and this offers North Korea an economic and political lifeline, and the same is able to be attributed to the transnational companies utilizing cheap North Korean labour in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (in conjunction with the South Korean government), at the southern end of their border.[11]  All contribute to a lifeline for North Korea and in part this has allowed North Korea to build and maintain a missile- and nuclear-program.

Continuing antagonism:  North Korea’s ongoing missile program

North Korea’s definitive and strong regional presence through its missile- and nuclear program occurs in defiance of international norms set down by the UN and the UN Security Council (UNSC). Any deviations and the corresponding threat and potential for destabilisation are assessed and addressed by the UNSC through UN Chapter Vll[12] which stipulates, ‘The Security Council shall determine any threat to the peace, any breach of the peace, or act of aggression…’[13] however to date, the UNSC has not deemed North Korea to be dangerous enough to approve direct action; or for it to be a serious threat to regional peace.  North Korea has persisted with its belligerence in the decades since the end of fighting and whilst the hostilities have not ended the continuum of the missile- and nuclear-program has reached a troublesome point in the mindset of the West and regional actors—Australia, Japan and South Korea in particular.   The fact that the UNSC has not approved direct action does not reflect a neutral stance, as North Korea is currently under the caution of UNSC Resolution 2321[14] which condemns North Korea’s nuclear test of September 2016.[15]

To be sure, the current fear that has been generated does have solid antecedents to the possibility of a kinetic outcome as the posturing of North Korea is relentless, and moreover in 2009 it stepped away from the ‘Six Party Talks’[16] which began in 2003—involving China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the US—which were designed to dismantle its nuclear program.  Since 2009 however, tensions have continued to rise[17] and North Korea has contributed persistently to regional tensions by maintaining its nuclear program as well as conducting regular short-, intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile test-flights and these tests have prompted comment from China and Russia which have in recent times articulated a more considered approach to regional frictions.  For instance, Russia continues to condemn North Korea’s nuclear program,[18] and ‘in March 2013, China finally agreed to sponsor UN sanctions alongside the United States and since then has steadily increased a call for the ‘resumption of [Six Party] talks.’[19]  Notwithstanding all of this, North Korea remains steadfast in its regional ambitions and exercises its sovereign independence via a military stance.

Underlying and influencing the current hostilities

The election of Donald Trump as President of the US has brought about a change in which the US views North Korea.  The change it is fair to argue, is one that adheres to the mid-1990s Project for the New American Century (PNAC)[20] which was designed to re-establish US preponderance after the perceived failures of the Clinton administration (1993 – 2001).   The rhetoric President Trump is using follows a core PNAC tenet of ‘we [the US under a Republican administration] need to … challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values.’[21]  The political dynamic is one of the US being more pro-active about threats as suggested in the PNAC document, and for the Trump administration is the political-memory and perceived malaise of the Obama administration when dealing with North Korea.  The way Obama dealt with North Korea was through the prism of ‘strategic patience,’[22] which included consultations with the US’ regional allies.

The Trump administration’s stance has brought to the fore numerous political tenets that it feels it must confront in order to differentiate from the ‘outstretched hand’[23] of the Obama administration.  The approach by Obama was one of setting an overall new tone for US foreign policy and incorporated a more bilateral approach to rogue states such as North Korea.[24]  Trump seeks foreign policy toward North Korea to be replaced with more of a ‘clenched fist’[25] approach, and this encompasses recalcitrant countries being shown direct US force or a threat-of-force.  Notwithstanding the new approach and whilst it may be the opposite of the ‘America first’[26] rhetoric of Trump’s presidential campaign which was focussed on ‘a foreign policy based on American interests’[27] is a moot point as ‘brinkmanship,’[28] and the forcing of it is the real issue and moreover, the US will meet it with overwhelming force which in turn offers an assurance to US’ allies in the region.

However, and as with all crises there are not only international frictions that dominate a situation as there are always domestic factors that play a part.  For the Trump administration and from a domestic perspective, moving a US Navy strike group toward the Korean Peninsula shows a more ‘hands on’ president is in control of America’s geo-strategic ambit and gives credence to words of US National Security Advisor McMaster who recently stated “… the president has made clear he is prepared to resolve this situation one way or another.”[29]

For Kim Jong-un and the North Korean military the influences that drive their domestic polity are that North Korea’s status as a military power is robust; regional preponderance is an ongoing part of domestic and international politics; should brinkmanship increase the US and its regional allies will be confronted militarily if the need arises; the nation will eventually be reunited by force if need be; and the sovereign nation-state of North Korea will not be influenced by military asymmetries in the  regional power-stakes.

The massive challenges of a war breaking out

There is much to be taken into account in order for a kinetic exchange not to occur as war is a circumstance that can rapidly spiral out of control for belligerents as the strategist Clauswitz observed, ‘war is subject to no laws but its own.’[30]   The fear of a limited-strike by US forces which would be designed to bring North Korea to heel, is that it may result in an escalation to  a ‘limited war’[31] as it is generally accepted that North Korea would respond with a barrage of missiles. The limitations on the part of the US would entail how much to commit in order to maintain its advantage and this would create a dilemma to the US’ domestic population—especially after the failures of Afghanistan and Iraq—as Americans would have to come to terms with what Vasquez sums up as ‘the objectives sought; the weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation.’[32] In simpler terms the Trump administration would have to take into account how much the US’ populace would be willing to commit and there would be considerable tensions.  Whilst a limited war may have some immediate successes there is always the possibility that it could develop into a ‘total war’[33]—especially if a ‘pre-emptive military action’[34] was launched by the US—and a ‘knock-on’ effect would inevitably be the US being blamed by the UN for the  war.  If the war became total it would be a disaster for the region (and the world) as  a war of this type ‘take[s] on the characters of a fight for survival, they tend to mobilize resources and means to wage battles with few restraints … The goals in total wars are much more open-ended and often expand as the war progresses.  Total wars often demand the complete overthrow of the leadership of the other side whether through the demand of unconditional surrender or total annihilation … ’ and such a catastrophic event would inevitably draw in other nations.  Concomitant and reinforcing the  current state-of-affairs and because of North Korea’s limited, military capabilities by comparison to the  US, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently stated that there can be ‘no winners’[35] in a war between North Korea, the US and South Korea.

Conclusion

In 2013 the (then) US Secretary of Defense Hagel, stipulated North Korea was a ‘clear and present danger to the United States’[36]  and in 2017, the US was ‘having a big problem with North Korea.[37]  Whilst both comments acknowledge that the US has over time continues to observe North Korea as a rogue state, the rhetoric has been moderated recently from the original tension-filled position to one of President Trump exclaiming he would be ‘honoured’ to meet Kim Jong-un under the ‘right circumstances.’[38]  Whilst there no guarantee that a kinetic exchange between the US and North Korea because will not take place, as the situation remains fluid however, neither actor has reinforced their rhetoric beyond anything other than a requisite ‘display of power’ to pacify their domestic audiences and in the case of the US, its regional allies as well—the US moving the USS Carl Vinson strike group near to the Korean Peninsula,[39] and the North Korean government warning that it is ‘ready for war.’[40]  Therefore, with the current dialogue happening—rhetoric- and tension-filled as it is—the chances of a war breaking out is diminished considerably as the exchanges signify that no actor is willing to lose the regional power-stakes.  Remaining hostile and its requisite show-of-strength does not necessarily end indirect action; and moreover is a necessary part of preponderance.  Historically several examples of this state-of-affairs are, Russia moving troops to the Finnish border in World War Two (WWII), China on numerous occasions moving troops and matériel to coastal facilities near Taiwan, and Britain moving a permanent garrison onto the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas after the Falklands War/Guerra del Atlántico Sur (1982).

What is of most importance although often not part of the general commentary is there are inconsistencies in how North Korea is represented by the West and this factor needs to be examined.  The claim that North Korea is isolationist is misleading as it has well-entrenched ties with China, the Russian Federation, and moreover based on the comments of President Bush, also has a connections with Iran.  This is not a sign of a politically-isolationist sovereign nation-state and it is fair to argue, the West—the US in particular—has difficulties with the geo-strategic allies that North Korea has chosen are as problematic as its missile-strike capabilities.  Notwithstanding the missile program there is another single enormous issue driving the US’ need to be rid of the ‘rogue’ state of North Korea and it is the production of counterfeit US one hundred dollar bills—so-called ‘super dollars’—which North Korea has been producing since the 1970s, for all intent and purpose, indistinguishable from genuine US currency.[41]  A flood of this currency onto the world market would pose a serious threat to the US economy and is a major, if not the major, reason for the US’ military stance.  Knowing this single fact it is safe to argue, changes the  focus of why there is such preponderance and tensions in the region.

There are however, other extenuating circumstances that would impact on the US if a war were to break out.  The US’ post-WWII dominance of the region would be weakened due to US losses as well as South Korean.  A war could result in but not be limited to a reduction in the overall regional power of the US; allow China to gain an immediate exponential geo-political and geo-strategic advantage; offer an opportunity to the Russian Federation to gain greater regional geo-political and geo-strategic footprint; include European Union involvement in future political stability; and motivate other actors to assert their regional demands in the face of a weakened US.

Taking all of the above into account if the US thought North Korea posed an overwhelming threat to US and/or regional security, it would have acted earlier in the twenty-first century—possibly as early as 2002, and in recent days without doubt, would move more than a single carrier strike group into the region if the threat was real rather than imagined.   Therefore and based on the evidence, both the US and North Korea are both intent on winning the hostilities without going to war.

References

[1] ‘Korean War’ History.comstaff. History.com, 2002. http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war

[2] Gabriel Kolko. Another Century of War? New York: The New Press, 2002, 92 – 93.

[3] A ‘rogue nation’ is an early-twentieth century term for a nation-state ‘which acts in an unpredictable or belligerent manner towards other nations; (in later use) specifically – “rogue state”.’ See: Oxford English living Dictionary. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/rogue_nation

[4]Realpolitik’ is posited in the notion of power and the desire and to a certain extent the ability to use it in a forum of sophisticated peers and recognized institutions.  Realpolitik is posited in, and summed up as ‘traditional power politics … Realpolitik [however] is a ‘jungle’, so to speak, where dangerous beasts roam and the strong and cunning rule, whereas under the League of Nations [now the UN] the beasts are put into cages reinforced by the restraints of international organization … .’’  See: Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Theories and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 38. Italics mine.

[5] Andrew Greene. ‘North Korea threatens nuclear strike against Australia if it doesn’t stop ‘blindly toeing US line.’ ABCnews. 22 April, 2017. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-22/north-korea-accuses-australia-of-blindly-following-the-us/8464252

[6] See: ‘Text of President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Address.’ The Washington Post. 29, June 2002. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/onpolitics/transcripts/sou012902.htm

[7] The address was made on January 29, 2002. See: ‘Speeches by US presidents, 2002, George W. Bush.’ State of the Union Address Library. http://stateoftheunionaddress.org/2002-george-w-bush

[8] Eleanor Albert and Beina Xu. ‘The China-North Korea Relationship.’ Council on Foreign Relations, 26 April, 2017. http://www.cfr.org/china/chinanorth-korea-relationship/p11097

[9] Alexander Dor. ‘North Korea’s Growing Isolation.’ 5 Sept, 2015. http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/north-koreas-growing-isolation/

[10] For a comprehensive analysis. See: Liudmila Zakharova. ‘Russia-North Korea Economic Relations.’ Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies. 2016, 210 – 215. http://keia.org/sites/default/files/publications/joint_us-korea_2016_-_russia_nk.pdf

[11] ‘What is the Kaesong Industrial Complex?’ BBCnews. 10 Feb, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-22011178

[12] ‘Charter of the United Nations. Chapter VII—Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches to the Peace and Acts of Aggression.’ UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[13] UN.org  http://legal.un.org/repertory/art39.shtml

[14] See: ‘Security Council Strengthens on Democratic Republic of Korea, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2321 (2016).’ United Nations. 30 Nov, 2016  https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[15] https://www.un.org/press/en/2016/sc12603.doc.htm

[16] Xiaodon Ling. ‘The Six Party Talks at a Glance.’ Arms Control Association. May, 2012.  https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/6partytalks

[17] ‘North Korea. Nuclear.’ Nuclear Threat Initiative. Sept, 2016. http://www.nti.org/learn/countries/north-korea/nuclear/

[18] Joint U.S. – Korea Academic Studies, 2016, 210 – 215.

[19] JayShree Bajorta and Beina Xu. ‘The Six Party Talks On North Korea’s Nuclear Program.’ Council on Foreign Relations. 30 Sept, 2013. http://www.cfr.org/proliferation/six-party-talks-north-koreas-nuclear-program/p13593

[20] The Project for the New American Century has many contributors and the directors are William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Bruce Jackson, Mark Gerson, and Randy Scheunemann. The project was established in the Spring of 1997 and is an initiative of the New Citizenship Project.  See: Project for the New American Century.  http://www.newamericancentury.org/.htm

[21] Project for the New American Century.

[22] Scott Snyder. ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’ Jan, 2013. http://www.cfr.org/north-korea/us-policy-toward-north-korea/p29962

[23] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[24] Maria Cotudi. ‘The limits of “strategic patience”: How Obama failed on North Korea.’ NKNews. 2 Nov, 2016. https://www.nknews.org/2016/11/the-limits-of-strategic-patience-how-obama-failed-on-north-korea/

[25] ‘U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.’

[26] ‘America First Foreign Policy.’  The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[27] https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[28] The Process of War. Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack. Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995, 97.

[29] Harriet Agerholm. ‘US national security adviser says ‘be prepared for military action against North Korea.’ 1 May, 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/north-korea-national-security-adviser-lieutenant-general-hr-mcmaster-be-prepared-military-action-a7711221.html

[30] Carl von Clauswitz. Vom Kriege: Hinterlassenes Werk des Generals …(Gebundene Ausgabe)Dümmlers: Verlag,Berlin, 1832. See: Karl von Clausewitz.  On War.  Edited by Anotel Rapoport. Translation by Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1908. London: Penguin Classics, 1982, 402.

[31] Adrian Lewis. The American Culture of War. The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.

[32] The American Culture of War, 203.

[33] John Vasquez. The War Puzzle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 67.

[34] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[35] ‘North Korea: War with North Korea can bring no winners, China says.’  ABCnews, 18 April, 2017.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-15/china-says-no-winners-in-us-north-korea-war/8445508

[36] Joel Wit and Jenny Town. ‘7 Reasons to Worry About North Korea’s Weapons.’ 16 April, 2013. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/7-rea1.sons-to-worry-about-north-koreas-weapons/275020/

[37] ‘We have a big problem’ in North Korea: Trump.’ Reuters/video. 5 April, 2017 http://www.reuters.com/video/2017/04/05/we-have-a-big-problem-in-north-korea-tru?videoId=371430155

[38] Jeremy Diamond and Zachary Cohen.  ‘Trump: I’d be honored to meet Kim Jong-un under ‘right circumstances.’ CNNpolitics.  2 May, 2017.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/01/politics/donald-trump-meet-north-korea-kim-jong-un/

[39] Edward Helmore. ‘Tillerson: China agrees on ‘action’ on North Korea as navy strike group sails.’ The Guardian. 10 April, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/09/us-navy-strike-group-north-korea-peninsula-syria-missile-strike

[40] Samuel Osborne. ‘North Korea says it is ‘ready for war’ with Donald Trump’s United States.’ Independent. 21 Mar, 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/north-korea-ready-for-war-donald-trump-united-states-america-kim-jong-un-a7641276.html

[41] Moon Sung Hwee. ‘Super Notes Still in Production.’ Daily NK.  6 April, 2009.  http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=5006

This article was originally published on Geo-Strategic Orbit.

Strobe Driver – Strobe completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Dr Driver is currently and adjunct researcher at Federation University. The views expressed in this article are his own.

 

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