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The mobile phone is throttling Jesus

By James Moylan

Musing about the benefits of less God at Easter.

#1.

At Easter it is a good moment to settle back and consider our slow yet steady development as a species. In Australia we have become a relatively Godless bunch. It’s a very pleasing development.

In the main Aussies are now either heathens, apostates, atheists, or lukewarm believers. As a whole we have generally rejected wide-eyed unabashed religious nuttery but we are still fond of our traditions. We would, in the main, rather remain conflicted instead of putting in the mental effort it might require to fashion any sort of a cohesive world view.

Yet even so – the apparent retreat of God does need to be noted and celebrated. Individually we are a pretty sorry bunch of apes; but as a species we are definitely progressing. In some small ways and in a limited fashion. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Centuries of religious tomfoolery have left their mark. It will take a concerted effort over many generations just to redress half of the harm that has been inflicted on feckless believers by the spiritual thugs we collectively refer to as ‘preachers’. Certainly not bashing your head against a wall continually is a good thing – but it is not necessarily something that should be celebrated even though the lack of bashing is something that should be noted with at least quiet satisfaction.

Always remember that there are still more churches than there are schools in Australia. How embarrassing!

But at least they are now generally sitting empty. While it is a scandalous waste of public resources these temples, shrines, churches and other sites of sorcery are, happily, now barely visited. While 61% of us like to say that we are ‘Christian’ only one in seven of these ‘believers’ ever set foot in a church. In reality less than 2 in 50 of us go to church or even pray on a daily or weekly basis.

#2.

I do not wish to imply that half of the population do not deeply believe in one or more patently ludicrous thing. This is unfortunately the case. However some small gains are falteringly apparent. There are now five times as many active recreational fishermen in Aus as there are churchgoers. That has to be long step in the right direction. Also, note that the majority of us have decided that we will no longer accept that the amorphous assertions that may or may not have been advanced by one or another holy person, several tens of hundreds of years ago, should be regarded with anything more than a nod and a wink.

In fact, it is now almost appropriate to declare an interim victory over rampant mysticism in Aus. Not because anyone is talking about it but rather because nobody is talking much about it. Even the really committed religious zealots all seem to have pulled their heads in for the time being. Or perhaps nobody is providing them with a microphone? Whatever. But the extended silence is pleasing.

It seems that only Americans and people over 55 dare to preach in the public square anymore for fear of being branded an idiot. Even these so-called ‘apologists’ are mainly on the backfoot. The range of apologies seem to just keep on growing. Those that aren’t fending off kiddie fiddler charges are now also continually puffing out a miasma of embarrassed justifications regarding every new scientific discovery to their ever diminishing flock of mobile phone owning parishioners.

Mobile phone ownership is a key aspect.

#3.

The greatest threat to the continuing ubiquity of Jesus statues throughout our society is mobile phone technology. God and the iPhone are competing technologies. McLuhan was right. The medium is the message. Wherever a mobile phone is active God can’t compete. Facebook, Twitter, casual sex and drugs, and discussions about casual sex and drugs, will win. Every time. No fact is more ‘facty’.

In our day to day living pragmatic science has replaced mysticism. We all live a Star Trek existence with cool ‘communicators’ strapped to our hips while we stride along the virtual superhighways and live both a virtual as well as a genuine existence, simultaneously. The digital age has revolutionised the way in which citizens conceive of who we are and how we might interact with other citizens. Every moment of a personal routine is now capable of being contextualised by reference to a host of competing voices and supplementary information streams.

The ancients were timid supplicants at Delphi – proving that none of them had a mobile phone. There is nothing timid about the post-modern phone-owning citizen. When you have a mobile phone in your pocket, God is not so much dead as entirely superfluous to all current requirements.

We ride in supercharged cars and launch a million souls hurtling into the high atmosphere every moment of every day. We blithely demand answers from google, regarding everything, instantly, and simply expect that our civil engineers will move mountains and make it rain in the desert, and provide us with live action coverage. Let’s face it: Jesus may have been able to walk on water, but any kid with Google Maps can fly anywhere on earth, conduct simultaneous conversations, stream and broadcast live video, plus emit a GPS location fix that is accurate to within one square metre, even while riding their bike home from school. These days it really takes something pretty astounding to shake the attention of a teenage kid. Walking on water simply won’t cut it. Who needs loaves and fishes when Milo and a microwave are both present?

We think differently. Our phones are seducing and altering us. There is no battle. We march willingly into the ether. We are subdued and then trained seamlessly and almost incidentally. It is an almost invisible Faustian bargain that is rarely provided the consideration it deserves. We offer up our identities up to the network. Defer to the requirements, and become transformed into a newborn, pinprick, GPS reference. Part of our life force bleeds into this new online identity. Forever more we are more than we once were, but also less. We split our psyche. Amoeba like a new entity has been born. An ‘online persona’. Something at once bigger and more majestic, yet also deliberately and knowingly fraudulent.

When you own a mobile phone you accept you are a cipher. You are explicable. You are related and located. That dot on the screen is at once definitely and precisely ‘you’ as well as simultaneously being vague digital approximation.

#4.

In the virtual world we all jointly deconstruct and reconstruct vast digital empires and arguments, on a millisecond by millisecond basis, even as we all integrate these new dimensions of connectivity into our daily routine. It changes the way that we associate bits of information. We become more interested in patterns and processes and less fixated on data and text. Over many generations we developed from Homo Erectus into Homo Sapiens. Now our emotional and intellectual software is finally beginning to catch up with all the possibilities. The impact of digital modes of communication on the consciousness of many individuals within our species, on the ways in which individuals disambiguate and process information, is palpable. The information age has dawned. Homo Sapiens has become Joe Citizen.

Star Trek is here. We are, as a species, in control of this fragile globe as it hurtles through the distant reaches of the outer-spiral arm of our milky-way galaxy. It is now StarDate 2017.

As a species our numbers, technical sophistication, and modes of communication now inculcate an expectation that ‘history’ is over. That we are now the ones in control. All the ‘blind and unknown forces’ have mostly become explicable. Mysticism has given way to wide-eyed awe as we gaze at the majesty and complexity of the power and matter, and the vast spaces, surrounding, separating, linking, and partially explaining us.

For most modern first world residents of earth our daily regimen is jam packed with the palpable fact that science works. That astronomy explains stuff and astrology doesn’t. That chemistry is correct and alchemy is a plotline.

With all this being revealed whenever we spend any time reflecting on the implications of just one Tweet, in an eternal Twitterstorm, which is itself only one facet of an ever changing and evolving deluge of available content and context. Who needs God?

Entertaining a knowledge of mortality and vague feeling of existential despair may be Joe Citizen’s lot for the term of his highly contextualised and self-consciously limited span of years. It’s not the ideal situation but you simply can’t argue with a mobile phone.

So- the mobile phone is throttling Jesus. It’s not all the mobile phone is is good for; but there is no doubt it is a Christ Killer.

The son of God will likely be stone dead pretty soon now. For the first time in 2000 years the news that he really won’t be coming back will become the widespread orthodoxy. In fact; Jesus is already stone dead on Facebook. On Twitter he still pops up occasionally but Twitter is good at recycling extremely limited explanations.

#5.

However, it seems the atheists are winning by default. There is no bunch of less organised or less organisable individuals than the atheists. Which is understandable. Founding any sort of atheist organisation makes as much sense as trying to found an anti-unicorn society. While a lot of us do not believe in unicorns – non-belief in unicorns can hardly be described as being a central guiding principal in anyone’s life.

So it is not the efforts of the atheists that are causing this shift away from organised religion, it’s just that the simple ubiquity of information seems to be causing religion to wither as a core organising principle. The questions asked and supposedly answered in traditional religions are just not really important. And when you can get a rundown of sixteen different apparitions of Jesus in any given google search then it tends to devalue the whole Jesus marketplace. Unless, of course, you decide to go with a religion that simply disavows the utility of ‘knowing stuff’.

But even then, becoming a radical mainlining Fundamentalist, of any stripe, for any length of time, is ever more difficult. You really have to cultivate a very sophisticated outlook to be able to be able to entertain all of the eternal justifications required to be an evangelical anything in our modern world. To maintain such a world-view requires that you constantly re-interpret the whole realm of ‘science’, and pretty much every incidental fact that you encounter at every juncture during the course of every long modern day. All the while simultaneously using mass transit or private cars and surfing the information superhighway every time you swipe to buy a cup of coffee.

So, to actively maintain a belief that ‘the scientists’ have ‘got it all wrong,’ means constantly manufacturing a commentary regarding exactly how and why the scientists seem to have to got such a hell of a lot of things, so precisely and uniformly wrong, for such an extremely extended period. In the end it’s far easier to simply zone out, watch another movie, tweet about some significant weather, and window-shop for doodabs and sprockets, whilst on a bus, while on your way to work.

Religion automatically becomes a less sufficient explanation when you own a mobile phone. There is a tragic and inescapable irony associated with searching for reasons for ‘why the world is six thousand year’s old’ on an iPhone, connected to the internet, using electricity and wi-fi, with no sorcery or magic apparent.

#6.

Relativistic godlessness is simply an inescapable corollary of having instant access, all the time, to all the knowledge, of all the least informed individuals, all across the globe. Will the real Jesus please stand up? All, some, or none of them might be real. But there sure is a heck of a parcel of Jesus’s to choose from.

Yet while far right and the far left wing individuals in our society get to choose from any number of religious affiliations and personal associated Jesus’s – in middle Australia this is no longer the case. For middle-of-the-road Aussies God has become really difficult subject. Especially if your main aim is simply to just ‘get along’. For the vast majority of the population, who are not at the extremes, professing a belief in any particular ‘belief system’ now seems far more likely to cause offense than serve to ingratiate. Even ‘middle of the road’ politicians no longer talk about religion or invoke religious values in public. They all know that saying outright that you are a religious person, or even vaguely implying that you believe in the literal truth of some element of religious dogma or scripture, is largely frowned upon. Yes you are allowed to believe whatever sort of tosh you might want to believe: as long as you don’t mention it in public, blow something up, or embarrass yourself, or me.

Religion is tolerable as long as it is remains some sort of a fuzzy, non-threatening, generalised, theistic notion. But unless you are already occupying one of the extremes in our society, religion has become particularly tricky in the digital age. While far right and the far left wing individuals get to choose from any number of religious affiliations and personal associated Jesus’s – in middle Australia this is no longer the case. Here ‘God’ has become really prickly subject. Especially if your main aim is simply to just ‘get along’. For the vast majority of the population, who are not at the extremes, professing a belief in any particular ‘belief system’ now seems far more likely to cause offense than serve to ingratiate. Even ‘middle of the road’ politicians no longer talk about religion or invoke religious values in public. They all know that saying outright that you are a religious person, or even vaguely implying that you believe in the literal truth of some element of religious dogma or scripture, is largely frowned upon. Yes you are allowed to believe whatever sort of tosh you might want to believe: as long as you don’t mention it in public.

In this way, in the last decades, what is considered to be ‘normal’ has changed radically. Having any sort of a deep religious conviction has become somewhat out of the ordinary. That is; anything beyond a bland assertion of cultural affiliation and a vague indication of being ‘sort-of theistic’ in a ‘round-a-bout way’. Two minutes of conversation with any average Aussie will be enough to assure yourself that the orthodoxy of the irreligious really has won the day.

Aussies now equate secular and academic expertise with competence rather than degrees of faith or personal religious values. If truth be told, the discussion of religion in public has come to be regarded as being a little ‘icky’.

Even as we are expecting more sophistication from our political class we are also, simultaneously, marking them down whenever they mention something religious. We all largely expect better than we are getting already, so when politicians veer off into trying to ingratiate themselves by advocating a soft and woolly form of Christianity, they are more likely to be sneered at than given credit.

The medium really is the message. A generation on from being coined this truism is being born out. Mobile phones are providing ubiquitous access to reams of accurate information, instantly, has served to breed a largely irreligious population that is at once oddly credulous yet also wildly sophisticated. The borders between what is ‘right’ and ‘left’, and what is ‘traditional’ and ‘fundamentalist’, have shifted and continue to shift, simply because, for most young people, the possibility of remaining ignorant regarding the views embraced by the majority of the world’s population is no longer a viable option.

#7.

Being a participant in a 24/7 online world automatically conditions each individual to receive information in a different manner to the way in which their parents did. Integrated, continuous, narrow cast, and personalized information is traded while we multi-task. We don’t try to hoard or index information as it is largely free, ubiquitous, and ever available. We swim through information, share, avoid, appraise and compare information, and discard rather than regard the vast majority of words and images that we encounter throughout the course of our day.

At the same time the information revolution is transforming our appreciation of what society is, and how we all need to temper our impact upon the environment and each other, it is simultaneously inculcating within every user of an internet connection or a mobile phone a habit of sceptical inquiry and methodological naturalism. It is changing the way that the user ‘thinks’. We are becoming the first generation on planet earth who know and believe that we really can solve the problems of hunger, malnutrition, war, fresh water, food security and power generation, using the scientific method.

The ‘big-picture’ ethic that is a concomitant outcome of our Faustian digital trade is the adoption of a relativistic perspective where we are floating high above our earth, along with many hundreds of thousands of other digital simulacra. All finding it a little difficult to mask our dismay at the distressing sight of the increasingly distressed environment and the distracted and sometimes parlous state of our various societies.

To Joe Citizen, floating above it all and looking down, it is self-evidently apparent that the practice of science and the nature of the available information should inform our discussions regarding social dynamics and the nature of our impact upon the environment. Religion simply does not ask or answer any of the questions that are important. So rather than being considered wrong, traditional religion is simply beside the point. It is anachronistic. It is all about answering questions that are no longer appropriate or important.

So ‘god’ has been steadily retreating. A massive all-knowing and all-seeing entity has shrunk into a god of the gaps. A cipher for all that is unknowable and unknown. A word signifying a mix of the unknown plus all the parts of the story that are too ‘difficult’ to deal with in a casual manner.

Also, where once, only several generations ago, Joe Citizen would likely only travel from one village to another every now and again, would likely only read a local newspaper, and would likely work in one profession for all his working life; he now has a computer in his pocket with more grunt than all the computers that powered our first mission to the moon. Joe is no barbarian in any of his parts. He is a discerning consumer and participant in several digital and real communities, all at once. Also Joe doesn’t want to be defined by his profession, and really does want to accord greater respect for other citizens than was common in earlier ages. He is primarily worried about the future of the planet and the state of our environment. Moreover Joe believes that these primary allegiances are far more significant and important than are passing things like political parties and ideologies. Joe really has embraced an understanding that the world has changed. For Joe Citizen; godless and rational is now the default setting.

#8.

Note that despite a continuing fightback from many in the traditional media, the tenor and vocabulary in our public discussions has shifted. We are beginning to adopt a global perspective rather than a parochial one. Our grip on our mobile phones is slowly dragging us all, as individuals, into a relationship where we are still atomised individuals yet where we are all seen as being in a distinct relationship to each other as well as to the massive and awe inspiring blue globe above which we hover. Our commonly stated ambition is to be inclusive and careful in our dialogue. What a wonderful thing!

Most people, most of the time, now deliberately and carefully avoid using sexist or bigoted terms and ideas. We have become self-consciously aware that our labels and our labelling are significant instruments of power as well as being markers of a personal understanding of the need to foster inclusive and non-judgemental speech patterns and habits. In effect our pervasive self-conscious adherence to norms of behaviour and opinions that are often derisively referred to as ‘being PC’ is actually a marker of the very different forms of engagement with information that are now commonplace in the digital marketplace. Ways of understanding that simply did not exist thirty years ago.

We have been transformed. The purveyors of information in online discussions now tend to be more argumentative and topical than declarative and rhetorical. Our online and mainstream media streams have become arenas of discussion where the particular personal beliefs of the individual are often considered but rarely privileged unless the individual concerned is an ‘authority’. And that means a ‘scientific authority’ – not a spiritual one.

One of the basic doctrines guiding our democratic process is the recognition that we have all agreed (in general) that religion should be a right for an individual yet never privileged or endorsed by an instrument of the state. More significantly: we have decided that we will all enjoy a ‘common discourse’ that assumes that rational argumentation and methodological naturalism will be the principle modes of appraisal and where publicly significant discussions will be based on a scientifically and academically valid forms of appreciation.

So where once the political folk who commonly front our nation state were habitually found, every Sunday, clad in long flowing robes, murmuring incantations in large draughty stone barns, this is largely a thing of the past. Conspicuous religious devotion has become an anomaly in the modern world. It can even be a liability, especially where the majority of the population are either non-religious, non-Christian, and/or are only vaguely and culturally theistic.

For the tiny minority of the deeply religious who still roam our fair streets it has all become deadly serious so they are busy outfitting themselves with all sorts of powerful spells and incantations. A huge new marketplace of potential religious beliefs has sprung up to cater to this need. There are now so many different types of Jesus on the market that just about any potential set of beliefs is now catered for. Take your pick. Whatever you want to believe there is now a Jesus pre-prepared that will fit your requirements exactly.

If you are young and liberal then maybe try a mid-strength Presbyterian or Church of England brew. If you are looking for something a bit harder then you might need a revolutionary, or a feminist, or even a mystical Jewish apocalyptic Jesus. They are all available. But, oddly enough, even though there is a seeming boom in different available forms of divine progeny to choose from, there also seems to be far fewer religious zealots to go around.

Mobile phones and computers continuously suck up the religious and spit out dazed yet addicted consumers into the digital marketplace. Our mobile phones are slowly gobbling up and devouring the old ways of looking at the world and the old ways of ‘thinking’.

But that just means we take responsibility for our new vision. Without God the universe is a huge and intimidating as well as being finite and depressing. So while it is good to take some time out at Easter to celebrate the fact that we might have jointly moved out from under the deep cloud of superstition and delusion that has tracked our progress as a species for so many millennia; this nonetheless leaves us with a clear view of the globe as being a single fragile environment that is currently exposed to all sorts of clear and present danger.

So perhaps our moment of smug appreciation needs to be a rather short one. The digital age leaves us mere mortals hovering above our small blue dot of a planet; alone. So it is up to us to sort all of these hassles out. There is no God left anywhere to be seen. Just us and the universe. Frightening. Exhilarating. Intimidating. But real.

 

 

Indigenous suicide prevention in the Digital Age

By Judith Crispin

Aboriginal Australians are dying. Needlessly.

We are losing three Aboriginal people a week to suicide, from a population that is just over half a million, and an Indigenous person is four times more likely to take their own life than a non-Indigenous person.

I am working with the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert to create an Indigenous suicide prevention app.

The app will be called ‘Kurdiji’ (shield, or to protect). It takes its name from a body of Warlpiri knowledge normally transmitted as part of the Kurdiji initiation ceremonies for young people. The Kurdiji ideas have been successfully used by the Warlpiri to increase resilience and prevent suicide.

When a young man committed suicide in 2005 in the remote community of Lajamanu, local Warlpiri elders said ‘Enough is enough’. With help from friends, Lajamanu established the Milpirri festival to spread the traditional ideas of ‘Kurdiji’  among their young people. They began to fight for every single young Indigenous life in their community. Since 2005 there hasn’t been a single suicide in Lajamanu.

Now those same elders want to bring Kurdiji into the digital age with a community created app based on stories, ceremonies and law. They want to fight for all Aboriginal lives, not just those in remote or traditional communities. They have partnered with an expert team including technologists, photographers and a leading clinical psychologist from The Black Dog Institute.

As a community led project, it’s tricky to find operational costs so we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe. We’re trying to find ways now to spread the word about our campaign. We’ve got a great video with Indigenous actor Uncle Jack Charles and we hope that you can share our video and let your networks know about the campaign. You can see the film on our GoFundMe page at www.kurdijiproject.com and on the Kurdiji web page.

Aboriginal suicide rates are at the level of an epidemic, and a genuinely community-led technological approach hasn’t been tried before – so we’re in unknown territory to some degree. Your help in spreading the word about our campaign will make an enormous difference.

 

Are we, or did I not?

By Mark Needham

Recent unfortunate deaths have been among us, as death always is.

I personally am at a time in my life where the death of a parrot/echidna/pheasant/frog, or, as is commonly the case, a poor bloody kangaroo will just about bring me to tears. Animals, unlike humans, are the best part of the life on this planet. Losing a pet cat or dog is one of the hard transitions of life that is brought upon us.

To lead a common thread, as I have often remarked to friends, that it is amazing how, when someone dies, young or old, how terrible it was, and that “Such a Lovely Person” their Godly Behaviour was Sainthood personified.

Me, myself, I have often, nay, always wondered, that the little turd got what they deserved. This always, from a position of absolutely “Not Knowing”, but irrelevant to my thinking or reason. Yep, we have all done it, I reckon, but like my thoughts, regarding the above, chances are that I am WRONG. As I often are.

In particular the venom that was forthcoming from the idealogical opposites, to the recent passing of Bill Leak, a cartoonist and John Clarke a satirist. The descriptions I use, to give these two blokes a job, are open to discussion, and not the intent of my comment here.

I will not make any links to a “differing” blog, as it is most apparent to me, “That, WE do not go there”.

Having observed the reaction to these two top bloke’s passing was an absolute eye opener. From either side of the political spectrum, the wishes from the “Other Team” was as usual on party lines, … ( Shite, I wish I were a wordsmith) and normal. Like a five-year old boy, saying “I don’t like girls” and a five-year old girl saying ” I do not like boys”. It was “script written” expected and delivered, by both boys and girls. You know what I mean. Atypical, vitriolic and disturbing (well, to me).

I call your attention to a past article on The AIMN: ‘Speaking freely of the dead‘. I also recommend your perusal to our comments at the time.

Thing is, having made the comment regarding the “terminology used for the dead, the liturgy” decrying its oft discriminate use, we now find that one of our own has passed away. Suddenly the “liturgy” tends to bite our own arse. This is a point in my own life where I have often found myself. Makes one ask the question of our own fallibility. I mean, I know I am good, but how good, and how often … or not.

We all know when we cock up, but to not appreciate the excellent work from these two blokes, the humour, in your face, bite me, up yours, cop this, slap me down, pull me up and, I would dare say that both fellas would like to say also, “f*ck you”.

They were funny. Often said stuff which was … you know what it was … you know what I mean …

John and Bill were picking away at our foibles, our own castles, our inadequacies, predesposed ideas, our own “Gods”, trying to wake us all up, to what was in fact, bullshit, but was actually reality.

Bullshit was the humour, we laughed at that, but the reality was the funniest or bullshitiest bit of it all, and I should have hoped that we could see, that at the end of the day, it was all we were left with.

Laughter.

John Clarke, Bill Leak, you have left us some wonderful memories of your own acerbic wit, charm and humour.

Thank you.

I am an electrician, not a writer nor academic, give us a bloody go, hey!
I also know, that I can be a proper pain in the arse – sorry about that – but the main problem is that my brain is about 30 letters behind what I am typing. Saying what I mean, and then typing what I’m saying, it is pure chance, that anything comes out even half understandable.

 

Western Sydney Airport: many residents not given the chance to say “no”

40% of Western Sydney residents have been denied a voice on Forum On Western Sydney Airport

On 10/4/17 the representatives of FOWSA (forum on Western Sydney Airport) announced, among other things, the proposed flight paths for Badgerys Creek Airport.

I note with great interest that Penrith, Liverpool, Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains councils all have representation on this panel but none for Parramatta, The Hills Shire or Blacktown Council residents.

In addition no Federal members were meant to be on this board yet Anne Stanley and Mike Freelander are on it and noticeably absent is any representation for Blacktown, Parramatta or Hills Shires such as Julie Owen, Alex Hawke, Ed Husic or Michelle Rowland.

Camden is represented by their state member Chris Paterson yet Hugh McDermott, John Robertson, Geoff Lee and Mark Taylor who are state MPs in Blacktown, Parramatta  and Hills Shire Council areas aren’t on it.

No residents from these council areas are on FOWSA.

Under the draft EIS the Hills Shire Council residents were affected by these flight paths at heights as low as 4500ft and Blacktown Council residents at 2500ft. Parramatta had flights st around 8,000 – 10,000ft. In addition all areas already have flights from Sydney Airport and could conceivably continue to do so when the airport opens. It defies logic that Blacktown Council, Parramatta Council or the Hills Shire Council residents  have no representation on the board of FOWSA.

It is unacceptable that 800,000 western Sydney residents have no voice on FOWSA. They deserve a voice.

Andrea Grieve
President
No Badgerys Creek Airport Inc

 

Barnaby Joyce livid about form failure

By Sean

Barnaby Joyce today was outraged to have received a letter from Queensland asking for financial aid after being stuck with a cyclone. Taking the podium at a news conference – looking physically shaken – he started in an even tone.

“There are forms, there are forms … New South Wales sent their form … You can’t just send me a two page bloody letter. For goodness sake, I fill out my forms, I tell you fill them out, all the way out. I am sure the people at home fill out their forms. We all have these stupid forms to fill out so by crikey fill out your stupid bloody form.”

Barnaby began to grow in excitement as he continued while waving a two page letter in one hand and a 500 page form in the other, papers flying everywhere as he struggled to maintain control of the ream of paperwork.

“I mean what next, right. Can I have an amen? Hallelujah. What would Jesus do? I’ll tell you what he would not do, he would not write a two page letter asking for all the government’s money over the forward estimate! That is not what He would do! … I expect He would fill out the form, like any normal individual would do….”

Losing control Barnaby flung the remaining form papers skywards, his fist clenched and face growing a bright plum shade of red.

“Cm-on, get real … I know you had a cyclone, but what? Are well going to start writing wee letters to the banks asking them for all the money? Let’s get real right now okay, it’s a form, it’s important … Besides who even writes letters anymore? I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you, this is bloody Labor at work, that is what this is. Labor at work. Bloody left-wing writing bloody letter … Idiots.”

With that Barnaby stormed off the stage muttering, “Just fill out the form, just fill it out, we want to help you, we do”.

 

Is the housing crisis being totally ignored by the government?

By RH

Equitable reform within the Australian housing market can never be achieved without a detailed understanding of the various market problems and a broad knowledge of property development while setting aside political ideology. Serious intent is required by placing all elements of the housing market on the table for analysis and revaluation. Full government co-operation is essential in order to achieve affordable housing opportunities for a large portion of Australia’s population.

The housing market is in fact divided into a number of independent specialised markets each having a unique interrelationship that cannot be ignored. The methodologies for land acquisition, planning, design and construction vary considerably depending upon the intent of land acquisition and purpose of development.

There should be no illusion that housing affordability in Australia’s large east coast cities has become a critical issue. Housing cost is forecast to increase a further 4 to 6 per cent during 2017. This is of lesser concern to those who are financially stable and participating in the Primary Market but of serious concern for the younger generations and low income earners in Secondary Markets where they see little possibility of ever owning their own home. A number of well respected economists have reported on the seriousness of this problem that has been allowed to grow and smoulder. Housing affordability has been of concern to many Australians extending from a period prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

I clearly remember Prime Minister John Howard being interviewed by a reporter around this period. The reporter asked what the government intended to do about the rising cost of housing in Sydney. Howard’s response began with his little sardonic laugh ‘Herr, herr, I’ve never heard anybody complain about the value of their house increasing.’ Is it possible that the prime minister failed to understand the importance and implications of this question or did he consider that lower income families were not suitable householders? Whatever the prime minister’s view, very little appears to have changed except for the booming price of housing.

Former federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, when confronted with housing affordability, advised that if you could not afford a house then you should go find a better paying job and suggested also the possibility of starting your own business. Current Treasurer Scott Morrison (apparently aware only of a Primary Market) considered that although ‘… housing is expensive and increasingly unaffordable’ this did not mean that it was over-valued (SMH, October 24, 2016). The Treasurer’s approach avoids reforms but looks to the states for expanding land availability, simplification of planning regulations and, possibly, some concessions thrown in – typically market self-adjustment ideology welcomed by developers and agents.

Nevertheless over the last twenty four months two parliamentary enquiries have been conducted into Housing Ownership. The first commissioned by Joe Hockey in 2015 and chaired by Liberal MP John Alexander was instructed to report on potential reforms to the housing market and had received for assistance a thirty page RBA report prepared by Dr Stephen Koukoulas. This enquiry was terminated and although the former committee chairman Alexander requested that the government reconvene the enquiry so it could ‘address the imbalances in the market between investors and owner occupiers’ the request was  rejected. A second parliamentary enquiry chaired by Liberal MP David Coleman was established following the April, 2016 federal election and handed down its report on home ownership on 16th December 2016. The committee concluded that there was no ‘structural problem’ with housing affordability and failed to make any recommendations to the government for reform. lt did however suggest that the housing market was  weak and that ‘… supply should be  boosted in appropriate markets.’ (SMH, December 17, 2016). lt is somewhat difficult to accept that by adding a burst of new land to an already overheated housing market the cost of housing will be reduced – something like throwing shovels of coal into the engine of a steaming train.

lt is important to understand exactly what is going on here. The federal coalition government recognizes housing (all categories) as private industry which functions under the ‘law’ of supply and demand and must be  left to private enterprise free of government interference. Under this ‘law’ the government ideology believes that if housing costs become excessive due to some abnormality in the market (such as insufficient land supply or increased foreign investment for example) then this problem will eventually balance out equitably by the market forces of supply and demand. The provision of government assistance therefore to the young, mid/low income earners,those with minor disabilities and the elderly, is considered undesirable government interference in private enterprise. This ideology is even more deeply entrenched in a government that has shown little enthusiasm in addressing growing inequity.

There are however serious fundamental flaws in this government approach. Firstly, persons on medium to high incomes who are financially stable have no requirement for government assistance. They are in control of their own plans and can manage their own financial arrangements to purchase, sell  and repurchase appropriate property in the Primary Market. The stark irony however is that these are  the parties,to which the government (believing in the free market of supply and demand) has  provided generous property tax concessions including negative gearing which, in reality, is a wealth creation support system. These concessions amount to a stimulus package applying to the reasonably well off in the community with sufficient financial means to invest – to become minor property developers. This stimulus package creates strong demand for older, cheaper housing that can be used to create personal profit. The renovations or redevelopments undertaken by these ‘developers’ are (and quite correctly so) directed to attract the most lucrative market available which is unlikely to be low income families who receive no tax concessions for investing in housing.

Purchasers seeking houses in expensive suburbs close to major business centres require no direct government assistance and enjoy the opportunities available in the Primary Market. lt is very unlikely that boosting land supply will greatly affect this entrenched market. lt is the Secondary Market in the outer suburban areas that may benefit from boosting carefully planned land supply. But unless the existing problems are  thoroughly understood and new releases planned and properly managed to support lower income purchasers the ‘heat’ from the Primary Market will flow on limiting any  real benefits.

Purchasers are entitled to expect that politicians would understand that the highly inflated Australian housing markets, carrying over 1.4 trillion dollar of household debt, requires cooling by eliminating excessive stimulus through investors, low bank interest and tax incentives that force out genuine home buyers. The Australian housing bubble has required urgent attention for at least a decade but fortunately the government now appears to be taking the problem more seriously. If the problem is ignored further and ideology controls decisions then the ultimate result could be a devastating market correction or recession resulting in total disaster for millions of trusting Australians.

Secondly, there exists a serious divide between Primary and Secondary Markets although requirements here seamlessly merge under various circumstances depending upon location and the financial capacity of the parties. The category described as Secondary Markets is used to include several important independent sub-markets each requiring special consideration and support if housing equity is to be  achieved. The first in this category (SM1) is housing for younger adults who have not obtained full financial stability and low income families. This category is followed by SM2 which includes independent older couples or singles and adults with manageable disabilities many of which seek to downsize thereby releasing their larger properties onto the market but wish to remain private property owners. These groups may merge but SM2 has much to offer the Primary Market given government support through innovative land planning and zoning.

Thirdly, there exists a market for the elderly, very old and the infirmed where special facilities and care are  essential. This market is supported by various well known companies and institutions offering some excellent opportunities but almost all require the surrender of property ownership and this market is not under consideration here.

lt is the responsibility of a democratically elected government to protect the vulnerable, poor, the old and those with disabilities. The financially secure do  not require the same support and protection from government as the weak and if government is unable to meet this responsibility then its core values and very existence must be questioned. lt is through secure home ownership that families become stable, sound education is made possible for children and a base  is developed upon which families may invest and become prosperous;they develop capacity to participate. To many in this country this is understood as a core Australian value yet over 2.5 million live below the poverty line and of these 24 per cent are children. This base core of Australians requires special assistance and must not be forced into serfdom.

lt is in the Secondary Markets SM1 that innovative government support is essential. These individuals and families may never find it possible to participate in the Primary Market no matter what concessions the government may offer. There are only two possibilities; one is that housing prices will collapse due to inflated imbalance or as a result of serious recession. The second is that government will investigate the existing housing problems thoroughly and take responsibility for the Secondary Market through innovative planning and special purpose zoning for SM1 and SM2 housing spread throughout city suburbs. With this zoning in place the Primary Market can be left to balance out under market forces and various government initiatives.

A percentage of the SM1 young adults and low-income families will be forced to rent due to financial circumstances but can  be  encouraged to save  and in due course apply as a purchaser providing they are  registered in a government development plan that provides financial incentives and controls zoning and property acquisition for SM1 residential housing. This proposal is not intended as a revamped Housing Commission but a private professional management service overseen by state government that provides the zoning, manages design, construction, sale (and resale) of specific purpose accommodation units.

In a nutshell, young workers studying and developing their careers require inexpensive, compact but well designed, modern accommodation located in a variety of suburban areas reasonably convenient to transport and/or their centres of employment. The situation is similar for low income families requiring simple, well designed and affordable accommodation where they can grow and stabilize without struggling to survive. As the young singles or families become financially stable they can then move on (possibly into the Primary Market) selling to another SMl purchaser. There can never be  any benefit to Australia in having young adults and families struggling to survive.

Modern planning and design has been seriously overlooked and old style housing and land subdivision must be brought into the twenty-first century and specifically to satisfy the existing Australian environment. Groundbreaking opportunities exist for housing to be  mass produced very economically using new technologies in prefab and standardised modular units that can be integrated into almost endless configurations and layouts by good architects resulting in outstanding modern designs. These modern concepts produce quality housing that would satisfy most Australians in both design and economy but the modular units must be mass produced. These projects, once initiated, can be replicated cheaply and without limit by private enterprise under selected tender. This brings us to planning, zoning and management – no increase in land supply or concessions can provide serious, long term support to the Secondary Market unless government takes the initiative and responsibility for planning and zoning for SM1 housing. The objective is to supply convenient, simple but well designed,budget accommodation and the opportunity is affordable, quality housing. The alternative is the Primary Market increasingly unaffordable for SM1 purchasers.

When we look at Secondary Markets SM2 purchasers which includes older downsizing couples or singles and other adults with manageable disabilities the approach is similar to SM1 but requires very selective land acquisition close to town or city centres with easy access to transport, large shopping centres and entertainment. Most of the clients would be financially stable and requiring simple accommodation of good standard architect design with provision for aging and/or disability requirements but of restricted space limiting the extent of house and garden work.

This is not a proposal for institutionalized retirement villages. lt is a requirement of stable adults requiring property ownership and privacy. This may appear an unlikely market until it is realized that now close to 15 per cent of the population is over the age of 60 years and the numbers are increasing rapidly. These aging citizens and those with manageable disabilities, in many cases, find the management of their large houses extremely stressful and seek to downgrade to comfortable accommodation that relieves them of pressure but find the planning, search and management of this transition within the Primary Market result is extensive delay in older good quality housing stock arriving on the Primary Market thereby further increasing housing demand and higher costs.

The SM2 market would be  of valuable support in balancing the Primary Market in inner city suburbs through earlier introduction of older quality properties but could never prove successful without full government support through town planning and zoning. Development planning, architectural design, construction and management of the projects would be  private enterprise.

The housing proposal described above seeks to introduce twenty first century planning into an old problem damaging Australians and their future. Special purpose zoning is introduced by government and Primary and Secondary Markets become totally independent resulting in modern, affordable housing and a market balancing incentive. SM1 and SM2 housing may be purchased or sold at any time by qualifying parties. The bubble in the Primary Market may be managed by government eliminating investment incentives and stimulus packages or by allowing balancing through market forces.

The major problem in achieving equality in the Australian housing markets is the recalcitrant nature of government which failed to notice that the king was, in fact, unclothed when it presented its December 2016 report on housing affordability. Without thorough, ideology free,analysis of these markets followed by innovative planning and full government support for the tormented Australians struggling for housing security it will be unlikely to ever achieve true equality in the Australian housing markets.

 

Open letter to Senator Derryn Hinch

Australian Budget Owls is a group of concerned citizen economists who believe debate in Australia should be informed by Modern Monetary Theory. Australian Budget Owls write open letters challenging what we see as false and misleading statements, based on a zombie economic orthodoxy, described variously as “fake knowledge” and “junk economics” by leading academic economists. We ask the proponents to put up or shut up, provide clear and valid reasoning, which we would say doesn’t exist, to support their position or, change.

Dear Senator Hinch,

We write to address your comments in the media regarding home ownership for younger Australians.

Australian Budget Owls is a group of concerned citizen economists, informed by Modern Monetary Theory.

In our model of the economy we believe that money is created by banks endogenously. While this is somewhat controversial, we note that the Bank of England released a working paper in 2015 essentially confirming our views. The banking system can create as much money as it can sell, at the interest rate set by the government through the reserve bank.

The consequence of this is obvious. The supply of money, available for speculation on house prices, and hence the resulting bubble and corresponding levels of private debt, are constrained by:

  • the interest-rate set by the reserve bank,
  • prudential rules set by APRA,
  • any other laws constraining the lending by banks that may be decided by Parliament and,
  • taxation of the proceeds of housing speculation currently given discounted treatment.

The aforementioned all fall within the purview of the parliament and government, and therefore are the responsibility of you and your colleagues.

Conclusion – Parliamentarians have a social responsibility.

Your comments that younger Australians should not expect to own their own home are, from the perspective of social equity, unacceptable to us.

We would like to suggest that you, and your colleagues in parliament, consider the work of economist Prof Steve Keen on private-sector debt. Specifically, adopting a long-term policy targeting a private sector debt to GDP ratio in a similar manner to the way we now target inflation. In addition, you may wish to consider professor Keen’s Modern Debt Jubilee proposal to defuse the systemic risk associated with current high levels of private debt.

Best regards,

Damien Smith
Australian Budget Owls

A super way into property ownership?

By Peter Hunt

Using superannuation savings to provide the deposit as a means of entering the housing market appeared to have been put back into its box but seems to have escaped again, with the likes of Scott Morrison spruiking the idea. As someone who recently joined the ranks of the self-funded retirees, believe me, for peace of mind you need two things in retirement; a secure, well maintained roof over your head and a reliable modest income (assuming you have or can adopt modest life style). One without the other is useless and relying on making a bumper profit from ‘downsizing’ on retirement is a high risk strategy.

Using Super to overcome the barriers to property ownership can work though, providing you use someone else’s, e.g. your parent’s super. Think about it, by the time young people are ready to enter the housing market many parents will have been paying into super for over 30 years and should have a reasonable balance. At this stage wisdom has it that you should ring-fence at least part of your savings by placing them into less risky investments, and what better than a mortgage for someone you know and love (presumably). Whilst the Banksters pay depositors at best about 3% they offer mortgages at 5.5% and generally much more. Why not cut the Banksters out of the loop and lend direct? 5.5% matches or beats the return on most super funds ‘conservative’ funds.

As a partner will most likely be involved and no one can be sure that the partnership will last the term of the loan a legal charge should be created to ensure the safety of your funds just in case the relationship goes bad but apart from that it’s win win.

In the UK in 2016, it was estimated that “The Bank of Mum & Dad” was helping to finance 25% of mortgages to tune of £5bn making it a top 10 mortgage provider (Press Association, Tuesday 3 May 2016 07.45 BST). Unfortunately, given current Australian house prices few parents will be in a position to lend the full amount required and the Banksters will insist on having the primary charge on the property, but at least the rate and total interest paid to these criminals can be reduced by lowering the amount borrowed from them. If the LNP really wanted to do something to help Gen Y into property perhaps they could address this, e.g. creating special rules giving super funded loans equal status to the banks loans. Beware, in the UK the Banksters worried at losing out are offering special deposit accounts where, if parents deposit a certain amount at minimal interest, they, the banks, will provide a full cost mortgage to their children. Why would you?

Of course the sensible solution would be to address one of the main causes of soaring house prices by tackling the issues of negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts but as the ALP has proposed this sensible approach, the LNP have to rubbish it just as they did with the NBN, replacing the ALP’s high speed fibre to the home with an antiquated, high cost, low speed mongrel solution that is currently being ripped out and replaced with full fibre in countries like Germany and the UK. Or carbon pricing, the best option to tackle CO2 emissions according to just about every expert in the field. The LNP have taken Australia from world leaders to laggards and are an embarrassment with their ‘clean coal’ fantasy, passing lumps of coal around the floor of parliament. Carbon capture and sequestration can work, it has been perfected by nature over the last 300 million years, it’s called coal and massive amounts of carbon can be sequestrated safely, indefinitely, by leaving it in the ground so that our children and theirs can enjoy a good life on a healthy planet in their family group funded homes.

(This article is the opinion of the author only and does not constitute financial advice).

 

How are the ‘adults’ managing our economy?

By Ad astra

Who will ever forget the insults, the slurs, and the slander that the Coalition heaped upon Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan as they managed the economy through the Global Financial Crisis and beyond? They were depicted as children playing games in their political sandpit with no idea of what they were doing, making one catastrophic mistake after another.

Remember how the Coalition boasted that the children should get out of the way and let the adults take over, insisting as they did that they were the experts at economic management. So convincing was the rhetoric that the electorate believed them and has consistently rated them as superior to Labor in economic management in opinion polls.

Recall the ‘debt and deficit disaster’, a mantra with which they assailed Labor for years. Remember the ‘intergenerational debt’ they accused Labor of accumulating.

Image from nicholsoncartoons.com

Since their election in 2013 they have had their chance to show their much-vaunted expertise under the skilled management of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, and then Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, with Mathias Cormann a consistent shadowy presence. How have they done?

I am indebted to one of our most astute political commentators, Bernard Keane, Crikey politics editor, for the best analysis I have read of the Coalition’s economic performance over the last four years. You can read it in its entirety in his article in the April 3 edition of Crikey: How the deficit was blown: The Coalition’s $100 billion bill.

I have drawn heavily on Keane’s analysis and have quoted from it substantially. Here is an abbreviated version of it. Sit down before you read it, and have a tranquillizer handy.

Keane begins:

”Since its election in 2013, the Coalition has given away $46 billion in political decisions, and signed the Commonwealth up to $50-60 billion in long-term spending that will hammer the federal budget for decades to come. (My emphasis.)

“The 2013 Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook, produced independently by Treasury and Finance, forecast a return to surplus this financial year and net debt peaking last year at $219 billion.

“The Coalition’s first budget forecast a return to surplus in 2018-19 and net debt peaking at $264 billion.

In MYEFO at the end of 2016, the budget was forecast to be still $10 billion in deficit in 2019-20, when net debt would be $364 billion.

Can you believe that after their promise to return the budget to surplus this year, and their assurance that net debt would be confined to $219 billion last year, the ‘adults’ subsequently told us that the budget would not return to surplus until 2018/19, and later that in 2019/20 we would still have a $10 billion deficit and that net debt would balloon to $364 billion, twice as high as Labor’s deficit ever was! No wonder the ratings agencies are breathing down their necks! And they still claim that the situation would have been much worse had Labor still been in government!

While Keane acknowledges that much of the spectacular deterioration of the budget under the Coalition is due to revenue write-downs, he asserts that “the government has worsened its own position through a series of political and ideological decisions that give the lie to its claims to be the victim of an irresponsible Senate”. He details the substance of those decisions as follows:

  • an $8.8 billion gift to the Reserve Bank to make the 2013-14 budget deficit look worse, and earn future dividends for the government.
  • Repeal of the carbon price cost the Commonwealth around $12.5 billion in lost revenue over the forward estimates and at least $1.8 billion per annum beyond that (based on a conservative estimate by the Climate Institute, lower than the government’s own estimate)
  • The government’s company tax cuts agreed last week will cost $5.2 billion over the forward estimates.
  • Repeal of the mining tax – despite the government’s claims that it raised no money – cost it $3.5 billion over the forward estimates, according to budget papers.
  • The reversal of Labor’s changes to Fringe Benefits Tax reporting requirements to end the rorting of novated leases cost, by its own admission, $1.8 billion over the forward estimates.
  • Income tax cuts for middle- and high-income earners cost $3.8 billion.
  • The ineffective Emissions Reduction Fund so far is costing $2.55 billion, although the government has decided no further funding will be wasted on it.
  • A Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, established with no effective oversight, assessment or evaluation mechanisms and flagged as a funding source for unviable coal mining projects, will cost $5 billion.
  • A National Water Infrastructure Development Fund established as a funding source for Barnaby Joyce’s obsession with building more dams, is costing $0.5 billion.
  • A scheme to prop up dairy farmers threatening to desert the National Party, via the discredited means of concessional loans, is costing $0.55 billion.
  • Australia’s continuing participation in Middle East military ventures has so far cost $0.72 billion since Tony Abbott sent Australian forces back to Iraq in the name of fighting the “existential threat” of ISIS.
  • The government is spending $0.24 billion on a school chaplains program, although further funding has been halted for now.
  • Nick Xenophon extracted an additional $0.37 billion worth of conditions as price for his support for company tax cuts last week.

Keane lists several significant costs beyond the forward estimates from a number of other government measures:

    • The disastrous F-35 joint strike fighter program will cost taxpayers at least $17 billion over the period to 2023. There are new problems with the aircraft that are not being addressed or are worsening, and with no guarantees the cost will not escalate further.
    • The government’s decision to reverse the Abbott government’s approach and construct the new generation of Royal Australian Navy submarines in Australia is expected to add up to 30% to the $50 billion cost of the program in order to provide less than 3000 jobs in South Australia.
    • The company tax cuts agreed last week will cost $25 billion over ten years, although the government remains hopeful it can increase that cost to $50 billion! although there remains no evidence from anywhere in the world of any economic benefit from company tax cuts. (My emphasis)
    • The continuing fiscal impact of some of the above measures beyond the forward estimates will cost the budget, on a conservative estimate, $6 billion per annum (unindexed).

Although some of the decisions were backed by Labor such as the submarines decision, which will cost the taxpayers many billions of dollars, the F-35 purchase, and the income tax cuts, “these decisions are in defiance of evidence, represent the triumph of ideology over reason, and in many cases were rankly political.” (My emphasis)

Worse, some of them are likely to generate new waves of spending: the removal of an effective, cheap carbon price in 2014 created an energy policy vacuum that led directly to the current energy crisis and proposals from the government to spend billions of dollars re-entering the power generation industry.

Our military involvement in the Middle East looks set to increase, not decrease, in coming years.

The cost of poor decision-making will be borne by taxpayers for years, even decades, to come.” (My emphasis)

It would be hard to imagine a more condemnatory account of the Coalition’s ‘adult’ management of the nation’s economy in the four years since 2013. Its predictions have all been wrong. The ‘adults’ have steadily worsened the nation’s fiscal situation. The 2019-20 budget is projected to still be $10 billion in deficit, the promised surplus is nowhere in sight, and the nation’s net debt is projected to be $364 billion, twice as high as it ever was under Labor!

In an update in Crikey Weekender: Seven new terrible economic records ScoMo set in March – Scott Morrison has some new records to add to his quest to be known as Australia’s worst treasurer reads: “The Office of Financial Management released figures last week showing gross borrowings at $484.6 billion. Of this, $58 billion is residue from the Howard government or its predecessors. Labor increased it by $212 billion. Another $214.6 billion has been added since the 2013 election. Hence the Coalition has now more than doubled Labor’s gross debt, in three years and six months. It doubled Labor’s net debt in January.”

Image from adelaidenow.com.au

The unavoidable conclusion is that this ‘adult’ government is economically incompetent, driven by its conservative rump, quite unable to see its way through the nation’s economic difficulties, incapable of analyzing the economic situation, inept at deriving solutions, bereft of planning ability, and hog-tied by ideological constraints. Moreover, it is so unutterably arrogant that it cannot see its ineptitude. And even if it could, would it be capable of doing anything about it?

As a substitute for informed opinions, all we get is self aggrandizement and platitudes from Turnbull, and a torrent of meaningless drivel from the Coalition’s two motor-mouthed financial Daleks: Morrison and Cormann.

How has it come to this with the adults in charge?

What do you think?

Should he be replaced?

If he needs to be replaced because of incompetence, who should replace him?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Hey, it´s not Taxpayers’ Money!

By Ric Testori

How often do we hear how taxpayers are funding something or other? In most cases, when it´s put like this, we can assume that our money is being wasted on something, like politician’s travel rorts. And we hate our money to be wasted, don´t we! So statements like these can usually be taken as an appeal to our emotions rather than our intellect, and most are probably fact-free.

Apart from the the fact that the target of some government spending may be either good or bad depending on our views and opinions, it is ALWAYS false that it is being paid with taxpayers’ money. In most cases, it´s being paid for with non-taxpayers’ money!

As an example, let’s take the money the federal government is going to give to Adani for it´s enormous coal mine – a billion dollars! Firstly, we are told that this is only a loan, not a gift. But if many experts are correct then that mine is likely to go bust, which means the loan will never be repaid. So it is, actually, a gift. Now here’s the question: Who pays for it?

Both the LNP and ALP are proud of their economic management abilities and encourage us to cheer when they tell us they aim to “balance the budget”. Put simply, they proudly tell us that their spending (expenses) will be limited to their tax revenues (income), just like your household or small business budget. Like you, they will be responsible and stay within their means. We should ask if you would be considered responsible if you failed to pay for your kid’s education or your family’s health requirements, but let’s not go there just now.

So, to balance their budget our government would need to limit expenses by cutting welfare spending to cover the loss of Adani’s billion dollar gift/loan. And now we get to the point – the people who are having their incomes cut, the ones on welfare, are rarely taxpayers. They are the involuntary unemployed workers who don’t have a job because there are not enough jobs to go around. Or part-time workers who’ve just had their penalty rates cut. Or those on the minimum wage who’s real income has fallen but the government firmly refuses to increase that miserly wage. These are the poor bastards who will pay that billion dollars – the non-taxpayers.

So please stop accepting the bullshit that your taxes are paying for something – they aren’t. In fact the only time your taxes are paying for something is when the government’s budget is in surplus. Think about it – they are in surplus because they are taxing you MORE than they are spending. You are being overcharged! And you need to understand that the government has absolutely no need for your taxes to cover their spending because they create the money that you and they spend. The whole balanced budget story is a lie, it is not based on reality.

Here is a video which explains it better than I ever can:

 

What’s up, GetUp?

By Ric Testori

With the Australian Federal Budget coming in a month or so, what can we expect from our government and opposition parties which are both fully committed to the false neo-liberal concepts of fighting budget deficits and accepting unnecessarily high levels of unemployment/underemployment? My answer is “Not much”.

At the same time, I see and admire so much thought and effort being given by a handful of activists and thinkers associated with Modern Money Theory (MMT). And then I receive several new messages and memes from other activist groups such as GetUp who it seems are actively working against these very people that I admire so much. I joined GetUp and donate to them because I wanted to help everyday Australians have their voice over the noise and alt-truths of the mainstream media.

How disappointing it is for me to see GetUp continuing to push the same neoclassical economic bullshit in its own campaigns. They complain that the LNP have increased the “national debt” without considering how much worse things might be if spending on welfare and services were cut to reduce that inconsequential number. They fight hand and nail against tax cuts for the middle class and corporations without considering that taxes do not fund government spending. By giving honour to the stupid “deficit” lies they undermine everything they say they are fighting for. They continuously compare the LNP´s claim of “better management” to their apparent inability to control debt levels, without considering that the increasing debt is a result of the automatic stabilizers (Newstart etc) which are the only things keeping us out of a serious depression.

I can understand that MMT is not yet a platform supported by GetUp, but surely they can gain a little education in the matter of economics and stop fighting against us. They can stop supporting the false, orthodox neoclassical bullshit and speak honestly and truthfully about the necessity for budget deficits in appropriate times (like now).

These are the policies GetUp have launched as part of their Brighter Budget campaign:
1. Reform negative gearing.
2. Reform superannuation tax concessions.
3. Introduce the ‘Buffett Rule’.
4. Scrap the capital gains tax discount.
5. Cut fossil fuel subsidies.
6. Impose a super profits tax on banks.
7. Introduce a ‘Tobin Tax’ on high frequency financial transactions.
8. Place a duty on wealthy estates.

All of these policies seek to increase tax revenues, although (to give credit to their wording) the reasons given are mostly to increase fairness and combat inequality. But by making the campaigns lopsided against wealthier taxpayers and corporations, they almost guarantee the creation of a strong opposition against their implementation and their ultimate defeat.

A far better and more effective campaign would surely be to educate everyone, including activists, journalists and politicians, that taxes do not fund government expenditure. And that the concept of a “national debt” and similarities to household budgets are totally meaningless when applied to our fiat currency issuing federal government. As long as terms like a “balanced budget” are given power, force and meaning within our community there can never be fairness or honesty in any budget from any Australian government.

By ignoring Modern Money Theory (MMT), the GetUp organisation is playing directly into the hands of the neo-liberals who are clearly in charge of both LNP and ALP fiscal policies. Not even the Greens acknowledge the total failure of neoclassical economics to manage, describe or make reasonable predictions for the real world we live in.

Not even the glaringly obvious benefits and desirability of a federal Job Guarantee are mentioned anywhere in GetUp´s literature. The horrors and costs of involuntary unemployment (or underemployment) do not seem to exist as a policy worth consideration or mention.


For anyone looking for more information on MMT:
Prof Bill Mitchell – http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog
Why Minsky Matters – L. Randall Wray
The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy – Warren Mosley

The winds of change

Question – what do Mark Latham, YouTube, Nicola Sturgeon, Theresa May and Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have in common? The question could be answered by suggesting the winds of change are in the air.

Former ALP leader Mark Latham was sacked by SkyNews recently over a number of issues including attacking the 15 year old daughter of the Reserve Bank Governor as, in Latham’s view, she had no idea of how the disadvantaged live. It’s not the first time Latham’s employment with a media organisation has been terminated. In August 2015 the Australian Financial Review accepted the resignation of Latham after it was determined that he was the person behind the apparently fake ‘real Mark Latham’ Twitter account that targeted Rosie Batty, and journalists Anne Summers, Leigh Sales, Lisa Pryor, Mia Freedman and Annabel Crabb, among others.

In fact, a week or so before he was shown the door by SkyNews, former NSW premier Kristina Kenneally complained to SkyNews about comments Latham made on air that she considered to be defamatory. Kenneally is also employed by SkyNews. He also made a ‘foul-mouthed tirade’ at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival. For those who can’t remember his attitude, and potentially why he lost the 2004 federal election as ALP leader – here is the clip.

General Motors Holden and Kia Motors recently announced that they were pulling their advertising from YouTube which, like Google, is owned by Alphabet. The justification for the change of heart is that the two companies found that their products were being promoted alongside an offensive video that directed misogynistic insults at journalist and businesswoman Ita Buttrose. In addition

The UK Government, The Guardian and France’s Havas SA, the world’s sixth-largest advertising and marketing company, pulled its UK clients’ ads from Google and YouTube [during March] after failing to get assurances from Google that the ads wouldn’t appear next to offensive material. Those clients include wireless carrier O2, Royal Mail Plc, government-owned British Broadcasting Corp., Domino’s Pizza and Hyundai Kia, Havas said in a statement.

Others, including Bunnings, Foxtel, Caltex, Vodafone and Nestle have also suspended using YouTube as an advertising channel over similar concerns. The Australian government pulled its advertising at the end of March as well.

On 28 March 2017, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Britain’s prime minister Theresa May had a meeting. Now, given that the UK has finally delivered the letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Convention (the mechanism to start the Brexit process) and there is some belief that Scotland would prefer to stay in the EU, there was a genuine news story to discuss. What did the UK Daily Mail focus on (pun intended)? Not the process of the meeting, not the outcomes of the meeting but the legs of the respective leaders. Following the outcry from other sections of the media,

A spokesperson for the Daily Mail urged its critics to “get a life” and questioned if the “po-faced BBC” and “left-wing commentariat” had lost its sense of humour.

The ‘great Section 18C debate’ in Australia came to a (possibly) final ending at the end of March after around three years of people trying to justify their positions on allowing racism and misogyny. The Senate in a late-night vote, chose not to insert ‘harass’ in the section to replace the words ‘insult’, ‘offend’ or ‘humiliate’. One of the organisations driving for the change to Section 18C was The Australian newspaper. According to The Saturday Paper,

After more than three years, a change in prime ministers, campaigning by conservative media outlets and countless Q&A debates, changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act were voted down in the Senate last night. In a triumph of the English language, The Australian is calling [paywalled] the defeat a “limited victory”.

Throughout the Senate session, which ran late into the night, the focus was on Attorney-General George Brandis. While arguing for the 18C reforms during seven hours of debate, Brandis said the spirit of “the late, great Bill Leak” was presiding over the chamber. Brandis himself provided the Senate with his reaction to being called “a white man” on several occasions by fellow Senators.

In one of the more factual articles about Section 18C, the ABC published a listing of complaints under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that have made it to Court. On the face of it, the law seems to work (link contains offensive language). Latham has make a career out of being (in the words of my Grandmother) ‘a nasty piece of work’. In the words of Annabel Crabb

Characteristically, the great man incorporated a generous measure of unintended comedy. He accused – for instance – the ABC broadcaster Wendy Harmer of being a “commercial failure”. This is pretty good coming from a guy who has been sacked, dumped, or awkwardly non-renewed by countless commercial media executives and is one of the handful of living Australians who has been submitted to the most exacting ratings survey available in this country – a federal election. On which occasion, in Mr Latham’s case, the nation opted firmly for John Howard repeats.

(There comes a time in every man’s life when he realises that he is not a commercial hit. I would imagine that the hosting of a TV chat show which is out-rated five-fold by ABC2 Bananas in Pyjamas repeats might edge a fellow close to such an epiphany, but each to his own I suppose.)

In a similar way, those who believe that ‘free speech’ gives you the right to publish ‘hate’ such as attacks on Ita Buttrose et al have a right to their beliefs. However, common decency should lead YouTube and similar organisations to determine that ‘hate’ is not acceptable and refuse to be the medium for the publication of those views. Again, in the words of Annabel Crabb, Hate plus hate equals hate. Fortunately, organisations like the UK and Australian governments, Caltex, Holden, Vodafone, Nestle, and The Guardian seem to have determined that hate is not acceptable. While it is a win for community values and common decency (remember: do unto others as you wish them do to you), it’s a shame when the adherence to community values is considered to be newsworthy.

The emphasis from the Daily Mail on Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May’s legs, rather than the matters they were discussing, take us back to the days where a show depicting a lecherous older man running around after young women was considered to be good ‘prime-time’ television. While there were others – most will remember the Benny Hill Show as a good example. The Daily Mail’s excuse for that behaviour – it was just a joke – is also of the same era and was correctly called out by a number of commentators. The Mail calling the commentators ‘left wing’ could be seen to be a demonstration of conservative views of common decency.

The saga of Section 18C also demonstrates the point of conservative values. Let’s use the example of Bill Leak. His employer, The Australian, seemed to be one of the driving forces for the failed attempt to water down the legislation. Leak drew a cartoon depicting a generalisation that is a racist slur against a group of Australian citizens. Members of the group that were slurred correctly protested at the implication. Leak and his employer then claimed that his comments were free speech. However, the comments by others suggesting that Leak unfairly offended them is unacceptable. Hardly fair and reasonable, is it? While Leak may have been trying to make a point that he or his employer considered to be valid; there are a number of ways to make the argument without intentionally or unintentionally insulting an entire group of Australians.

It’s the same with Brandis in the Senate. While Brandis may pine for a return to the ‘good ole days’ when Benny Hill was considered to be good entertainment on the black and white tellie, the reality is that he is a powerful white man and can humiliate and offend anyone he wants to in the Australian Senate. As Bernard Keane suggests in Crikey

Commercial free-to-air TV broadcasters, who like to invoke free speech whenever regulation of advertising is proposed, have admitted they refuse to air ads they think might alienate powerful advertisers. And News Corp’s interest in free speech only extends to its own and that of those it perceives as allies, no one else. The editor of that doughty defender of free speech The Australian, Chris Mitchell, threatened journalist Julie Posetti with legal action over her coverage of the remarks of a former employee of his. The Australian used Victorian courts to prevent the release of an Office of Police Integrity report highly critical of the newspaper over its pointless “scoop” about anti-terror raids in 2009. That newspaper outed a pseudonymous progressive blogger, and tried to damage his public service career. Andrew Bolt — suddenly thin-skinned about racism — demanded an apology from the ABC over remarks by academic Marcia Langton.

While it looks as though you have to be a media conglomerate to influence the law of the land, really you don’t. In a classic case of the ‘look over there’ defence, those who are complaining that they too have the right to free speech are invariably those who feel that they have the right to offend, humiliate and insult others at will. As the YouTube boycotts and Bernard Keane point out, the same groups of people will self-censor on purely economic grounds, so why won’t they self-censor on moral and ethical grounds? Is it because the typically powerful white people that run these organisations believe they are somehow superior to others?

The first TPS post this year suggested that we should be the change we want to see. The premise of that article was don’t sit there and take the status quo you don’t believe is fair, but to actively work to change it. Demonstrably, people like you and I do have a voice and engaging with the organisation that knowingly or unknowingly supports the bully by ‘supporting’ the xenophobic YouTube clip or boorish talking heads such as Latham clearly does have an effect. Social media can amplify small voices beyond a local community.

The reactions from the general public to Latham’s boorish (or worse) remarks, YouTube’s lack of self-censorship, the Daily Mail’s coverage of Sturgeon and May’s legs and the conservative campaign to water down protections of the Racial Discrimination Act show that consumers can influence government and the largest companies on moral and ethical issues. The winds of change in the morals and ethics of large companies are starting to appear driven by people’s stated opinions. Long may it continue.

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

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How does Putin keep Trump?

By VegasJessie

This is what (I think) was really behind Trump’s decision to bomb Syria.

1) Putin wants a functional president in the White House. He does not want anyone to investigate what he’s already done to get him there. He definitely does not want trump impeached because for him that would be a waste. So, the real question is: how does Putin keep trump available as a really effective mole?

2) For trump to get anything done he’ll first need a popularity ratings boost. Then he’ll need some really subtle ego-stroking. Trump also needs to divert any and all attention from ANYTHING that could even possibly result in proof of a Putin-trump collusion. Putin at first left it to trump. The buffoon enlists “Devin Nunes” who promptly bungles it. Putin gets nervous and knows that he has to take over.

3) Putin is a known supporter of Assad. More like a puppeteer than an athletic supporter. So let’s use him.

4) Putin sits down Assad and explains: Your position is safe as long as I’m happy. Most important that you keep me happy. You’ve used nerve gas and chemical weapons before and the US did nothing. Even if they did something, my people are right there and effectively will shield my armaments and radar/intercepts (that I lent you). So you lose a few planes and hangars. I can replace the planes, and hangars belong in the closet anyway. I don’t know why you leave them around and so accessible. Furthermore, your barrel bombs are so much cheaper and more effective that you really don’t need the planes anyway. Remember your prime objective is to keep me happy or you’re toast.

5) So, here’s the plan. Execute a small scale escalation. Start about a week before trump meets with President Xi. Begin with some chlorine gas (not mustard, the resulting pictures would be bad publicity, not good). Then a small scale sarin or VX attack out in the desert somewhere. Make sure it’s remote and best to involve some large scale rebel facilities that can be used for disinformation purposes. Make sure there are women and children and especially babies! You hear me: BABIES. Do it from a remote disposable base. And you must time it go off just before (1-2 days) trump-Xi are meeting. Then sit back and relax, and make no public statements other than to blame the rebels and condemn any US reactions.

Putin smiles. He can feel the old KGB vibes beginning to vibrate again.

6) Putin on secure line with trump: OK it’s all set up. Get your statement ready, make it short and read it. Nothing spontaneous. A few tears maybe, it would be like icing the vodka, but no sobs. Your people should be able to handle that. Suggest Bannon or his buddy Stephen Miller, but keep Kushner out of it, there’s too much heat from his meeting with my money launderer. Anyway, we want to use him later. Remember to curse me out! I’ll understand. But not too personal, OK! No Twitter-shit on this one, make it official with an entire room of reporters, TV would be best. I’ll do the same to you so that no-one, not even the Halo Bitch, will think you and I are buddies.

7) Continuing on the line: Timing is everything. I know you only deal with location-location-location but on this one follow my instructions. Remember to check the time zones. Things like this go best after everyone goes home from work, and has had dinner. Too bad we missed the first pitch on opening day but we can’t win them all. Remember to give my military guys some timely warning. An hour should be enough and do it officially and get it published so everyone thinks you’re playing fair and not trying to provoke a war. My guys will already have been briefed on what’s going to happen, just not when. Make sure your guys don’t hit the runway (make up some excuse for that, like crater bombs would need pilots and we don’t want any US personnel killed or worse, captured). My planes need the runways and I don’t have enough rubles to rebuild them right now. And damn it you better remember the time differences. It would be a nice touch if you had to interrupt an important meeting with Xi, so feel free to keep him waiting. I’ll add one sweetener. My Swedish guys have lined up an SUV civilian run-down. You could rework your Swedish terrorist attack tweet into real prescience, wouldn’t that make you look godlike?

Putin orgasms!

8) Just think what all of the above accomplishes:

a) Trump gets a rating boost, that’s all he wants anyway.
b) Trump gets to be seen as anti-Putin: strong on principles, decisive, (i.e. everything that he is not).
c) The Gorsuch appointment gets done and all the hoop-la about changing the rules becomes irrelevant.
d) Everyone will think trump is no friend of Putin – demonstrated both by words and action. So why all the election fuss? Stop the investigations, they’re not needed anymore.
e) Nunes’ and Kushner’s transgressions get sidelined.
f) Bannon vs Kushner is all but forgotten.
g) Who cares about a wall when we’re at war.
h) Raytheon stock soars, taking the aerospace group with it.
i) Even a catastrophic Jobs Report won’t be noticed.
j) And healthcare! How can we talk about our healthcare (the best in the world) when poor defenseless babies are gasping for breath and dying?
k) Even the middle class jerks who voted for trump won’t mind foregoing a little tax cut so that we can protect those, sob, sob, poor suffering babies.
l) And to top it off, Putin gets a more functional mole.

An open letter to Francis Sullivan

Your ‘Where to from here?’ speech as CEO of the Truth Justice and Healing Council on 10 March 2017 was admirably frank about the Catholic Church’s causes of the abuse crisis.

It did not, however, in our view, go far enough in its blame or solutions.

It is surprising that, as you claim, no one “was prepared for the extent of the abuse and the appalling rate across male religious orders and within the priesthood”.

But there was plenty of evidence of the abuse.

The culture of denial and secrecy was led from the very top of the Church in Australia over decades. It continues to compound the abuse suffered by victims by denying justice to perpetrators and those who shielded them.

We are surprised that you thought “maybe the Church had up to 100 paedophiles in its history”. This is so far from the reality elsewhere, known even before the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was announced.

It seems extraordinary that you seem unaware of the implication of the thousands of press reports of such abuse from around the world over decades and the billions of dollars that have been paid out in damages in the US, and millions of Euros in Ireland.

Other sources include the 2015 film Spotlight, concerning the exposés of the Boston Globe journalists, the books Double Cross by David Ranan (2007) and Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church by Fr. Thomas Doyle, A.W. Richard Sipe and Patrick Wall (2006).

Also relevant to the scale of abuse is the Holy See’s representative telling the United Nations Human Rights Council on 22 September 2009: “From available research we now know that in the last fifty years somewhere between 1.5% and 5% of the Catholic clergy has been involved in sexual abuse cases.”

Worldwide there are about 500,000 male priests and religious which equates to between 7,500 and 25,000 abusers, most of which have abused multiple children or vulnerable adults in their care and on numerous occasions.

At the same time the Vatican’s UN representative sought to excuse such sexual and other violence against minors by clerics on the grounds that most abuse is “ephebophile” not paedophile.

Nevertheless this kind of abuse is normally criminal action and constitutes a serious abuse of trust and misuse of authority that frequently ruins the lives of those abused and their families.

Such abuse has been a problem since the inception of the Church.

As early as 1963 it was brought to the attention of the Pope in an audience by the Order of the Paracletes that had even considered, but eventually abandoned, an “Island Retreat” in the Caribbean for recidivist abusive priests, such was the extent of the abuse.

Also, in its 2014 Concluding Observations  (see in particular paras 43 and 44) the Holy See received the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child’s harshest possible criticism which received worldwide publicity.

The UN Committee noted in para 19 that the Pope’s own Pontifical Commission to sanction bishops covering up abusers was to be “empowered to receive children’s complaints of sexual abuse”.

But, of course, as we know now, the Pontifical Commission was without resources to do anything.

Long before Commission member Marie Collins left in disgust, or indeed before Peter Saunders was quietly ousted from the Pontifical Commission, the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child raised alarm bells about this Commission.

The UN Committee’s Observations, just as valid today, continue: “The Committee is, however, concerned that the Holy See has not established a mechanism to monitor respect for and compliance with children’s rights by individuals and institutions operating under its authority, including all Catholic schools, worldwide and in Vatican City State.”

You have rightly acknowledged recent concerns about the Pope’s disinclination to tackle such abuse effectively, but these are simply yet a further symptom of what has been evident from the start of his pontificate.

One of the first indications of this was the refusal to take these UN recommendations seriously; it surely cannot have been without his knowledge that the UN Committee was in effect attacked by the Holy See for its concluding observations.

The Pontifical Commission never had any executive power, and we now learn, resources. It exists to give the illusion of action being taken.

Similarly, the Tribunal the Pope announced to prosecute bishops who covered up abusing priests was abandoned in June 2016 soon after it became evident that these bishops or senior Church figures would con- sequently be vulnerable to secular justice, mainly in the USA. This almost pain-free procedural Tribunal alternative, free from criminal sanctions, never sat.

There have been numerous other accusations of the Pope’s disinclination to act in this area, easily found in the media. The Vatican continues to refuse to instruct, as the UN recommended, that reasonable suspicions of abuse be reported to secular authorities and insists that incriminating information be kept out of secular reach.

You are correct in drawing attention to implications of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine Faith’s refusal to co-operate, even the basic courtesy of acknowledging letters from those alleging abuse far less investigating them.

The combination of a reluctant pontiff and an obstructive curia is a Church, also a nation state, that undermines the rule of law with impunity.

Abusers and their enablers go unpunished by secular courts able to impose realistic punishments for crimes, and many victims go uncompensated.

Despite your mea culpa the Church still ferociously fights both criminal and civil cases, even when there is no doubt about guilt.

We wish we shared your optimism that greater lay involvement would help, given the Curia ignore even requests by the Pope to observe the most basic courtesies.

It would go some way to improve matters for the future if in all countries:

  1. Reporting of institutional abuse were made mandatory;
  2. Statutes of limitation were lifted for child abuse cases where the Australian Commission showed that on average reporting took over 30 years;
  3. No religious organization is in effect immune to being sued because of the nature of its legal persona, which is never a bar to it receiving assets;
  4. ‘One law for all’ with no recognition of parallel legal systems; religious institutions should not be permitted to exempt themselves from the law of the land; Canon law must not take precedence over Australian law.

Mr Sullivan, would you support such proposals?

Signed …

Rationalist Society of Australia, Melbourne

Rationalist Assn of NSW, Sydney

Plain Reason, Adelaide

Humanist Society of Queensland, Brisbane

National Secular Society, London

 

 

Cashless society hitting those least able to pay

By Ross Hamilton

I first heard about a cashless society back in 1980 when I started work for the Commonwealth Bank. Our manager returned from a conference, informing us that the wheels had started turning to make Australia a cash-free society in as little as ten years. Thirty-seven years later, and a long time after the end of my banking career, it seems we are finally getting very close to that point of cash becoming a thing of the past. But so far, I am not seeing anyone talk too much about the very real negative that can come with this unless a government finally steps up to the plate for real for the first time.

The amount of cash used in the Australian economy will have been on the decrease the last few years with the continuing growth in eftpos including the maturing of the ‘pay-wave’ technology. The more we use those technologies, the less we need cash. But at what cost?

The Reserve Bank is about to introduce innovative technology which will make money transfers happening almost instantaneously, and, so the argument goes, we have less need than ever for the plastic folding stuff. And it can be argued that removing cash from society saves us the cost of producing it.

The pretty bits of plastic we currently use to pay for a steak sanger at the pub for lunch will be replaced by electronic transactions via the banks. And what shall the banks do? Continue racking up more fees for us all to pay. The big four banks in Australia already make literally billions in profit each year. And a massive part of that profit comes from all the fees they charge. The interest on your loans just essentially pays the bills. It is fees that create those obscene profits.

Banks have it down to a fine art – charging for anything and everything. The frequent excuse is that they are just recovering costs. And that is complete garbage. Are we really expected to believe that it costs a bank two-dollars or more to automatically process an electronic ATM withdrawal for a non-customer? Of course it doesn’t! It is a punishment fee for daring to not be that bank’s customer and adding to the pile in their Scrooge McDuck Money Bins.

What is going to happen once cash is removed from our grubby little hands? Everything becomes simply transactions on our credit card or bank account. And what will banks do in response to that? They can be relied on to keep charging fees which reflect the amount of transactions on accounts. Dumping cash in favour of an all-electronic system shall mean a drastic increase in the amount of transactions. And that means a massive bonus in fees for the banks and profit levels that could simply dwarf the current huge profits.

Now we come to the big crunch. Who is going to be paying all those added billions in fees? We are. Every single person in the country stands to have their transaction fees on their bank accounts simply soar. But a five cent, ten cent, one or two dollar fee to someone on current average wages of almost $80,000 pa (latest ABS data) is not as hard as it is to someone on a bit over $20,000 pension. These fees are not equitable according to capacity to pay. Yet the only way of opting out–paying as much in cash as possible–will be replaced by significantly increased costs on those least able to afford them.

This problem is nothing new. But no matter what political flavour our governments are, they all simply let the banks keep on their merry way. The problem is always shoved back into the Too Hard pile to be ignored. And that is before factoring in the massive bonanza coming their way in the cashless society which the RBA say we could be seeing as soon as 2020. In three years time, the low-income earners could be hit with a massive ‘tax’ payable to the banks.

No, Malcolm, the banking CEOs are not trembling with fear at the prospect of the annual visit to a completely pointless and powerless Senate committee. They’re laughing about it over Cuban cigars and Penfold’s Rare Tawny in a private club somewhere, courtesy of their millions in bonuses, all paid for by we poor schlubs. But if the RBA are correct and the cashless society could be on us by 2020, the buck has to stop with the Turnbull government right now. You have to do something meaningful which shall significantly ease the burden on those least able to pay, before it is too late to do anything. How about limiting the amount banks shall financially benefit from the cashless society bonanza? It would be a damned good start.

This article was originally published on Ross’s Rant.