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You can’t discuss an idea with an ideologue

By 2353NM  

Recently I watched an episode of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery where she ‘delivered’ Gillian Triggs back to her high school and university while discussing various elements of Triggs’ life. Towards the end of the program, Zemiro invited Triggs to read some of the commentary made about Triggs in her role as Human Rights Commissioner from 2012 until 2017.

The commentary read out by Triggs was from Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, Peter Dutton and Eric Abetz — all of which are embedded at the right wing of the political spectrum. All the comment was critical of Triggs, who was wisely shielded from most of the commentary during her term as Commissioner by her husband.

I was watching the show with a young adult who will be voting at the next federal election. At the end of the show, the question was asked by the young adult if the commentary was accurate. The answer was ‘yes and no’.

During the TV show, Triggs stated that she is a lawyer, so when given the role of Human Rights Commissioner, task number one was to read the statutes and legislation around the position and the role of the Human Rights Commission. Once read and understood, facts were assessed against the legislation and action taken. Triggs’ charitable response to the comments she (willingly) read was that clearly those that wrote the comments didn’t understand the role of the Commission because they probably haven’t read the legislation. However Bolt, Blair and the others quoted probably believed their commentary was accurate.

The problem with ideology is that at times you can’t see the forest for the trees. Nowhere in the comments aired was a detailed description of the apparent fault in the legislation the Human Rights Commission operates under or a discussion on how the particular conservative commentator would rectify the issue. The perceived failures in the legislation or the way it was implemented were not explored, because it is far easier to fan the flames of displeasure with the person. In short, they were shooting the messenger, so using the test of reasonableness, the commentary wasn’t accurate.

Ideology gives you ‘permission’ to disregard any other point of view except your own and that of your fellow travellers. As demonstrated over the years in Australian politics, both sides of the political spectrum have implemented worthy advances to our lifestyles. John Howard and Tim Fischer’s Coalition Government implemented gun reform after the mass murder of 35 people (and an additional 23 were injured) in Tasmania in 1996.

Medibank, the universal health insurance system was launched by the Whitlam ALP Government in 1975 and relaunched as Medicare by the Hawke ALP Government after an attempted dismantling of the system by the Fraser/Anthony Coalition Government in the period between 1975 and 1983.

And if your ideology can’t find any counterpoint to the discussion promoted by those who have an alternate view, you have a go at the messenger as Bolt, Blair and others did to Triggs during her term as Commissioner and the IPA recently did to the ABC. According to research paid for by the IPA,

about a third of Australians don’t agree with the ABC, don’t trust the ABC, with some of the information that it has.

Regardless of simple mathematics suggesting that about two thirds of Australia either has no opinion or do trust the ABC, the IPA uses this research (which is questionable statistically) to justify their claim the $1.1 billion-a-year national broadcaster [should] be privatised; which suits their public agenda. The IPA also doesn’t seem to be too concerned by up to 80% of Australians being ‘worried’ about climate change (according to a survey by The Australia Institute). Maybe the positions they take are not based solely on the public good — but ideology.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of shooting the messenger. Politicians are past masters of the art. How many times in the past month have you heard Federal Ministers deflect questions on their competence or how their government is performing with a detailed commentary on what Labor are alleged to have done or promised such as Morrison attempted to do when being interviewed in early March by Leigh Sales on ABCTVs 7.30?

The honest reality is that Labor haven’t been in government since 2013 — therefore whatever policy or process they may have implemented if they had been elected is frankly irrelevant to the current situation. Secondly, we will never know if Labor would have implemented the policy if they had won, as they may have either not gained the necessary support or they might have actually listened to advice which counselled for a different course of action. Third, it seems the current government will not accept, let alone take ownership of the problems it has either caused itself or inherited from events internationally.

Certainly, the ALP also gives commentary on the actions and personalities of the Coalition Government. Frequently, the commentary also contains elements of shooting the messenger which is unnecessary, however ineptness or maladministration needs to be identified and publicised (as the Coalition should be doing if the ALP is in power).

The ideology problem is certainly not only political — there are people around who would never travel with a particular airline, listen to certain genres of music or watch a particular sporting event. And the majority of them will act as adults and not physically or mentally harm those who do use the disliked products. The ideologues are the victims here — the ‘hated’ genre of music most certainly will have some who do have the ability to craft some special melodies or lyrics that deserve everyone’s attention.

It doesn’t work that way in politics. Decrying those that have a different viewpoint solely for having a different viewpoint is not only disadvantaging themselves but the rest of us. No one is 100% right all the time, neither is the introduction of a good idea the sole preserve of any one particular ideology. If politicians are decrying others in the political sphere over ideology rather than the legislation they are employed to implement or maladministration, you have to ask is there actually anything wrong with the idea or policy.

The next time you hear a politician or a commentator make the argument that a certain situation is all the fault of a person or group on ‘other side’, ask yourself if the speaker has a point or if they are just so ideologically tied to a position, they can’t see the forest for the trees.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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

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Terminal adolescents (part 5)

By Dr George Venturini  

The Crown has other offshore money-spinners closer to home. The Crown Estate owns vast swathes of land around the United Kingdom. And that helps pay for the running of the Royal Household and the royals’ travel bills. But one of the most surprising things that it owns, dating back centuries, is the entire British seabed, stretching out 12 nautical miles from the coast. The Crown Estate has capitalised by allowing the building of wind farms around the coast. They made 37 million pounds last year. While 75 per cent of that goes to the taxpayer, one quarter of the wind farm profit goes to ‘The Palace’ through the Sovereign Grant.

It is all legal. Whether it is right is a different matter.

The Queen has her ways: “Good evening objects.”

Dani Beckett was firm: “I would love to see that money being generated by publicly-owned renewable energy. I think it would be a great situation for us to be where that is owned by us, as a country. But it’s not, it’s held by the monarchy. And that speaks to the power that they hold that is absolutely untouchable by the regular citizens of this country.”

The reporter could not help saying: “Another controversial aspect of the monarchy taking profits from Crown land is the fact that the Sovereign Grant pays for Royal Travel. ‘The Palace’ spent about three million pounds on official travel [in 2017].”

To which David McClure added: “Travel could be said to be the Royal Family’s Achilles heel. They spend an awful lot of money on aeroplane travel and also, the Royal Train. Last year the Queen only used the Royal Train three times and it costs hundreds of thousands to run.”

The reporter: “Most criticised for his travel spending is the heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales, who has now taken over much of his mother’s travel commitments.”

David McClure: “Charles has a large retinue, and when he goes to the Far East, he takes ten people with him – a press officer, a hairdresser, a butler or two, and these all cost a lot of money. So Charles has been criticised for having too large a retinue and spending too much money.”

Emily Andrews took the opportunity to say: “Year after year, you will see that Prince Charles is the highest spending royal, he will often charter planes, and then, on his tours, he does two or three big tours a year, he’ll charter a plane in the UK and take it all the way around wherever he is going and then back. And this costs hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Lord Tony Berkeley cold not contain himself: “If Charles and Camilla go on a long trip, can’t they sit in first class rather than having their own aeroplane? The cost of these planes is enormous.”

The reporter added: “Prince Harry and his wife Meghan received a rock star reception during their tour to Australia this month. The Queen has recently appointed Harry her Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. But experts on the Commonwealth are sceptical about what this really means.”

Professor Philip Murphy explained: “Attaching the royal family to this buzzword of youth is a rather desperate way of trying to keep the Commonwealth going and keep it appearing relevant. The idea of the emperor’s new clothes, as something that everyone pretends is solid and wonderful and the greatest thing on earth, but actually is so insubstantial it barely exists. And I think the Commonwealth is a bit like that. The links between its member states are so tenuous. It barely registers on the world scene. There is no publicly available figure on the total cost of the Royal Family to the taxpayer.”

The reporter noted: “While the British public is having romance with Harry and Meghan, William and Kate, it’s less in love with the minor royals. The wedding of Princess Eugenie this month sent the tabloids into a tailspin. Eugenie wanted a carriage ride through Windsor like her cousin, Prince Harry, and that’s estimated to have cost at least two million pounds in security bills alone.”

Professor Philip Murphy: “There’s certain things the public are prepared to pay for. They’re prepared to pay for the royals they like. Let’s face it, Harry and Meghan at the moment are very popular. It depends on what sort of princess it is. Meghan is a wonderful princess, she’s come from Hollywood which knows how to do princesses. And, I think in showbiz, if you’ve got a popular star, the public will stump up the money.”

The reporter interjected: “This one, not so much?”

Professor Philip Murphy: “Not so much!”

The reporter: “The Royal Family’s security bill has been estimated to cost Britain 100 million pounds a year, according to a report by Republic, but that’s just an estimate as the total cost is kept secret by the British Government.”

Dani Beckett: “That should be public information – if that was any other public institution –  if that was the Prime Minister, or MPs, we would have access to the amount of money that is spent on keeping them safe, out of the public purse.”

David McClure: “Most government agencies are open to Freedom of Information requests. But you know, the Royal Family is immuned. [sic]”

Upon request by the reporter: “Why?”

David McClure: “Well, I think they want to protect their own secrecy, really. I don’t think they’re making any horrendously powerful political intervention. I think they’re just overly protective, and they’ve always been secretive and they’ll continue with it.”

The reporter could see another side: “Whatever the critics might say about the Royal Family, it provides a sense of certainty at a time when Brexit and economic hardship is dividing the UK.”

What economic hardship?

Rita Clifton would concede: “Britain is having a slight collective nervous breakdown at the moment when it comes to social, political, in some cases economic issues. There is something enduring about the Royal Family brand. About the stability, the security, the longevity, the trust and so on, that actually is a very important property to hang on to at the moment. But there are challenges ahead. The preparations are quietly underway for when The Queen meets her maker.”

Emily Andrews: “I think it will be the end of an era for us in the U.K. when she dies. And her popularity is assured now. She will be one of the greatest monarchs that we have ever ever had.”

Robert Lacey: “It’s a funny old jalopy, the British monarchy, but the Queen has ridden it and steered the horses. And we’re very happy to keep on cheering it. And god, when, um, when people think about her going … Um, you know it affects me.”

Patrick Jephson: “There’s a whole generation of people now in old age who grew up with the Queen – a glamorous, young, innocent Queen, an inspirational figure that summed up so much of what people associate with the best of Royal virtues. The next monarch is going to be an old, white, bald man. Now, nothing against old, bald, white men, but in presentational terms, particularly in a society where youth is prized so highly, that’s not good.”

The reporter: “ ‘The Palace’ is hoping that ‘The Firm’ is well and truly back in business. And that the young Royals have future proofed the Monarchy. But the death of The Queen will be its next big test.”

Professor Philip Murphy: “And when she dies, there’s going to be a great sense of loss, a great sense of displacement. The popularity of the young royals is pretty high. But that could all change. They’re always only a scandal away from a dip in popularity.”

Patrick Jephson: “All I know is that the changes will be huge. And they will shake the institution to its roots and it will be an enormous stress test of what it thinks it is, what we think it is, what it’s for, what it stands for. And if it falls short on any of those, its prestige will suffer, it will I think encounter an extraordinary loss of confidence. And without confidence, monarchy becomes an empty shell.” (Windsor Inc. – Four Corners, abc.net.au).

A complete presentation of the Four Corners programme – a glaring example of infotainment – was, perhaps, not totally necessary. On the other hand, it would have been insufficient to say: the truth about the Royal Family and its members is being manipulated by expert PR-persons. It is the extensity of it which matters. It is the conclusion: that truth is becoming an abstraction, which matters.

Most of the participants are engaged in ‘constructing’ personalities which do not exist, or which exist only with their defects and cannot be taken for ‘reality’ in a show of truth-massaging, reconstructing or – as it seems the moment’s fashion – ‘branding’ and ‘re-branding’.

The imagined consequence of such activity is not a matter left to infotainment, innocuous, inane and perhaps just simply time-consuming.

The levity with which the subjects were approached, just mixed with some juicy information as to the wealth of the Queen and the ways-and-means of enrichment of the Royals, becomes even more intolerable if one looks at recent, and this time serious, information on Britain’s social conditions.

Continued Wednesday – Terminal adolescents (part 6)

Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 4)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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Terminal adolescents (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

The death of Princess Diana might have been a turning point for the House of Windsor. Recollection of that event gave Ms. Rita Clifton an opportunity to say: “From those ashes, a lot of lessons have been learned. There’s obviously had to be more deliberate management about how people behave, what they’re saying, what they’re wearing.”

‘The Palace’ negotiated a deal with the British press to leave Diana’s boys alone. The Royal media team worked with the Press Complaints Commission to create the strictest media regulations in Europe – banning the use of long-lens photography.

Patrick Jephson: “It’s worth remembering that inside palace walls, the media are pretty much regarded as the enemy. The next task was what to do about the Prince of Wales’ mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles.”

Stephen Bates: “[The media] had to sell her to the royal family as much as to the British public. They still had to go about it fairly discreetly, they still had to convince the Queen that she was someone who could be met with, be seen in public with. That was something that took a little while.”

Subsequently, the Queen was exposed to the cameras in a series of stunts and other occasions of unusual and difficult physical acts requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on television. Such new moves were designed to endear the Queen to the British public, and make it believe that the Queen was some kind of a different person.

Emily Andrews confirmed: “Prince Charles appointed some very experienced PR professionals – such as Mark William Bolland, a British public relations executive who became Deputy Private Secretary to Prince Charles from 1997 to 2002, and Patrick Richard Harverson, L.V.O. who became Communications Secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, in addition to being Official Spokesman to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Until then, their major duty was really that of really rehabilitating Camilla Parker-Bowles. Emily Andrews thinks that had been successful because “certainly in the United Kingdom now she is quite popular.”

The reporter: “Project Parker-Bowles, as it became known, even won a PR Week Award for Royal media minder Mark Bolland. The judges noted that Bolland had overseen a massive sea change in the relationship between Prince Charles and the press.

As ‘The Palace’ spin doctors continued to win PR awards, they steered the hulking royal ship back on course.”

Interestingly, Stephen Bates and Patrick Jephson agreed on this: “It is a very professional operation in spin management, media management, media operations” which “has got into the bloodstream of the way Royal people do business.”

The media minders were helped by the natural charm of Charles’ son, Prince William as he grew up. And met his telegenic princess, Kate.

Omid Mio Scobie observed: “William and Kate became of interest and they were young and they were good-looking. Their lives were very interesting and Kate, this very normal girl, was about to take on an incredibly important role marrying the future king of the country. I think that was really the beginning of the rejuvenation of the Royal brand. The Queen has referred to it as ‘The Firm’ herself. It is a business.”

Next to be ‘rebranded’ was Prince Harry, who was transformed in the public eye from party boy to charismatic, modern prince.

And Ms. Rita Clifton was fully confident that the ‘re-branding’ would be successful. She should know. To give her full credit, she is Rita Ann Clifton, C.B.E., a British advertising professional and a former United Kingdom Chairman of Interbrand. She currently works as a speaker, facilitator, writer, and non-executive director of a portfolio of companies. Clifton has been called ‘The doyenne of branding’ by Campaign Magazine, ‘Brand guru’ by The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph described her as ‘The brand leading the brands’!

So Rita said: “I think what’s fascinating about the way that Harry and his advisors have developed his brand, his profile, is that he’s used some of the difficult background, some of the challenges that he’s had in his life, and made that feel like a proper, feeling, human being. It’s much more difficult to have a problem with a human being than an impersonal institution.”

Omid Mio Scobie could not help himself interjecting: “Now we have Harry and Meghan almost ushering in Phase Two of this modernisation of the monarchy.”

Rita Clifton: “In many ways, they’ve brought innovation. They’re brand innovators to the Royal Family.”

The reporter: “Every time Meghan Markle leaves the Kensington Palace gates for events like this one at the Royal Academy, the cash registers start ringing. In an age of social media, the young members of the Royal Family are the ultimate influencers.”

Rita Clifton: “It’s the most amazing thing! Particularly during the build-up to the wedding, I mean whatever Meghan wore, it was picked up, it was followed. Katherine wears a dress, the children wear whichever clothes they are, usually there’s a sell-out with days or weeks, sometimes within hours with some of the examples of what the children have worn.”

The reporter: “On a production line on London’s outskirts. My First Years is pumping out personalised children’s clothes. Everything changed for the fledgling clothing company in April 2016. When little Prince George was pictured wearing one of their dressing gowns while visiting former U.S. President, Barack Obama.”

Daniel Price: “So it was just incredible, I had 165 messages on my phone. I clicked on the link and I thought oh my god! That is our, that’s our dressing gown! I went on and I went into the office and we made sure that everybody was talking about that robe. So before Prince George met Obama, we had about 30 employees, altogether. Now, we’ve got about 110.”

Asked by the reporter: “So what figures did you put on each of those children?” David Haigh, C.E.O. and founder of Brand Finance plc. said: “Well I think some years ago, we said that in their lifetime, they would be adding something in the order of a billion pounds to the UK economy, but that’s in their whole lifetime.” David Haigh’s firm Brand Finance was credited for an analysis of the money the Royal Family injects into the British economy.

David Haigh went on: “Well in the case of the UK as a whole on a rolling annual basis, we estimate something in the order of two billion net to the UK economy. That’s pounds. It definitely seems to have an economic benefit to the UK economy. It’s almost undeniable.

The Royals are also patrons to more than 3000 charities … The Queen’s charities alone have raised 1.4 billion pounds.”

At this point Rita Clifton added: “Frankly, Britain needs the Royal Family right now and into the future. It has got the most extraordinary impact on tourism, on products and services that are in any way associated with the Royal Family.

The reporter: “Even when you think about it, global TV series. There’s endless amounts of interest in the stories of the Royal Family. The Netflix series, The Crown, only enhanced the brand.”

Robert Lacey: “There’s evidence that millions of people stay up all night, certainly in this country, to watch it end to end to end. I was talking to a member of the Royal Family, who has to be nameless, that’s the way it is, when you get close to them. They said, “We were very worried when we heard about The Crown coming along.’ There was anxiety in the Palace as to what a probing insight, dramatic account, of the family might do, but as this member of the Royal Family said to me, “it’s really turned out quite well” !

The reporter added: “Kensington Palace, home to the young royals, is capitalising on the fact that they are back in fashion again. Bypassing traditional legacy media with a sophisticated social media strategy. It has 6.7 million followers on Instagram – almost 13 times the number of Prince Charles’ account, Clarence House.”

Emily Andrews commented: “They film a lot of their own content, they take a lot of their own photographs, they even write a lot of their own stories and put them out through their social media channels, so through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, they even do snapchat.”

Patrick Jephson: “The control over what we read about the royal families is pretty much controlled by them. And they do that through heavy investment in digital media, through a very sophisticated series of trades and favours with their favourite news outlets.”

The reporter commented: “While the young royals seem very natural, everything is highly stage-managed by Palace minders.”

David McClure, a television producer and freelance writer and journalist, who is responsible for an interesting  documentary on the royal finances, contributed: “ ‘The Palace’, like all organisations, like to control their image, but I think ‘The Palace’ is more controlling than most, because the royal family, it’s not really about formal power, it’s about image. And therefore, it’s very important to project that image.”

The reporter noted: “Palace courtiers go to great lengths to protect the reputation and privacy of Brand Windsor. We’ve spoken to Royal Correspondents who say they’ve received an extraordinary dressing down from Royal spin doctors for seemingly innocuous stories. And they get threatening legal letters from the Queen’s London law firm, Harbottle and Lewis.”

Stephen Bates specified: “Harbottle and Lewis are probably the Praetorian Guard of the Royal Family. The Royal Family is an institution which has very little accessibility. I guess it rivals the Vatican. It’s very constrained, the access you get. So there is a certain degree of resentment, because ultimately, they’re an opaque body of people.”

To which the reporter added: “It’s often argued that the royal finances are also too opaque. London’s Regent St. is the city’s premier shopping district. It’s also owned by the Crown Estate. The Crown Estate owns huge tracts of land across the British Isles. And 25 per cent of its profits are paid to the Queen to fund running of The Palace and official royal travel through what’s known as the Sovereign Grant.”

Dani Beckett, deputy chairperson of the campaign group Republic joined in: “In the past five to ten years, we’ve seen cuts to education funding, to domestic violence centres, we’ve seen cuts to libraries and the arts and the police and the national health service at the same time the Royal Family’s Sovereign Grant, which is the official money that they get from the government, which actually only amounts to about a quarter of the money that they get every year, keeps increasing and increasing.” … “I think there’s a great element of spin and Brand Royal is certainly being updated and the people doing that are very clever. But at the heart of it, it’s an archaic institution that is terrified of the general public knowing just how much power and wealth they actually have.”

Austin Vernon Mitchell, who was a British Labour Party member of Parliament between 1977 and 2015, added: “We don’t know where the money is invested. We don’t know where it’s spent. We don’t know what the income is. We only know what they tell us. But nobody really knows. We don’t have the figures.”

Challenged by the reporter “Should we know?”

Mitchell confirmed: “Yes, we should. We should.”

Austin Mitchell served eight years on the United Kingdom Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, which in 2013 had an inquiry into whether the Royal Family provides value for money. The Committee recommended that the Royals could help save money by opening up Buckingham Palace to the public all year round, instead of just two months to pay for 369 million pounds in renovations.”

And what was the Palace’s response to that?

Mr. Mitchell replied: “No. I think the Queen thought it would be inconvenient to have all these people trekking around, ‘hey, look at that! What lovely pictures’ when she got up in the morning in her dressing gown and came down for breakfast. So I think it is personal. It should be open all year round. The public own it, it’s a public palace, and it’s the public’s art, really. It would be monstrous to exclude them.”

The reporter brought the viewers up to date: “The Royal Family’s personal income comes from its private land estates. Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall was established in the 14th century to fund future kings. It’s enormously valuable … with land and business holdings worth 940 million pounds. The Duchy pays for the lifestyles of Prince Charles and his family. But while it funds the modern young royals, The Duchy has some antiquated traditions – as we discovered on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall. We travelled to tiny Bryhar Island to meet Tony Berkeley, a hereditary peer in the House of Lords, who is critic of the Duchy.”

Interestingly, Anthony Fitzhardinge Gueterbock, 18th Baron Berkeley, OBE, CEng, MICE, FRSA, FCIT, Hon FIMechE, Hon DSc, otherwise known as Tony Berkeley, is a British aristocrat and Labour parliamentarian.

Holder of an ancient English hereditary peerage title created in 1421, Lord Berkeley sits in the House of Lords by virtue of being created a Life Peer in 2000. Plain Tony Berkeley had this to say: “Very artificial. Very anachronistic and totally unsuited to the 21st century. It should have changed a hundred years ago or so.”

The reporter explained: “Lord Berkeley wants to reform the Duchy of Cornwall … which returned 22 million pounds to Prince Charles [in 2017], but doesn’t pay 19 per cent Corporations Tax.

Instead, Prince Charles chooses only to pay income tax at a rate nominated by him. Lord Berkeley has moved a private members’ bill in the British Parliament to see the Duchy pay Corporations Tax.”

“The Duchy – Lord Tony Berkeley jumped in – should pay tax like any other organisation in this country. Now, because the Duchy is calling itself a private sector body, it really can’t go on with this kind of ducking operation. It’s got to stand out like any other private body and pay its taxes pay its taxes and obey the law like everybody else does and it chooses not to at the moment. There shouldn’t be any special privileges or special arrangements.”

The reporter added: “Lord Berkeley’s wife Marian has lived on Bryhar, which is almost entirely owned by the Duchy, for decades. She’s spent hundreds of thousands of pounds improving her property with no help from the Duchy, which, when the lease runs out, has every right to take it over.”

Asked by the reporter: “What would you like to see change?”

Marian Berkeley said: “I would like to see, to be perfectly honest, I’d like to see the Duchy removed from the Isles of Scilly. There’s no reason why places like this should be run as big estates and have that hold over the inhabitants.”

At this point the reporter moved to a related subject: “The investment decisions by those responsible for the Queen’s private land holdings and wealth have also come under some scrutiny in recent years.”

David McClure, investigating writer: “The private wealth of the Queen is shrouded in mystery.” confirmed David McClure. “We don’t know how much she’s truly worth. A tiny glimpse was provided with the release of the Paradise Papers.  … [The Paradise Papers was a massive data leak that occurred in 2017 from a law firm [see A.B.C., Four corners, 6 November 2017: Paradise Papers, What is the leak and who is behind the firm Appleby?]   in Bermuda which  advised clients on how to invest their money overseas, and particularly in tax havens. Now among the documents, it was found that the Queen’s private estate had invested over 10 million pounds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. It’s slightly embarrassing to find out that the Queen had been investing in tax havens.”

Well, yes, when the Paradise Papers scandal broke, the Queen’s advisors said she was not personally aware of the offshore investments made on her behalf. What are the aides-de-camp good for, otherwise?

Continued Saturday – Terminal adolescents (part 5)

Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 3)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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If you do what you’ve always done

By 2353NM  

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is attributed with the maxim that ‘change is the only constant in life’. If he came back to life now, you would hope he wouldn’t be surprised to see the maxim is as accurate now as it was 500 or so years before the modern era when he was alive.

We don’t react well to change. When a steam engine first hauled a train with passengers instead of coal along a railway in the UK in the 1830s, there was moral panic with ‘experts’ claiming that people sitting in a railway carriage travelling at 50 mph would ‘melt’ and women who travelled at such high speeds would find their uterus would fall out! When the first vehicles with engines hit the road, again there was a moral panic, answered in part by legislation such the Red Flag Act in the UK where ‘vehicles’ powered by engines were limited to 4 mph on country roads and 2 mph in cities with a man waving a red flag walking in front of the vehicle. While the proponents of the act claimed that the engines and their trailers might cause fatal accidents, scare horses, block narrow lanes, and disturb the locals by operating at night (all of which may have had an element of truth to it), there is also evidence to suggest that the legislation was promoted by those who had affiliations with the industries that had the most to lose — railways and horses — railing against inevitable change. We all know the ‘horseless carriage’ won the day.

In more recent past we have all been subjected to argument by various interest groups about the dangers inherent in carbon emissions into the atmosphere. While the overwhelming majority of scientists who are actually qualified in the field of study agree that there are a number of irreversible detrimental effects to the environment we, and our descendants, will have to endure, others with usually significantly less specific scientific knowledge and training fervently disagree.

We’ve all heard what could pass as other examples of moral panic — coal (or nuclear) power stations are the only possible alternatives that work at night; we need ‘baseload’ generation or generators that can be turned on and off at will; the mining and domestic consumption of coal employs tens of thousands of people; coal exports produce a considerable percentage of Australia’s export income and so on.

To an extent there has been at some stage some validity to all the claims above. There isn’t any more. For example, in January 2020, South Australia and Victoria lost the inter-connector that transfers power between the states due to a storm. Of equal concern, the Portland Aluminium Smelter was at risk of losing power from the Victorian grid. With the help of a lot of clever people, South Australia worked out how to be self-sufficient for power generation as well as offering to guarantee power to the Smelter. South Australia has no coal fired power stations, relying on renewables, a really big battery or two, wind power and gas generators, yet they kept the lights on across South Australia and the Portland Smelter operating for a couple of weeks as reported in The Australian (yes, you read that correctly). According to the report, they also had to disconnect some wind generation from the specially rigged system to ensure supply didn’t exceed demand — mismatched supply and demand levels apparently isn’t a good thing in a power grid.

Maybe the tide really is turning. Recently the ABC carried reports of what have been billed natural enemies, coal miners and environmentalists, working together to minimise the damage caused by the Gospers Mountain ‘mega-fire’ in New South Wales.

Even more at odds with ‘conventional wisdom’ is the increasing number of coal miners that are becoming environmentalists at times after decades working in the mines.

The reality is that mining and the use of coal to generate electricity is a sunset industry. As evidence, look to South Australia which has managed for weeks without coal fired power generation when the interconnector failed in a storm. Additional evidence comes from the United Kingdom who have at times gone up to two weeks without using a coal fired power generation facility and plan to phase all their coal fired plants out by 2025.

Of course transitioning to renewables will result in a loss of jobs currently involved in the mining, transporting and using of coal. While it apparently hasn’t been smooth sailing, Germany’s

trade unions, energy companies, green groups and government have all agreed that the coal industry must go.

And the Government will give tens of billions of dollars to coal regions to create new jobs and industries.

It’s a pity the Australian Governments of the last 15 to 20 years haven’t got the same courage even if they had the conviction. As the ABC reported mid-February, Australia has the space to create a network of solar thermal power plants that can reliably generate renewable energy day and night.

Solar thermal power systems may also have a thermal energy storage system component that allows the solar collector system to heat an energy storage system during the day, and the heat from the storage system is used to produce electricity in the evening or during cloudy weather.

Who would have thought the climate deniers in Australia that use their microphones and newspaper columns to rage against change could be wrong? Apparently the sun can generate power at night (and wind doesn’t stop when the sun goes down either).

While Australia has a grid that supplies Queensland through to South Australia, there might be a point where a solar thermal network overloads the ‘sort of’ National Grid in a similar manner to the excess wind generation in South Australia earlier this year. Rather than throttling the network back there is a solution in development — exporting the power.

Mike Cannon-Brookes (who dared Elon Musk to build the now very successful first industrial scale storage battery in South Australia) and Andrew Forrest have put their own money into a proposal to export Australian generated power to Singapore through a 4500km cable.

Given Cannon Brookes is one of the founders of Atlassian, a worldwide provider of planning, collaboration and security software, and Forrest is one of Australia’s most successful iron ore miners, the concept of exporting power through really long extension leads isn’t the idle chatter of two mates down the pub on a Friday night either.

There’s a future for Australians who should be starting to transition out of coal mining and processing jobs in Central Queensland, the Hunter Valley and elsewhere but they need some support along the way. The future is renewable energy production. Like mining coal, the infrastructure can be placed in regional areas and many of the construction and monitoring of sophisticated infrastructure-based skills used in mining are directly transferable. Pity the government seems to be more concerned with funding swimming pools that aren’t wanted in the communities on the receiving end of the largesse and changing facilities at sports fields.

Unfortunately there are a number of politicians on all sides that still believe that what we have done in the past — dig up coal, ship it out and ignore the consequences — is what we should do in the future. That’s not a recipe for future success, is it?

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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Terminal adolescents (part 3)

By Dr George Venturini  

There is no question that Harry and Meghan represent some kind of ‘second phase’ of, as well as source of hope for the resurrection of the Windsor business house, the kind of relative new adventure that Ms. Rita Ann Clifton, C.B.E., a British advertising professional, would call “the brand innovators of the Royal Family.”

Patrick Jephson, now the founding partner in a ‘boutique communications consultancy’ operating from Washington, D.C., but for many years before Princess Diana’s private secretary and author of Shadows of a Princess, who was accused of ‘betrayal’ and is said to have angered the Royals after publishing the bestselling book, opined that the new ‘combination’ of Harry and Meghan is a “carefully crafted strategy, now in the ‘Royal bloodstream.’ ” Maybe.

“There are generations now of Royal spin doctors – he says – who have come into palaces claiming to be able to portray the Royal clients in the light that they want to be seen in.” Again, maybe. Dizzying stuff!

Again, Ms. Clifton pointed out how important is ‘The Royal Family’ to charity organisations. She says that: “… there’s the contribution they make to charity – 3,000 charities have a member of the Royal Family as their patron and the Queen’s charities alone have raised 1.4 billion pounds.”

Ms. Clifton believes that ‘the Royal Family’ brand is appealing in a divided world. “Britain is having a slight collective nervous breakdown at the moment when it comes to social, political, in some cases economic issues,” she says.

“There is something enduring about the Royal family brand – about the stability, the security, the longevity, the trust and so on, that actually is a very important property to hang on to at the moment.” (L. Milligan, ‘Windsor Inc: The corporate machine that’s led the Royal renaissance,’ abc.net.au, 29 October 2018).

The Invictus Games having closed on 27 October 2018, two days later the A.B.C. Four corners presented a rather full view of ‘Windsor Inc.’

Ably reported by Ms. Louise Milligan, the programme welcomed contributions from disparate persons. It was fairly frothy, light and entertaining but of little substance when not redundant with salamelecchi, an Italian word from the Arabic salaamalekum (actually: “peace be with you”) which translates the best as bowing and scraping.

For almost two weeks Australia had felt the full force of ‘a royal charm offensive’. The visit by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had been a triumph for the Royal couple and, particularly of the ‘House of Windsor brand’.

“I think the marriage…has injected a real shot of adrenaline into people’s interest in the Royal Family.” said a tabloid royal correspondent.

It is a world away from the scandalous 1990s when the Royal Family was embroiled in a rolling series of crises, indiscretions and P.R. disasters leaving them out of fashion and out of step with the times. Some were even talking about the end of the monarchy itself. “All bets were off with the Royals in the nineties. Spectacular own goals, things that 50 years earlier would have had discreet veils drawn over them: Camillagate, Squidgygate, Tampaxgate, all those terrible, terrible, gruesome little scandals.” said another authority on the subject.

The programme was designed to show how ‘the Royal Family’ has rebuilt its reputation and changed the way it manages ‘The Firm.’

“From those ashes, a lot of lessons have been learned. There’s obviously had to be more deliberate management about how people behave, what they’re saying, what they’re wearing,” ventured a global advertising consultant.

“It was the Royal family accepting that things needed to change if they were to survive. Survival is the name of the game for the Royal family.” said another.

The programme revealed a highly controlled operation with spin doctors and media management at the forefront.

“You don’t see it but … what we see and read about the Royal Family is pretty much controlled by them,” was the view of a former Private Secretary to the Royal household.

The Royals are increasingly bypassing traditional media and finding new ways to offer their message by joining the ranks of social media of influence. Those combined efforts have resulted in one of the most spectacular ‘rebranding’ exercises in modern times.

“In many ways, they’ve brought innovation. They’re brand innovators to the Royal family,” said the same global advertising consultant.

This new image has helped divert attention away from questions over the funding and financial interests of the Royal household.

“We don’t know where the money is invested. We don’t know where it’s spent. We don’t know what the income is. We only know what they tell us,” said a former U.K. member of Parliament.

As ‘The Palace’ prepares for the next generation to take the throne, Four Corners examined the very corporate campaign to future-proof the Crown.

The venue for the symposium on the Queen was ‘Cliveden’ in Buckinghamshire.

Ms. Flora Fraser Soros, an English writer of historical biographies, acted as moderator for the gathering of lesser known participants.

The reporter: “Also here is the Queen’s biographer, Robert Lacey, who was historical consultant to the wildly successful television series – The Crown.”

Mr. Robert Lacey, a British historian and biographer of Queen Elizabeth II ponderously remarked that the Queen has the apparently easier job of being what he called “a representative queen – whatever that may mean.

He then explained: “When a monarchy’s working well, it’s in harmony with the society it represents. A monarchy’s a bit like love. And many of the words associated with monarchy are to do with love and emotional values.”

The reporter noted that: “As she nears the end of her reign, Britain has fallen back in love with the Queen.”

Professor Philip Murphy, Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and professor of British and Commonwealth History at School of Advanced Study, University of London, explained: “In previous generations, [the Queen]  was seen as a slightly staid, slightly boring figure, But the fact that she’s managed to be this non-political Constitutional Monarch for so long is widely recognised, widely admired, now. So, she’s having this magnificent sunset.”

“Non-political Constitutional Monarch”? Clearly Professor Murphy is embracing the typical fallacy in which a conclusion is taken for granted in the premises. He was definitively begging the question.

Ms. Emily Andrews, Royal correspondent for The Sun, made her heavy contribution: “I think we are in a golden age of royal popularity. We’ve got the Queen, she’s 92. She’s bomb-proof! Her popularity is unassailed. When she dies it will be the end of the second Elizabethan age.”

She was followed by Professor Murphy: “You have the younger royals, who seem to be copying her playbook being very discreet, very non-political, not feeling the need to express their own political opinions. But they’re glamorous, they’re relaxed, they’re good with people.”

To which Emily Andrews rejoined: “And I think the marriage of Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, has injected a real shot of adrenaline into people’s interest in the Royal Family.”

The reporter: “The wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle gave Windsor Inc. a whole new lease of life.”

Omid Mio Scobie, who  is a London-based American journalist and editor who has extensively covered the lives of the younger members of the British Royal Family for over seven years, added this: “Seeing Meghan take that role as the Duchess of Sussex and bringing in this massive societal change is incredibly exciting. I think for the UK, this is our moment, very much the same as when President Obama took a seat in the White House. It changed things for the future. I think that’s exactly what Meghan’s done by marrying into the Royal Family.”

The reporter: “For the royal image-makers of the 21st century, it was a PR triumph that showcased a whole new House of Windsor.”

Emily Andrews invited the present to reflect on “this multicultural wedding, we had a multiracial musician and musical display. We had the preacher. We had the Reverend Michael Curry. From the U.S. of A. I mean think he was only supposed to speak for five minutes. I think he actually spoke for fifteen minutes.”

Actually Ms. Andrews extended herself by emphasising: “Meghan’s biracial, mixed race, she’s the first non-white member of the Royal Family. It’s fantastic. Literally dragging this old, white, pale, stale family, dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st century.”

The reporter: “For choir conductor Karen Gibson, it heralded a new dawn for Britain’s relationship with the Royal family.”

Asked by the reporter: “How did you feel as a woman of colour in Britain about that moment?” Ms. Karen Gibson replied: “Very proud, actually. Very proud to be, to be setting a precedent. It was definitely a precedent, we know that. And very proud to be able to represent people of colour. I know it was a big deal. To the black community. And I think the wedding being so inclusive and so diverse, I think that’s done something for the country. I feel like something has shifted.”

A detour is necessary here to explain: Ms. Gibson is a choir conductor and workshop leader with Londons Kingdom Choir, that she founded. It was she who led the Kingdom Choir’s gospel performance of “Stand by Me” at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018, after which she was described as “Britain’s godmother of gospel.” One feels like being in the presence of a new planetary system.

The happy-go-lucky-new-and-improved Westminster System? Maybe.

At this point Patrick Jephson, the already mentioned Princess Diana’s private secretary, pointed out that: “Meghan didn’t know the black preacher. There was no long association there. It was put on for effect. In presentational terms, looks great. What’s behind it? Nothing much really.”

Amidst general surprise Patrick Jephson proclaimed that it was spin. “Yeah”, he said.

And to that he added: “There was an assumption that Meghan Markle was going to be a breath of fresh air and drag the fuddy duddy old monarchy into the 21st century. And that may yet happen, but I think it’s very unlikely.”

After which he made a sobering point: “[The Queen] is, after all, constitutionally, pretty much insignificant. Given that Harry is now way down the pecking order to the throne. And also, the monarchy, you know, it’s a very old institution. It has seen Meghan Markles come and go for hundreds of years.”

Where upon the reporter wisely noted: “The Harry and Meghan wedding is not the first royal marriage to be sold as a fairy tale and a moment of generational change. In 1981 the world watched as the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, married Diana Spencer. The fairy tale was a mirage. The marriage was deeply troubled and it was the beginning of more than a decade of disaster for the royal family… much of it self-inflicted.”

Stephen Bates, a British writer and award-winning journalist, author of Royalty Inc. a work which combines a history of the British Crown’s evolution through the modern age with a journalistic peek behind the curtain at the machinery which sustains the Windsors today, observed: “The Royals went off in several really questionable directions, the first of which, the nadir, was It’s a Royal Knockout. It was a really, really naff program, but terribly popular and the royals, or at least Prince Edward, thought the royals could cash in on this with. But, in his opinion, It’s a Royal Knockout was completely the wrong sort of message to give.”

In 1987 It’s a Royal Knockout collected the most sordid details of the Windsors’ private life, beginning with the following memorable exchange:

“Prince Charles: ‘I just live inside your trousers or something, be much easier’.

Camilla Parker-Bowles: ‘What are you going to do, turn into a pair of knickers. I think you are, you are going to come back as a pair of knickers.’

Prince Charles: ‘Or god forbid a tampax.’ ”

Stephen Bates commented: “All bets were off with the royals in the nineties. Spectacular own goals, things that fifty years earlier would have had discreet veils drawn over them. Camillagate, Squidgygate, Tampaxgate, all those terrible, terrible, gruesome little scandals.”

Patrick Jephson philosophised: “A lot of our energy and resources was spent on maintaining an untrue picture of the reality. And once you do that for a long enough time, once you invest enough money and effort and credibility in it, it has a corrosive effect on the whole organisation. We weren’t dealing in the truth. We were dealing in whatever today’s truth was and the media knew that, they could smell it and on a certain level we deserved all the crazy stories that were written because, uncomfortably, lots of them were true.”

Emily Andrews moved in: “With the war of the Waleses, how bad it was for the Royal Family? The Queen saying it was an annus horribilis, Windsor Castle burnt down. Charles and Diana divorced.”

Robert Lacey: “Fergie is discovered with her lover sucking her toes. How is that meant to give us an example of how we should live, particularly in difficult times? That of course is when Australia started saying why should we put up with this? Why should we look up to this? And people in England, Britain, were asking exactly the same question.”

Patrick Jephson remembered “when the Princess phoned me and told me that she and the Prince had had a final meeting, and decided to separate, my overwhelming feeling was of relief. My relief was because we didn’t have to pretend any longer.”

Princess Diana told him: “There were three of us in the marriage.”

And Patrick Jephson commented: “Yes, the annus horribilis was a series of PR disasters, but only if you think PR is a substitute for the truth. Ultimately, the annus horribilis was a PR triumph because against all the, or despite all the attempts we had made to conceal what was going on, the truth came out. And the institution survived it. Amid the crisis, the Palace called an emergency meeting of its committee, known as ‘The Way Ahead’, which was designed to salvage the monarchy.”

It is thought that the Queen ordered her children to sort out their private lives. Reforms were later introduced, including the Queen paying income tax, and trimming the number of Royals subsidised by the public purse.

Stephen Bates: “ ‘The Way Ahead’ was a group set up as the Queen grew a bit older, to try and look at the future of the monarchy and how it should conduct itself. How the organisation of it should be run, how the institution should evolve. It was more or less the first time that that had been done on a serious basis by Buckingham Palace and it did produce a slimming down of the hangers on and the flunkies. It was the Royal Family accepting that things needed to change if they were to survive. Survival is the name of the game for the Royal Family.”

Continued Wednesday – Terminal adolescents (part 4)

Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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Rising Health Costs in the COVID-19 Era

By Denis Bright  

Can the federal LNP ignore the problem of rising consultation costs for routine medical consultations and associated diagnostic services in these difficult financial times? The onset of the COVID-19 Virus has only accentuated Australian’s emergent health cost problems which extend to the outrageous cost burdens of nursing home care.

Even families on the top tables of private health insurance are not spared from these health cost spirals. It is commonplace to be paying well over $5 000 a year for private health cover at the most comprehensive benefit tables. The enormous cost of private health insurance still does not remove out of pocket costs for medical consultations and diagnostic services particularly at an outpatient level. To ease pressures on public health systems, the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) has called for the return of incentives to restore the the Private Health Insurance Rebate for the 30 per cent of Australians in the lowest income levels.

APHA CEO Michael Roff outlined the case for change to the federal LNP on behalf of the 30 per cent of Australians in the lowest income categories which as part of a submission to the federal LNP prior to the 2020-21 budget.

Low-income Australian households face a double whammy of increased premiums and reduced rebates when it comes to private health insurance,” he said.

“Every year the value of their rebate goes down, while their private health premiums increase.

“For example, in 2019 a high-income earner who did not receive the rebate would have experienced a premium increase of 3.25%. However, low-income earners would have experienced a real premium increase of 3.74%,” Roff said.

“This doesn’t pass the fairness test, nor does it achieve the aim of the rebate — to incentivise Australians to take up private health insurance.”

Roff said APHA is calling for the restoration of the rebate to 2013–14 levels for low-income earners. This would return the rebate to 30% for those under 65, 35% for those aged 65–69 and 40% for those aged 70 and over.

This will reduce premiums for these households by between 2.02% and 3.67% and cost about $1.4 billion in 2020–21,” he said.

The submission also makes recommendations for savings, including curbing claims for private health insurance in public hospitals.

“This practice is punishing patients who can’t afford private health insurance. They suffer with deteriorating health on elective surgery waiting lists as public hospitals push the privately insured ahead of them. Add to that, it is also a perversion of Medicare — care based on clinical need, not ability to pay,” Roff said.

“If this practice stopped, private health insurance premiums would drop by 6%”.

The financial problems experienced by Australians in nursing home facilities will be addressed later in this article as they face the added problems of institutional costs and low remuneration rates from Medicare.

Only Australians who are fortunate enough to be free from routine medical problems might be assured by the ongoing media releases from the federal Health Minister on rates of bulk-billing. The latest assurance came on 28 February 2020 as the spread of the COVID-19 Virus was just gaining momentum around the world.

Medicare bulk billing rate of 86 per cent for 2019

Australians continue to visit their GPs without having to pay a cent, with the latest Medicare data showing 86 out of 100 visits to the GP were bulk-billed for the 2019 calendar year… As well as continuing and increasing its investment in Medicare, our Government is ensuring it supports quality health care.

Australia has one of the best health systems in the world, founded on Medicare. These figures show Medicare, under the Morrison Government, is supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians more than ever.

The Morrison Government is only able to guarantee Medicare and essential services because our strong economic management.

Even on the specific issue of bulk billing rates for consultations with GPs, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) offers a more complex picture of healthcare costs across Australia. The RACGP advises everyone that the state of the nation’s healthcare cannot be summarised in this statistic which exaggerates national bulk-billing rates. It ignores the more serious structural problem of low remuneration rates from Medicare for medical consultations and associated diagnostic procedures.

Our country is headed down the corporate trail in healthcare at all levels from consultations at GP clinics to diagnostic procedures. There is an enormous cost for private health insurance. The costs of nursing home care challenges the stability of life for older Australians.

On bulk-billing rates, recurrent users of GP services by elderly and chronically ill patients artificially inflates the bulk-billing rates. Great variations also exist in bulk billing rates across Australia.

Image: Matt Woodley in News GP from RACGP 18 December 2019

The enthusiastic tone of the federal minister’s commitment to equitable bulk-billing is contradicted by the current edict from the Australian Department of Health. The rate of the bulk-billing incentive for metropolitan doctors will be about two-thirds of rates offered to rural doctors. While remote rural and regional districts certainly need special attention for more bulk-billing assistance to reduce over the counter costs to patients, there is surely a wider problem associated with remuneration rates from Medicare to doctors.

Inner-city medical providers are usually forced to be pragmatic in their bulk-billing of patients at GP clinics. The real  problem lies not with the medical providers themselves but with remuneration rates for bulk-billing offered by Medicare on the federal LNP’s current watch.

The Cordium Group operates twelve GP clinics in near Brisbane locations plus a Melanoma Centre adjacent to one of its inner-city medical clinics.

Such facilities cannot operate successfully on current levels of Medicare remuneration at $36.55 for a standard consultation. Eighty dollars is usually charged as a across the counter fee which leaves patients about $43 out of pocket costs  for each visit with higher amounts required for longer consultations. Exceptions are made for pensioners and some Commonwealth Health Cardholders.

One specialist practitioner with a long and distinguished medical and academic career must manage the costs of his inner-city practice on these ridiculous remuneration rates for consultations which are bulk-billed. Even bulk-billing rates for specialist procedures are 22 per cent below over the counter rates.

The federal LNP strategically intervened in a non-election year to tighten the asset test for access to even part-pensions. The asset test always included sometimes non-performing superannuation assets, bank deposits now offering minimal interest returns and beaches houses acquired by families over the generations which do not usually generate income. By tightening access to pensions in 2017, the federal LNP could be generous with its tax reforms to upper middle-income families. It also attempted to reduce company tax rates for the largest corporations to 25 per cent until Labor and the crossbenchers combined to oppose the changes. The  asset tests for part-pensions was tightened from $1.3 million to less than $800,000 for married couples in 2017.

Many of the largest multinational companies use offshore tax havens to minimise their taxation liabilities and the wealthiest families are notorious for their use of family trusts to minimise taxable incomes. Negative gearing for multiple property investment is widely used in more affluent sections of our community.

Remuneration payments from Medicare for bulk-billed consultations with GPs are of course only the tip of the iceberg of health costs.

Regrettably, X-Ray clinics and complex radiology providers are resistant to any extension of bulk-billing. Costs cannot be contained by employing casual staff members as the diagnostic services require high levels of professional skill. Just passing the cost onto patients in high over the counter fees has been a financial winner for companies large and small.

Queensland X-Rays is an arm of Sonic Healthcare. Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology as a major diagnostic provider is also a member of the Sonic Healthcare Group. Sonic Healthcare is 38th on the list of Australia’s Top 50 Companies in ASX Tables.

Regrettably, Sonic Healthcare through its US Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) is becoming deeply immersed in corporate healthcare. As the sample payment advice from CPL in Austin Texas shows, choice of credit card for payments is not ameliorated by a national health system as in Australia. To the Trump Administration, this infringes upon corporate freedoms under market ideology. The  subsidiary of Australia’s Sonic Healthcare is thriving in the US healthcare market where bulk-billing rates are not a factor.

Information was sought from CPL in Austin, Texas on comparable rates for specific diagnostic procedures.

Should this information be provided, I will pass it on through The AIM Network. I am not expecting a reply to my emails to the media and billing departments of CPL.

If market ideology in diagnostic health is a better option for Australians, CPL should be keen to communicate their competitive billing rates outside our national health network.

The international corporate profile of Sonic Healthcare can be gleaned from the latest Concise Annual Report which was released in June 2019. The report is readily available online and makes easy reading. It covers the multi-million incomes for senior directors from salaries, incentive payments and share allocations for the most senior directors at Sonic Healthcare. Of significance for an Australian firm is Sonic Healthcare’s involvement in  the lucrative US health market which is now almost as large as its Australian operations with an annual turn-over of $A2.5 billion.

The profile of Sonic Healthcare in Australia is concealed by the local brand-names used at hospitals and diagnostic centres. Patients choosing Queensland X-Ray Limited (Sonic Healthcare Company) for a simple kidney scan are expected to pay $222.75 in over the counter fees. The Medicare rebate is $103 for the procedure. The compensatory Medicare rebate is always offered as a sweetener through the usual automated payment system. However, non-pensioner patients are still at least $100 out of pocket.

The saga continues across the range of diagnostic procedures. Some costs can run into the thousands for patients. Medicare remuneration rates are running at about half the cost of over-the counter payment rates.

In the Casino City of Las Vegas in Nevada, where CPL has a considerable network of pathology centres, business seems to be booming by the network of blood collection centres now available to the subsidiary of an Australian company.

I would be curious to find out if Sonic Healthcare is a diagnostic provider on US military bases, including overseas military deployment posts.

Back at home in Australia with the remnants of its national healthcare system still in place, corporatization of Australian nursing homes is also part of the squeeze on the out of pocket costs of health and accommodation expenses for seniors who opt for institutional aged care or who are forced there by a range of health problems. The stresses associated with the sale of family homes to cover the enormous costs of aged care bonds is distressing to the elderly and their families. It is a stark reminder that nursing home placement is largely an irreversible choice.

Sydney Aged Care Financial Advisers is just one firm which offers advice to at risk groups who are contemplating a move to institutional nursing home care. Sydney Aged Care Financial Advisers use soft words to break the news gently:

Mum or dad are fine one day, then suddenly they’re in hospital and your local ACAT (aged care assessment team) are saying they need permanent residential care in a hostel or nursing home. It can be quite a shock. Especially when you’re confronted with the costs. One of the first questions many families ask when an elderly relative is assessed is: what is an accommodation bond & how do you pay for aged care?

Here are the main points you need to know:

– An accommodation bond is an upfront cost that is payable to the aged care facility in many, but not ALL cases for the actual accommodation of the resident. It is essentially a loan to the care facility that the hostel or nursing home can then ‘re-invest’ to derive income for assistance with their maintenance of the  aged care home.

– There is no ‘typical’ or standard accommodation bond cost; it is determined by the assets of the resident, the supply & demand for beds in each care facility & the socio-economic profile of the resident’s suburb.

– Bonds can be as little as $200,000 in areas such as Penrith or Liverpool in the Western Suburbs but can range right up to $1.5 million for exclusive extra care aged care in blue-ribbon areas of Sydney such as Mosman and the North Shore or Double Bay and the Eastern Suburbs.

– The current ‘average’ accommodation bond cost in Sydney is $350,000 to $500,000.

– When the resident passes away the bond is refunded back to their estate within 14 days, less the retention amount. The retention amount applicable depends on how long the resident is in care but is currently capped at $3,972 per annum with a maximum of $19,860 after 5 years.

– An accommodation bond is payable for low care & extra services high care, but NOT for standard high care.

– The bond can be paid as a lump sum, periodic payment (regular monthly payments) or a combination of both.

– Most aged care facilities prefer a large component of the bond to be paid as lump sum.

– Lump sum accommodation bonds can be paid from cash savings, selling the family home or by raising a reverse mortgage loan against the property.

– The accommodation bond will not be the ONLY aged care cost. The resident may also  be required to pay a ‘daily care fee’ & an ‘income tested fee’.

– An accommodation bond is currently not an assessable asset for the purposes of Centrelink aged pension

– Accommodation bonds are due to be payable on ALL types of aged care from July 1st 2014, under the Living Longer, Living Better reforms.

Cheers to the financial advisers for being so honest about the consequences of that horror budget from Joe Hockey in 2014. Joe Hockey has moved on to become Australian Ambassador in Washington. He expects to have a post-retirement career on the lecture circuit in the USA where he can earn an income talking about the successes of LNP governments in moving Australians closer to the US corporate health model.

Australians should strive to stay fit and healthy with a progressive political outlook that is sceptical of soothing hype from the corporate health sector. Staying in your home while you can with the support of home-help and nursing-care visits is the probably best and most cost-effective option.

Citizens’ journalist Denis Bright checking out the good, the bad and the ugly in corporate society and back-pedalling against unfair wages and working conditions under the false flags of free enterprise and trickle-down wealth agendas. 


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Name that Tory: A Quiz

By Grumpy Geezer  

The L/NP regime is hardly a model of diversity. It’s a conglomeration of toffs from private schools where sex education was limited to rumours about the sports master, entitled spawn of the squatocracy, sticky-fingered mining lobbyists, scorched earth cow cockies, suburban accountants and lack-of-life-experience political careerists. They have much in common – a flat earth religiosity and a disdain for facts, an authoritarian born-to-rule mentality, greed and mendacity. But they, and their fellow travellers on the loony fringe parties try to craft an image – their “personal brand”.

Some buff the ca-ca, others need to camouflage their unpalatable true selves ala FauxMo’s farcical daggy dad routine. All fool themselves more than they fool us.

Tory 1

Self image: astute retail politician, heroic champion of the Weatherboard Nine, speaker of truths, man of the land, author, sage.

Reality: A puce-hued, handsy lecher, gormless gofer for mining oligarchs, waterboy for big ag boondogglers and a rumpled bumpkin who parts his hair with a fence paling. If his charred remains ever need recovery from plane wreckage he will be identifiable from his tooth. He marks his territory with a lingering waft of Eau de Ugg Boot and gets his best ideas from a magazine he found in a hedge.

Familiar call: “carp, caaarp, caaaarp!” and “Another schooner please sweetcheeks.”

Tory 2

Self image: Champion of downtrodden coal mining magnates, chocolate eclair connoisseur.

Reality: He emerged like Tim Robbins escaping from Shawshank, and climbed from obscurity to the dizzy heights of irrelevance.

When he was a child his mother put blackout curtains on his humidicrib, as an adolescent his bed was put out on the nature strip in the hope he’d be taken away in a council clean up. Being an inadequate furniture salesman encouraged him to try his hand at being an inadequate politician, the only life goal he’s ever achieved.

Tory 3

Self image: Urbane entrepreneur and future PM.

Reality: Grifter with a talent for re-purposing tax payers’ money for familial gain. Wears the guilty expression of a spaniel caught mid-shit. Poisoner of endangered native flaura, born with a silver foot in his mouth. Modern day Don Quixote tilting at wind turbines.

Tory 4

Self image: Maverick jet-setter, chick magnet.

Reality: Ping pong ball fieldsman and used G-string collector. A voodoo doll could be made of this bloke by rolling a doughnut in a kitty-litter tray. The only time a woman ever saw him naked she screamed and ran out of the park.

Tory 5

Self image: Raconteur, leader of men, dam builder, the reincarnation of Elvis.

Reality: An empty Comcar pulled up to Parliament House and he got out(1). He puts “pull” labels on his desk drawers and formed a Rolf Harris tribute act to tour country child care centres. His head-nodding is symptomatic of the impenetrable dullness of an oratory so obtuse that he can send himself into a stupor mid-sentence.

Tory 6

Self image: A shiny-headed Fabio taking the salute, legs akimbo, from legions of brownshirts armed with flaming torches and housebricks goosestepping their vengeful way to MONA.

MONA is Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, a den of leftie degeneracy, that once had a wall display of plaster casts of ladies’ pink bits that Fabio mistook for an indoor climbing gym only to become entangled by his lederhosen halfway up (but he did appreciate the Gewürztraminer stocked by the gallery café).

Reality: With limited train services in Tassie to dictate should run on time he spends his days tracing his DNA back to Beowulf and machine gunning shepherds on his Playstation attack helicopter.

Tory 7

Self image: A crusading exposer of the conspiracy of the world’s scientists, academics, environmentalists, NASA, the CSIRO, the BoM, the EU and Boris Johnson to take over the world.

Reality: A ridiculous little homunculous who would fall through the hole in a massage table if it wasn’t for his oversized head; he resembles an unsold toffee apple. Thinks the spinning blades of wind turbines are slowing the earth’s rotation thereby causing bushfires.

Tory 8

Self image: Brylcreemed Jimmy Olsen with aspirations for the most Hitler Youth merit badges.

Reality: A graduate of the IPA masturbatorium whose daily schedule is provided to him in Alphabetti Spaghetti. So pale he’s translucent – he could get skin cancer from a crescent moon. Possibly he’s the outcome from Eric Abetz’s turkey baster getting jammed in a Howdy Doody doll.

Tory 9

Self image: Urbane sophisticate and man-about-town. Help yourself guru. PM material.

Reality: Smarmy elitist twat and preppy try-hard who’s his own biggest fan. A big, swinging dickhead, an enthusiast for free speech and public order by watercannon for those whose speech he disagrees with. An ideology for every occasion.

Tory 10

Self Image: Sophia Loren from Wollongong and proud homophobe.

Reality: Aunty Jack sans motorbike – a hard-to-starboard looney who is offended by the “right wing” component of the designation “right wing nut job”. A typically oblivious Tory dullard who thinks Sinai is the plural of sinus and that feng shui is arranging the sand bags around sinking Pacific islands. Like Kevin Andrews in drag she uses the back of a spoon to draw her eyebrows on with a lump of coal while her use of digital technology is limited to a dildo shaped like a thumb.

* * * * *


Tory 1: Too easy. Barking Barmy Joyce, aka The Beetrooter. 5 points

Tory 2: Craig Sausage Rolls Kelly. 5 points

Tory 3: Doctor Le Numbers, Black Angus Taylor. 5 points

Tory 4: Gorgeous George Chistensen. 5 points.

Tory 5: Michael McSomebody. 5 points. A bonus 5 points if you can recall his full name.

Tory 6: Eric-Otto Abetz. 5 points.

Tory 7. Tinfoil titfer Malcolm Roberts. 10 points.

Tory 8. Little Jimmy Paterson. 10 points.

Tory 9. Tim Freedom Boy Wilson. 10 points.

Tory 10. Concetta Ferrari-Wheels. 10 points.


60 – 75. You know your Tories and are consequently despondent at the the nation’s spiralling toward entrenched corruption, serfdom and international pariah status.

40 – 55. The headline acts in this circus – the Liar From The Shire, Spud, Fraudburger and the Conman are as much as you can handle without projectile vomiting so you tune out. Who can blame you?

20 – 35. You can smell the stench but you don’t know where it’s coming from.

0 – 15. Shouldn’t you be reading The Spectator?

How easily can you see through them? Take the quiz and find out – name that Tory.

(1) Paraphrasing Winston Churchill

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Terminal adolescents (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini  

The latest ‘gift’ from ‘The Palace’ arrived, as already noted, with the visit by Prince Harry Battenberg and his wife, formerly Meghan Markle, now rebranded as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Prince Harry was coming to open and close the Invictus Games, and for a 16-day tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Their visit began on 16 October 2018.

The Duke and the Duchess of Sussex would be hosted ‘in style’, which – translated into the Australian conventional parlance – would mean: spending a lot of money after them.

The couple was ‘put up’ in a luxe rental in the expensive Point Piper neighbourhood with a listing price of $41 million, according to Vogue Australia. Only!

The three-story mansion has incredible views of Sydney’s impressively majestic harbour and its own private wing perfect for the royal newlyweds to have some time alone together. (S. Wax, ‘Inside Prince Harry And Meghan Markle’s $41 Million Australian Rental’).

It is one thing to celebrate the human spirit in the face of great adversity. It is another thing altogether to let the weapons manufacturers who helped causing the loss or disability of soldiers sponsor the celebrations.

The Invictus Games took place in Sydney in October 2018. Injured service personnel from eighteen countries took part. Invictus is Latin: ‘undefeated.’

Who could fail to be impressed by the triumph of spirit over matter?

It is highly inspiring to see the human spirit triumph over mutilations of the human body. Who can fail but be impressed by the fortitude of the participants, who faced life-threatening-and-changing injuries but found within themselves the strength to overcome?

Many could not do it by themselves alone. The Games are also intended to honour the non-belligerent personnel, the surgeons and nurses, and those engaged in painful rehabilitation, in the use and technique necessary to construct prostheses and equipment, and all the carers and family members who look after the invalids.

And for many who participated in the Games, many more could not even attend as spectators, lost in incurable state of mind, or consumed by post traumatic disorder which keeps returning in all its horrible ways: with flashbacks, nightmares or other episodes which often detach them from their loved ones – or anyone, really.

The return to civilian life is often rendered more difficult by bureaucratic stolidity and incomprehension; compensation is often contested, or tardy, or inadequate – or all of it.

Of course, on the prescribed occasions – mainly when remembering the greatest retreat on ‘the-one-day-of-the-year’ – will have some ignorant ‘politicians’ call them ‘heroes’, who suffered ‘in the service of their country’ and make a muck of the whole ceremony. Transplanted Englanders are rather clumsy at rhetoric.

Those words – ‘in the service of their country’ – have a hollow resonance. All the Invictus participants are from recent wars. As for the Australian participants, those who are alive may not know or care that in the major sixteen wars with Australian participation, Australians went in by choice, albeit not knowing why. Only in one of them – the second world war – they went in by necessity.

What most Australians do not know is that the supporters of the Games are American corporations, with profits in the 2017 as indicated:

1) Lockheed Martin, U.S.A., defence revenue, $47,985 million

2) Raytheon Company, U.S.A., defence revenue, $23,573.64 million

4) Northrop Grumman, U.S.A., defence revenue, $21,700.00 million

5) Boeing, U.S.A., defence revenue, $20,561.00 million

6) General Dynamics, defence revenue, $19,587.00 million

No. 3 is occupied by the B.A.E. Systems, with a revenue of US$22,380.04 million.

For completion: there should be reference to another American corporation: Leidos, which came out as No. 12 on the list, and Swedish Saab which was No. 32 on the list. (‘Top 100 for 2018’ (based on 2017 data). Defense News. as at 3 November 2018).

It all amounts to a murderous combine of killers-patrons.

B.A.E. Systems plc is a multinational defence, security, and aerospace corporation headquartered in London and with worldwide operations. Its largest operations are in the United Kingdom and United States, where its BAE Systems Inc. subsidiary is one of the six largest suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense. Other major markets include Australia, India, and Saudi Arabia, which account for about 20 per cent of BAE’s overall sales. It is the biggest manufacturer in Britain.   It is a well-known secret that the Royal Family has a very large interest in the share portfolio.

It is relatively easy for armaments manufacturers to justify to themselves their production: the business of weapon business making is business. There! Slightly more time-consuming is to reconcile their core business with supporting the Invictus Games. Perhaps, that too is business. The organisers-on-the-ground might ask themselves why they allowed such an arrangement. But it is a passing moment, if at all. Business is business.

Consideration by ‘unsophisticated’ persons of the trade in weapons may raise another, dark aspect. What of the injured on our side? What of the terrible injuries inflicted on our ‘enemies’ – even those whom a reasonable person could never conceive as being a threat to Australia: Yemeni children who are killed by bullets manufactured in Australia and sold to Saudi Arabia? Both the T and M of the ATM governments boasted that ‘production’ success.

For the Australian government: no problem. And, of course, the manufacturers may supply both sides of a conflict. And that is business.

Injuries like those that our people bear are, no doubt, being born by others elsewhere – in countries less affluent than Australia, with fewer resources and less sophisticated medical treatments. They may be living lives of torment and utter desolation. Will they be arranging Invictus Games?

Very much like Remembrance Day: 11 November, which has been partly eclipsed by ANZAC Day: 25 April, Invictus Day may become one more day of national war celebration. There may be something more sophisticated than beer and two-up. But all that could be left to the organisers and the arms manufacturers to pay for. One needs not be a ‘thinky’ to see the advantage of it all!

No matter how ‘complete’ their ‘recovery’, the live of Invictus Games’ athletes were changed forever. Looking at them it is more than paradoxical that one can 1) support the games, 2) admire the inner strength of those taking part and 3) regret the fact that they are necessary, and all together.  (N. Deane, ‘Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, Brought To You By Arms Dealers, Figuratively And Literally,’ newmatilda.com, 15 October 2018).

“Not everyone involved in warfare emerges unconquered.” poignantly remarked Michelle Fahy in a fine contribution on ‘Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals’. Ms. Fahy is on the staff of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War. She wrote:

“Last year, at least 84 veterans killed themselves; that’s twelve more than the number of athletes in Australia’s Invictus squad. In 2002–2014, the rate of suicide was 13 per cent higher among ex-serving men compared with all Australian men. For ex-serving men in the 18-24-year range, the rate was almost twice as high as the national male average in that age range.

A 2018 report by the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia found that veterans are also over-represented amongst the homeless. During the study period more than 1 in 20 of the homeless people interviewed were found to be veterans. The veterans were more likely to be sleeping rough and 43 per cent of them had suffered a serious brain injury or head trauma. Unlike the US where veteran homelessness has received wide attention and a strong policy response, there has been very limited research in this area in Australia.

Given the focus on the ‘wounded warriors’ and their struggle to recover it is surprising to see that the list of corporate sponsors of the Games includes five of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. The opportunity to sponsor a high-profile event of this nature makes business sense for the corporations concerned [Ms. Fahy named four of the already mentioned American corporations and Saab] and clearly they have no qualms about using it to create the impression of being good corporate citizens. But let’s get real, they’re in the business of profiting from death and destruction, despite the worthy-sounding euphemisms they and others employ to obscure that fact. It amazes me that Prince Harry, ‘the captain of his soul’ [with a reference to the British poet William Ernest Henley who said those words], supported by the leadership of his Foundation, finds it possible to accept the involvement of such sponsors in these Games.

Prince Harry and his relations continue developing their relationships with dubious regimes and corporations of no conscience, and facilitate arms deals between them.”

Ms. Fahy provides some reference:

“In 2010, Prince Andrew criticised the UK’s Serious Fraud Office for its attempts to investigate BAE for secret alleged payments to clinch arms deals (i.e. bribes). Andrew Feinstein, respected anti-corruption campaigner and former South African MP who resigned in protest over BAE bribery allegations, has noted: “The royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected.”

Prince Charles has visited Saudi Arabia many times. A 2014 visit was immediately followed by an announcement of a multi-billion-pound Typhoon jet deal with the Saudis. Such was the outcry that Prince Charles reportedly said he “no longer wants to promote British arms sales in the Middle East.”

Along with the Saudis, the Queen has developed close ties with the Bahraini royal family despite its known abuses of the Bahraini people. The King of Bahrain sat beside the Queen at the gala event celebrating her 90th birthday. Britain also sells arms to Bahrain.

In March [2018], despite growing condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen, the UK rolled out the reddest of red carpets for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. During his visit he lunched with the Queen, dined with Prince Charles and Prince William, and was entertained by PM Theresa May at her country estate. If this is not a ringing endorsement from the highest level of British society, what is ?

Meanwhile, back in Australia, will any journalist raise with Prince Harry the apparent hypocrisy of hosting an event celebrating the resilience of the human spirit while concurrently accepting sponsorships for that event from companies supplying weapons of war to a regime that is helping create the world’s worst humanitarian disaster? These firms aren’t trying to hide it. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon are currently seeking new weapons contracts with Saudi Arabia. Would His Royal Highness care to comment?

It is difficult to see how these Invictus Games sponsorships are anything other than ‘business as usual’ in a long history of similar deals of varying scale in which the UK royal family uses its influence and prestige to facilitate arms deals for the benefit of a privileged few, at the expense of the human rights of the many.” (M. Fahy, ‘Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals,’ mapw.org.au, 19 October 2018)

No Australian journalist responded to Ms. Fahy’s call.

In the morning of 20 October 2018, the Duke of Sussex attended the Anzac Memorial service in Hyde Park, accompanied by the Duchess. He was paying a tribute to Australia’s war dead.

Prince Harry was wearing ‘Tropical Dress of the Blues and Royals’ and an array of medals. They were: the Pilots’ Wings symbolising his time in the Army Air Corps when Harry was flying Apache helicopters; the Afghanistan Operational Service Medal; the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal and the Star of the Grand Cross Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, which represents distinguished personal service to the monarch. By the way, John Falstaff had to wait for Fraser to secure one such for Kerr.

On his left arm Prince Harry was showing the Napoleon’s imperial Eagle of the 105th Regiment of the Line, captured at Waterloo and symbolises honour and pride.

From the right shoulder Prince Harry also wore an aiguillette. Strange that there is no equivalent English word; ‘shoulder cord’ is really quite prosaic. Ah, much more impressive in French. N’est-ce pas?

The gold braid aiguillette shows that Harry is now one of the Queen’s personal Aides-de-Camp. Oops!

Prince Harry, or for that matter, all men – and some women – of ‘the Royal Family’ like to appear in different phantasmagoric uniforms, depending on the occasion, of course.

Just after twenty-year-old (born 15 September 1984), Harry appeared at a party dressed in full German Afrika Korp uniform with Nazi Party swastika on his left arm.

It was probably intended to be a joke, but even if was, it shows the good test and most certainly the strong tutoring in history imparted to young Harry at Court. (The sun, 14 January 2005).

Some European in attendance might have shivered just on recalling what that symbol meant to German-occupied Europe. But that, as the average Australian would say, is history; alternatively, the defence from ignorance would be that s/he was not yet born at the time the swastika crimes were desecrating an entire continent – and that includes good, old England.

Traveller would have been outraged.

After the visit to Hyde Park, Harry and Meghan changed into everyday dressing, took a private vessel  from Admiralty House in Kirribilli where they have been staying as a guest of Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, and arrived at the Opera House, where Prince Harry delivered a ‘rousing speech’ to open the Invictus Games.

Because of an earlier drenching rain, the organisers had postponed the ceremony from 7:30pm until 8:30pm, and by the time the bagpipes fired up for the start the weather had cleared.

Thousands gathered to watch 500 competitors from 18 countries – including 72 Australian participants – march through the forecourt, with huge cheers echoing over the famous steps.

The athletes would compete in 12 sports across the week, with the golf and driving challenge – on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island – already started.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at the venue for a reception ahead of the ceremony, with Prince Harry given a standing ovation as he came on stage officially to open the event.

The Prince, who praised Australia for the welcome he and his wife had received during their stay, said Invictus was about “strength honour and optimism”.

“The Invictus generation is also about showing that being tough means being honest about how you feel inside out,” he said. “Remember, you are competing for one generation – the Invictus Generation … and you are going to put on one hell of a show.”

The Prince, who described the Opera House setting as “the most beautiful backdrop”, also implored the Australian public – and the people of Sydney – to get out and support the competitors.

“Australia, let’s show the world how it’s done.”

The soldier-athletes were always intended to be the true stars but a video featuring ‘volunteers’ such James Kimberley Corden, O.B.E., an English actor, comedian, and television host, Hamish Donald Blake, and Australian comedian and actor Magda Mary Szubanski, A.O., – in character as ‘Sharon’ from Kath and Kim – stole the “one hell of a  show.” There were the inevitable token presence of traditional Aboriginal dancers, and performances from Kate Ceberano, Lee Kernaghan and Birds of Tokyo.

The frequent  “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” and “Oi, oi, oi” jangled chants made sure that a ‘local’ atmosphere would turn the occasion in the mindless, provincial event – what is ordinarily referred to as a ‘concert’.

What the athletes from other countries – except perhaps the knowing cousins across the Tasman – made of it is not known. (N. Sas, ‘Invictus Games opening ceremony takes over Sydney Harbour after storm delay,’ abc.net.au, 20 October 2018).

Other than that, one could see the occasion as a Harry and Meghan’s Circus Oz in action.

But, then, many Australians see ‘the Royal Family’ as a spectacle, with the main winning feature being plain old continuity – which brings a sense, almost, of immortality due to the fact the royals are essentially professionals at reproducing.

Their job is to look immaculate and appear healthy, be agreeable to the largest number of people, and find a suitable partner with whom to reproduce.

In the Philistine rhetoric of ‘mainstream Australian culture’, the average person born into wealth – who does nothing ‘to deserve’ it or contribute to society in ways which are actually commensurate with their riches – should be the subject of ridicule, even hostility.

S/he is, secretly, the object of admiration. And there is hypocrisy triumphant! That ‘sense of entitlement’, of having not had to work hard for what one gets, goes against some stock ‘standard values’ Australian society secretly holds dear. ‘Values’ like hard work, or better still, ‘having a go’, or being given ‘a fair go’. And that kind of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ empty talking has found its sublimation with the latest of the ATM squad!

The notion of ‘earning your way’ is abandoned in the general treatment of Harry and Meghan. In fact ‘the Royal Family’ represents the exact opposite of that principle. It is based on a system which operates on the rule that being born with ‘royal blood’ warrants a lifetime of obscene wealth, privilege and reverence before one can even talk.

It is La dolce vita for everyone in the circus.

When the headlines in Australia are dominated by the rising cost of living, the housing affordability crisis, slow wage growth and an inquiry into a fundamentally corrupt banking system which has been exploiting ordinary people – alive or dead – for years, the mind boggles at the inability – or is it unwillingness? – to see, think about and solve important society problem. ‘The Monarchy’ is a drug far worse than what is currently available on ‘the market’. (M. Graham, ‘Harry and Meghan’s Circus Oz’, eurekastreet.com.au, 22 October 2018).

As the spectacle continued, Ms. Fahy returned to her subject: “Invictus Games do nothing to remedy government failure properly to care for veterans.”

She found a clash between image and reality in the Invictus slogan, ‘For our wounded warriors,’ and the accompanying story of the Games:

“Most of us will never know the horrors of combat. Horrors so great that many servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, both visible and invisible, while serving their countries, while serving us.” [Emphasis added]

These words imply that the Invictus athletes were wounded fighting wars, but this is not so for all of them. It is hard to say for certain, as the information in the athlete profiles is inconsistent and in many cases lacks key details, but it appears about half of the Australian athletes do fit this description. The remainder were not wounded or made ill by combat, which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included but it does raise the question of why organisers chose a slogan and story that don’t encompass all competitors. This is not mere semantics. One consequence of this marketing decision has been that those athletes not injured/ill due to active combat have repeatedly had to justify their presence in the team.”

Adding to the questions, the criteria which determined athlete selection lacks transparency and a number of athlete profiles omit sufficient detail unequivocally to verify the athletes’ eligibility. In at least one case, evidence suggested that the athlete was not injured during a period of military service.

And Ms. Fahy went on: “The responsibility for the ambiguous language, opaque selection process, and inconsistent profiles lies with Games organisers.”

It would not have been difficult for the talented Invictus marketing minds to create an equally powerful slogan encompassing all participants. Nor should it have been onerous to publish their selection criteria and present athlete profiles in a uniform and more specific manner. Indeed the Invictus website contains several examples of detailed documents relating to employees, volunteers, media, and even the general public. Had Games organisers been equally transparent with their marketing material and athlete selection criteria such questions as, “You weren’t injured by war, why are you in the Games?” would not have had to be addressed by the athletes.

Ms. Fahy found another conflict between image and reality.

“ … the Royal presence, ambassadors, celebrity endorsements, Vogue features, chat show spots, abundant media coverage, Cobber the mascot, and Wiggles ditties, all the glitz, creates the impression that something significant is being done for our veterans. However for thousands of veterans the excitement and camaraderie of the Invictus Games is far removed from their grinding daily reality,” she said, and she proceeded to outline some of the problems: One in five Australian Defence Force personnel feels suicidal upon ending service. In its July 2018 submission to a Federal Government inquiry, the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia said that “VVAA advocates dealing with serving members, particularly those with mental health issues, have identified in Defence a lack of empathy, support and understanding of the difficulties being experienced by the serviceman or women and there is at least an impression Defence want the problem individual to ‘go away.’ ”

Chronic problems of homelessness and suicide remain amongst veterans, [Ms. Faby had covered them in her previous piece], yet there remains little reliable data on either issue and little appetite to fund necessary research. In a belated attempt to start addressing the pressing issue of veteran suicide, in August 2016 the Federal Government announced a $3 million, three year suicide prevention trial in the ex-ADF community in Townsville. In May 2017, after a nine month wait, Operation Compass finally commenced.

Unemployment is a major contributor to veteran suicide rates. A 2017 report by WithYouWithMe estimates veteran unemployment to be 30.2 per cent, over five times the national average. Yet the Federal Government allocated just $4 million in this year’s budget for the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program, with a further $4.3 million to come in two years’ time.”

In this clash between believe and reality, as the former Prime Minister Turnbull had said: “We have to go beyond the memorials and the monuments and focus on the men and women, the real challenges they face – ensuring that they are supported.” The will remain fine words, signifying absolutely nothing if one contrasts the slow progress and paltry sums just mentioned with the staggering amount Australia has spent commemorating the centenary of the first world war over $50 million. This vast sum eclipses that spent by every other country, equating to an outlay of A$8,889 for each of the 62,100 Australian deaths in the first world war, compared – for instance – with the United Kingdom’s A$109 per death.” (M. Fahy, ‘Invictus Games do nothing to remedy government failure to properly care for veterns,’ johnmenadue, 26 October 2018).

Such discrepancy can only be explained with the complex of inferiority of people who still suffer from a ‘colonial’ mentality.

Continued Saturday – Terminal adolescents (part 3)

Previous instalment – Terminal adolescents (part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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Designing a city without cars – for the sake of the kids

UniSA Media Release

More than half of Australian households own two or more motor vehicles, while only seven per cent own none – we are, without a doubt, a car country.

However, while countless advertisements celebrate the freedom cars provide, University of South Australia urban planning researcher, Hulya Gilbert, says there are growing reasons to question the cost of that freedom, and even challenge whether it is freedom at all.

“There’s obviously the environmental impacts, and the health and fitness consequences of using cars, but there’s also a huge social impact,” Gilbert says.

“Despite the common view across the world that cars provide freedom and flexibility, increasingly we’re seeing the priority given to cars is infringing people’s ability – and right – to get around without one.

“That’s especially true of children, and the more we build our cities around cars, the more we rob kids and teenagers of opportunities to enjoy some independence and develop self-reliance.”

Gilbert’s research shows the assumption that most people travel by car dominates current transport discussions, which, in turn, has dictated the design and location of key places in children’s lives, such as schools and sporting clubs.

Once our cities are built that way, she says, it’s hard to move outside the plan.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘kids need to walk to school more’,” Gilbert says. “In many situations, we have planned that possibility out of cities, and now it’s just not safe or practical for children to ride or walk to the places they need to go – so much so, that there are now perceptions that parents who do let their kids ride or walk are being negligent.”

Gilbert says a change in priorities by urban planners is needed to reverse this trend, and despite a growing interest in alternatives to the private car across the world, her research suggests we’re unlikely to see large scale shifts in travel behaviour unless we make the required changes to infrastructure first.

“That involves building and maintaining safe walking and cycling paths and associated infrastructure including green spaces, trees and pedestrian crossings, and reducing speed limits and traffic flow around those areas to ensure they’re safe.

“It also means ensuring public transport is connected to those active transport networks, and that key locations, such as schools and sports clubs, are located so they’re accessible by those modes.”

Developing these networks will not only benefit children and teenagers, Gilbert says, but also help other social groups currently disadvantaged by being unable to drive, including the elderly, vision impaired and lower income earners.

“At the moment, our cities and societies are set up based on the idea that having a licence and owning a car is the norm, and we often consider the lack of car ownership as a disadvantage. Our right to move around our cities without a car is not commonly considered.

“Now, even though it’s the case that most people have access to a car and travel by car in cities such as Adelaide, planning and thinking as if they don’t would open up many possibilities and opportunities which would accelerate progress towards less private car usage and the associated, wide-ranging benefits,” Gilbert says.

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We’re living in dangerous times

By Brett Flower  

This week, the Australian government claimed it does not owe welfare recipients a duty of care over the RoboDebt scandal. Only weeks before, documents revealed that the government had received legal advice that debts issued under the scheme were unlawful.

That is a lot to digest in one short paragraph, however, I will try.

For perspective, in 2012, I was made a Managing Director of a foreign-owned Australian Subsidiary. I took my obligations seriously. VERY seriously. The company performed high-risk work in a high-risk industry, and I was soon to learn that should the proverbial hit the fan (as has happened with the RoboDebt scheme) I would be personally responsible for any actions I took or oversight that occurred under my tenure as a director.

Unlike the RoboDebt scheme, Ministers (Government Directors) are not accountable under the Corporation’s act as Corporate Directors are. However, they are “obliged” (more recommended) to adhere to the Statement of Ministerial Standards. (SoMS). The latest version of SoMS was signed by the Prime Minister in August 2018.

My position is clear. If you are entrusted with a leadership role, the buck stops with you. You must endeavour to avail yourself of all information available to you to mitigate risk and execute your Duty of Care to your employees, customers, stakeholders and community. But what is meant by “Duty of Care”?

Duty of Care

I probably took my obligations duty further than most. To be honest, it frightened the crap out of me, however, I had a passionate desire to understand how I could perform a lifelong carer ambition, whilst protecting those around me… without surrendering everything that I believed in and had worked for.

After barely graduating from a week-long directors course and a further three weeks of study groups and in-depth research, I left the learning institute confused and with more questions than answers. Consequently, being “blessed” with an enquiring mind (a legacy from working 20 + years with engineers) and not the indoctrinated “she’ll be right” Australian version of accountability, I decided to gain further insight into this minefield called Corporate Governance. (CG)

I enrolled in and (barely again) completed a Graduate Diploma in Corporate Governance and then a Master’s degree in Corporate Governance research. Before completing, I took the bold but responsible and now very informed move and resigned as Managing Director. Quite simply, the Reward was not worth the risk.

The risk lies in the Directors Duty of Care.

The Detail is the Devil

Of the Many Acts a director is bound to abide by and instil is the WHS Act 2011 – Summarising, if you engage contractors to fulfil work responsibilities, or have students on work experience, apprentices, volunteers etc… all are classified as a ‘worker’ and therefore, fall under the ultimate duty of care of the director – (WHS Act 2011, section 7).

Remember, High Risk Work, High Risk Industry…

Among the prescribed text I studied for the CG courses was “Corporate Governance Principles, Policies and Practices by Bob Tricker

Page 103 states:

“The duty of care requires directors to exercise independent judgement with care, skill, and diligence.”

In Australia, courts DEMAND a duty of care that is expected of a person serving as a director. They recognise that ‘duty of care’ should also consider the knowledge, skill, and experience of that director.

Revisiting the government’s position, surely, a minister who is responsible for the Child Support Agency, Centrelink, Australian Hearing, CRS Australia and Medicare Australia would undertake his Duty of Care to “exercise independent judgement with care, skill, and diligence”, seriously?

It would seem not.

The Corporation Acts requires directors to follow the Business Judgement Rule which in summary requires directors to make any business judgement in good faith for a proper purpose; stay clear of conflicts of interest, inform themselves about the subject matter and, importantly, believe that the judgement is in the best interests of the corporation.

Just as a Managing Director is elected to serve a corporation by a board of their peers, so too a government is elected by its peers to serve its populace. Now, substitute the word “Corporation” with “people” from the last sentence in the last paragraph.

What our Laws and Standards State

Importantly, the 2018 Ministerial Standards states the following:

1.3. In particular, in carrying out their duties:

(i) Ministers must ensure that they act with integrity – that is, through the lawful and disinterested exercise of the statutory and other powers available to their office, appropriate use of the resources available to their office for public purposes, in a manner which is appropriate to the responsibilities of the Minister.

(ii) Ministers must observe fairness in making official decisions – that is, to act honestly and reasonably, with consultation as appropriate to the matter at issue, taking proper account of the merits of the matter, and giving due consideration to the rights and interests of the persons involved, and the interests of Australia.

(iii) Ministers must accept accountability for the exercise of the powers and functions of their office – that is, to ensure that their conduct, representations and decisions as Ministers, and the conduct, representations and decisions of those who act as their delegates or on their behalf – are open to public scrutiny and explanation.

(iv) Ministers must accept the full implications of the principle of ministerial responsibility.

Can you see the parallels between the corporations Act and the Ministerial Standards? Accountability, fairness, transparency, diligence…The question that must now be asked is quite straight forward


Absolution from Responsibility

When a director or corporation absolves them/itself from responsibility, they are brought to bear by the courts and all too rarely, ASIC; the somewhat toothless Government Watchdog that has its investigative and enforcement power stripped away by successive governments. (That is another article in the works). As recently as the Banking Royal Commission, The Hayne report stated:

“A trustee has a duty to identify relevant considerations before making a decision and to use all proper care and diligence in obtaining the relevant information and advice relating to those considerations.[1] It has been said that if the consideration of the trustee is not properly informed, it is not genuine.[2] The duty to take these steps flows both from the best interests obligation and also from the duty of care, skill and diligence. (P58 fsrc-volume-2-final-report).

Are you Starting to see a Pattern?

There are multiple laws and acts in place to hold Directors and Corporations accountable. However, there seems to be very little in the way of processes for holding Governments accountable. Yes, we have the opportunity every three years to voice our view, but let us not forget, it took just six years between 1939 and 1945 to cause generations of loss, destruction, genocide and ecocide. Caused by a government that was not initially held to account and it’s people surrendering to dangerous propaganda – a view used to promote a view or political cause…

Let’s also respect that not all have the will, drive or need to pursue a graduate diploma or master’s degree in their chosen area of responsibility or interest. The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Government Services is no fool. He holds an MBA and Graduate Diploma in Information Analysis. He is aware of his duty of care and his ministerial obligations. It seems that his “corporation” is a willing and supportive co-conspirator, letting significant lapses in judgement care, skill, and diligence slide “through to the keeper”. Next ball, please.

It’s by Design

This same minister also made headlines for claiming nearly $3000.00 per month for internet access. Other transgressions include signing his father up to be a director – without his consent or knowledge -to his own Private Investment Company – that conveniently had won tens of millions of Government contracts.

Interestingly, under the 201D of corporations’ act, “Consent to act as director”, A company contravenes this subsection if a person does not give the company a signed consent to act as a director of the company before being appointed.

Lets not waste too much time talking about Rolex’s and conflict of interest…Once more, that’s another article for another time.

I hope you are seeing a pattern. It would appear that different rules apply to the elite few than to the egalitarian many.

The Rule of Laws is not a Law of Rules

We are indeed in very dangerous times. When a government Minster is empowered and supported by its “board and CEO” whilst flagrant breaches of its own Statement of Ministerial Standards occur. We are in real danger of abusing the Rule of law. This is where our democracy rapidly falls to pieces. Remember… just six years.

As Chief Justice Allsop AO wroteThe Rule of Law is not a Law of Rules.

He stated:

“The Rule of Law lives in the recognition by society of the human character of law: its essential underpinning human values – honesty, equality of treatment, a respect for the dignity of the individual, the rejection of unfairness, and mercy; in the place of an independent judicature and an independent profession; and in the judicature’s exercise of its accompanying irreducible protective power.”

Let’s consider just one part of this very important text: “equality of treatment, a respect for the dignity of the individual, the rejection of unfairness, and mercy”

We can now complete the circle. In February 2020, our Government has claimed it does not owe welfare recipients a duty of care over the RoboDebt scandal; it claims no responsibility for equality of treatment or a respect for the individual; it rejects fairness and shows little or no mercy.

If you’re not infuriated by now, I’ll let you consider The Australian Department of Health’s handbook advice for its workers. It discusses responsibilities to “your clients and to other workers”.

“As a worker, you have a legal and moral responsibility to keep your clients safe from harm whilst they are using a service. This responsibility is known as ‘duty of care’.”

If only our elected “leaders” acted and behaved in a manner that they expect their public and public servants to… Uh, but alas, that would require accountability and transparency. Two qualities that have been sorely missing in politicians for too many years.

In February 2019, it was reported that more than 2030 people had died after receiving a Centrelink “RoboDebt” debt notice.

* * * * *

[1] Abacus Trust co (Isle of Man) v Barr [2003] 1 All ER 705, [23]; Scott v National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty [1998]

[2] All ER 705, 717. [1] Finch v Telstra Super Pty Ltd (2010) 242 CLR 254, [66] citing Kerr v British Leyland (Staff) Trustees Ltd [2001] WTLR 1071, 1079; Stannard v Fisons Pension Trust Ltd [1992] IRLR 27, 31.

[3] 1. Tricker, Bob. Corporate Governance: Principles, Policies and Practices (p. 103). Oxford University Press.

This article was originally published on The Blog.

Brett Flower has spent 30 years owning and managing businesses. His journey includes a humble trade background, where he started an HVAC business the day after he finished his Mechanical Engineering Cadetship; through to his most recent role as Managing Director of the multimillion-dollar Australian subsidiary Reinhausen Australia, the 2nd oldest subsidiary of the 118-year-old Global Electro-Mechanical Engineering German Icon; Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen.

Brett advises organisations on business turnaround, cultural reform, growth strategy, corporate governance and workplace health & safety (WHS), providing business owners, aspiring leaders and managers, officers and front-line staff with a pathway to growth, sustainability and long-term success.

Brett holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) majoring in Corporate Governance Research (HD), a diploma in WHS, is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD), a Certified SafeWork NSW Construction and Health Safety Representative (HSR) Trainer and is also a qualified Trainer and Assessor.

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Speak out

By Ad astra  

Although recent public opinion polls have suggested that some people are losing faith in democracy, how many would prefer another style of governance? Very few! Yet our Australian democracy does have one telling defect: usually, we have a chance to vote for a federal government only once every three years. Once we’ve voted, we are then stuck with our choice until the next election.

How many times have you heard people lament this electoral helplessness? How many times have you read in the social media how much some voters would like to oust the federal Coalition government? How many times have you sensed the frustration people feel as they contemplate having to endure it until 2022? How many times have you heard both journalists and ordinary people express disappointment about the poor performance of Scott Morrison? Yet, we are stuck with him, and his cohort of incompetent, even corrupt ministers.

Incompetent? Think about the LNP’s longstanding lack of climate and energy policies. Think about its inability to take meaningful action in pursuit of the worldwide goal of zero net emissions by 2050. Think about its inadequate planning for drought, fire and flood emergencies. Think about how our PM rejected the offer of expert advice about these threats. Think about the LNP’s disjointed recovery plans after the recent fires and floods. Think about a stuttering economy now facing a fading surplus, rising unemployment and underemployment, a shamefully low Newstart allowance, chronic wage stagnation, poor productivity, and lagging R&D investment. Although on the face of it Morrison’s response to Covid19 might see reasonable, the way he is using it an excuse for a weak economy is not..

Corruption? Think about the continuing ‘sports rort’ saga, the ‘you are not allowed to see’ Gaetjens Report that says ‘there’s nothing to see here’ even though it contradicts the detailed Report of the Auditor General, the validity of which has been once more confirmed in Senate Estimates by those who prepared it. If you need more convincing, read this. Think about how 83% of the Coalition’s $3 billion, election-era Urban Congestion Fund went to government or marginal seats. Think about the Angus Taylor imbroglio, which seems to have no end. Think about the strife-ridden Nationals tearing themselves apart with self-interest. Think about the hard-core denial by the conservative rump of the LNP of the reality and consequences of climate change, and their ideologically driven advocacy for more coal-fired power stations at a time when the rest of the world is abandoning them. If these are not corrupt behaviours, what on earth are they?

So what can we do? This short piece is a clarion call to Speak out.

This is what this blogsite has been doing since 2008 via 868 posts to date – amounting to some two million words. How much influence The Political Sword has had is impossible to know. Yet we have had sufficient faith in it to continue it uninterruptedly for 12 years. In its earlier years each post might attract as many as 300 comments, but competition from the proliferation of alternative news and political websites has resulted in this falling away.

Aware of the limitations of our political website, this piece appeals to all of you to give us a hand, to let your voices be heard often and loudly. Do speak out!

One option is via online comments on this and other news and political blogsites, and through the social media. Some of you do this every day; we invite all of you to do likewise. You may even like to try your hand at writing a piece for The Political Sword. If this appeals to you, send an email to Ad Astra at 1tpsteam@gmail.com to obtain further information.

Another avenue is via your local newspaper. Many still exist. They carry local news, which is always of interest to locals. Hungry for content, they will welcome your contribution. You may have more difficulty having a ‘Letter to the Editor’ accepted by State or National newspapers, but it’s worth a try. As you know, some do actually get published!

Another option is via your local member of federal parliament. It matters not whether he or she is a member of your preferred party. Local members are there to represent your views in parliament and its committees, even if different from their own. Visit their electoral office and say to the member: “You may not agree with my views, but I insist you take them to your party room and your committees, and express them forcibly; I want your colleagues to know what I think”. The member is obliged to do so, to represent you as an individual voter.

Each of us has but a small voice, but thousands of small voices can make a lot of noise. We know that parliamentarians are very sensitive to letters sent to them by constituents, so long as they are courteous and respectful. While a couple of letters on the same subject might be ignored, more than a few ring alarm bells for them, and evoke a frightened response. We’ve known that for ages. Writing a letter has more potency than sending an email. Parliamentarians receive thousands of emails, which are too easy to delete.

Here is a website that gives advice about how to write to a parliamentarian. This example is particularly useful as it focuses on climate change, a subject you may wish to address with your MP. Here’s another resource.

Please join hands with us at The Political Sword to facilitate the changes to the governance of our country we all desire and deserve.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
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I am proud to be a Socialist

By Kathryn  

Being a democratic socialist, there can be no doubt that Bernie Sanders would be the best thing (since sliced bread) for the USA which has long been regarded as a rigid profit-obsessed and elitist nightmare of stone cold capitalistic neo-liberalism. Let’s face it, the leading countries (and economies) in the world are all managed by democratic socialist governments (that operate independently from their monarchy, eg Sweden and Denmark).

There can be no doubt that capitalism only benefits the obscenely rich and powerful at the expense of the vulnerable and is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom and equality. Democratic socialism is the best form of socialism which is based on egalitarianism, shared wealth for the benefit of all, generous taxpayer-subsidised health services (like Medicare in Australia), subsidised education to benefit all children no matter the socio-economic background of their parents and government control over vital services such as transport, utilities, the supply of water, health care, aged care and education. When democratic socialist governments control society’s basic and essential functions, it can make better use of resources, reduce the undeniable rising costs and inefficiency of foreign-owned privatisation and protect its citizens jobs in those services. Good democratic socialist governments foster good relations with unions (who work for the benefit of vulnerable employees); they reduce the appalling disparity in wealth, not only in different areas, but also in all societal ranks and classes.

There is good reason why right-wing-extremism’s (even fascism’s) lack of transparency and widespread corruption is rampant in conservative governments (especially within the Trump and Morrison regimes in the USA and Australia), quite simply they don’t give a rat’s behind about society – they only care about themselves and their billionaire donors in the relentlessly rapacious Top 1%.

Why are Americans so terrified of democratic socialism? Because they have been brainwashed for decades that democratic socialism equates to communism which is one of the worst, most politically-skewed lies ever perpetrated by heartless capitalistic regimes to attain and maintain power and inequality over their citizens. Are they really that selfish that they are not prepared to pay a little bit more tax to benefit everyone? Just about every civilised country on earth has a government-subsidised health care system to benefit the most vulnerable and poorest people in their midst: the UK, Ireland, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany – even Cuba has a far better and more equitable health care system than America. Bernie Sanders has promised to introduce this highly desirable facet of democratic socialism which can only benefit citizens of the USA.

Image from jacobinmag.com (Photo by Molly Adams / Flickr)

The fact that staggering right wing neo-liberal capitalists always refer to socialists as “lefties” or “communists” and mention that they, right wing plutocrats, are the only ones who champion the rights of the individuals (provided they are not socialists, communists, Muslims, blacks, Jews, female or gay – have I missed anyone?) just proves that they have not got a shred of credibility nor an ounce of insight as to what a socialist really is!

SOCIALISM is not communism … as much as the LNP tries to draw parallels with communism.

A SOCIALIST is defined by its very description, ie someone who cares about society, who cares about the rights, independence and egalitarianism of others.

A SOCIALIST has empathy for the poor, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the homeless, the disabled and the vulnerable.

A SOCIALIST cares about the future education and employment prospects of our children and grandchildren;

A SOCIALIST really cares about the environment and the type of world we leave to our children – as opposed to the rampant, unending greed of capitalists and cold blooded fascists who know the cost of everything but the value of nothing;

To be an ardent SOCIALIST usually means that one is more predisposed to be kind, generous and compassionate.

To be a SOCIALIST is to be intelligent, progressive and in tune with our environment and quality of life;

To be a SOCIALIST is to have a great respect for democratic process, freedom of speech and the equality of ALL people no matter their race, colour, religion or ideology;

To be a SOCIALIST is to understand that civil, decent societies are judged by the way they treat their poorest citizens and their children (the callously inhumane Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison regime fails on all accounts);

To be SOCIALIST is a good thing, an honourable thing. SOCIALISTS despise war mongering neo-liberal fascism; they abhor despicable liars and condemn racists who hide behind insidious flag-waving nationalism and false patriotism which the ultra-conservative right-wing use to divide communities and spread their hatred and vile ideologies.

When I have a good look at the disgraceful psychopaths in the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison regime, I am even more proud of being a socialist and very proud of the like minded, empathetic people who support the socialist cause!

What do ALL the people named below have in common?

Jesus Christ, George Orwell, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Pablo Picasso, Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Australia’s best PM, Gough Whitlam?

Answer: They were all high-achieving, compassionate SOCIALISTS!

I would like to challenge right wing neo-liberals to name one single person (alive or dead) who was an ultra right wing oligarchical neo-liberal Republican, Tory or member of the fascist LNP, to name one single thing they did to benefit mankind. Name one neo-liberal who achieved anything that could, in any way, be construed as altruistic or philanthropic! The names that pop up on this side of the political fence care nothing about democracy, free speech or the rights of others. They are notorious war criminals, cruel self entitled capitalists and/or horrendous authoritarian dictators who couldn’t care two hoots about ordinary citizens. They were/are callously inhumane without a shred of compassion – often hiding their unspeakable cruelty behind a facade of sanctimonious, bible-thumping hypocrisy (like George W Bush, Donald Trump, John Howard, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Eric Abetz, Cory Bernardi, Pauline Hanson).

When you look back through the ignominious history of the Republican movement and the LNP, there isn’t a single right-wing MP worth a dime. Every commitment made to a vile, nasty off-shore war (such as Korea, Vietnam and the horrendous genocidal Iraqi war) has been under a Republican/LNP government who consistently use war, terror, hatred and fear to divide nations. When things look bleak in the polls, the war-mongering right-wing are always prepared to stoop to using war as the last resort to cling onto power with bloodstained fingers – ready and willing to sacrifice millions of lives and spend billions to distract focus from their horrendous policies and/or use hatred and division for their own political agenda. It is always a hate-filled, xenophobic right wing government that drags us into war and it always takes a left-wing, socialist government to get us out of it!

This article originally appeared as a comment in Media Muppet: Chris Matthews Says The Quiet Part Loud.

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It Can’t Get Any Worse. Can it?

By Grumpy Geezer  

Are we there yet? Have we reached rock bottom?

The L/NP coagulation’s purpose is, and always has been, to function as the primary mechanism for their corporate chums to shovel public money into their private hands – supplemented with a shoot-it-or-chop-it-down nod and wink to the squatocracy and the Kickatinalong kulaks to lock in the bumpkin vote.

* * * * *

There was a time when, as conservatives, the Tories believed in compliance with conventions and standards; when their born-to-rule beliefs at least included some sense of noblesse oblige, when rabid right-wing fuckwittery was hidden in the attic of their port and cigars old boy’s fraternities. That time was way back when a New Guard proto-fascist Francis De Groot got arrested and charged for being an arsehole whereas his present day facsimile, Herr Kipfler Spud-Dutton, gets handed the reins to the nation’s spooks, goon squads and thought police and who, in a fully functional democracy would be as welcome as a loose stool in a preschool ball pit. This is progress?

The 1975 overthrow of Gough Whitlam kicked the legs out from under Australia’s progressivism and showed the lengths that Tories are willing to go to when they lose control of the Treasury benches. But in the aftermath of the dark days of Kerr’s coup Malcolm Fraser as PM at least showed glimpses of humanity with his sympathy for refugees and his antipathy to apartheid.

The fetid stench that settled over the Lying Nasty Party was from the beetle-browed goblin John Howard’s shrivelled arse hitting the big, green Parliamentary swivel chair. His operating style was meanness and trickery, divide-and-conquor was his modus operandi and FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) was his tool of trade. He was the architect of Workchoices Macht Frei – the manifesto of his mendacity and duplicity in one nasty, divisive Newspeak package. It could not get any worse. Except it did.

Enter the living proof of the invalidity of the Peter Principle:

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies, such as that of a corporation, is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach a level of respective incompetence.

If all of the village idiots in all of the world gathered together in the one village they would elect Tony Abbott as their icon of idiocy. He’s an ideas-free zone who through happenstance rose far beyond his level of incompetence. He would be mentally challenged in the role of porn theatre bucket boy, he could capture all of his thoughts on an Etch-A-Sketch and his rudimentary planning capacity had him thinking that tactics are a minty breath freshener. He’s a void that could suck the vacuum from empty space.

With the face of a carp wrapped in cling film, his tongue flicking like a lizard trying to lick its own eyeballs he’d invade the personal space of visiting dignitaries while the colour drained from their faces. He’d cackle like marbles being dropped down a drain – somewhat undermining his self-image of a macho man. Covering his manhood in too-small red sluggos made him look like a moulting yowie, his bow-legged, shoulder-rolling affectation not so much butch as “chimpanzee-with-ball-rash”. What a fucking disaster he was.

The L/NP effluvium was briefly masked with Eau de Swarovski-scented inertia in a leather jacket when the mendacious wrecker Abbott was consigned to the ignominy of the backbench by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull who impressed no-one more so than he impressed himself. He was a man of inaction but at least we were saved from the RWFWs; there was no-one who could be worse than Abbott.

Turnbull The Useless’s legacy is three-fold. We have a national telecommunications infrastructure that would embarrass Lower Moustachistan. We have a neo-fascist tuber as Minister for Home Affairs and we inherited a carnival side-show spruiker and Armageddonist as PM, showing that the impossible is possible – Morrison is even worse than Abbott.

Howard to Abbott to Morrison, lower and lower and lower. The mendacity has multiplied, incompetence is rewarded, avoidance of scrutiny is embedded in their governance; Parliament is like a performance of Puppetry Of The Penis – we’re watching cocks tie themselves in knots. Public service has been crushed by cronyism and profiteering privateers, authoritarianism is rampant and dodgy practice has devolved into brazen criminality. It’s as bad as it gets.

We have an end-of-times Prime Minister, an Armageddonist who wont buy long life milk let alone plan for the nation’s future. He no doubt secretly welcomes the coronavirus as both a distraction from the blatant theft of hundreds of millions of our dollars to support his re-election, and as a marketing opportunity to salvage his image from the train-wreck that was his behaviour during the bushfire crisis. It’s also a handy excuse for not delivering on his boasted budget surplus.

As a Pentacostalist nutter Morrison will believe that the virus, the fires and the drought are his god’s will and that he and his righteous brethren will safely ascend to the heavens in a golden, chauffeured, stretched Beemer. His god apparently has no misgivings about larceny on a grand scale, brazen lying or the persecution of the unfortunate – as long as there’s no lawn mowing on Sundays.

In the words of another ad man – but wait, there’s more.

Despite Australia’s governance being in the hands of a graduate of the Jimmy Swaggart School of Ethics and the deputy PM being a bobbleheaded dullard of such monumental dreariness that his pronouncements have been copyrighted as a sleep apnea therapy it can get even worse.

Like crows circling roadkill there’s the usual chancers impatiently awaiting their opportunity. There’s Christian Porter, an Attorney General who’d re-gift a Scrabble set to a school for dyslexics just so he could enjoy the bickering. There’s Smarmy Josh Fraudburger, a pitiable PJK-wannabe who’d take bets on which blind beggar in a wheelchair would make it across the Bradfield Expressway at peak hour.

And then there’s that other ever-present miasma, Barking Barmy – aka Englebert Humpastaffer. As coherent as a cement mixer with tourettes who shouts at clouds while dressed as a hay bale, who has more kids than teeth and who is a Riverview educated ex-Deputy PM raging against “elites” while trousering $600k for sending some text messages. This delusional cretin’s lack of self-awareness tests the parameters of the Dunning-Kruger effect as he continues to harbour dark thoughts about shivving his bobbleheaded boss.

A Dutton/Joyce government?

With Dutton and Joyce the Tories can indeed sink even lower than the fetid depths that they have already plumbed.

Let’s not forget some of Spud’s and Joyce’s appalling cheer squads who would be rewarded with further perks, rorts and influence.

Matt King Coal Canavan’s perpetually pained expression could be constipation – an ongoing struggle to release an immovable chocolate hostage on camera, however it’s more likely a symptom of his frustration at his inability to monetise sunshine and wind for familial benefit as he has with coal.

The rotund Georgie Porgy Christenson has reportedly been trying to get into shape. Spherical apparently. His running machine has a remote control, he attends a drive-through gym, he puts mayonaisse on his diet pills, he supports his local sugar industry via Krispy Kreme but Georgy has threatened to work up the effort to cross the floor. He’s just waiting for Harvey Weinstein’s zimmer frame to appear on eBay.

Abbott loyalist Otto Abetz is so inflexible and leans so far to the right he could double as a sun-dial’s gnomon. The possibility of a  suitable position in Spud’s Gestapotato (brown jacket included) could rekindle mein onkle-like ambition in Otto’s withered loins. Kriminaldirektor Deportations perhaps.

With a voice like fingernails down a chalkboard, dunking stool passenger Michaelia Carcrash’s palatability is limited and her loyalty is as suspect as a scoutmaster’s lollybag – just ask Malcolm Turnbull. Well practiced in the duplicitous arts as she is she’s comfortable in her current role as Minister For Employee Exploitation but likely could be tempted by a more rortable portfolio. Carcrash’s contribution to the sisterhood is in proving that a woman can be just as contemptible as any man. Her red high heels are not feminist symbols, they are simply to stop her nasty from dragging along the pavement.

Cheap shots aside, what’s my point?

The L/NP has provided easy targets for loathing and derision since Howard’s time. Their only innovation is in exploring new ways to exploit most of us for the benefit of the few. They are feudalists, Randesque survival-of-the-richest oligarchs, environmental rapists, autocrats and religious fringe dwellers. They are manifestly incompetent, they are liars and grifters.

But as abominable as they are the Tories have proven time and again they can go lower still. They are now indulging in brazen criminality. They should be in prison, not in government. Get angry, stay angry. If we let them they will continue to sink lower and lower.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Going, going, gone. Koalas and their uncertain future west of the ‘sandstone curtain’.

By David C. Paull  

In early February this year, I appeared as a witness to the New South Wales Upper House Inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales as someone who had worked extensively with Koalas in the north-west of NSW.

It was a fairly gloomy hearing as the Committee struggled to digest the lack of good news on the future for Koalas west of the divide. While forests west of the divide were spared the worst parts of the recent bushfire season, with some exceptions, eg. Mt Kaputar National Park lost over 80% of its total area, Koalas have been declining in this region over the last 20 years for a variety of factors, not least declining habitat conditions and extent. In particular, one question gave me pause to think, going to the heart of the matter one which requires a better and urgent examination of our attitudes to conservation more generally.

The question was, why has there been little apparent action in relation to Koala conservation west of the divide? Here is my written response.

The overwhelming answer to this question principally lies in the dominant political culture in western NSW and a corresponding lack of political will from government to act. Both at state and federal levels, political representation has been dominated by the National Party. Generally, strong advocates of farmer and property rights, this has tended to play out as a dominant narrative stressing the need to reduce the role of government agencies in farm management, compliance and planning. According to this narrative, nature conservation, instead of being something that could be compatible with farming, or indeed beneficial, has been framed as being anti-farmer, especially matters relating to wildlife. This is even though wildlife is protected under state jurisdiction. Instead, governments have just wanted to ‘lock-up’ people’s land we were told.

This paradigm is reflected also in local government, who in the north-west of NSW, have tended to represent wealthier farming and business interests and more recently, have acted as advocates for mining (such as Gunnedah and Narrabri Councils). In my view, over a long time, the National Party, NSW Farmers and the National Farmers Federation have used property rights as a political tool to wage a culture war against ‘greenies’ and ‘latte sippers from the city’ in order to bring into disrepute any concerns for the environment that local people and the wider community may have. This seems to have become ingrained in our regional culture.

But in many ways, this view does not reflect the sentiments of people living in these communities who have genuine concerns for wildlife and the environment more generally but whose voice remains unheard in Macquarie Street.

Notable property rights advocates from Barwon have included Ian Slack-Smith and his successor Kevin Humphries. The latter having a strong ally in Barnaby Joyce at the federal level. The Guardian and ABC investigations have shown how Mr Humphries encouraged illegal land-clearing, giving a ‘green light’ at farmer meetings and strongly lobbying for a decrease in vegetation regulation. He and others have acted as a sort of guarantor for producers against legal repercussions, real or imagined.

The current Native Vegetation Act and associated regulations now shows the lobbying efforts by the property rights champions has borne fruit, with its focus on self-assessment and less restrictions, along with the Biodiversity Conservation Act which now allows the unrestricted removal of threatened ecological communities and Koala habitat.

An example the extent of the anti-environment culture war west of the divide comes from one wildlife carer from the Croppa Creek area who was subject to intimidation and death threats by some landowners, just for advocating for Koala welfare. One of these landowners was later found guilty of illegal land-clearing, but not before he had murdered an OEH compliance officer. Such is the level of intimidation that comes from individuals influenced by the property rights lobby. To this day, virtually no planning for Koala conservation has occurred on the Moree Plains and clearing continues seemingly unabated.

The other mechanism by which Koala habitat could be protected is SEPP44. This requires local governments working with state government to implement Comprehensive Koala Management Plans which have an objective of minimising loss of koala habitat (but never completely protecting all potential koala habitat). The lack of will among local government to implement this statutory planning policy west of the divide is further testament to the success of the property rights lobby. Moree, Warialda, Inverell, Warrumbungle and Narrabri in particular, who all have (or had) documented, significant Koala populations, have never seen any attempt by government to implement SEPP44 CKPoMs in these LGAs.

The revised SEPP44 set to be implemented on March 1st, has actually less statutory protection for Koala habitat than the previous version, and no longer has any requirement for a site-specific Plan of Management.

The exception is Gunnedah Council, being the self-proclaimed ‘Koala Capital’, who have toyed with the concept of a CKPoM for over 10 years, though in the end preferring to implement a non-statutory ‘Koala Strategy’ which allows the removal of core Koala habitat using an offset mechanism. This is also despite funding received by Council from BHP to conduct LGA-wide Koala surveys and two grants under the Save Our Species Program to set up a CKPoM.

Another factor which is likely to have assisted Gunnedah Council’s decision to defer implementation of a CKPoM was the perception that Koalas were common in the LGA. Council, using the firm ‘BioLoaning Greenstudies’ and in conjunction with Dr Steve Philips, conducted surveys in key Koala areas who provided an estimated population size of over 12,000 animals for the LGA in 2014. However, issues with the methodology and how this estimate was derived has brought this into question. The view that Koalas are common and therefore not a significant conservation issue, has little scientific credibility today.

Previous studies have shown that Gunnedah populations were under decline by 2009. This has been further verified by more recent estimates which describe a population decline of approximately 80% from pre-decline levels with estimates of current population size in the LGA at perhaps less than 2,000, based on published and unpublished surveys along with current local knowledge.

The documented decline of the Pilliga Koalas should be viewed in context with the Gunnedah population. The Pilliga decline has occurred within intact, extensive forest and is primarily attributed to ongoing drought, possibly due to the early signs of climate-associated warming, a factor identified in the Gunnedah area. Pilliga Koala densities first decreased notably during the millennial drought and through the 2000s. 2013/14 surveys suggest that there may not have been more than 100 Pilliga animals at this time, compared to a pre-decline population of somewhere between 5-10,000 animals. The estimate of 12,000 animals in the Gunnedah LGA probably better reflects the pre-decline population size.

But the situation for Koalas in the north-west has become worse in recent years. Severe drought over the last 3 years has seen the Pilliga Koalas virtually disappear and increased rates of mortality and disease in the remaining Gunnedah/Liverpool Plains populations have been observed (based on work by North-west Local Land Service).

On the Liverpool and Moree Plains, the last twenty years has seen significant land-clearing on top of the warming climate and so, Koalas have been subject to significant pressure on habitat availability and quality over this time. Gunnedah populations are also subject to relatively high levels of vehicle collision and dog attack, much more so than the Pilliga animals had been.

Over the last 20 years, there has been relatively little active Koala habitat conservation work in the north-west, restricted to a small number of landowners where tree plantings and conservation agreements have occurred. Today, much of the effort to conserve Koala habitat in the north-west has been undertaken by the Local Land Service with some funding now available for private land conservation from the NSW Biodiversity Trust. The latter is in the early days and take-up has been limited, restricted by minimum area rules and limited funding.

Besides working with supportive landowners, the North-west LLS has a Koala Corridor Plan which is aimed to prioritise Koala conservation efforts in the Gunnedah LGA. It has been conducting ‘baseline surveys’, as the Gunnedah population has always suffered from a lack of understanding of the distribution and number of animals in the shire though recent surveys better reflect current post decline numbers, rather than a ‘baseline’. The total area of Koala habitat trees planted out by landowners in the Gunnedah area amounts to less than 100 hectares in total, however, recent work is starting to increase this. Other Local Land Service groups, such as the New England LLS are also conducting surveys and drawing up plans to strategically increase koala habitat.

These measures are encouraging but still lags well behind levels of habitat loss from land-clearing throughout the north-west over the last twenty years, particularly on the Liverpool Plains and the Moree (Northern) Floodplains, where thousands of hectares of Koala habitat have been cleared. The removal of over 1,000 ha of Koala habitat by mining companies in the Leard State Forest and the proposed level of clearing associated with Shenuha’s Watermark Mine further highlight the deficit that future plantings and habitat enhancement need to address. Once again, a program of offsets and translocation is proposed, which is actually in contravention of the existing operational NSW wildlife translocation policy as it is to facilitate mine development.

In conclusion, any regional conservation targets will remain largely meaningless given the past loss and future anticipated loss of Koala habitat under current private land vegetation management, offset and SEPP44 policies and regulations.

Unless there is a profound shift pervading private land conservation politics in NSW and better protections put in place (private lands support the majority of remaining Koalas), wild populations of Koalas in the north-west of NSW may soon be a thing of the past. But this isn’t just about Koalas, it is about the dubious-looking future of ecosystems and biodiversity in general, west of the ‘sandstone curtain’ unless the public makes a stand.

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Costing the earth – the price of not acting on climate change

By Elizabeth Dangerfield  

Apparently, the public do not respond well to doom and gloom, but the truth is that reality denying is rife when it comes to climate change and it is not doing us any good. Every time we choose the easiest path, every time we choose the best-case scenario rather than the one most likely, every time we opt for business as usual, we increase the likelihood that the worse-case scenario is the one that will happen.

One study suggests that lack of action on climate change could cost Australia $159 billion a year or the equivalent of the world experiencing 4 – 6 global financial crises per year. If the costs of increased severity and frequency of tropical storms and bushfires are included the figures are much higher. We have already experienced a global record of 20 million hectares burnt in an unprecedented bushfire season exacerbated by climate change and causing huge economic, social and environmental losses.

But the Government is determined to ignore all the evidence on climate change in order to create an alternative universe where their ideology and pseudo-reality meld together. The Labor Party at least acknowledges the overwhelming evidence for human induced climate change and believes Australia should put its own house in order by becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Emily Farnworth, Head of Climate Change, World Economic Forum, believes that a carbon neutral world by 2050 is inevitable because “No politician will be able to ignore the social and economic pressures as climate impacts become more severe – but the longer it takes, the more expensive it will become.”

Our politicians seem to be able to ignore the reality that it doesn’t matter who puts CO2 into the atmosphere – we all pay for it. Both Labor and the Government believe that we can have our cake and eat it when it comes to climate change. We can keep extracting more and more coal and gas to sell overseas and just wait until other countries tell us they don’t want it anymore. This way we can avoid the transformative change required to address climate change globally and can deny the reality that restricting global warming to 2°C is going to require sacrifices. As a result, Australia will become a very significant contributor to global CO2 emissions rather than a leader in reducing them.

In many places, countries, regions, cities and corporations are doing wonderful, innovative things but everyone needs to be part of this endeavour if we are to achieve the desired global outcome. Technological solutions require time to develop and implement. We have squandered that time. We have consistently denied the reality that the issues we face are time critical. We are like a person who wants to lose 30kg before their wedding in a year’s time but puts off dieting until 4 weeks before the big event. The only way to achieve the goal then would be by sewing their lips together, if the goal can be achieved at all.

Some still believe in the illusion that it will be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C. In many regions, global warming has already surpassed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels because global warming doesn’t occur evenly around the planet. More than one-fifth of all humans live in regions that have already seen warming greater than 1.5°C. In Arctic regions global warming of 2-3°C has been experienced.

The Government still pretends Australia will meet its emission targets set by the Paris Agreement despite the reality that industrial greenhouse gas emissions in Australia have risen 60% in the past 15 years. If you think that our emissions are so insignificant that we shouldn’t have to do anything then I suppose you are okay with using an unacceptable approach to fudge the figures. The reality is that we are right up the top of the list of countries that emit most greenhouses gases on a per capita basis. The reality is that countries like Australia that emit less than 3% of greenhouse gases collectively contribute around 37% of all emissions. The reality is that every extra bit of warming makes a difference – that we are all in this together.

On top of this we continue to ignore the reality that if all countries meet their targets under the Paris agreement emissions will continue to grow and peak by 2030, putting the world on a path to global warming of 3.0°C to 3.5°C. But worse than that, we continue to deny the reality that we are facing a future in which global warming could reach 4°C or more.

Here is a little of the reality that will confront us as the world warms up

A global warming between 2-3°C will mean that millions, then billions, of people will face a tough battle to survive. The Amazon will die, Greenland’s icefields will completely melt. Tropical reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, will already be dead. The warmer oceans will be unable to absorb as much CO2 so more will accumulate in the atmosphere. As the soil warms on land, bacteria will convert more carbon stored in the soil into CO2 in the atmosphere. These processes will accelerate global warming.

At three degrees there is a risk that the planet could be tipped into runaway global warming.

Farming and food production will falter, and many people will starve to death. Fresh water supplies may not meet demand. Many people will die from heat stroke. Rising sea levels will inundate the land especially during storm surges. Settlements around the Persian Gulf and on islands in the Pacific are very vulnerable. A metre rise in sea level would submerge almost 20% of Bangladesh and displace more than 30 million people Scientific American. Many people will drown. Coastal cities around the world will be badly affected. There will be a huge exodus of people to escape to safer areas – where will they go and how will they cope?

At between 3-4°C of global warming the economies of countries will be destabilised. People will be left destitute and governments will not be able to cope. Social cohesion will be destroyed. Agricultural production in China may not be able to meet demand.  India and Pakistan will face water shortages. Millions of people will starve to death.  Soaring temperatures will exacerbate dryness, droughts and bushfires as well as deaths due to heat stress. Huge migrations of people will take place putting great pressure on resources. Many people will lose their greatest asset – their homes as they become valueless due to their location. Ecosystems will continue to degrade, and more animals and plants will become extinct.

At 4°C of warming Europe will be in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh will be claimed by desert; Polynesia will be swallowed by the sea; and the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. A diminished population of humans will survive in a more chaotic, dangerous and unpredictable world. Fights, even wars, over resources, will be likely. Who is likely to win out in a struggle for resources? The reality of this world is likely to be very unpleasant.

The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change. There will be no adaption possible to runaway global warming.

If this seems far-fetched note that even economists are saying that human life is under threat due to global warming. JP Morgan economists have recently said their research shows the climate crisis will impact on the world economy, human health, water stress, migration and the survival of other species on Earth. They say policymakers need to change direction because a business-as-usual climate policy “would likely push the earth to a place that we haven’t seen for many millions of years”, with outcomes that might be impossible to reverse.

The reality is that we do not have until 2050 to become carbon neutral. National Geographic cites an analysis of millions of possible climate futures which found we only have a tiny window to keeping global warming to levels the international community has deemed safe. Carbon emissions must reach zero by 2030 in every country in the world if we are to stay at less than 2°C of global warming by 2100. If we don’t the above scenarios will play out. Obviously, we are not going to reach zero carbon emissions by 2030.

This is why members of the Extinction Rebellion are chaining themselves to barriers! This is why Greta Thunberg mounted her school climate strike!  This is why so many scientists and environmentalists are filled with despair. This is why doing what is politically expedient, rather than what is needed to be done, is not good enough.

We need to focus all our efforts on the outcome required because Inaction on climate change will cost the Earth. That is too high a price to pay.

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