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Labor/Democrat/Green: Conservatives in bunny suits.

By James Moylan

Who is to blame for Trump? This seems to be the abiding obsession of our journalistic class.

If you are a right wing journalist then it is apparent that Trump was elected because of a backlash against political correctness and a yearning within the huddled masses to be able to open their own small business, purchase six flat screen televisions, and an investment property. If you are a middle of the road journalist then it is obvious that the huddled masses were duped by fake news and all the right wing journalists. And while it would be nice to know what all the left wing journalists in Australia might think; unfortunately it seems that he is still on holidays.

The unfortunate truth never seems to get a look-in. It is not allowed to get a look-in. If the real reasons why we are electing such a disparate group of no-hopers to power were even hinted at by a member of our mainstream press then they would likely, very soon, no longer be a member of the mainstream press. The sad truth is that our journalistic class are just puppets and mouthpieces for our corporate rulers. So of course the election of Trump, Abbott, Turnbull etc. is proposed as being inexplicable. The truth cannot be uttered for fear of rocking the boat, endangering a growing pile of super, and the ability to purchase yet another investment property. How could a journalist possibly afford to send their kiddies to a decent private school if they were unemployed?

Yet the answer to this question is as simple as it is depressing. The primary reason that Trump, Abbott, Turnbull, and the rest of the corporate shucks get elected, and continue to get elected, is because they are genuine. They might be right wing pricks bordering on fascistic, but at least they are not talking out of one side of their mouths. The huddled masses may be ill-educated but they are not stupid. They can spot a phoney a mile away. And the so-called progressive politicians in all the western world countries are as phoney as a three dollar bill.

The reality of politics in the modern western world is that it is a game that is played according to a rule-book created and enforced by the moneyed classes. You don’t get a look-in as a Labor or Democrat politician unless you are willing to toe the ‘party line’ and also happen to have a big wad of cash hanging out of your back pocket. So our political and social discourse is one that is shaped by and directed toward salving the sensibilities of the big end of town. Heads they win – tails you lose. Every time.

In Australia we are provided with a choice between tax cuts for the rich or tax cuts for the upper middle class and the rich. Most of the past election campaign in Australia was devoted to discussing how much of a largesse those with more than a million dollars in super should be allowed. Or how big a tax cut should we provide those investing in housing. We were, once again, provided with a ‘choice’ between unabashed laissez-faire capitalism or slightly ashamed laissez-faire capitalism. A choice between honest arseholes or lying arseholes.

All our politicians continue to talk as if they are economists, not politicians. They all uniformly propose that we live in an ‘economy’ – not a society. The right-wingers talk about how we have to slash government services brutally while the ‘progressives’ talk about how we have to limit government services carefully. They all talk with an economist’s accent and with one eye on the pile of corporate donations stacked in the corner of their party room.

All the so-called ‘progressive’ politicians use exactly the same terms, talk about exactly the same things, in exactly the same ways, as our right-wing politicians. They are simply right-wing corporatists wearing bunny suits. In reality the only way that you can tell the difference between a right wing and a ’left-wing’ politician in our country is by noting that all the bunny suits the ‘left-wingers’ are wearing have a pretty little heart stitched onto one sleeve. It comes with the uniform.

When was the last time that you hear ANY mainstream politician in our country talk about the need to address the spiralling inequities within our society by increasing the taxes imposed on the richest? Or by increasing corporate taxes? Or about socialising essential services? Or removing the ownership of our mining resources from the hands of a few absurdly rich mongrels and returning them to the bulk of the population? Or maybe outlawing the manifold monopolies that have sprung throughout our economy? Or reducing the power and influence of the corporate press?

The so-called ‘progressive’ politicians in our country, and across the western world, have been utterly captured by the big end of town. The Labor Party, like the Democrats in the US, have been bought by the corporations and are now run as a wholly owned subsidiary of the right wing political parties. They can only talk about the same concerns that are of interest to the right-wingers, using right-wing language, and employing right-wing sensibilities. The only difference between a left-winger and a right-winger is the speed with which they are willing to see the poor and disaffected within society getting screwed. We no longer live in a Common-wealth. Australia has morphed into a Corporate-wealth. And everyone else, and the planet, be damned.

When I was a child the ‘economy’ was seen to be an aspect of our society. We all perceived Australia as being an egalitarian state that was based on the idea of a ‘fair go’ for all. However the society has now become an ‘economy’. Where once bank managers were seen to be paper shufflers and akin to insurance salesmen; they are now the rulers of the universe. Where once houses were conceived as being a form of shelter; they are now investments. Government was once upon a time believed to be a way of ensuring that we had a healthy society, not as a means of ensuring that we have a healthy environment for overseas investors. Our mining industry was perceived as being licensed by the state to extract our resources on our behalf; not as a means of enabling rich opportunists and overseas corporations to extract personal wealth. Electricity, water, local services, and government services were once appreciated as being essential services run by attention to providing an equality of universal service; not as an opportunity for the corporate classes to gouge the poor, build a portfolio, and retire early.

Why did Abbott, Turnbull, and Trump get elected? It’s simple. They are genuine arseholes – not hypocritical arseholes. Why do we see One Nation prospering and the Greens becoming a fading dream? Because One Nation are genuine monsters and the Greens are hypocritical monsters. The problem is not that the public is electing the wrong people but rather that we are provided only with a choice between a wide selection of cookie cutter arseholes. When provided with a forced option of voting for either Tweedle-distressing or Tweedle-disgusting; we choose the one who seems to be lying the least. It does not mean that the public are deliberately electing the wrong people – it is simply a symptom of only having a broad selection of either genuine, or hypocritical, arseholes to choose from.

More significantly, the majority of the population now know of no other option, For thirty years our corporately owned press has ‘educated’ the community to believe that they live in an ‘economy’. And that nothing else matters. That the essential job of a politician is to make sure that the piles of cash are neatly stacked and that every aspect of every social relationship is both economically efficient and profitable. That there are only two sorts of Aussies; lifters and leaners.

The sad truth is that the money-men seem to have won. They bought the press, then our politicians. Thus enabling them to force their agenda onto the whole of our society. Now it is the only agenda that the population even understands. So while it is true that we continue to elect no-hopers and sly pricks to our parliaments; it is a bit of a stretch to blame it on the population at large.

No political candidate who is not a corporate shill can ever get elected because they will simply be ignored, or demonised by the corporate press. The word ‘socialist’ is now universally equated in our social discourse with ‘terrorist’. Anyone who stands up and suggests that perhaps we might not need to beat the poor so hard, or so often, is described as being ‘naïve’, or dangerous. So the public have become distressed and disaffected while at the same time being utterly unable to even recognise anyone who might actually have their best interests at heart. At least the older Aussies can remember what it means to live in a society. All the younger generation knows is a dog-eat-dog economy. So when they elect the biggest and meanest dog it is not necessarily their fault.

Unfortunately, understanding the nature of our problem does not assist in solving the problem. We are still stuck with an economy where once we had a society. We are still ruled by rabid dogs instead of citizens. And the majority of the population still remain ignorant of what a ‘community’ might even look like. The only way I can see that we will be able to tunnel our way out from under this giant pile of excrement is to revolutionise our mainstream media. And that seems as likely as seeing an honest and socially responsible citizen getting elected to any of our parliaments – in other words; pigs might fly.

 

Turnbull Government ought to be shut down for fraud

By David Tyler

Australia is way ahead of the game in terms of using government policies and processes to punish and isolate our most disadvantaged citizens so the Government can reduce its welfare spending a few million. We now allow our Government to implement the work of sociopaths and threaten poor citizens with imprisonment on the basis of half-cocked ‘automatic computer-matching’ algorithms that are allegedly tracking welfare fraud. (Bill Mitchell Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia).

“Bill Shorten’s skin is so thick it puts a rhinoceros to shame”, snipes Liberal hit-squad reservist, retired SA senator Amanda Vanstone who is rostered on this week to kick off the government’s perpetual rubbishing of the Labor leader.

She would know. Her own political style was brutal: “Let me put my dancing shoes on, ” she said on learning of the death, from stomach cancer, of fugitive Christopher Skase in 2001. At the time, she was the minister responsible for pursuing the fugitive. More recently, on Nine ‘s election eve commentary, she thrust her hand in Maxine McKew’s face.

“Talk to the hand, the face doesn’t want to listen.” The hand was almost as controversial as Turnbull’s victory speech.

She’s got her hand up again this week. Handy Mandy’s attack is a bid to help a government in crisis over its Centrelink debt collection disaster  while continuing the line that its policy failures are always Labor’s fault. Shorten and Tanya Plibersek invented the scheme, Vanstone writes, so they have no grounds, whatsoever, to criticise it.

Centrelink “does an outstanding job,” she dashes off, in pursuit of a red herring, because it is so big and complex and deals with 4.5 million (sic) “mindboggling permutations”. She reckons she knows. She once “had the welfare portfolio.”

Someone else can tell her it’s now more like 7 million. If they can get past the hand.

Vanstone and Welfare? Now there’s an winning double. It must be Liberal policy to choose the worst possible fit, like Greg Hunt, the Minister for killing the environment, for Health. Dutton for refugees. Who would have thought, Alan Tudge, another MP, like Ms Vanstone, with an empathy bypass, whose robotic delivery so perfectly suits an automated debt recovery system, would be Human Services Minister today?

Who would have thought a government could be so utterly out of touch that it would follow its debacle, this week, by extending Robo-debt to age and disability pensioners?

Vanstone’s bull-dozing joins Alan Tudge’s verbal sludge. The system is working perfectly, he crows. It’s meant to have a twenty per cent failure. That’s how it works. Fear and surprise worked for the Spanish Inquisition, too. Who knows how much more harm is yet to be done when the scheme is unleashed on age pensioners and the disabled?

Apart from its gratuitous cruelty, Centrelink’s “outstanding job” has public servants pitted against each other by managers, competing for the highest daily quota of debt notices, according to Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilkie.

There’s a lot of “talk to the hand”, moreover, as thousands of Centrelink clients report, as their attempts to seek help or appeal mistakes and miscalculations are brusquely pushed aside. Fobbed off. Threats to seize or garnish bank savings have been reported. The “outstanding job” clearly includes extortion and obtaining advantage by deception.

“If the government was a private company it would go out of business or be shut down by regulators for fraud over the Centrelink debacle,” says former Digital Transformation Office head Paul Shetler. Talk to the hand, says Vanstone.

Vanstone is an expert in the straw man.

“What is it about us”, she writes, “what kind of bongo juice are we on when we fall for some schmaltzy rubbish suggesting that everyone should be allowed to keep overpayments?”

But no-one is making that suggestion. Liberal MPs caught in travel rorts defend rorting, it is true. Look at Steve Ciobo’s absurd claim that a Grand Final is a business meeting if you are an MP . Sussan Ley says she’s broken no rules. But that doesn’t mean everyone tries to cheat.

Keep overpayments? It’s a tactic to blur the issue, divert criticism. It’s a low ploy that can only increase suffering; further harden the dehumanising nurtured openly by Joe Hockey. the prejudice that the poor are leaners. Take away their humanity: take away their human rights. Scapegoat. Its demonisation of the poor is a domestic version of a cruel government’s denial that asylum-seekers are “legal” – have human rights, are entitled to care and compassion. Vanstone’s mob  helped start that with babies overboard in 2003.

Scapegoating helps bury the hoax of broken promises. When authoritarian structures or figures can’t keep their promises to their constituency, they scapegoat, Noam Chomsky warns. “Let’s blame it on people who are even more vulnerable and who are suffering even more than you are. Let’s make it their fault.”

At issue is an employment data matching system between ATO and Centrelink which crudely calculates client’s fortnightly earnings by assuming annual income is earned regularly over a year and generates letters demanding repayment of debt when it discovers or it miscalculates a discrepancy between the two agencies’ records.

Twenty per cent of demands from Centrelink are wrong. Yet many recipients are bluffed or frightened into paying up. 200, 000 letters have been sent since September. The pain and suffering is unprecedented.

In a reversal of natural justice, you are deemed guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Proof may be hard because the Robo-debt claw-back system can search back six years. Workers may not keep their records that long; ATO rules do not require it. Most don’t and the government is counting on it. Yet in contempt of reciprocity, fairness and good faith, if Centrelink owes you money, however, you have only two years to claim it.

Being bullied is the first approach many report. A threatening letter demands debt repayment with a ten per cent processing fee. Alan Tudge, appears elsewhere, to make it clear that defaulters could go to gaol. Attempts to clarify or rectify mistakes are often met with delays. In brief, Robo-debt claw-back is a flawed system, a wrong system, an illegal system before we even begin to consider the social or economic effects.

Bill Mitchell warns that the letters violate recipients’ human rights. Ben Eltham sums up.

Like the government’s last data debacle, the 2016 Census, it’s clear that there are massive IT failures here. This is not just a few glitches and bugs. A government department is sending out tens of thousands of erroneous communications accusing welfare recipients of over-payment. The government is falsely accusing some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Cruelly and irresponsibly, Vanstone misrepresents the issue, smears welfare recipients as cheats, parodying Shorten’s case for an inquiry as “We don’t give a hoot if you get overpaid, by accident or design; it doesn’t matter. Keep the lot. You’ve figured out how to get more than your neighbour? Good on you. There’s plenty more where that came from.”

How to get more than your neighbour? The pernicious lie of widespread deliberate welfare fraud is lightly tossed into the mix. It’s an assumption which underlies the whole clawback policy yet it is egregiously, wilfully wrong. Your prejudices are showing Ms Vanstone. DHS reports show a decline over the years in cases brought for fraud. In 2008-9, it recovered $113.4 million out of $87 billion in payments – 0.13 per cent.

There is no evidence to support $4.5 billion is available to claw back. That pot of gold your government is chasing just doesn’t exist, Ms Vanstone. But you can frighten people into paying anyway. Nowhere is there evidence of widespread rorting – for that you would have to look at politicians and their travel allowances.

Familiar also is her emotive plea that welfare is a burden on the taxpayer, yet Vanstone can add a loopy twist. “Take a $3000 Centrelink debt, she says. A person who pays about $26,000 a year in tax has to work for about six weeks to give the taxman that $3000 to dish out in the first place and certainly wants it paid out according to the rules.”

Yet only half of government revenue comes from PAYE tax. The rules? A tax system is part of a fair society it is not about resenting responsibility – “giving the tax man” but a way those who can work are able to help those who can’t. A real drain on the system, on the other hand, is the third of big businesses who pay tax. Yet Vanstone’s mob will give companies a $50 billion tax break.

Putting in the boot comes naturally to Vanstone who holds her own in a Coalition stable which boasts such feral attack dogs as Tony Junkyard Abbott or Senator Ian Macdonald or Peter “Nutso” Dutton. Indeed, her prowess in sinking the slipper once caused a mild-mannered Wayne Swan to call her a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable”.[4] Swannie’s too much of gentleman to tell us what he really thinks. Nor does he need to remind us that hyenas hunt in packs.

While she is unlikely to get under his skin, Amanda knows full well that Kill Bill is the only strategy the Coalition has going for it. OK it may well be derivative, out of date and increasingly ineffectual – like the Turnbull government itself but, hey, it’s fun and why debate the issue when you can play the man? Or all that you know.

Vanstone’s attack on Shorten, is a crude bid to redeem Clawback; to rehabilitate the Coalition’s automated debt-collecting process, a process which is part of its war on the poor and allied to its demonisation of welfare recipients – a process which is so wrong on so many levels that it has already done incalculable harm to thousands of Australians .

Vanstone’s chief tactic is to pretend that the only alternative to clawback is to leave overpayments alone entirely. You don’t pay the money back at all. Showing she’s all class – ruling class, the former Howard government minister charmingly manages to combine this misrepresentation with a dishonest slur of dishonesty on all Centrelink beneficiaries.

Yet Amanda is a welfare recipient herself. After retiring from the senate in 2007, she spent three years on the nation’s tit as Australia’s Ambassador to Rome. The job comes with a few perks such as subsidised accommodation, utilities and travel. Taxpayers lavish on the incumbent a multi-storey Italian mansion perched in the hills above Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.

This is not about Amanda, primarily, but the thick-skinned, wrong-headed, morally bankrupt government she represents. Never in Australia’s history has there been such utter heartlessness by the government department cruelly, ironically entitled, Human Services. Never has it been clearer to the Australian public that their government, unwilling and unable to chase revenue from company tax defaulters is prepared to go to war on the poor.

Most victims of Centrelink’s abuse in its Robo-debt-scam-the-poor-the-weak-and-helpless scheme have nowhere to go to get legal help. The basic legal help available from Centrelink will be axed in July. is Last year 150,000 of those who asked for help though community legal centres were turned away. Centres have had their funding cut.

Spare us the barracking, Ms Vanstone. Spare us the lie that the poor are worthless, lazy, dishonest and underserving. Save us your talk-to-the-hand endorsement. No need to put your own boot in. Your government is doing enough of that already. If you are worried about overpayment, how about refunding your government pension for the three years you were Ambassador to Rome. Remove the grounds for accusations of double-dipping.

The money could fund a legal aid centre for poor people falsely accused of fraud because Centrelink has made a mistake and that they are guilty until they prove themselves innocent. Call that an outstanding job all you like Amanda but it’s illegal, it’s immoral and it’s dangerous. Best of all you could back off with your attacks on the poor and turn your journalistic pen to ending rorts in your own political party. Reform is so badly overdue, they are about to undo themselves entirely.

This article was originally published on Urban Wronski.

 

Turnbull Government in crisis: fobs off nation with a review

By David Tyler

Pleonexia … originating from the Greek πλεονεξία, is a philosophical concept which roughly corresponds to greed, covetousness, or avarice, and is strictly defined as “the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others”, suggesting a … “ruthless self-seeking and an arrogant assumption that others and things exist for one’s own benefit”.[1]

“We are dealing with other peoples’ money,” intones Malcolm Turnbull, taking the high moral ground as he fronts a thin press conference on the afternoon of Friday 13th. Other people’s money. Who would have thought? Tell Centrelink.

The conference room is almost empty. The Canberra Press Gallery is either on holiday or heading for happy hour. A bored government staffer stands to one side; a stage-manager, ready to call time on any questions after the Prime Minister’s hammy but low-energy performance. The atmosphere is let’s get this show off the road.

Turnbull grips the edges of the moulded podium with both hands: he could be a Border Force Control officer on the bridge of an intercepted vessel. He’ll turn this thing around. The kitsch set is so stagey that it shrieks defensive artifice while underlining his government’s monumental disconnect from its people. The national flags add to the travesty.

It’s time to put out the trash; bury bad news in a time slot where it will attract least media scrutiny. Two weeks into a new year, the Turnbull government is already mired in crisis. Dirty Captain Turnbull must spin scandal as good news.

He is here, he declares, drum roll – to announce a new system. Trust him. MPs are helpless as a kitten when it comes to moral choices. He can fix all that. Operation High Moral Ground will flush out the rorters. Besides, we are soon to discover, he has probity’s poster boy, Arthur Sinodinos, up his sleeve.

Sussan Ley has made a “personal decision” to resign, Turnbull mumbles, to a reporter’s inaudible question. It’s almost an aside. Ley’s personal decision includes a statement that she doesn’t believe she’s broken any rules.

Yep, it’s the damn rules that have broken her; that stupid system which supposes you know right from wrong. Ken Goodger, Acting Anglican Bishop of Wangaratta, holds a garden party at his church in Albury in support of the high flying Health Minister, pilot and Pythagorean numerologist whose wings are now clipped. Grounded. Dumped from the ministry.

A deafening silence ensues from Ley’s own party where one might expect calls of support, yet the news is full of reports of MPs jostling for what the Herald Sun calls her “plum job”. Former Health Minister Tony Abbott puts in job application in Friday’s The Australian, in the guise of an article in which he shirtfronts Turnbull for being all mouth and no trousers.

Turnbull’s call, cunningly packaged as Ley’s decision, he hopes, will soothe a nation inflamed by a week of revelations of pleonectic MPs, snouts in troughs, rorting travel allowances. We will cheer his decisive leadership. Ra. Ra. Fat chance.

A deep anger now dwells within Australians, a sense of betrayal and of loss. So profound now is the gap between rich and poor; between those who have work and those who have no work; between home owners and those who will never own homes. Between men and women’s career options and pay.

Years of neoliberal cuts to services, to wages and conditions; years of corporatisation, deregulation and privatisation and the voracious love of competition and profit above all else have cheated us and divided us. There is nothing any leader of the party of the IPA, the mining lobby’s puppet, the hand maiden of big business and banking can ever say or do which will assuage the people’s anger.

Abroad, vulgarian and fellow professional narcissist, Donald Trump also deals in lies; manufactures facts; abuses those who would dispute his version of events.

“We are not living in a post truth universe”, writes Robert Fisk, “we are living the lies of others”.

Just when he’d hoped to get by without any cabinet reshuffle, a badly wounded Turnbull, who must himself live the lies of his hard right captors, is caught up in another silly season turkey shoot. But he’s ready with the traditional trimmings. Dab hand with the corny theatrics. He falls back on a tried and true script.

A sacrificial resignation is followed by a (patently hollow) promise to fix the system. Cue massive spin from a servile media. By Sunday the ABC features teenage reporters explaining how huge is the grey area between right and wrong. The system’s rotten. Politicians can’t be blamed for any bad moral choice, really.

It’s what you’d expect of Turnbull. God forbid he’d assent to growing demands for a national ICAC. Or agree to a cease-fire in the automated debt recovery phase of his government’s war on the poor currently harassing 20,000 Australians per week.

We haven’t heard it yet but expect the term “welfare security” to be applied soon as the government seeks another phrase in its mission to demonise welfare recipients; its determination to behave with the same indifference and inhumanity towards the poor as it does toward asylum seekers.

Working “incredibly well”, says Christian Porter about Centrelink’s Robo-call debt extortion system which hounds victims of its own mistakes within an inch of their lives; those it alleges it overpaid, demanding repayment plus a ten per cent debt collection fee.

Porter boasts $300 million dollar has been found down the back of the couch or in Grandma’s funeral bond; $300 million which is clearly not money received but debts alleged. There’s $4 billion out there to collect. But only if you believe the figure is anything more than a wild conjecture.

Robot Alan Tudge, a perfect choice as Human Services Minister in an inhuman government, is equally immune to the grief, the fear, the anger, the human suffering his automated debt recovery blunderbuss is inflicting. The system is working well, he says on ABC, Wednesday -“and we will continue with that system”. You bet you are. You bet I am.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, also is utterly unrepentant, blind to anything but the dollars. He makes a virtue of being remote and unyielding. “We make no apology for the fact that we are trying to make sure we are more efficient, have a wider grasp of those who might have received payments in error.” Or those frightened into paying money they don’t owe. Those driven by despair into dark thoughts of self-harm.

Darren O’Connell, whose PhD is in economics, a teacher who has lectured at Curtin University, has tried eight times since November to get his inaccurate debt removed from the system, but the letters keep coming.

“The process and logic used by Centrelink is both flawed, dangerous and opaque,” he tells news.com.au. “This process assumes people are guilty and it is up to us to prove our innocence.”

A competent, compassionate, responsible PM – even an agile PM would have called the dogs off on well before now. Sacked Tudge. Scrapped a monumental failure. Made time for age pensioners. Raised welfare payments to make amends. Instead he’s helping create for himself and his government a mother of a perfect storm.

Changes reducing the allowable value of pensioners’ assets help magnify the anger and resentment from those in the debt-collector’s gun towards those living high on the hog; having fun in the sun.

World’s best minister, Greg Hunt books up $20,000 of summer holidays in Queensland at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s a similar story with Matthias Cormann. Many other examples follow, each one pointing up the gap between the ruling elite and the rest of the nation; the rapidly widening social divide. A Cabinet Minister buys an apartment on impulse when most ordinary Australians are priced out of the market. Any protest is dismissed as the politics of envy.

Sir Michael Marmot, President of the World Medical Association says the opposite to poverty is not wealth. It is justice. Closing the gap on health inequality would mean tackling the disproportionate distribution of global wealth, the epidemiologist argues in his latest Boyer Lecture and it’s exactly the same within nations.

“We have the knowledge and the means to improve people’s lives and reduce health inequality,” he reminds us, “The question is: what do we have in our hearts? Do we have the will to close the gap in a generation?”

Abbott has a go at his PM in his vanity publisher, The Australian, for being unready to deal with a protectionist world under Trump. Be agile; don’t just say the words. Make no mistake, the former PM is on the warpath. Here, he scores a technical point – yet neither PM nor his nemesis equates agility with the real need to seek a fairer, more just society.

The Coalition merely flicks the switch to damage control. When all else fails book in a review or an inquiry. Or a distraction. The perpetually befuddled Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, another politician with a charisma bypass, beholden to capital, is wheeled in front of cameras to signal that trade will boom and security will be strengthened thanks to Turnbull’s deftly steering around the 330 Minke whales Japan is about to kill and avoiding any questions about conservation or the ethics of slaughtering sentient beings for human consumption under the guise of scientific research.

After Tony Abbott’s silly, made to be broken, submarine deal promise, Turnbull’s government is reluctant to make waves. It will not send a patrol vessel to Antarctic waters to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet unlike in previous years.

On the other hand, the free trade agreement with Japan is achieving amazing things, says Steve Ciobo noting

“Exports of beef have climbed about 30 per cent as tariffs of up to 38.5 per cent are lowered as part of the deal and are now worth $793 million.” Wild cheers all round. No-one questions the place of tariffs in a free trade deal.

Sadly, the incredible Japan trade boost news fails to distract the media circus from its pursuit of politicians’ travel rorts.

Professional wave maker, Nick “Get-your-head-on” Xenophon pops up on the box again. He’s sure the system is at fault on ABC 7:30. Up bobs Michael Gordon in The Age. It’s another part of the blame the system ruse. MSM scribes agree to call their hounds off; turn their ire from MPs who cheat, to the rotten system whose main fault seems to be that it presupposes politicians can make autonomous moral decisions. Steve Ciobo argues, on cue, that he can’t tell a Grand Final from a trade deal. Jules Bishop pulls out of the Portsea Polo just in case. Shinzo Abe needs me more is her excuse.

She wasn’t going anyway. Reports of a Hugo Boss outfit suggest otherwise, according to Fairfax’s Julie Singer.

Smoothie Stan Grant is also recruited into grey-washing what to most of us appears very black and white. C’mon, Stan. Imagine you are Sussan Ley. You get to Brisbane, bore a few chemists witless with your talk on scripts which could have been an email or a letter and then you fly on to the Gold Coast to buy your apartment. If you can’t tell which part of the journey to book to your boss, you shouldn’t be a minister.

If you can’t tell you don’t need to charter a jet at $12 000 to do the trip, you shouldn’t be in government. Nor do you need anyone to tell you that flying your own plane along the same route used by commercial services is not only hugely more expensive but it looks as if you are trying to get your flying hours up to keep your pilot’s licence. What Grant doesn’t go into is the fudging that is done to dress up holidays as business.

There is a lot still, though, potential grey area, isn’t there? If you look at the entitlements, it’s full of that, and it’s left to a lot of discretion and self-regulation.

We heard from Steve Ciobo, the Trade Minister, saying that he thinks it’s appropriate that the taxpayer pays if you attend a sporting function. He would be there being questioned, potentially doing work, as well as enjoying the sporting event. Does he have a point?

In a word, Stan, no. Imagine you are Greg Hunt. From 2004 to 2006 you travel with your family to Noosa in late November, each time staying there between three and seven nights and for five nights in 2008. You talk up the political things you do during your holiday. The meetings, the electoral visits. Dress it up. Then you blur the issue by reference to the beaut job you do at other times addressing the Davos mob on Hayman Island as a Global Leader for Tomorrow’ by the World Economic Forum. Yet none of this justifies booking your holidays up to the government.

The rule is clear. If your trip was primarily a family holiday, that should really be the end of the matter. While it is true that there may be some complex areas, the cases reported are not that difficult to call. But Stan and others don’t think so. The government gets a big boost on the ABC’s 7:30 Report and on all other mainstream media. Mission accomplished. Focus can now shift from rorters to the system. Why, it’s even led the Finance Minister astray.

Belgian Borzoi, Mathias Cormann, who barks and growls incessantly about keeping government spending under control, is clearly at a loss when it comes to who should pay for what. He billed taxpayers over $23,000 for weekend trips to the beach resort town of Broome with his wife over five years. A spokesperson for Cormann points out that the Minister would have had a range of mission critical commitments in the beach resort town. A very junior reporter on ABC 24 reads out a list of all the top level negotiations and vital political stuff Cormann would have to do in Broome.

Never overburdened by an original thought, Turnbull looks to the UK for a solution, as he did when he wanted Alexander Downer to retire in favour of pin-striped megalomaniac George Brandis, whose boundless faith in his own infallibility has not advanced either his own career or his Prime Minister’s.

In the meantime, press hacks flock to admire Turnbull’s new baby- his you-beaut triple decker anti-rorting authority. Turnbull’s system fix gets a massive spin, happily diverting us from any thought of adding up the rorts or forming the view that, in Sussan Ley’s case, here dies a scapegoat or taking interest in how few will actually pay anything back.

A sacking, spun as a mutually agreed resignation means there’s no need to publish PMC secretary Martin Parkinson’s review. It’s the very least that the embattled thin-lipped PM can do – apart from wearing the black spectacle frame of gravitas and sobriety who daily appears capable of less and less. The incredible shrinking PM blinks. A shrewd bit of deflection. Then bugger all the preceding reviews, he’ll set up one of his own.

Why, he’ll copy the Poms; import the British system of transparency, its Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 – as befits a staunch republican. He’s even going to set up an Inquisitor or a panel of three of them called an Independent Authority. That’ll help cut red tape and boost the mission of smaller government. But there’s more.

The independent authority will be staffed by a member experienced in auditing, a member experienced in remuneration matters, the president of the Remuneration Tribunal, a former judge and a former MP. Jobs for the boys and growth!

This is a very strong board, the PM patronises us. It will have significant independence from the Government. (Whatever that means.) MPs and senators will be able to get advice and rulings from the independent agency if they are unsure about a claim. Genius. Outsource ethnical decision making. What could possibly go wrong?

“Transparency is the key”, Turnbull says opaquely – the PM who refuses to confirm how much of his own money he spent on the election campaign – a PM who vowed never to sloganeer. We won’t get to see Martin Parkinson’s review of Ley’s rorts. His government refuses permission to professionals working on Manus or Nauru to testify to their experiences. Transparency? The Turnbull government has yet to share with the nation its legal advice it said it needed before joining the US in its illegal interference in Syria.

A 2016 independent review into parliamentary entitlements, led by retired senior public servant David Tune, found a “focus of concern is travel ‘inside entitlement’ but outside reasonable expectations and standards”, The Age reminds us. Turnbull ignores it.

Bugger Tony Abbott’s review which has been lying around the Liberal Party lunchroom, yellowing, fading, curling at the edges along with Turnbull’s own clean-up vows, now a mouldering year old. Mal must make a stand. But it won’t staunch the Turnbull government’s bleeding. And it’s got Buckley’s chance of fixing the problem.

Ms Ley who added an extra S to her name to liven up her life will be remembered more for her travel and her numerology than her service to the nation’s health or the body politic. In May 2016, her wish to lift the Medicare freeze was blocked by departmental red tape helped pave the way for Labor’s Mediscare.

She’s also become a standing joke on social media and an emblem of government excess during its automated debt recovery extortion, part of a war on the poor which has at its heart a mean-spirited denial of welfare beneficiaries right to payments which will at least keep them above the poverty line. A Melbourne Cup field of other rorters soon join Ms Ley. Each one is a nail in the political class’s coffin.

The vivid contrast between the entitlement of the ruling elite and the deprivation of the poor highlights the expanding inequality and redistribution of wealth from labour to capital; worker to boss that began with Hawke’s accord and continued as the neoliberal Keating Rudd and Gillard Labor governments traded away workers’ wages and conditions.

Ley’s final touchdown is a welcome distraction from news that Trump’s team is hustling Congress to approve its members without adequate vetting rushing through the process in a way which shows contempt for the American voter. It brought relief from chortling and guffawing over news from America of a Shower-gate scandal in which Russian agents, it is said, compiled a dossier of compromising dealings on the president-elect including The Donald’s alleged dalliance with Russian prostitutes and deviant sexual preferences

But now Turnbull must rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, as former Health Minister Tony Abbott loiters with intent in the public eye. Abbott backers are active. Turnbull drops National Party Deputy Fiona Nash’s name. As Assistant Health minister, Ms Nash took down a healthy food rating website on the advice of her Chief of Staff Alistair Furnivall.

Mr Furnivall is married to junk food lobbyist Tracey Cain, sole director and secretary of Australian Public Affairs which represents the Australian Beverages Council and Mondelez Australia, which owns Kraft, Cadbury and Oreo brands, among others.

By Sunday, he’s giving the impression that the impeccable Arthur “see no donors” Sinodinos will get the nod. Sinodinos was questioned by NSW ICAC in 2014 but couldn’t recall, despite being a director of Australian Water Holdings, an Eddie Obeid company, on a salary of $200,000 a year for three years, what he did beyond the odd meeting and checking his bank account.

Sussan Ley is all done and dusted now that her resignation is in. Yet her trip to the Gold Coast, after a meeting selling prescriptions in Brisbane, to snap up a $795 000 apartment on the spur of the moment is not all it seems.

In fact, her bargain buy turns out to be a carefully planned purchase in which the Main Street apartment owner, Martin Henry Corkery proprietor of Children First, a child care business and a big donor who gave the Queensland Liberal Party $50,000 in 2011, sold the property at a loss to the MP. Doubtless he took pity on the impoverished Cabinet Minister.

Corkery, who disavows all knowledge of who was buying what, received a $109,977 grant for his day care business when Ley was assistant Education Minister.

Furthermore, a retired couple on the Gold Coast Hinterland helpfully come forward to claim Ms Ley made an unsuccessful bid on their house nine months before she purchased the apartment.

Ley should stand aside until the two inquiries , one by Finance and one by Martin Parkinson of the PMC under way are completed. All overpayments should be paid back with ten per cent recovery fee under the same terms and conditions as apply to Centrelink beneficiaries. The media should be encouraged to drop its spin that Arthur Sindodinos has been cleared. The report, released September last year does not exonerate Mr Sinodinos.

Operation Credo is yet to deliver its report. Happily, NSW’s Baird government made amendments to ICAC last November which are widely tipped to help Mr Sinodinos while a current review of laws banning property and other specified investors to make donations could clear things up nicely.

Despite his sacrifice of Sussan Ley, Malcolm Turnbull begins 2017 badly wounded by revelations not only of endemic rorting but of a political caste made up of ministers such as Steve Ciobo who don’t see a problem with pretending that their holidays or Grand Final tickets are for business and their own and their families’ recreation. Nor will it help him with the perfect storm brewing as a result of the Centrelink clawback debacle and the rising discontent spread amongst pensioners by changes to the assets test.

Most damaging of all, however, and irreparable is the disconnect revealed between his ministers and the Australian people in comments from the likes of Alan Tudge and Barnaby Joyce which indicate a damning lack of empathy if not a contempt for the welfare of ordinary people in a society which wealth is increasingly in the hands of the elite.

Above all, a government which promised openness, transparency and consultation has opted instead for secrecy, lies and diktat. No staged press conference, fake news, spin, arranged resignation or any other diversion can alter one jot the right of the people to a fair and just society; to the truth, Mr Turnbull.

This article was originally published on Urban Wronski.

 

Watch this space in 2017

By Ken Wolff

As with most political issues, the following few questions are inter-related: Turnbull’s future may well depend on the economy, on whether or not a new conservative party forms and whether there is a Trump-inspired trade or currency war between China and the US; our economy may well depend on what Trump does in relation to China, let alone whether Morrison displays any understanding of economics; and so on.

Will the Australian economy improve or continue to stagnate?

In December we had the news that the Australian economy had contracted by 0.5% in the September quarter. Most of the pundits do not expect that to be repeated in the December quarter, which means we would avoid a recession (which requires two consecutive quarters of contraction).

On the other hand, commodity prices are still weak, although better than they were, and if a US/China trade war erupts may weaken again. Every reduction in commodity prices flows through a large segment of our economy, affecting the supporting businesses and often, through reductions in the workforce, local businesses, and the impact then multiplies ultimately affecting government revenue. The Christmas season may help us avoid a ‘technical recession’ (that magical six months) but will we see another quarter or two of contraction during 2017?

This year will also see the end of car manufacturing in Australia. That has implications across a number of industries and, as some commentators have noted, it has been car manufacturing that has driven much of the technological innovation in the manufacturing sector. Turnbull’s ‘innovative and agile’ economy may become a little more wobbly as a result.

The end of car manufacturing will lead to increased unemployment, not only in the car industry but in the companies that previously relied on providing parts to that industry. Couple that with the lack of wages growth (the lowest since records have been kept) and the government will be losing more in income tax revenue and paying more in unemployment benefit, making it that much more difficult to achieve its stated aim of bringing the budget back to surplus.

The economy did not go well in 2016 and the prospect for 2017 isn’t all that good. Even in his MYEFO in December, Morrison lowered the estimated rate of economic growth for both financial year 2016‒17 and 2017‒18. The new forecast rate of growth isn’t even enough to absorb new entrants into the workforce (usually accepted as about 3%) and that is without considering that the economic growth forecasts for the past few years have proven optimistic. Certainly don’t expect a boom year but how bad it may be we will have to wait and see.

Will Scott Morrison ever understand the budget?

Ever since the Abbott/Turnbull government was elected, and returned last year, the government’s budget deficit has continued to grow. Low commodity prices, over which the government has no control, and slow wages growth, which government policies have actually promoted, have not helped.

Morrison, however, continues to focus on government spending rather than revenue raising. Although he has backed away somewhat from his earlier statement that the government had a spending problem not a revenue problem, his actions have remained focused on reducing spending. (I won’t get into the MMT argument here.)

The government has ignored the opportunity to borrow money at historically low interest rates to fund infrastructure. Although it is now talking more about infrastructure, it appears it may be at a time when interest rates could be on the rise again — US interest rates are certainly likely to rise during 2017 which may force some other countries to raise theirs in order to maintain their currency.

Our Reserve Bank still has capacity to reduce interest rates (although such reductions have done nothing to stimulate the economy so far). If it does reduce interest rates, and the US increases rates, the Australian dollar is likely to drop in value. The government will claim that helps exporters but it will increase the price of imports which may not help our ‘terms of trade’ and will also potentially lower our living standards by making imported consumer goods more expensive at a time when wages are barely growing — not something that would enhance the government’s electoral appeal.

Turnbull’s ‘innovative and agile’ economy and the promise of company tax cuts — which he continues to espouse despite it being unlikely to pass the Senate — are not issues that inspire the average voter. If any benefits are to flow to the economy from such ‘policies’, they will be well beyond the next election, so Turnbull and Morrison can’t look there for short term budget improvements but they seem to have no other plans to help the economy and by implication the average voter.

Will Morrison and Turnbull finally concede that they also need to raise revenue in the next budget? That will be one to watch although I expect that, if so, they will do their best to obscure the fact.

Will there be a new conservative party?

Cory Bernardi is creating a nation-wide conservative movement but not yet formally a new conservative party. It will be interesting to watch where that goes in 2017 and whether it turns into a fully-fledged political party.

The Liberal party will no doubt do its best to stop it happening as it would further split the conservative vote, although that may not be an issue until the next federal election. If such a party comes into being during 2017, it could have serious implications for the government because it has only a one seat majority in the House of Representatives. Even if only one or two Liberal or National members in the House were attracted to the new party that would create a situation where not only does the government have to negotiate with crossbenchers in the Senate but also in the House to have legislation passed. Although the conservatives already seem to wield considerable influence in the Liberal party room, if they held the balance of power in the House, that could actually increase their influence. That may even be a consideration in the formation of such a party: if they wish to create Australia in their conservative image, having a couple of members in the current House could help them achieve that, or force Turnbull to another election earlier than he would wish.

The electoral implications are that the conservative vote could be split between the Liberals, One Nation, the Nationals and the new party, leaving open the possibility that Labor would lead on first preference votes in more House of Representative seats and have an improved chance of winning them. And it is likely that a proportion of the preferences for a new conservative party would flow to One Nation (and vice versa) before they flowed to the Liberals, so it would be very interesting.

The timing of the creation of such a party could be determined by the election timetable. The earliest a federal election can be called, other than another double dissolution, is August 2018 but such a party may like to test its electoral appeal at a state election. WA has an election in March which now seems too soon to establish the party and create an organisation geared for an election. SA goes in March 2018 and the earliest Queensland and Tasmania can go to an election is April 2018 and May 2018 respectively: so to be ready to contest one of those the new party would have to be created no later than the latter half of this year.

Will Turnbull remain prime minister?

Personally I think he will in 2017 but 2018 may be a different story — unless he voluntarily decides to toss in the towel, deciding it is just too difficult to govern his fractious coalition and cope with the constant negotiation with the Senate crossbenchers (and potentially House cross benchers) to have legislation passed.

As indicated above the earliest an election can be called is August 2018. I doubt he would dare have another double dissolution before then as that would not go down well with the electorate (but if he loses members in the House to a new conservative party he may be forced to). But if the economy continues to stagnate, or underperform as a result of a US/China trade war, that will reflect on the government, as economic performance always does even if the government has little real control over many aspects of the economy, and he may well foresee that he cannot win the next election — although he could leave an election as late as possible (May 2019) in hope that things will improve. Much will depend on his own vanity and desire to be prime minister or whether he sees a short stint as having achieved his ambition.

Another key factor will be the possible creation of a new conservative party. For Turnbull that could be both a blessing and a curse. A ‘curse’ for the reasons described above but a ‘blessing’ if it freed him to express more of his liberal philosophy rather than the conservative agenda. A Malcolm Turnbull who again expressed liberal views would probably reignite his support in the electorate but then both he and the Liberal party would need to decide what to do about it. While a more liberal Turnbull may attract votes, it may be just as difficult to form government if a new conservative party also attracts votes: in fact, a more liberal Turnbull may draw some votes from Labor and the Greens while some of the Liberal base goes to the new conservative party — that would really redefine the political landscape in Australia. It could also lead to a minority government and I doubt Turnbull would want to be in that situation.

Turnbull will have much to ponder particularly in the latter half of the year unless there is an unlikely improvement in the economy and unless the Liberal party is able to forestall the formation of a new conservative party or even the growth of conservatism in its own ranks. Will Turnbull want to continue to lead unless those things come to pass? Will the conservatives in the party room decide to move against him for a genuinely committed conservative leader rather than one who panders to them only to keep the job? After all, the result of the 2016 election means Turnbull does not lead from a position of strength.

Abbott has spoken against the rise of a new party and will some in the Liberal party see Tony Abbott as the one who can provide a bulwark against defections to a new conservative party or even its creation? Although perhaps not intended, the pressure created by threats of a new conservative party may well enhance the chance of an Abbott return to counter it.

Will Trump really threaten the world as we know it?

While Trump may cause problems for the US with his apparently contradictory promises to halve the company tax rate, spend billions on infrastructure and improve the US budget bottom line, their impact on Australia will play out indirectly through the international financial system. Of more direct consequence to Australia could be his trade and foreign policies, particularly relating to China.

Trump may wish to be more friendly with Putin and Russia but he will have to remember that China and Russia are still close, if not as close as once they were. He also sees North Korea as a threat but will have little scope to do anything about it without Chinese support although he thinks that using trade as a lever may also force China to act. He may think he is a good negotiator but he and his appointees will run up against expert negotiators and some, like the Chinese, are certainly willing to play the ‘long game’, something which Trump and his ilk seem unable to do.

Australia may continue sitting on the fence and use ‘diplomatic speak’ to suggest that differences should be resolved diplomatically but that may become more difficult under a Trump presidency. Will Australia be forced to side with either the US or China on some key issue? That will be a difficult position for Australia given that they are two of our biggest trading partners.

On trade, Trump is keen to scrap US involvement in the TPP which will effectively be its demise. Turnbull has consistently insisted that the TPP is essential to Australia’s future, so what will its demise mean for that future? It will be another piece of Turnbull’s economic plan that fails to materialise — which in the case of the TPP may not be a bad thing.

The main concern is a potential trade war between China and the US. If the US becomes more protectionist and imposes tariffs on Chinese imports, that may reduce Chinese production which in turn will reduce demand for Australian resources, with all the economic consequences that implies. It could also mean that China sends more cheap goods to Australia that formerly went to the US and that could further undermine what manufacturing we have left unless we also declare that they are ‘dumping’ goods in Australia and impose punitive tariffs which will essentially be biting the hand that feeds us. If this scenario unfolds, Australia will be in a difficult place economically and in how to respond to the challenges it throws up.

In turn, it may also mean that China pays more attention than it already does to developing nations in Africa and the Pacific and that will have foreign policy implications for Australia. We have been cutting our foreign aid budget but if China redirects its effort, we may be forced to do more in that area or accept further growth of Chinese influence in the region — which way will we go?

Conclusion

The above are just a few of the questions that could arise during 2017.

Others include:

  • Will the housing bubble burst and the construction boom come to an end?
  • What will be the effect if we lose our AAA credit rating, not just for government but for our banks?
  • How will Australia deal with Brexit and the need to negotiate separate trade deals with the EU and the UK?
  • How will we address problems meeting our climate change commitments under the Paris agreement?

And of course there are the perennials such as how we handle refugees and Australian Muslims which will be influenced by the rise of the conservative forces.

It may prove to be an interesting year both here in Australia and internationally.

What do you think?

What are your answers to the questions?

What other questions will Australia face in 2017?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Where is our democracy heading?

By Kyran O’Dwyer

In terms of the changes facing modern society, the process of change by erosion presents as the greatest threat, in my opinion. We have had an erosion of trust in our public officials, caused by their all too frequent abuses of the very trust upon which they are reliant. We have had an erosion of trust in our public institutions, caused by their frequent abuses of the very rules they are obliged to uphold and protect.

The greatest threat posed by erosion is not that the change occurs, but that the change occurs gradually, over time. The change is not noticeable on a daily basis, but at the end of a year, a decade, a century, you suddenly notice all that has eroded away. You suddenly realise what you had, only because you suddenly realise it has gone.

The ‘progressive’ government of the 70s were heady days. Criticisms at the time ranged from ‘trying to do too much, too soon’ to ‘not doing enough, quickly enough’. Whitlam’s changes were social changes, transitioning a society from the old Menzian thinking of the 60’s to the new thinking of the 70s. Whitlam was able to achieve this change not just because it had popular support. He spent years formulating policy and explaining it to the constituents, modifying it when necessary. “It’s Time” resonated with them as it attempted to enshrine basic standards for health, education, welfare, equality under the law. Basic standards for everyone. It was time to understand that women aren’t chattels, that our First People are our First People, that education is an investment that yields far greater returns than any corporation could ever dream of, that health and access to universal health care was a solid foundation upon which to build a healthy society, that a legal system had to be accessible to all if it was to have any value (let alone merit), that social ‘safety nets’ aren’t welfare as much as they are insurance taken out by society to ensure the safety of those who are most vulnerable.

It was a time when Australian’s took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to protest an indefensible ‘war’, in righteous indignation of what their government had committed them to.

It was a time when Australian’s not only developed an independent conscience, but demanded that their collective conscience be heard.

In the modern context, you have the likes of Corbyn and Sanders. Both of whom formulated much of their policy based on what their constituents wanted. Both of whom appeared to have won the fight for votes, but lost the war with ‘the establishment’.

The problem is that all of those hard won standards have eroded away. Gradually, over time, the ‘conservative’ elements have repeatedly established bulwarks against change, by stealth.

In my opinion, ‘conservatives’ don’t have policies. They have nothing more than ideology, devoid of substance, fact, evidence. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Can you imagine any politician or political party going into an election saying “Medicare will go”, “Pensions will go”, “Your rights, under the law, will go”, “There will be no National Broadcaster”, “Unions will go”, “Universal education will go”. The list is long, but the point remains the same. No politician or political party would do it.

The likes of the IPA/LNP know this. Their plan is to do it by stealth. Erode the protections, bit by bit, and hope no one notices. When MSM are on-side, there is an endless supply of distractions, blame shifting, obfuscation and outright deceit.

Can you imagine how many votes a politician or a political party would get if their ‘manifesto’ mirrored the infamous IPA Wishlist? A wishlist so blatantly partisan to corporate greed and removal of oversight that it would be unpalatable to even the most uneducated of voters?

A manifesto justified with a faux truth. “Be like Gough” was meant to create the illusion that it was, somehow, a social policy, rather than what it really was, an anti-social policy. That it was, somehow, a catalyst for change that would benefit the many.

As opposed to its real intent, protecting ‘the few’ and their outrageous fortunes, their sense of entitlement and their complete lack of accountability for any ‘adverse’ outcomes resulting from their rampant greed.

In its opening paragraphs is this gem:

“No prime minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam. The key is that he did it in less than three years. In a flurry of frantic activity, Whitlam established universal healthcare, effectively nationalised higher education with free tuition, and massively increased public sector salaries. He more than doubled the size of cabinet from 12 ministers to 27.”

If you need to look at the IPA wishlist, find it yourself. Its promotion is not my intent.
In essence, it promotes an idiotic notion. That only by empowering ‘the few’ can we progress as ‘a whole’. That we not only need to empower them, but to protect them by removing any oversight or accountability.

The problem with the first Abbott/Hockey budget wasn’t the ‘obstructionist Senate’. It was the crappy content of the budget.

There was an observation in a recent broadcast on a ‘religion and ethics’ radio show. It suggested that the global push for basic global rights (of all sorts) in the 70’s was met with a fierce attack from the likes of Reagan and Thatcher, promoting corporatocracy over society. Secrecy over transparency.

The observation that was interesting was that the ‘progressives’ became defensive of the hard won rights, rather than openly attacking the idiotic notion that a corporation could ever be more valuable than a society.

Since that time, the ‘progressives’ have relinquished rights on a gradual basis, the erosion occurring gradually under the relentless waves of ‘conservatism’.

The time to draw a line in the sand and say “No more” has long passed. The erosion has been so great that there is no possibility of a ‘retaining wall’ doing any good. It’s time for reclamation.

In a recent three part series on The AIMN, “Bill ‘Horten – Labor’s Agenda”, John Lord offered something that has been missing from so much commentary. Not just an alternative to ‘what is’, but an opportunity to define ‘what can be’. Marcus Champ offered similar aspiration with “What if we had a better government” and Steve Laing’s “Can you beat a stacked deck” rounded out the trifecta.

One of Mr Lord’s comments pertained to the Constitution.

“We undertake to set up a people’s representative group to review the constitution over the next two years and take its recommendations to the next election.”

Our current Constitution, the ‘rule book’ of our society, is more concerned with the definition of federation than with the welfare of our society. Its lack of reference to any basic human rights, other than in an abstract form, is a sad reflection of where we are today.

By rewriting it, we have an opportunity to not only change the current political malaise, but to ensure that there will be no threat to the hard won rights we all deserve, through erosion.

If it starts with a Charter of Human Rights for every Australian, it can ensure a fundamental right to equality under the law. If that Charter of Human Rights includes fundamental rights of health, education and opportunity, it can eliminate the constant need for vigilance against the incessant erosion of those rights.

It has always struck me as idiotic that our current ‘entitlements’ are dependent on our geography. That our access to healthcare, education, the law, public transport, et cetera, changes merely because of which state or territory you may reside in. Changing the Constitution requires a referendum and is, historically, NFG (‘no good’, with an expletive in between). Rewriting it allows us to dispense with so much ridiculous inequity.

The ramifications of such change are profound. As are the benefits.

For decades now we have been told that there are different rules for different people or groups. Even more obscenely, we are told that this is as it should be. By rewriting our fundamental ‘rule book’, we have the unique opportunity of not just effecting change, but of protecting that change until such time as we, the people, think it’s OK to do so.

You may well call me a dreamer, but dreams are far better than nightmares. When we are living the nightmare, a dream can’t hurt, can it?

What would you put in our new Constitution? A unique opportunity to dispense with the politics of celebrity, identity, ideology and replace them with fundamental protections, for ‘we’, the ‘people’. Rewriting is far more realistic than amending. Surely?

 

Fake news? We should be so lucky.

By James Moylan

It has been interesting to read the Australian Press report on the Fake News scandal breaking in the US. The hypocrisy is astounding but not unexpected. At least some of the mainstream press agencies in America occasionally try to report the facts without resorting to spin; in Australia all we have is Fake News. 24/7. Year in year out.

Our mainstream press is owned, lock stock and barrel, by big corporations. Yet Aussies seem to be more than happy to stick their snouts into the rotting pile of garbage they spew out every day.

‘Tut-tut’ we say as we read a report about Mr Trump threatening to build a wall on the Mexican border, while our government is running a hell-hole concentration camp on a tropical island nearby.

‘Horrifying’ we comment over our morning coffee as we read of neo-Nazi sympathisers on the fringes of the American election campaign, while we elect a bunch of neo-Nazi sympathisers to our Senate and watch as our government fawns all over them.

‘Only in America’ we wryly observe as we watch the newly sworn in US Senate try to dismantle Obamacare, while our government has been slowly throttling Medicare, attacks the unemployed, removes dental assistance for the poor, defunds Legal Aid, and spends an entire term of government sacking public servants, stripping away their entitlements, and refusing even modest wage rises.

‘Thank God we’re are Aussies’ we sigh as we read about Trump stacking his cabinet with rich appointees with vested interests, while our government is being run by an ex-merchant banker who could likely buy and sell  Donald Trump.

‘The President won’t release his Tax Returns’ scream the headlines in our biggest papers, while our PM keeps a billion or so dollars earned from being a corporate raider in secret bank accounts in overseas tax-havens.

We sold our press to the top end of town long ago. Fake news? We should be so lucky. In Australia we live in a bubble where our press assures us, every day, that up is down and the right is always right. At least in America they actually get to read some genuine reporting every now and again. In our country, when a corrupt multi-national mining conglomerate buys the rights to build the biggest coalmine in the world, and the Qld government does its best to give them an interest free loan of one billion dollars of our money to construct a rail link, to ship our coal to non-existent Indian markets; the response has been silence. Even a little bit of fake news regarding these matters would be better than none.

When a Cabinet Minister is caught blatantly rorting her expenses so she can flutter on our out-of-control property market; the front page of the Australian spends a full week excoriating the leader of the opposition for daring to use his parliamentary expenses to bring his family along with him while campaigning for government. Fake news? ‘How horrifying’ we mutter. Yet in Australia all we have is propaganda.

Every day all our mainstream news outlets are singing from the same hymnal about how we need to further entrench the influence of the rich and powerful. Terms like ‘tax reform’ have become a shorthand for cutting the taxes of the already well-off. ‘Welfare’ is depicted as a hand-out and negative gearing as a way of assisting the poor struggling masses. Centrelink is no longer an agent of national compassion but rather a method for punishing the indulgent and feckless poor for daring to interrupt the long lunch of the entitled.

We have all been taken for suckers. We have collectively rolled over and let the press barons tickle our tummies while the corporations strip mine our wide brown land and dismantle our democracy. ‘Socialism’ has become a dirty sneer that government ministers throw at anyone sitting in a gutter asking for a crust.

The unfortunate and inescapable truth is that we are living in a land that is run by big corporations, for rich owners, by entitled, bigoted, white, politicians, where the whole of the mainstream press is simply a propaganda machine devoted to distraction and disinformation. So don’t giggle at what is happening in America. They are following our lead; not the other way around.

Sometime in the next few years the card castle that is the Australian economy will come tumbling down. When the crazy over-inflated property market crashes we will find ourselves living in a country where we exported all the profits of the long mining boom, or allowed them to be funneled into the pockets of the rich, even while we let our political masters dismantle the industrial base of our country and export all of our manufacturing jobs overseas. We now live in a country in which the entire economy is built on the shifting sands of the housing market. When the property market finally deflates, as all bubbles in the history of the world have deflated, we have nothing to fall back on.

Turnbull and his ilk will still have their fortunes tucked away in hidden bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, but all the middle-class who have extended their credit cards on the basis of ludicrously over-hyped property values will suddenly discover themselves sitting next to the unemployed in a gutter. Finally the ruling class in Australia will have generated the sort of world they have dreamed about. Everyone, apart from them, will be part of the underclass. We will have hundreds of thousands of unoccupied houses across our country that will at last be affordable, yet nobody will be able to afford to live in them. The illusory savings invested in super and being managed by the top end of town will have dissipated like smoke in a breeze as our stock market crashes. Bankers and property moguls will be forced to retire; overseas. I hope you already have a big vege patch planted. It might come in handy.

Yet, even in the midst of the coming depression, our corporate press will still be willing and ready to tell us all about the latest antics of the Kardashians, and sell holidays to visit the bleached bones of the Great Barrier Reef, or invite us to invest in the latest get-rich-quick scheme. They will remain willing to endlessly tell us how our poverty is all our own fault for being a bunch of leaners not lifters.

We live in a country with the highest levels of personal debt in the first-world, with a vastly over-inflated property market, with stalling wages and no manufacturing base, where the palpable and apparent effects of global warming are visible for anyone with a pair of eyes, and where all of our mainstream press is owned by one or anther big corporation; yet we spend our days looking at America and shaking our heads?

In just a few tens of years all of the coal we have been exporting will return in the guise of climate change refugees. Directly to our north is an archipelago peopled by more than six times our total population which will be one of the first parts of the globe swamped by rising sea levels. And these refugees will all know exactly who is to blame for the global catastrophe, even if us Aussies have deliberately avoided even thinking about it.

Do you think that our children will be thanking us for the world we are bequeathing them? I look around and feel utterly ashamed of my generation.

I know that a lot of readers will be feeling indignant and be protesting that ‘it was not me’. That ‘I am not to blame’. But if we are not all collectively guilty; then who is?

‘Poor fellow my country’ does not quite sum it up. We are deep in a coal mine, wearing a blindfold, and we keep on digging. Do you think future generations will cut us a break? We will be despised. And the sad truth is that there is an awful lot to despise.

So, perhaps, before we read about Fake News in the US, and sink back further into our pool of self-righteous schadenfreude, it might be an idea to look around our own backyard and realise that most of the rest of the world rightfully considers modern-day Australia to be a land peopled with selfish, brutal, right-wing arseholes. A land where the population is happy to round up immigrants and deport them on a whim, lock up refuges in concentration camps, embrace any multi-national mining concern willing to bribe our politicians, reduce the Aboriginal population to beggars granted the right to occupy our prisons any time they feel in need of a feed, demonise any attempt to decarbonise the economy while simultaneously subsidising coal mines; and yet still peer down their long noses at the rest of the globe and call them ‘undeveloped’.

Don’t kid yourself, the majority of the world’s population looks at Australia and sees a modern day form of racial and corporate apartheid. After all; they aren’t living in a bubble.

Fake news? We should be so lucky.

 

Colin Barnett on a road to nowhere

By Tracie Aylmer

On Thursday 12 January 2017 I went to a protest in order to protect the Beeliar Wetlands. There were around 1000 of us, all acting peacefully and inclusively. We all welcomed each other, no matter what background we came from.

There were nurses, doctors, lawyers, lecturers, elderly, children, mothers, fathers, truck drivers, Indigenous protectors and advocates from far and wide. We had no gripe against the police that aggressively attacked us. We did not fight back against them, other than to pull down a temporary fence. I very much doubt the fence would have felt anything.

The media has us as rabid, raving lunatics. If the media only understood all of the reasons why we were there in our own time for free, then perhaps this farce of a ‘development’ would not go ahead. In fact, most of the community are against the Roe 8 project, but many would not know it if they only saw what the media showed them.

Colin Barnett keeps saying that trucks would get off the road if a road was built. How? This is not even logically possible. In fact, more trucks would go on the road as the road would be available. Once the toll was on the road, then obviously the trucks would use back streets, similar to what happened when the M4 in Sydney was built.  I remember being in traffic for one and a half hours going to work and one and a half hours come back home from work, just to miss the tollways. My work was around 45 minutes away without peak hour traffic to slow me down. This is what Colin Barnett is advocating for – all streets outside of the tollways being clogged up during peak hour traffic. Since Perth already has a traffic problem, creating more traffic problems obviously does not make any sense whatsoever.

He says there is no other option, than destroying the only Wetlands that Western Australia has. He has targeted the Wetlands first, in order to demolish the wildlife. He has gone over and above his own policies, thereby negating all policies within all departments, in order to try to destroy the community.

This road was supposed to stop quite a distance away from Fremantle Port, which he has decided must be privatised. It doesn’t even get to the Port, and Colin Barnett has no idea even now how it is to reach the Port. The $1.8 billion price ticket doesn’t even include how this road is meant to get to the Port. Obviously, there is going to be an incredible budget blowout, similarly to the Sydney M4 and the Brisbane Clem 7. This budget blowout has not been allocated for by any authority whatsoever. It will happen, and it will put WA in even further debt than Barnett’s complete recent mismanagement of our mining boom.

Not only is this a road to nowhere, it is a road without vision. The only real winners are Barnett’s development mates, and possibly Barnett himself. There are rumours that he has a philosophy of ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’. While I cannot comment further on this, it appears obvious that he is profiting somehow from WA’s dilemmas.

There is also another option. Not only will it be more efficient, but it will provide for thousands more jobs and give us more desperately needed trade. Since Fremantle Port is already nearing capacity, having another port will give WA the kickstart it needs to create a different type of boom. It will put more trucks on the road in a different area, thereby ensuring the trucking industry remains alive and well. It will save our Wetlands. It will give vision to a state that desperately needs it.

The community near the Outer Harbour have advised that they are desperate for Kwinana to open up. There is high unemployment in the area, and the tens of thousands of jobs in that area are much more needed than the over capacity Fremantle Port. Both communities want the Outer Harbour to exist. Much of the framework has already been completed for the Outer Harbour. All sides of politics knows it’s only a matter of time before it does exist.

Why is Colin Barnett wasting so much money on something that highly likely won’t occur anyway? His fanaticism simply does not make any sense whatsoever.

If he thinks behaving in this manner is going to give him a name that will last in his final months as Premier, he is sadly mistaken. We will make absolute sure that what has already been lost of the Wetlands can be reinstated, and that the whole project will not in its majority occur. We are very determined to keep our Wetlands. We will also be determined to make sure that his name is relegated to a footnote in our history books as one of the worst Premiers that WA has ever had.

There is an election in less than two months. As Colin Barnett is illogical, he is also unfit to remain as our Premier. Let’s kick him out. He deserves nothing less for this fiasco.

TracieTracie Aylmer – Tracie is an advocate who enjoys writing about social justice issues. From working in most facets of office work as a professional temporary for several years, to completing a postgraduate law degree and then to researching and writing about social justice, she has been a Jill of many trades. She is the most well known for writing a submission as well as the Immigration Department manuals and guidelines to the International Criminal Court, calling for the arrest of several politicians due to their crimes against humanity, as well as getting some pretty great results from the ICC.

The Sentient Adult

From F. Scott-Fitzgerald: ‘The Crack-up’

“This is what I think now: that the natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain that you are, “a constant striving” (as those people say who gain their bread by saying it) only adds to this unhappiness in the end — that end that comes to our youth and hope.”

It doesn’t do to become too cynical at a young age, THAT is best left those who reach the “winter” of one’s life and can “cheerfully” find justification for cynicism alongside their other trophies of other disappointments in life. It is one of the privileges of living a long life where one can, with experience (no matter how twisted that experience is!) talk-up justification without a youngsters interruption for one’s opinion … it’s called “booorinnng!”

Sneering Cynicism: Are you guilty?

I am hearing, especially in these rural areas where I live, an ironic twist of cynicism and naivety from the same mouths at the same time. For example, like in these cases of parliamentary privileges rorting by certain ministers.

Many in these rural areas, being “welded-on” LNP. Supporters, curled their lips in sneering cynicism when a Labor minister stepped down from his post for a $1600 B-pay done for him by a company … mumbles of “It’s what you’d expect” spat in disgust from those parched conservative lips.

Even one of “their own”, the Speaker of the House in the Gillard years; Mr. Slipper, was hounded from his position in disgrace for a cab-charge of; circa $900. Nine. Hundred. Dollars!

But THEN, when conservative  ministers (that’s plural!) are caught red-handed with their pilfering arms plunged elbow-deep into the proverbial “ministerial entitlements” cookie-jar, there is this eye blinking, ashen-faced disbelief that “one of their own” could do such a thing, even when one of their own is a fervent follower of that philosophy that believes in self-enrichment for the greater public good.

You have to wonder what the conservative public expects from the people they voted for … Mother Theresa in a banker’s suit?

I would offer a bigger fish to fry.

The underpinning foundations of political personality

In my trade of building, one learns from bitter experience (hopefully from others!) that certain types of soil can only support certain types of buildings without an injection of significant amounts of money!

For instance, the extremes of expansion and contraction of “Bay of Biscay” soils of the Adelaide plains made for the invention and development of “brick-veneer” construction after those earlier houses of solid-brick developed cracks in the walls you could drive a Mack Truck through!

One lives and learns … the same could be said (metaphorically) for people; only a certain quality of judgement can be expected or “built on” of a certain type of personality.

Which brings us straight to politics!

Cynicism: Creating an unfair imbalance

This cynicism about the intentions of politicians from BOTH sides of the House, creates an unfair imbalance between two opposing philosophies. The Conservative philosophy could, in fair comment, be considered both hypocritical and cynical in its twisted ideology of providing through Bills and Legislation passed through the House when it has power, of providing largesse and speculative opportunity for the Capitalist ideal and then laying claim to being the best friend to those in need of community support for the social welfare demographic … a contradiction in terms of intention and action, surely?

To sneer cynically at the attempts by Labor when in power to swing the public purse from Right to Left principles of governance, against extreme prejudice of conservative media broadsides that concentrate their fire to “expose” and to “ridicule” and to “demoralise” those attempts by the Labor party to bring about social equality by incremental shifts (so as not to “scare the horses” of public opinion), has to be in itself a most disgusting exercise of political cynicism bordering on sedition.

In some cases this is outright sabotage of vital communications infrastructure that benefits a foreign Media baron, and could be classed as outright treason against the people AND the State.

Then to use the Parliament to undo vital programs that give real benefit to the majority of citizens both young and aged has to be the lowest act of cynicism by the conservative parties.

Your sentient adult should stop and think

So when I hear those snorts of: “They’re both (parties) as bad as each other.” I have to wince in despair, because there has to be a time when the “sentient adult” in all of us has to stop for a moment … think about it a moment … and then realise that there IS a vast difference in both the political goals, the background lives and the policy aspirations to benefit whom and how many citizens of this nation between the two parties.  It is clearly defined by the scale of outrage against the amounts of rorting and the number of failed and dismissed ministers and members of the LNP as against Labor in these accusations …

Let’s get THAT straight.

There is a VAST difference between the arrogance of expected entitlements, the length and scale of rorting and the lenience of punishment against the scale of the crime that marks the Conservative Parties as the one most deserving of the public’s cynical “curl of lip”.

This article was written by Jaycee and originally Published on Freef’all852

 

The rise and fall of Shan Ju Lin and her 5 minutes of shame

By Erin Chew

Well that was short lived. Shan Ju Lin has been dumped in less than a month since she announced she was running as a candidate for One Nation in 2018. Her rise and fall must have broken some world records, and it should come as a relief that she is no longer afforded any publicity. However the circumstances as to how she was dumped needs to be questioned with regards to the underlying reasons as well as how she was dumped.

From day 1, Lin was not exactly secretive in expressing her views and it was clear from the start how completely problematic her drivel was. Lin was not only racist (contradictory, considering she is Asian herself), but she was also islamaphobic and homophobic. But it wasn’t the racism which got her dumped. In actual fact that racist drivel was what kept her in and attracted all the media attention she needed to spout more hate. It was also the best opportunity for Hanson and One Nation to capitalise on the “Asian” vote. Recruiting and nominating Lin was One Nation’s way of communicating that all Asian Australians need to forget all the anti-Asian remarks Hanson made back in 1996, and to support One Nation because there is one Asian Australian flying its flag. Being a party of bigots, there would be no cultural understanding and so their tactic to win over the Asian vote would be as simple as that. And sadly, Lin was a pawn in this game and used by One Nation in the most divisive way. Her by line “good Asians will like me and Pauline Hanson”, captivated the headlines and demonstrated her ignorance in understanding the intersectionality of race relations in Australia.

Interestingly, Lin’s ultimate downfall as stated earlier was not her blatant racism but was actually her big hateful mouth spouting homophobic comments on her Facebook page. In early January she posted an article on a rape trial involving two gay men with the description:

“Abnormal sex behaviour leads to abnormal crime. Gays should be treated as patients, they need to receive treatments.”

Her comments didn’t go down too well with One Nation’s Executive and her candidacy was ultimately suspended. At the time this all happened Lin was overseas in Taiwan and One Nation officials sent her a message via Facebook. However, questions arise as to why a racist political party such as One Nation is pro LGBTIQ? A party which causes divisions within Australian society supports another discriminated minority? Well the answer is pretty simple as the chief of staff to Hanson, James Ashby is a gay man, so to discriminate against the LGBTIQ community has become more of a personal attack on Ashby. You wonder though, if Ashby was not a gay man, whether Lin’s candidacy would be suspended? Was the fact that she came from an Asian background a factor in her dumping, because stereotypes dictate that Asians are an easy target in Western society? And would she have faced the same fate had she been of anglo Australian background? The answer to this is pretty simple: No! One Nation chose the easy way out and dumped Lin because it conflicted with the personal feelings of a One Nation heavy weight and their organic racial prejudice pushed their ultimate decision, whether we like it or not. This also shows the ignorance on Lin’s part in not truly understanding that she would never be accepted as an equal within One Nation. The colour of her skin will always trump how far she would rise within the party and at the end of the day she was used and abused by those she thought supported her. In saying that, her downfall has been a blessing in disguise, because another year and a bit of her drivel would not benefit the sanity of Australia, and she would cause further tensions within the Asian Australian community. But it reminds all of us Australians that One Nation is not a party for all, but only a party for some.

This experience also has hopefully taught Lin that her level of understanding of politics and her understanding of race relations in Australia is basically zero. She has run her short lived campaign based on geo politics and blurred the lines with what it means to be anti-government and what it means to being a racist. Remember, she has no party loyalties considering she has previously run as a candidate for the Bob Katter Party. Her ambition to become a politician was such a burning desire that she gave up the last semblance of dignity in her racial identity and her politics. This ultimately was her failing and this was what led to her downfall. Let’s hope this is the last time Lin’s name will be heard on the mainstream.

 

Erin Chew is Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance, and Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum.

 

Morpheus’s Draught

“Now fable night hath with her ebon’ robe,
Darken the Surface of this earthly Globe,
And drowsy Morpheus, with his leaden Key,
Locked up the doors of every mortal eye,
Come, let us fall into our wanton games…”
“Thus I tamper Poison for myself; but, were I sure to drink the baneful Draught …” (from ‘The Harleian Miscellany’).

For too long has the educated working-class, through deference to a more erudite, well-dressed and long-winded educated upper middle-class, stood to one side while those rhetoric-driven managers have manipulated the levers of governance to steer us now down a cul-de-sac of an economic and social dead-end. It is the wealthy upper class; the likes of Murdoch and Gina etc. who operate and manage the conservative politics in Australia.

Do the majority care about the working class?

I grew up, as I suppose many of you likewise, fulfilling the expected role of a many generation working-class family, slipping easily and comfortably into a trade. Others around me of the same demographic group also went into skilled trades or labour.

Very, very few came from families familiar with or able to afford tertiary education. It was within those trades  that many of us after several decades gained a knowledge of system and structure of our particular workplace, be it health, mechanics, government administration and others, or like mine; building / construction. We gained a depth of knowledge and more importantly; a nous of how we “fitted” into the structure of management.

Many of us came to understand that there was an “outside force” that had the call of employment or sacking over us, and this “management group”, backed in all encounters by any conservative government resented the presence of union representation of the working-class. They resented it because Management knows through intense education from an early age that power x a few, is no match against power x legion!

However, these isolated cases of a factory or group in conflict between union representatives and corporate management came and went outside the general concern of the majority of the population of working people. There was rarely any “bringing together” of the combined strengths of the unions to call a general strike against a government or corporations.

The attacks on working people

There must be an awakening from a sleepy acceptance of conservative governments continual attack on the working people of this nation. This includes those who are now made redundant through corp’ / govt’ outsourcing and the incompetent closing of large manufacturing enterprises. This combined with the sabotage and destruction of high-speed broadband delivery, equitable education scheme and winding down of universal health schemes demonstrates an ineptitude toward social responsibility and democracy (remember: “Of , For and By the people” ?) by an out of touch government and corporate class steeped in the theories of an out of date, foolish  and now educated to imbecility upper middle-class.

We have slept too long from the effects of “Morpheus’s draught. We – the educated working-class need to awaken and step forward to take our place at the helm of leadership of the nation. There needs be more evidence of “blue-collar” and less “white-collar” behind the navigator’s post.

By “educated”, I do not necessarily mean those multiple degrees in this or that tertiary discipline, I mean a well-read and concise knowledge of one’s “trade” gained through years of study at the foot of that most severe of mentors and masters; Labour. We need those who know and understand the complexities of domestic management on limited monies, of begetting and raising children in a safe environment of a “owned” home on limited monies. We need those who while doing this have a broader knowledge of the workings and machinations of a national psyche and of the needs of those engaged in production of goods and services outside or allied to their own workplace. This knowledge is a complimentary addition automatically gained through contact over many years with those trades allied to one’s own.

United we stand – Divided we beg

For too long have we drunk the “advising” poison of the entrepreneurial / speculative upper middle-classes, who with their blind faith in an idiot’s ideology, have driven our economy, our society, our international reputation and lastly and most damagingly our cultural spirit and our overall good nature into the depraved depths of their own personal hell!

Labor needs to stand solidly on a level dais alongside the unions and the working / producing (yes … we must begin to encompass that other side-lined working peoples; the inter-generational family small farmer/orchardist / dairy farmer ) class, and wrest back control of the nation from a merchant money-grubbing upper middle-class more interested in selling this nation and its workforce to the lowest bidder and then shifting such selfish profit away from fair and equitable taxation to an overseas tax haven most suited to their “robber-baron” status.

It’s time for the working-class to nominate those representatives more and better suited to make laws, regulations, trade agreements and governance OF, FOR and BY the many ethnic and cultural diverse peoples of this nation.

It’s Time … once again … It’s Time!

This article by ‘Jaycee’ was originally published on Freef’all852.

 

Is Andrew Laming in parliament today?

By Dave Chadwick

I’m a teacher myself but I’m not angry about Andrew Laming’s bizarre attack on my profession.

A common cliché teachers and parents use when someone fails to show the expected responsibility or maturity is to say “I’m not angry, I’m disappointed,” but I’m not even disappointed. It is not like I expect a greater level of maturity and responsibility in his social media usage. Not after Laming’s previous forays including his ill-informed comments on an outbreak of street violence in 2013 and his Facebook feud with a group called The Simpsons against the Liberals (he is pretty much following the trump playbook now that I think of it).

So I wasn’t angry or even disappointed. But I did find it bewildering, especially along with its quick retraction and replacement with a post about the importance of self-care in the workplace and teacher burnout. That’s the sort of inconsistency that David Leyonhjelm would be proud of.

All sorts of comments about the status of teachers seem to float through public discourse from time to time. Some people say teachers should be paid more. Others will argue that teachers have too many holidays. I’m just going to say I love being a teacher. It is a tremendously rewarding job, as well as being challenging and tiring. I know burnout is a problem in the profession and I think teachers who are experiencing the beginnings of this are less effective in their job. However I wouldn’t do my job any better if I was paid more.

But back to Mr Laming and some of the responses. Did I feel ‘bullied’ by his comments as some of the responses described it? Certainly not. As I said in discussing Ruth Forrest, I feel that term is often used more for impact than accuracy and would prefer to see it reserved for severe or persistent behaviours. We don’t always have to take offence at the things people say about us, even when they are unfair. It depends how much we respect the speaker. I certainly don’t have to justify myself or my profession to the man who appears intent on taking over Peter Dutton’s role as chief dog whistler for this abhorrent government and its state counterparts. There are far too many good things in life to worry about what people like Laming say about me.

It was strange and somewhat unseemly though, even for a man with Laming’s track record. Against a backdrop of expense scandals and a growing dissatisfaction over how out of touch our politicians are, he seemed to spontaneously question teacher holiday periods. And within 24 hours the post was removed and replaced with something implicitly contradictory to the connotations of his original post. I just can’t understand what he was trying to do.

Was this meant to distract us from the Centrelink fiasco or the Ley-buy scandal, which I suspect will not only be the end of the Health Minister, but will grow to focus on many others of our profligate politicians? If so, it seemed counterproductive. By questioning how many days teachers are at work, Laming begs the question of how many days politicians like himself are officially at work. I had always assumed there weren’t many sitting days for politicians, this prompted me to research the exact statistics. According to the Queensland government website, politicians like Mr Laming had to be at work for less than 50 days in 2016. That’s not a typo. The man who questioned teachers’ holidays is at work for less than a quarter of that time!

Sorry, Mr Laming, that isn’t going to shift any attention from politicians and their entitled ways. If anything, it is another moment that sharpens the focus.

This article was originally published on Quietblog.

 

Hold our politicians to account? We can only try.

By Neil Hogan

I think the time has finally arrived where we call all politicians for what they have become: parasites.

They will not change their ways until we ‘force’ them to change their ways, so I suggest we all become active players in the game of politics. Namely, as many people as possible should turn up whenever a politician is going to make a public announcement or simply appear in public – no matter which party they represent – and we make our presence seen and our voices heard. Call them for what they have become, as in ‘self-interested parasites’ until they prove otherwise. And to do this we expect they advocate for a Federal ICAC, and politician’s entitlements and expenses in line with standard business practices.

Why should they be able to:

a) be paid $270 per night to stay away from home in a house that is family owned (and probably negatively geared)

b) retire from politics (or not be re-elected) and claim their superannuation while being in other paid employment

c) retire from politics leave and immediately take up a position as a political adviser or political lobbyist. There should be at least a 5 year gap before that can happen

d) claim expenses to attend sporting events. If various sporting bodies want them to attend events, then either let the sporting body pay for it or they pay for it themselves

e) claim expenses to attend an event as a speaker. If the event wants them as a speaker, again, either let the event pay for it or they pay for it themselves

f) use anything apart from normal economy travel to attend duties in their line of work as a politician. Most businesses expect their employees to take the ‘best flight of the day’, which means they take the cheapest flight available, and no preference for a particular airline.

These are just a few of the perks that politicians abuse and I’m sure there are many more that could be added to the list, and it’s up to us to highlight them all.

This form of protest really needs to be an organised attack and maybe the Australian Unemployed Workers Union is just the right organisation to handle it. I would imagine that anyone on Newstart – which is very topical at the moment – should only be too happy to be a voice in this protest for change.

We do have a voice and we all should use it to bring about change that is fair and acceptable.

At the moment it is not fair. And it is certainly not acceptable.

 

Can you beat a stacked deck? (Part 2)

By Steve Laing

The changes in the senate rules were actually a good thing. A very good thing. By allowing a much reduced below the line preferencing, it made below the line voting realistically possible for the majority of voters for the first time. Sure, the DD plus those changes created four (now three) One Nation senators (although I’d suggest that we’d possibly have got 2 anyway – given the collapse of Palmer United, and the disaffected were always going to go to the next party of protest), but this change is the first step in what really must be the next logical step to democratize the system – getting rid of above the line senate voting. Imagine what that might do amongst the ranks of the right wing crazies where their senate seats are pretty much guaranteed through ensuring they are kept top of the list. I believe that most Labor and Greens voters are smart enough to be able to vote below the line (and indeed did so to great effect in Tasmania), but right-wingers? Not so much – the simpler the better for them (and that’s how the party members like it).

Labor’s opposition to the senate voting changes at the time was entirely political, and completely short-sighted, particularly given that up to that point they had been fully in support of such changes. Fortunately in this situation, the Greens supported the government and the legislation passed. The old rules actually suited the right wing much better. The only reason that the cross-bench didn’t support the government more in the last government was that Tony Abbott is a complete klutz (as indeed were most of his cabinet – hell, that lot couldn’t even manage to form a government in 2010 when all they had to do was convince a couple of right-leaning independents!) – Malcolm would have smarmed that cross-bench with ease. The new cross-bench, bar the faux Liberals of One Nation, is more than a little bit trickier for Mal. He has managed to get bills passed, but they have been nowhere close to the legislation he wanted to pass. Moreover once you start tinkering with one rule, you’ve actually admitted that the system is improvable, and that opens the door for more changes. By not supporting the change, Labor have given the Coalition a stick to beat them with if Labor propose any new changes in the future. Once again short-sighted politics may end up delaying essential long-term progress.

Now there is a very, very good chance that Labor will win the next election through playing the game by the current “rules”. And they will probably do it without the Greens in the lower house – though it should be noted that they may not do it without Green voters, nor Greens senators. Sure, they may have to continue bending towards the centre to get elected; continuing to prop up private schools, continuing the lie that private health insurance makes financial sense, that propping up foreign owned coal miners is acceptable, even continuing offshore detention as they have now tied themselves to the Coalition’s “stopping drownings at sea” narrative.

But so what? If Labor don’t have the power to make any decent policies stick long-term, (as you can bet they will be repealed when the Coalition get back in again), what is the point? Labor policy enactment is increasingly an exercise in hope and futility.

What Labor (or if I may be broader – “progressive politicians and their supporters) need to do is not just look to how to win the next election, but to win the next election such that they can make the necessary changes in the rules, such that they stop favouring those on the right getting back into power so they can look after their mates at the expense of the majority of the electorate. If Labor don’t change the rule-book, sure they may continue to win an election or two, but then what? Because as far as I can see, much of what has been achieved by Labor governments over the last fifty years has been wound down, or is under attack. So have they really achieved much? Or has it simply been that democracy as it exists in the Westminster system, is an illusion designed to keep the majority compliant, whilst the elites remain very much in control, their capital and power expanding at the expense of everyone else’s?

And finally if we haven’t already passed the point of no return on climate change, we are going to very soon, so structural changes in governance need to happen soon. We simply cannot afford for another government like the muppets we currently have being given the reins again. This isn’t to say that I don’t want the perspectives of those from the right being either heard, and in certain cases enacted – contrary to what those on the right think, promoting diversity includes being tolerant and inclusive of those with diverse views (except the intolerant views – there really is no place for such). If we are to have a future that is people, rather than money, centric – changes in the way we are governed must occur. Even the Silver Bodgie says so.

So here is the big question. Are those of us who consider our viewpoint progressive, who are more concerned about the needs of the many than of the few, going to push those in the Labor party (given they are the ones most likely to get the next chance to be in the big chair), but indeed any party, who truly believes in a truer and fairer democracy, to make the necessary changes to help us break out of a system that continuously fails to deliver for the citizens that it is supposed to be working for? Or do we continue to play the role of compliant pawns, providing the veneer of democratic respectability to an increasingly brazen kleptocracy?

So whilst I am more than happy for Labor to have policies to get the economy under control, create more jobs, put more money into healthcare and public education, and the rest, the absolute priority has to be to make changes to the system to make it more representative, to make it less combative, to implement better processes to improve problem solving and build solutions that are not only effective, but also collaborative, and most importantly will stop them being unwound by the next group of lobby controlled puppets of the 0.1%.

This means the Westminster system, and the way that its members are elected, need to change significantly. If Labor truly wants to stop the populist backlash to right-wing politicians who will promise them the world, but will actually deliver very little, they need to find ways to give voters much greater choice in the candidates they can vote for, as well as ideally also have some direct input into voting for the countries leader. The current situation whereby self-invested cabals decide who will be the representatives that can be voted for, and then ultimately who the leader of the country will be, is increasingly being recognized for the sham that it is. We already know that Coalition members are entirely self-interested, but what about those on the left?  Is there loyalty to the people, or is it actually primarily to the party?

Changing the processes of government to improve the problem solving process (which is really what government are there to do) is actually not that difficult. Don’t simply announce the legislation, but involve other parliamentarians of other parties in the process of developing it. Remember they all represent some part of the community. Such that when you do present the legislation into parliament you’ve already got some support outside the party, identified potential issues and have recognized mechanisms to deal with them. Sure, the Coalition won’t play ball, but at least the public will get the opportunity to see that. They may be “in opposition”, but they are still paid by the people to do some work on their behalf, and work they should.

If we don’t, we will continue to get the same kind of clusterfluck that was the Backpacker tax. Seriously, if that is how parliamentarians of all persuasions believe is an appropriate manner to resolve a minor problem, then we really are right royally screwed in believing they are capable of determining a decent solution to a major one. Of course, the right are more than happy to continue to do things this way. It plays to their limited abilities, safe in the knowledge of the cash rewards that will be put their way when they finally leave. They truly don’t care that the country will keep spiraling downwards as they do – as long as they are in power, and Labor aren’t.

And changing the election system to give the voters not only a greater say in who their representatives should be, but also encouraging more of the many capable people there are in Australian society to stand as candidates who are genuine contenders without having to sell their soul (and loyalty) to a political party first, is also entirely possible. If electors can work with below the line senate voting, we can truly change how elections are run, and significantly take away the advantages in the rules that those on the right rely on to give them the whip hand.

How do I know? Because as a problem solver, I’ve come up with a new election process that is more representative of the electors wishes, but also has mechanisms of government that adapts how legislation is developed to include a much wider range of perspectives to improve the quality and also the acceptability of such to the general public.  Now at this point, I know the system I’m developing isn’t perfect, and whilst I have already recognized some of the possible issues, know there will be more that I haven’t considered. Fortunately I happen to know this online community that I am sure will be willing to help with critical feedback and more ideas. And I WILL get round to finish writing it up, as long as I can keep away from the bloody gaming, of course.

Of course, I should end this article here. But I found that I can’t. You see perhaps my biggest concern is that the necessary change, the “progress”, simply won’t occur. At times it seems to be that Labor politicians, and indeed perhaps even the Greens, are actually more invested in the process than the outcome. Is the enjoyment of playing the game; the personal power, importance, and celebrity that comes with being a federal politician; not forgetting the not unpleasant salary and perks; actually as big, or perhaps a bigger motivator than the outcome that they are supposed to be trying to achieve? How many have been seduced by “Canberra”?

Sure Labor certainly look like they want to win the next election, and their clever antics in the chamber are certainly moving things in that direction, but in the meantime the country is going to the dogs and who knows what tricks the Coalition will have up their sleeves for the next election. And I already see this commonly in forums and comments sections, where Labor supporters attack Greens supporters, despite the stated intention that the most important thing is who is kicked out, not who actually gets in. Replacing one tyranny with another of a different colour is but a temporary solution, and if we progressives can’t recognize this, then meaningful change simply won’t occur. And if the world indeed is going to get better, that critical change has to take place must be in the key institution that is meant to look after us, the one that our progressive forebears; the chartists, the trade unionists, the suffragettes, the AAF and FCAA, fought and sometimes died to achieve our representation at – our democratic parliament – and it is our right and duty to ensure that it works to properly represent the rights of the people of this country rather than the desires of the few. And when it doesn’t, to change it till it does. The evidence is plain to see that the current rules are not in the favour of the many, but of the few, and the few are prepared to fight tooth and nail to keep it that way.

You see in my opinion there was one trump card that Labor could have played at the last election that would have been enough to get the extra votes they needed – to push for a Federal ICAC – an opportunity to drain the swamp, as Trump would put it. One thing I do know talking to people of almost every political persuasion, is that they all believe “pollies” are at it. We know that Coalition members wear their entitlements almost as a badge of honour, but Labor? Well Labor’s lack of commitment to the creation of this one critical institution suggests that they either have stuff to hide, or perhaps they have really just become another part of the “few”, publicly fighting the good fight, but quietly enjoying the perks and the prestige, seduced by the glamour of the historic institution, and slowly institutionalized into a process that is increasingly unrepresentative of the wishes of the people it is supposed to look after. Have they indeed, become part of the problem? And if Labor haven’t realized that the rise of Trump, of Hansen, and Brexit aren’t due to policy, but a fundamental and growing distrust in the system and the “elites” that are in it, then they’ve learned nothing from the last election at all.  Without wanting to improve those critical systems of government, and make them more democratic and inclusive, I’m afraid that like it or not, they are part of the problem, more interested in winning the battles, but continuing to lose the war.

Steve LaingSteve Laing – Steve is unaligned to any particular party, but cognizant of the reality that people are our biggest asset, so it makes sense to look after them. Uncomfortable with the ineptitude that permeates our current government, and yet sees such as the prevailing condition in our political system. Over the years Steve has worked for a number of different businesses, both corporate and small, and has experienced good and bad “policy” development and decision making, and seen the outcomes of such. Steve also has his own blog: www.makeourvoiceheard.com.

 

Tilting at the Windmills of Power: Mainstream Religions in the Trump Era

By Denis Bright

From Cervantes’ novel we get the English idiom “Tilting at Windmills”. Tilting or jousting, like our hero Quixote, in futile battles against imaginary enemies. “Tilting at Windmills” sometimes describes confrontations against enemies incorrectly perceived, or action based on misinterpreted idealistic or heroic justification (http://www.craigdunstan.net/).  

As US Presidential Inauguration Day approaches, mainstream US religious communities might consider returning to that spirit of protest which brought liberation theology to the forefront in the 1960s.  This change from a largely guided neutrality on social justice issues and commitment to peaceful development would change politics forever. The change might also assist in revitalising ageing democracies which no longer inspire enthusiastic participation.

Recent voting patterns in both the US and Australia do suggest that political conservatives have a strong following amongst regular churchgoers. President-elect Trump received only 33 percent support from US voters who did not attend church according to the introductory Pew Institute survey.

Regular church-goers rewarded Trump with 53 percent support and 50 percent from occasional church goers.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir will be back on the beat at outside Congress for the presidential inaugurations on 20 January 2017 unless the event produces a snow blizzard or a flood of  protesters or both:

“The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a great tradition of performing at the inaugurals of U.S. presidents,“ said Ron Jarrett, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. ”Singing the music of America is one of the things we do best. We are honored to be able to serve our country by providing music for the inauguration of our next president.“

Members of the 360-member volunteer choir will travel to the nation’s capital for the historic event.

The choir has previously sung at the inaugurals of five other U.S. presidents, including the official swearing-in ceremonies for George H. W. Bush (1989), Richard M. Nixon (1969), and Lyndon B. Johnson (1965). They performed in inaugural parades for George W. Bush (2001), George H. W. Bush (1989), and Ronald W. Reagan (1981).

When the choir sang its signature song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during the inaugural parade for President Reagan in 1981, he dubbed the choir “America’s Choir.” President George H. W. Bush called the choir “a national treasure” during his swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol in 1989. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Online 22 December 2016).

More research is needed to complete the picture in a US electorate where voting is not compulsory in a country with a myriad of faith congregations including significant non-Christian communities.

The voting patterns amongst Jewish Americans for example are quite complex with a majority of liberal US Jews supporting Hillary Clinton.

Acclaimed conservative leaders like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan have always harnessed the religious right to their service.

It was Richard Nixon who triumphed in the unwinnable election of 1968 with the support of a silent middle class majority. His campaign targeted middle class voters who were affronted by the ongoing protests over civil rights issues and anti-war sentiment.

After a somewhat close result in 1968, Richard Nixon was able to carry all states but Massachusetts in 1972.

The Nixon magic soon ended in disgrace and impeachment over the break-in to the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.

However, the shrill appeal of right wing populism was successfully exported from the US to Israel and the four anglo-democracies. Electoral success followed for Malcolm Fraser, Margaret Thatcher, Joe Clark (Canada) and Robert Muldoon (New Zealand).

In Israel, Menachem Begin achieved government for Likud in 1977 with the support of the religious right. The 1977 election ended a succession of right wing Israeli Labour Coalitions Governments right back to 1949.

It was this Likud Government which was responsible for the Vela Incident of 22 September 1979. This was a joint Israeli-South African nuclear test in the roaring forties zone between the French Crozet Islands and the South African Territory of Prince Edward Islands.

Years later Israeli Labor made subtle political mistake of introducing a separate ballot for an executive style of Prime Minister. This new electoral arrangement operated for the first time in 1996.

This change gave oxygen to a successful populist campaign by Benjamin Netanyahu. His right-wing Likud Party has lost only one election since 1996.

The current Likud Government of Israel holds office with a primary vote of only 23.4 percent. Wheeling and dealing with religious and secular right parties is always necessary for Likud to form government.

The preferred republican electoral model favoured Malcolm Turnbull for Australia could take our country in such unstable directions. It always gives a popular LNP leader the chance to cling onto minority government with the support of far right parties.

Conservative leaders like Robert Menzies to John Howard have always implied that LNP policies are the most appropriate policies for mainstream faith communities.

In most electorates, the LNP has an exchange of preferences with the religious right which includes s Family First, Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats or Australian Christians in WA.

The Labor Movement has moved to address this problem through the formation of the Queensland Community Alliance.

“We are an alliance of churches, mosques and other faith groups coming together with charities, unions, community organisations and ethnic associations to work together for the common good.” ( Queensland Community Alliance Online 2017).

Far from providing support of the far right of politics, many mainstream theologians might point out that tilting at windmills for social justice is an ancient religious imperative in the Christian tradition.

Theological Progressivism in Action

In the conservative electorate of Ryan in Brisbane, the Uniting Church in Indooroopilly has been active in supporting the Refugee Collective. This faith community has talked up the value of social justice, indigenous and environmental campaigns.

Visitors to the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre could hardly miss the electronic and hand printed signs on such issues.

Image from Refugee Action Collective Online

Representatives of the Indooroopilly Uniting Church Parish have been prominent in their support of the Refugee Action Collective in Brisbane City Square and outside Peter Dutton’s electorate Office in Brisbane North. The events are cross-denominational.

Agnostic writers like Gore Vidal (1925-2012) can and do receive moral support from mainstream religious activists at least in their commitment to peace and social justice.

Community activist Ms Freddie Steen of the Uniting Church will tilt at any inappropriate windmills of power like the LNP’s current Border Protection regime.

Why indeed should bipartisan political regression be so tolerated when thousands of refugees were accommodated under the government of Malcolm Fraser?

Historical Precedents: Involvement of Faith Communities

Writing for The Australian Left Review, Father Charlie Bowers explained how Catholic activists in Sydney had used opposition to the Vietnam War to re-orient that Church away from reflexive support for authoritarian pro-western governments during the Cold War Era.

In Sydney and beyond, progressive Catholic activists achieved considerable political traction through the formation of Catholics for Peace in 1967.

Catholics for Peace offered support to conscientious objectors to conscription and supported public rallies in Sydney against the war in Vietnam. Catholics for Peace also become involved in the Moratorium Campaign.

Even Gough Whitlam’s victory in 1972 was fiercely contested. Thirty-three seats recorded small to moderate swings against Labor. Labor’s 67 to 58 margin of victory was convincing but not an overwhelming mandate. It had been trimmed to 66-61 in the Double Dissolution election of 1974.

With the popularity of the federal LNP waning after the death of Harold Holt, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) still played a significant role in resistance to the election of Gough Whitlam. DLP support was on the rise at the 1970 senate election with 11.1 percent of the national vote and an increase from four to five DLP senators.

Even when the DLP ceased to exist as a mainstream right wing religious party, its membership and voting bloc was partly transferred to support the far-right of the Liberal Party or the National Party.

At the 1972 election for the House of Representatives, the DLP still retained 5.25 percent of the primary vote and these votes were well exercised in preference distributions in marginal seats to protect LNP members. The movement of seats in 1972 went in both directions. Labor lost Bendigo, Forrest (WA), Stirling (WA) and Sturt (SA) on DLP preferences. Potentially winnable seats like Herbert and Griffith in Queensland were retained by the LNP after the distribution of DLP preferences.

In the Townsville based seat of Herbert, the primary vote for the DLP had halved from 18.5 per cent in 1963 but its disciplined preference distribution was still a powerful political weapon in 1972.

Leading academics explained the crucial political role of far right religious parties at a symposium in 2004.

Speaking to the Australasian Study of Parliament Group at Parliament House in Brisbane on 22 November 2004, Dr Paul Reynolds as Reader in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Queensland, elaborated upon the strongly religious foundations of the DLP.

Religion was, of course, the distinguishing feature. Seventy-eight per cent were Roman Catholic and 24 per cent claimed various Protestant affiliations. Non-Christian and agnostic or atheist respondents virtually did not exist. A very high 69 per cent had attended mass in the last month—nearly two-thirds in the previous fortnight. (Australasian Study of Parliament Group Online 2004).

At this symposium, Dr. Paul Williams, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities at Griffith University updated the audience on the role of Family First as a doctrinaire right wing minor Christian Party in the post-DLP era.

The DLP has since revived to play a minor political but significant role at more recent federal elections. It provides much needed preference votes to the LNP in some highly marginal seats. Both Family First and the DLP have indeed secured stops in the senate on different occasions in recent elections. Pushing Nixon’s style of moral majority politics is the forte of such ultra right wing parties and this approach is now confidently supported by secular far right parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Australian Liberty Alliance.

On the religious front, it could be concluded that right wing political tradition in Australian faith communities may be far stronger and persistent than the more left-leaning Catholic Worker Traditions.

This matter is being taken on professionally by the Queensland Community Alliance at a time when new age evangelical Christian faith communities have a much larger support base in some outer suburbs and regional centres that mainstream religious congregations.

There is no readily available research material on other multi-cultural faith communities.  Because of this absence of accessible research, my conclusions on theological resistance to right wing political influence will of course apply to Christian faith traditions.

Theological Foundations of Resistance

In the prophetic traditions of Old and New testaments alike, critical perspectives on the excesses of civil authority and militarism should be an important moral consideration.

There is some naive belief from the religious right in Australia that the minority Likud Government of Benjamin Netanyahu has divine or at least moral authority. It is this same Likud government which refuses to participate in global agreements to contain weapons of mass destruction and to uphold human rights conventions.

If biblical traditions are being discussed, there is always the precedent of the Prophet Daniel who could work well in captivity with the Assyrian leader, Nebuchadnezzar. Under divine guidance, Daniel could impress his captives with sound administrative advice and the ethical interpretation of the dreams of his captives.

The Prophet Joseph of Genesis fame performed similar wonders to the amazement of the King of Egypt and his advisers.

The New Testament culminates in John’s assurance of the coming of a New Jerusalem after periods of turmoil and struggle.

Like the Conservatives, the Australian Labor Movement is not too afraid to cling onto this symbolism.

Infusion of Progressive Religious Values

To Paul Keating, the winning of the impossible election on 13 March 1993 had quasi-biblical proportions:

“This is the sweetest victory of all,” Prime Minister Paul Keating told ALP supporters on election night, March 13, 1993. “This is a victory for the true believers.”

Keating’s come from behind victory was a triumph for the ALP. Labor increased its majority in the House of Representatives with a net gain of 2 seats, defeating the Coalition by 80 seats to 67, with 2 independents.

The ALP’s primary vote increased 5.49% to 44.92%. Its two-party-preferred vote increased 1.54% to 51.44%.

Keating delivered his victory speech at the Bankstown Sports Club. (Australianpolitics.com.au 1993).

Likewise, Kevin Rudd justified his restored leadership ambitions by referring to this theme of true discipleship:

Speaking in Brisbane at the launch of Troy Bramston’s new book, The True Believers, Rudd compared what he said were the two traditions of Australian politics.

“We seek to build the nation, they seek to tear it down. We seek to unite the people. They seek often to divide the people. We seek to envisage a positive plan for our future. They seek to pour scorn on the very possibility of any such vision or any such plans. We seek to define our independent place in the world. They seek to ridicule our independent voice in the world. In fact the history of Australian politics is one of us building the house up while they seek to tear the house down. Sometimes by stealth. Sometimes brick by brick. Sometimes with a very giant wrecking ball.” (Australianpolitics.com.au 2013).

To the applause of the gallery and parliamentary staffers, Bill Shorten repeated this style of oration on several occasions particularly in his budget reply speeches on 2014-16. Scott Morrison’s budget in 2016 was so flat that no biblical symbolism was required.

Strengthening Ethics in National Politics  

Many readers will still find Labor’s evangelical rhetoric a little pretentious. This cynicism is understandable and well justified by historical precedent.

After the longest period of federal Labor administration in Australian history, John Kerrin was left to deliver the 1991 Budget with Australian unemployment at a record post-war level. Paul Keating had resigned his portfolio after an unsuccessful leadership coup.

Without repeated biblical symbolism, Bill Shorten has certainly taken up the challenges posed by a fragmented electorate that he inherited in 2013.

More evangelical commitments are required to get Australian churchgoers back onside to the extent achieved by federal Labor in the federation era. By 5 September 1914, Australian Labor had achieved control of both houses of parliament on two separate occasions. This has not been repeated since. Even Gough Whitlam was brought down by his failure to win absolute control of the Senate.

There are institutional problems to be resolved if election day in 1914 is still the high water mark for the Labour Movement after almost 103 years of continued political activism.

In the new traditions of the Queensland Community Alliance, a new generation of leaders are certainly trying to give the widespread right wing influences in faith communities a timely challenge.

Not representing key sections of the community like the myriad of Australian faith communities is hardly a pragmatic option for an ALP that needs a primary vote of 40 percent or more to achieve government with a comfortable majority instead of the narrow victory anticipated in the latest Newspoll from December 2016.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with currently fluid directions in contemporary globalization.

 

Can you beat a stacked deck?

Or: If you can’t beat the House, why keep playing the game?

By Steve Laing

Disclaimer: I am not, nor have ever been a member of any political party in significant part because I am skeptical of the true motives of many “party politicians”, but I do consider myself a progressive. The article is in large part focused on Labor because at this point in time, they represent the progressive party most likely to win the next general election, however the sentiments are equally applicable to other parties. And I apologise in advance for its length…

OK, I have to admit it; I’m a gamer. From a very early age, games have captured my imagination (and far too much of my time), particularly those that involve other people and aren’t purely down to luck. To the many who aren’t interested, games seem an almighty waste of time, and indeed I have often reflected on what compels me to devote time to such endeavours. But at its best, playing games can be an excellent way to exercise those problem-solving skills, as well as sometimes prompting interesting insights through considering situations from a variety of perspectives.

All very interesting you say, but what in Jebus’ name are you telling me this on an independent news site? Because the most important part of any game if you want to win, is to know the rules and then build strategies that utilize them to your advantage. If you can get the rules to work in your favor, then whilst you might not win every time, you can significantly improve your odds of doing so.

Have you ever wondered why right wing parties in democracies around the world, despite very rarely passing legislation that actually benefits the majority, continue not only to get elected, but then also usually stay in power longer? To a gamer/problem solver like me, the answer is pretty obvious. The “rules”, and thus the strategies that can be built from them, are stacked very much in their favour. And having few morals and little empathy they generally play the game without mercy. For them winning is the goal, not governing, because if you don’t win, guess what…

So, lying and cheating? Not an issue, the rules don’t disallow it. Abusing office funding allowances to pour money into party coffers? Why not, the rules don’t say you can’t. Doing deals with other “parties”, then either reneging or finding a way to pull a dirty trick? All in a day’s work. Publishing your opponents’ confidential cabinet documents? Pork barreling? Using the AFP like a private enforcer? Undertaking Royal Commission to try and undermine your political opponents? When the game is all about getting into power, and then wing it once you’ve got there, the Coalition are really rather good players. Because the rules are porous, and winning is winning. Right?

So what do Labor do? Well, they carry on playing the game, hoping that by following the rules as they appear to be written, they will be successful, publishing policies, considering the greater good, behaving ethically. And indeed in part they have to, because one thing is certain, if they step out of line, the media will be all over them like a rash.

Blind Freddy can see that the commercial MSM act in the interests of their owners, and thus the politicians most likely to look after them. The fact that they are now almost completely embedded in our public media institutions has taken longer to achieve, but has again been undertaken to almost complete the stranglehold on contrary views.

Politics in Australia is much like politics in the UK. The rules and traditions are stacked in favor of the conservative incumbent, and the “House” has significant powers outside of parliament (particularly the media, but also large wealthy benefactors, donors, businesses and their various lobbies, and the financial clout that sits behind them). This means that the coalition can still play within the rules, but in a manner that works to their strengths, as well as to the weaknesses of their opposition. (It also reveals their concern about organizations such as GetUp who have found a way to do what they consider only their entitlement – namely to use money to achieve political goals).

So time and time again, opposition parties fall into their traps. Sure, Labor occasionally manage a win, but the policy gains from those wins are often short-lived as the right wing have absolutely no qualms about unwinding them as soon as the opportunity next comes about. And generally (and unfortunately) you don’t have to wait too long for such to occur.

The main election strategies of the right are easy. Here are some of the most obvious ones, but I know there are many more.

Firstly, if possible make it a personality contest, not a policy one. The Coalition framed the last election as Turnbull versus Shorten. The one before that Abbott vs Gillard (the “greatest opposition leader ever” versus the “liar”). Sure, the last election actually ended up a much closer run thing than Turnbull clearly expected, but the right still won despite having no policies and only a few dodgy slogans repeated ad infinitum and since largely forgotten about – just where is Jobson Grothe these days?

Whilst Shorten is clearly a fairly capable negotiator and party leader, he is not what one might call charismatic and he has “baggage” in the eyes of significant parts of the electorate, in no small part due to the mud slinging from a Royal Commission built to do just that – smear the opposition. Dirty, cheaty, effective. The rest of the Cabinet were never to be seen – Turnbull was considered the drawcard, whose personal popularity would all but guarantee the win. And close though it was, it did. However it is clear from his election night hissy fit, Malcolm was not happy that the people didn’t show him the love which he clearly thinks he is due for being all round Mr Positive and Lovely. This term will be our punishment for not fawning enough to his brilliance – how very dare we. But I digress.

Secondly, keep attacking a well-defined target. It’s hard to miss that every, and I mean every, statement that a minister from the government makes, there has to be a knock to Labor somewhere in it. Without fail. The current Centrelink debacle where claimants are being told to pay back “debts” due to some spurious mechanism where a claimants yearly ATO record is often incorrectly converted into weekly payments, which are then compared to weekly benefits received, and then flagged as benefit fraud is currently in full swing. Happy Holidays! But even when Porter was questioned about what was going on, he managed to get in an attack on the last Labor government and why they hadn’t addressed this when they were in government. (The fact that Howard hadn’t either is conveniently ignored – it’s the narrative that counts, not the facts). This repetitive mantra is entirely designed to undermine your opponents on a subliminal level, and after a while people will ignore the facts and buy into the message. Who are the best party to manage the economy? Well that depends if you make your decision based on evidence, or constantly repeated hearsay; and a lot of people just don’t do evidence.

Thirdly, whenever you get the chance, split the enemy. This is a particularly easy one given that Labor seem to love to attack the Greens, and vice versa. The truly dull fights about “who preferenced whom” when in fact these are merely suggestions that most ignore reveal a pettiness, but also a lack of confidence in the ability of ones own candidates. This is of course a problem with political parties, rather than political movements. Parties, and their supporters, behave much in the same way as football teams. Blind loyalty, even though the values, policies and agenda (much like a team’s players) change over time, often becoming a very different beast than previously. Again, this suits the right, rather than the left, because the poor (Labor’s traditional base) are easier to attack, middle class aspirationals are easier to bribe, and Murdoch readers are easily led.

Fourthly, promote the adversarial/party system. The party system is great news for the Coalition as it allows them to use every debating trick under the sun to show up their opponents. Any difference in opinion amongst party members equals disunity (approach to refugees). A change in position reveals lack of conviction (eg same sex marriage). If you don’t support the policies on Manus and Nauru, you must believe in open borders AND want deaths at sea (the good old false dichotomy). As George Carlin said, “Never argue with an idiot, they will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience”. There is no debate in our parliament. Question Time is the Coalition’s favorite pantomime, and they have no qualms in abusing the soapbox it provides them. The party system creates easy targets for those prepared to go for the jugular. But it is also why the Coalition hate independents – far too much work to undermine them all, and too hard a target to pin down. Mind you, so does Labor for much the same reason.

Now as an aside, don’t get sucked in by the Liberal/Conservative split rumour. However much this is talked up, I believe it is highly unlikely to happen. It is, in my opinion, a very handy ruse to put those on the left off their guard, smugly expecting the disintegration of their opponents. On the contrary it is designed purely to try to win back One Nation voters back to the Coalition by suggesting that there are people within the Coalition who will look after them and their warped worldview, so they should feel comfortable that they can come back into the fold (as well as put more pressure on Turnbull to keep following the now populist as well as neoliberal agenda) – there is always a place for xenophobic racists in the Coalition, doncha know? Outside the Coalition Bernardi, Christensen and their ilk would be powerless, and they know it (and it’s not like they aren’t getting their own way within the party at present, are they!). But the promise of a new Conservative party is but the perpetual lie from the cheating husband to the mistress who is waiting for him to leave his wife, but who has absolutely no intention of giving up that comfortable life. It also explains why Malcolm does not appear in the least bit worried about this ruse, but Tony, now being on the outer (and a bit thick), isn’t aware that this is naught but a cynical political stunt to win back the “populist” voters. My bet is that before the election those conservative warriors will be right back happily in the arms of the party, totally “unified”.

Fifthly, only worry about the marginals. Votes don’t win elections, seats do. So don’t waste your time or energy on safe seats, pour your resources into the ones that count. Again this ties back to the divide and rule strategy – no point wasting government money and resources on people who won’t vote for you.

Six, forget facts, use emotions. Be policy light, because the media won’t be able to go after you (and won’t), but play on people’s fears if the vote for the other side. Refugees, Muslims, drugs, intergenerational debt etc. Only the Right are tough enough to deal with these issues. Protect yourself! Bypass the higher brain, and tap straight into the lizard brain – use advertising and slogans, keep it simple and repeat.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t change the bloody rules! Now this one area where Malcolm (but perhaps also Bill) very stupidly made a big mistake last year, largely because Malcolm’s ego made him believe he was more popular than he actually was. It was part of his triumvirate of tricks that would allow him a Double Dissolution and bring him the mandate he believed he was due. Poor, deluded, spineless fool.

Tomorrow: Part 2 of 2

Steve LaingSteve Laing – Steve is unaligned to any particular party, but cognizant of the reality that people are our biggest asset, so it makes sense to look after them. Uncomfortable with the ineptitude that permeates our current government, and yet sees such as the prevailing condition in our political system. Over the years Steve has worked for a number of different businesses, both corporate and small, and has experienced good and bad “policy” development and decision making, and seen the outcomes of such. Steve also has his own blog: www.makeourvoiceheard.com.

 

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