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John has a strong interest in politics, especially the workings of a progressive democracy, together with social justice and the common good. He holds a Diploma in Fine Arts and enjoys portraiture, composing music, and writing poetry and short stories. He is also a keen amateur actor. Before retirement John ran his own advertising marketing business.

Our greatest failure has been the decline of our democracy

When this corrupt conservative reign of appalling governance ends, as it must, and the COVID-19 virus has been erased – in the aftermath we will come to the realisation that everything must change. Not just Australia, but the world.

In particular, the way in which we conduct our politics.

Conservatives will be hard-pressed to explain how the science of climate that discovered our planet is overheating and threatening our existence is somehow different (and unbelievable) to the science that discovered a virus that also threatened great destruction.

We will also grasp the understanding that our current monetary system doesn’t work. Capitalism has failed because it has no understanding of society.

Capitalism matched to a government that is society sympathetic could work. One that has the common good at the centre of its philosophy.

We live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an equitable flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.

It cannot measure our humanness and its intercourse with economics. It only measures black and white or profit and loss. It does however measure greed.

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (Robert F. Kennedy).

In this current crisis governments have had the very unique example of human health colliding with monetary systems and billions of dollars will have to be spent on a peoples’ health and propping up our financial systems.

It does, however, give the world an opportunity to pause and question whether capitalism without government regulation and greed without conscience should form a part of a modern world economy.

“Like moving mountains,” I hear you say. Well yes, to a degree, but a renaissance is possible.

We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence.

Three weeks ago Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers advocated that the government deliver a social wellbeing budget, including environmental outcomes alongside traditional financial indicators in the nation’s books.

He was very serious about it.

Extending it further it would give government the opportunity to wean itself off the multitude of ways it opens for the rich and privileged to reduce their tax and make companies pay tax and for companies not to receive subsidies unless they could demonstrate a return for the taxpayer.

All Jim Chalmers got for his educated suggestion was a decent serve from Josh Freydenberg, reported Katherine Murphy:.

“Now I want you to picture this alternative,” Frydenberg said. “The member for Rankin is about to deliver his first wellbeing budget. He walks in, barefoot, into the chamber … robes are flowing, incense is burning … beads in one hand and speech in the other … gone are the seats, gone are the benches … and in their place, meditation mats for all, Mr Speaker … hugs for all, Mr Speaker”.

Besides an apology to those Hindus he had offended he ended up with egg all over his face when he found himself making decisions that, had they gone into the usual May budget, would equate to a wellbeing humanist socialist budget.

Of course he won’t admit to it but his rolling fiscal stimulus is an emergency wellbeing budget. More so because the regular budget has been put back until October. (A scandal in itself)

Wellbeing budgets can be refined over time as objectives and priorities are decided but at the core of there intent should be a fairer distribution of the countries wealth and equality of opportunity both economically and educationally. Economics must touch base with society.

If the conservative President Abraham Lincoln was looking over my shoulder he might repeat one of his famous quotes:

“Labour is prior to and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labour, and could never have existed if labour had not first existed. Labour is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

As I said at the beginning, these current tragic events have given us cause to reflect on our economics and our wellbeing but we also need to address the sort of democracy we want to be and the society that overlays it.

We must ask ourselves if we are content with the narcissistic, self-interested dog eat dog individualistic, stuff my neighbour, greed is good society we have now or can we dare for the want of something superior.

Will the events of this Australian summer, as ongoing and dreadful as they are, be the catalyst that might wake us from the political malaise that has bogged us down in a quagmire of narcissism? It’s the individual first second and third.

Every part of society, when you think about it, has been indoctrinated with a nefarious, conservative me first. Attitude that has seen the common good almost vanish.

“Is it not possible to hope that there are some people of integrity who might form a centrist party dedicated to honest government for all and the principles of “from each according to her/his ability, to each according to her/his need”? (Origin uncertain).

There will of course be various views as to what comprises a society. Here are mine (you may find them a touch idealistic, but that’s just my manner):

Simply put, my society Incubuses a collective of people who have a desire to express themselves in every human endeavour. A collective who have at the very centre of there being aspirations to express their humanity, work, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry and play with the richest possible diversity.

My society would have empathy instilled in their learning. Common good at the centre of their politics regardless of ideology.

This common good with equality of opportunity for all would be enshrined in its constitution.

A society where one’s sexual preference or gender is not a judgement upon your character and the colour of your skin says nothing about you other than perhaps your geographical place of birth.

The common good, or empathy for it, should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

My society advances the right of the individual to pursue whatever desires he/she has including the pursuit of wealth, which would only be regulated by the principles of the collective common good.

In other words, everyone is entitled to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

Freedom of expression would be guaranteed.

An enlightened society in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones’ right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

Health and welfare of all would be at the forefront of its common-good philosophy.

Sacrosanct for all and access to treatment would be assured.

Most importantly, the principle that we should treat others in the same manner as we expect them to treat us would be indelible in the mind of every citizen.

My society would have a healthy respect for science over myth and mysticism, but at the same time recognise that each individual has a right to express their individual spirituality in their own way so long as it doesn’t corrupt the aspirations of ‘commongoodism’.

My society that would be judged by its welcoming, and the treatment it provides for its most vulnerable citizens.

Accessibility to the law regardless of stature or wealth would be available to everyone.

In democratic societies (the best – or least bad form of government) our herding instincts are realised by the election of leaders who form government.

A ‘fitness to serve’ stipulation would seek a clause in our constitution so as to as much as possible guarantee the most qualified serve in our parliament.

The rise of narcissism and inequality and the demise of compassion illustrate the state of the world.

My ideal society would be one that acknowledges that a group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

If we are to live in a democracy then it is the government that decides and regulates the progress and ambitions of society.

Or at least provides the environment in which to do so.

The Liberal Party has always been a party of elites and would bes. The idea that economics and society are intertwined is abhorrent to them. Economics is the domain of the rich and privileged and society belongs to those of class and privilege.

In reality there is very little that is done in the name of progress that cannot be credited in some way to government.

Individual or collective ambition can only be achieved within a social structure built and controlled by a government that is sympathetic to it.

Those of you who follow my daily political mutterings on Facebook will probably know that first and foremost I am passionate about thwarting the decline in our democracy and the corruption that accompanies it. Amid the daily enraged voices of doing over one’s opponent there must be people with a genuine desire to change the way our democracy functions. There has never been a better opportunity.

My thought for the day

The notion that a few privileged individuals can own the vast majority of a countries wealth and the remainder own little is on any level unsustainable, politically, economically or morally.

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The Public versus Scott Morrison

It rather reminds me of the story of the boy who cried wolf. Remember, it was one of Aesop’s fables. It went like this:

“A young shepherd would trick his fellow villagers by shouting for help, pretending that wolves were attacking his sheep. Several times the villagers rushed to his aid, only to find the shepherd laughing at them. One day, some wolves actually came. The shepherd cried for help, but the villagers, who had grown tired of his pranks, ignored him, and the wolves devoured his sheep.”

The story rings true of our Prime Minister and the folks who decided to divest our supermarket shelves of nature’s essentials.

And being the laconic lot that we are to catch a wave at Bondi in the face of Marketing Morrison’s decree that we practice some social isolation. Or was that social engineering?

Anyway when he said, as reported by Sarah Martin in The Guardian: “Stop hoarding … I can’t be more blunt about it,” people didn’t take any notice. After all, why would you pay any attention to those who have, like the boy in Aesop’s fable, been telling lie after lie for near on 7 years?

Remembering that trust in Australian politicians is at an all-time low, again, why would you when only a week and a bit ago, Friday the 13th to be exact, Morrison – in the face of serious life and death decisions – wanted to go to the rugby and his beloved Hillsong needed the weekend for its conference.

He wasn’t practising civil compliance or social isolation so why should we? People are just fed up being told lies.

What we really had was a prime minister telling us not to succumb to the same fear that his party has injected us with every year since I was an infant.

I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

For as long as my memory enables me to recollect the conservative parties have been masters of scare; winning election after election using age-old scare campaigns.

The point here is that the story of the boy who cried wolf, as simple as it is, portrays the modern LNP coalition in stark reality. After a litany of lies, no one believes them. Well, in the spirit of truth approximately 50% of the population believes them (going by the 2019 election results).

I have written much about conservative lying, particularly by Scott Morrison. In my recent piece; “Truth doesn’t have the same importance it once did” I said that:

“Lying in Australian politics has also reached unprecedented levels. The Prime minister and his Cabinet have taken lying to such depths that it is not disingenuous to suggest that this government under Morrison no longer has a moral compass nor any understanding of truth.”

In another piece; “You Cannot be a Leader and a bare-faced Liar at the same time” it was noted that:

“Climate change has been met with inaction, as our nation slips dramatically in the Climate Change Performance Index.”

Look at their recent record. We had the White House exclusion of Scott Morrison’s Hillsong pastor Brian Houston from the White House guest list, then there was the great secrecy used to hide the Prime Minister’s Hawaii holiday during the bushfire crisis, followed by Morrison’s active involvement in the allotment of sports grants before (and after) the May 2019 election.

Not having learnt any lesson from all of this, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert – when the MyGov website crashed – chose to tell a lie, originally saying that it was subject to a cyber attack … when it was a case of numbers. In parliament he retracted but his first reaction was to tell a lie.

Robert is a fellow Christian and friend of the Prime Minister.

When you tell a lie you deny the other persons right to the truth.

All that has happened or is likely to happen will take time. It will certainly not end in the near future or without much pain be it financial or with great numbers losing their jobs, or worse, their lives.

I have always been of the view that rather than fighting for Flag or Monarch our service men and women fought for what they believed to be right. Flags and Monarchs are but metaphors and symbols but what is right is entrenched in truth.

Which brings me to my final point.

Australia has suffered tragedy upon tragedy the past few years with nature’s protests against its treatment going unheard.

Floods, fires, droughts and now a virus has come along to decimate us. With typical human ingenuity we will overcome these things only after nature and the virus has taught us yet another lesson.

Our conservative government had no hesitation in believing the science behind COVID19 and reacted accordingly yet they have failed to recognise the science that speaks of an impending disaster with climate change. Will they go back to their reactive ways or will they see the truth for what it is and become proactive?

The final days to this tragedy are in front of us and much economic suffering is to be inhaled by our society. To what extent, we do not know. Most of the population has not even lived through a recession, let alone a pandemic.

In the aftermath of these experiences what will politicians of all persuasions have learnt? Will it be that gratuitous lying achieves nothing, or that the ubiquitous annihilation of conventions and established norms of conduct must stop?

If we don’t learn then a dose of enlightenment will have been lost. In 2016, I wrote a piece titled; “A Society for the Common Good” (Updated 2018). My thoughts on this topic are worthy of a discussion.

My thought for the day

We can sometimes become so engrossed in our own problems that we can easily overlook the enormity of the suffering of others.

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The shopping spree and a 12-pack prize

There were the experienced women of the blue rinse set all manoeuvring their trolleys with gifted skills. Then there were the men whose driving skills more than made up for their inability to find the elusive prize – the 12 pack.

Arriving late on the grid I would be forced to use all my wily experience if I were to be in the contest. Then it came, the announcement that the prizes had all been distributed.

Putting my disappointment aside and trying not to listen to my wife’s exaggerated and non-stop opining about our lateness for the opening, we got on with our shopping.

“What if we don’t get any?” she asked for the umpteenth time. In turn I reminded her about the “cut in half phone books” that used to suffice when I was a kid.

I always preferred the Pink Pages. My mates always used the White. Anyway, they called me names for which I had no understanding at the time but later when I did I always checked the names on the sheet before using it in case the word Toorak appeared.

Anyway, I digress.

Coles was particularly frantic at 8am in the morning with all manner of folk hustling and bustling for position on every isle. Staff were filling the shelves with gusto. That not a brand, by the way, it’s just a word to describe how enthusiastic the staff were.

The only thing we overstocked on was food for our Ellie. Nothing’s too good for her.

So, with a couple of months supply of premium dog food in the trolley we headed for the deli.

When eventually we got to the wine shop my heart sank. There wasn’t a cask of pensioners’ piss in sight. “You will just have to go without,” my wife sternly said.

I must say there are some rude bastards in this world. Twice I nearly hit the deck after two of the blue-rinse set attacked me with a pincer movement from isles 11 and 12.

Mixed up in my thoughts of reporting them to management something deep down in my conscience was worrying me. Just how the rise of narcissism, inequality and the demise of compassion illustrated the state of the world.

Anyway, just as I was shirt-fronted with charge from isle 5 a mate of mine from the bowling club whispered in my ear:

“The deli, mate, they are in the deli.”

“What are?” I answered.

“The toilet rolls, you silly old bastard.”

All of a sudden things clicked together. I sped off down isle 1, soups, spaghetti and tinned fish, past the bakery and arrived just in time to see a 12 pack hurtling toward me.

Being the fast leading full forward that I once was I took it on my chest way above the pack and quickly put it in its place.

As we were exiting the centre Virginia’s friend from the medical clinic stopped us. I knew this would require time and patience. Now Virginia and Veronica are not ones to judge but they do form their own opinions.

Anyway, it appeared that the clinic was experiencing a run on its services with people wanting tests that were not as yet available, and prescription renewals that were not yet due. On top of that the Chemist Warehouse had a two and a half hour prescription wait.

I swear without exaggeration that this is what our town of Traralgon is going through.

Our behaviour is, I believe, symptomatic of what capitalism and the right-wing media has created.

Conversely, here is a little poem I wrote. I thought it might help:

The Hand

The hand is extended

To those who are but poor

The hand is outstretched

To those who have no more

The hand seeks the ill

Without the means to pay

It is its obligation

When society has a say

The hand is extended

To those unloved anymore

The hand reaches out

Prosperity belongs to all

The hand reaches out

To the hungry one and all

The hand it will feed them

In this we all should share

The hand is stretches out

So the homeless shall not fall

The hand offers a place of sleep

No matter what the cost

The hand is extended

To those who grieve and mourn

The hand offers mercy

Loss it will not ignore

The hand is freely given

To the righteous falsely accused

The hand it offers more than hope

It offers labour too

The hand it should be taken

When through the net they fall

When society sees a need

That was not their fault at all

The hand is the government

For everyone to grasp

Not just for those who have

But for those who have nothing at all.

My Thought For The Day

At some time in the human narrative … in our history, man declared himself superior to women. It must have been an accident, or at least an act of gross stupidity. But that’s men for you.

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And now the joke’s on Trump … and it’s a bad one!

In 2016 I wrote a piece for The AIMN, Only in America: Looking at Trump from ‘Down Under’ (which was also published by the popular American blog, Crooks and Liars). The following paragraph early in the piece explained the title.

Again, I had better pause lest you fail to grasp where I am heading. In Australia we have a saying, “Only in America.” It’s a phrase we use when something outrageously good or bad happens, as though such excesses can occur only in America. It might be violent racism, another Columbine, kids being slaughtered – any preventable, tragic loss of life that repeats time and again for which no remedy is forthcoming. All of this is beyond the average Australian’s capacity to understand. In contrast, we also use “Only in America” as a term of endearment when some outstanding achievement occurs: a significant scientific breakthrough, a sporting record, a foot touching the moon’s surface.

I went on at length to use the phrase in the context of electing Donald Trump President of the United States of America.

If you are in the habit of reading the American news as I am then you will be aware that President Trump has really put his foot in it this time.

The reporting from both sides of the media has been of universal condemnation.

Since the coronavirus revealed itself to a world mostly preoccupied with how they would finance their living from month to month, Donald Trump, with his usual bullshit and lies, has been inventing, or at least trying to invent, a world that is far from the reality of what damage this virus is capable of doing to the health and wealth of the world’s citizens.

Covid19 is real and America isn’t immune from it and no amount of shouting fake news will make it go away.

Trump’s response was predictable:

 

At his dumbfounding press conference last Thursday it was obvious his lies, fake news and “their out to get me defense” rhetoric went over like a lead balloon.

It is in the smallness of the mind that true ignorance can be found.

Quoting again from my piece:

From Down Under we see a sick deluded man of no redeeming features, full of racial hatred, bile and misogyny. A deluded pathetic liar unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world.

He sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black and white solutions.

He is a person of limited intellect and understanding only capable of seeing the world through the prism of his own wealth. The far edges of knowledge seem to have passed him by. Matters requiring deep philosophical consideration seem beyond him.

Trumps’ handling of the coronavirus emergency has been so bad that it may have ended his presidency. That’s not just a loan voice from Down Under, just read the American media.

Questions have been raised, writes Peter Wehner for The Atlantic, about fiascos in:

“… diagnostic testing, not testing enough people, and the delay in doing so together with problems in the supply chain. The delay in expanding testing to labs outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and problems in the supply chain.”

Judging from Trump’s demeanor at the press conference he has completely lost control of the emergency that is this coronavirus.

It would be an understatement that the USA is following the rest of the world but that is the truth of the matter.

The virus entered customs, and passed through the checkpoints a few weeks before the Americans discovered it. Now they are at the back on the queue.

Trump reportedly didn’t take early warning advice from about the severity of the virus … and that an outbreak was predictable.

You can add to that the fact that it was Trump who dismantled the National Security Council’s Global Health Office (no doubt because Obama formed it) whose job it was to warn of such outbreaks.

Is it any wonder that not only the media but also the general public are furious with the President?

The master of misinformation has claimed that America had contained the virus, “shut it down,” when the facts suggest it was spreading. Watch his speech on YouTube.

He said testing was available when it obviously wasn’t. The same about a vaccine that is at least a year away.

On top of that he couldn’t resist the Obama administration being responsible for something and it was that they impeded testing.

The master liar said the deaths in Italy were going down when in actual fact they were dramatically increasing.

He reached new heights when he admitted that he wanted to keep a cruise ship, off the California coast, rather than tying it up so that the count of reported cases of the coronavirus would be exaggeratedly low.

He said all these deplorable things one week and declared an emergency the next. Now there’s a leader for you.

The Oval Office speech did nothing to reassure the American people that he was on top of the emergency. It did nothing for the financial markets except turn them into a nose-dive. He even misrepresented his government’s policies.

It was a Murphy’s Law speech. Whatever could go wrong, did. The whole country woke the next day wondering what had happened. He had put the fear of God on them.

From Down Under we see a sick deluded man of no redeeming features, one full of racial hatred, bile and misogyny. A gullible pathetic liar unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world.

He sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black and white solutions.

He is a person of limited intellect and understanding only capable of seeing the world through the prism of his own wealth.

The far edges of knowledge seem to have passed him by. Matters requiring deep philosophical consideration seem beyond him.

If the coronavirus emergency is an example of his leadership in a crisis then God help us. I maybe wrong, but this time confronted with issues of their own health I think the American people will see him for the fool that he is.

My thought for the day

The Office of the American President was once viewed by its people as an office of prestige and importance. Trump has reduced it to one of ridicule and contempt.

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Another two years!

“Another two years!” I hear you say.

While I have been resting up the past week or so after eye surgery I have also been adding to my “to read” list, which is in danger of self-destruction. So much so that I don’t think I will ever get through it all.

So, here is a brief overview of what’s in my “to read” box.

1 Besides the Coronavirus, I don’t think anything has gotten more coverage in the mainstream media than the “Sports rorts affair.”

The Prime Minister’s arrogant dismissal of a journalist trying to ask a question about it last week all but acknowledges the fact that he was up to his neck in composing the final list. McKenzie, in an act of self-defence, has said that she didn’t take any part in the selection process after the deadline.

It has now been firmly established that the Prime Minister is a first-class liar. However, writes Nick Feik in The Monthly:

“If we accept McKenzie’s statement, the only possible explanations for what occurred on April 11 are these: that someone in her office was independently making changes in her name without her approval; or that the prime minister’s office was dictating these changes.”

McKenzie herself adds:

“I did not make any changes or annotations to this brief or its attachments after 4 April 2019.”

Michael Pascoe writing for The New Daily suggests that he was lazy when he “stopped counting politically rorted federal grant programs when I got to $1.1 billion.”

He should have kept going to reach $8.1 billion.

That’s the total for 11 federal programs that have serious question marks – or worse – over their ethics, probity and basic governance.

That governments get away with this sort of corruption in a democracy such as ours speaks volumes for their dishonesty.

One of the funniest things I read during my break was this statement by the Prime Minister in The Canberra Times:

“Members of Parliament “live and breathe,” in their communities, giving them a better sense of what is needed than public servants”

QUOTE (Laura Tingle at AFR/ABC, 29/2/20): “The bitter dangers of budget politics, you would think, might make governments a little more careful about how they spend money, and how they manage things that they do control, like observing the law.

But while we continue to watch sanctimonious parsimony from MPs explaining why they can’t give the unemployed enough money to eat, the ongoing saga of the sports rorts scandal, and a broader picture of pork barrelling on an industrial scale, shows them not only cavalier in the way they spend our money to achieve their own political goals, but apparently not all that fussed about niceties such as the law and the constitution.”

Whatever the outcome I think it is fair to say that the Prime Minister has done himself immense harm. The sort of harm that sticks and creates an impression of one’s character.

In Scott Morrison’s case, he has only added to the blows his reputation took over his inaction over the fires. However, the electorate now knows that he is not quite the Christian man they thought him to be. He is a liar.

2 We haven’t seen the end of the hand out rorts.

The Guardian reported on 9 March that the former Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion approved more than $560m worth of funding in his final six weeks in the role ahead of the announcement of the federal election in 2019.

Constitutional lawyers have given opinions that all the subsidies are unlawful but it seems that if they are not challenged then the government just gets away with it and life goes on. And there is no point asking the AFP to investigate. If it is the conservative side there is a “don’t touch” sign on the front door.

3 It’s rather like the government not being challenged about their efforts in continuously closing down the parliament.

I don’t know what the record is but this conservative government must be very close to it. “I move that the member no longer be heard” … four words after the Leader of the Opposition begins to speak.

And with the vote goes any portent of us being a democracy. The government immediately should stop stifling debate on issues like overseas companies not paying tax.

Debate is not of necessity about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, ideas and principles. Or in its purest form it is simply the art of persuasion.

Maybe the government is acting on advice that the electorate is sick of all the constant bickering and would be better off doing nothing. Well, they would, given their record, probably stuff that up also.

But then with only six sitting weeks left for the year and no policies to debate they may as well take a leaf out of George Christiansen’s book and take up residence in, wherever it is he disappears into.

Yes, this “much to do about nothing” government has been doing it for almost 7 years. Enough time to catch a virus.

4 The same applies to this passage in the Reddit:

“Why did Scott Morrison finally admit this week he sought to have Hillsong pastor Brian Houston invited to a state dinner at the White House? For months he refused to answer questions about it, following a Wall Street Journal story on the matter.”

Talking about Hillsong, I came across this on the Channel 7 News site:

“Controversial megachurch Hillsong has pulled a page on its website detailing plans to recruit teenagers in state schools across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory in 2020.”

It’s what they do.

5 In a piece on the Hobbledehoy blog, British writer Nate White writes the best description of Donald Trump I have ever read. Just an exceptional piece of writing.

6 The demise of AAP is but a sad moment in the history of Australian news-gathering. Who is to blame. Well, Rupert’s rags are blaming everyone else but themselves, however, a very revealing piece in The Guardian said that:

“News Corp and Nine told staff they no longer wanted to subsidise a breaking news service for their competitors.”

It had Rupert’s hatred of competition all over it.

7 A blog that I came across late last year but plan to visit more often is the Sydney Criminal Lawyers. It contains some very useful information such their article How Do You Rate Morrison’s Performance in 2019?

They write that:

Sadly for many, our ‘lucky country’ has been trending in the wrong direction in several areas, as:

Hundreds of small businesses around the nation are bearing the cost of supporting the nation through these times, while big multi-national corporations get away with paying minimal or no tax.

Many farmers can’t feed their stock, some have given up. Fruit and vegetable producers are going bankrupt.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. And, undoubtedly, these can be incredibly complex and difficult issues to solve – which call for seeds to be sewn to achieve long-term success.

Many have criticised our man at the helm for taking an overseas vacation while fires raged across our nation, for holding up a piece of coal in Parliament as if it were the Holy Grail and for his dogged determination to ensure people of faith are allowed to express their beliefs, no matter how divisive and destructive they may be, and to discriminate against non-believers.

 

8 I was also interested to read Oxfam’s annual report on wealth and it is inescapable when looking at the facts that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. “So what,” you say, “we all know that.” The point though is that the concentration of wealth is becoming more confined to a smaller and smaller group. 

Never in the history of this nation have the rich and the privileged been so openly brazen.

Reviewing the report, The ABC notes that:

“Australia’s rich keep getting richer, with the top 1 per cent of Australians having more than double the wealth of the entire bottom 50 per cent — or more than 12.5 million people – according to Oxfam.”

They continue:

“Oxfam’s annual list highlighting inequality has found the number of billionaires in Australia decreased from 43 in 2018 to 36 in 2019, but that the number has more than tripled over the past 10 years and the value of their wealth is still increasing.

The report, being released ahead of the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, found that the wealth of Australian billionaires, who are mostly men, grew by an average of $US460 million from 2018 to 2019.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgan said the top 1 per cent of Australians, just 250,000 people, owned nearly $US1.6 trillion — equating to 22.2 per cent of the nation’s wealth.

“This concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade and workers’ wages continue to stagnate in Australia,” she said.

The world’s billionaires, 2,153 people in 2019, have more wealth between them than 4.6 billion people.

The report found the richest 22 men in the world own more wealth than all the women in Africa.”

9 Who said this? “Trump is the leading climate denier in the world. He’s leading the most influential nation in the world and he’s actively working against global action to reduce emissions.”

10 On Wednesday I tuned into a debate on the ABC about yet another stuff up by the government. The building of our fleet of 8 submarines by the French and the enormous cost blowouts. Added to the Robodebt, Energy, Climate Change, NDIS and the National Broadband Network you can see why people are fed up.

Anything this government touches it leaves behind a trail of wreckage as long as an airport runway. It is hard to think of a single notable achievement for which the three governments, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison will be credited or remembered for. And Morrison still praises himself at every opportunity.

“Another two years of that!” I hear you say. “God help us!”

My thought for the day

History is just an ongoing commentary on the incompetence of men.

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Pentecostalism: A personal perspective (part 3)

In 1986 I was emotionally in a place that essentially made me vulnerable to any influence that would correct my state of mind.

I was working long hours, drinking too much, unhappy with who I was and running too much. Going further than that serves no purpose for this piece, nor does the how of my drift into Pentecostalism took place.

I was ripe for the impact of anything that might change me for the better. So, in 1986 I became born again. My life did become better and the influence of the church and its people were responsible.

I became totally involved and I think subconsciously selected from a smorgasbord of goodies those things that enhanced my being.

But I am by nature a curious individual. My favourite word is ‘observation’ and I reinforce its influence on my thinking with my grandchildren as often as I can. For my entire life I have lived with the word “observation” as my closest friend. Deeply so.

In short, why do I mention this? Well, it was the logic of observation that drew my attention to those things that I found incompatible with my version of what I really should be.

Its literalism I found disturbing as I did its attitude to women, that gays were unequal to others and I abhorred the twisting of scripture to denounce women and I vehemently opposed.

The church’s perceived self-righteousness as though they had some sort of ownership of societies morality also disturbed me.

Sexual equality, gay marriage, the rights of women and civil rights in general, those things that were of political interest to me seemed to be of little interest to Pentecostals.

Free speech, Aboriginal rights, sexual harassment, the rights of the child, the environment and climate change, domestic and family violence, equality of opportunity in education, asylum seekers and multiculturalism all seemed to pass them by. Saving souls took precedence.

I always seemed to be fighting with a very right-wing conservative thinking church. After all, my entire upbringing had involved an appreciation of what it was like to be poor and all that went with it.

I think what atheists find most offensive with religion is not only that they reject theist belief, but also the injustice, immorality and hypocrisy that often comes with it.

This newfound church with its preaching that wealth was good was in itself foreign to me.

We are in the world but we are not of it seemed to be at the forefront of their thinking.

In my last post I examined the Pentecostals desire to change communities by saving their souls for Christ.

I said that communities all believing the same thing under some sort of theocracy was undesirable.

Imagine, if you will, a society of converted people all practising western individualism and materialism within a theocracy.

Societies are made up of many differing attitudes, points of view, cultural beliefs, religious beliefs, with atheists, and a smorgasbord of many and differing opinions all competing for your interest.

I am often staggered with the vigour American atheists use to confront religion. However when one examines the conduct of some religious institutions in that country I cannot say I am the least surprised.

Everything in the charismatic church is about self-interest, the institution the individual and capitalism. Narcissism has become a national pastime firmly embedded into charismatic church psyche.

Pentecostals teach that the Holy Spirit gives believers, regardless of their age, gender, class, education or ethnicity the power to save souls for Christ and that only the saved have an afterlife. The rest go to Hell. It’s as blunt as that.

Yes, the church services are smooth with music that attracts musicians and singers on the edge of professionalism. Many of them enter television talent shows.

Similarly, Pentecostalism or evangelical Christianity preaches a form of entertaining sermon that enables the individual – with the help of the Holy Spirit – to achieve beyond that which the individual has previously achieved or is indeed capable

Over the years I wrote and performed in many dramatic productions. I wrote music and lyrics that drew compliments; friends were aplenty but the language I found to be indifferent to intellectual logic and modernity. So literal that it couldn’t challenged.

Here are but five examples (From an article in The Conversation last year by Philip C Almond):

1 Do miracles happen?

“That miracles happen is a central tenet of Pentecostalism. As a religion, it sees itself as re-creating the gifts of the Spirit experienced by the earliest Christian worshippers. Along with the working of miracles, these included speaking in tongues and healings. They remain central features of Pentecostal belief and worship today”

What was it the Prime Minister said? “I have always believed in Miracles.”

2 Divine providence

“According to Pentecostal theology, all of history – and the future – is in the control of God; from creation, to the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, to the redemption of all in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In turn, this will lead to the second coming of Christ, the end of the world and the final judgement.

This is why further action on reducing carbon emissions to counter the environmental damage wrought by climate change may have little intellectual purchase with the PM. If the end of the world through climate change is part of God’s providential plan, there is precious little that we need to or can do about it.”

3 Prosperity Theology

“This “have a go” philosophy sits squarely within Pentecostal prosperity theology. This is the view that belief in God leads to material wealth. Salvation too has a connection to material wealth – “Jesus saves those who save”. So the godly become wealthy and the wealthy are godly. And, unfortunately, the ungodly become poor and the poor are ungodly.

This theology aligns perfectly with the neo-liberal economic views espoused by Morrison. The consequence is that it becomes a God-given task to liberate people from reliance on the welfare state.

So there is no sense in Pentecostal economics of a Jesus Christ who was on the side of the poor and the oppressed. Nor is there one of rich men finding it easier to pass through the eyes of needles.”

4 Exclusivism

“That said, in some ways, Pentecostalism is pretty light on beliefs. Rather, it stresses an immediate personal connection with God that is the exclusive property of those who are saved. This leads to a fairly binary view of the world. There are the saved and the damned, the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the satanic.

In this Pentecostalist exclusivist view, Jesus is the only way to salvation. Only those who have been saved by Jesus (generally those who have had a personal experience of being “born again” which often happens in church spontaneously during worship) have any hope of attaining eternal life in heaven. At its best, it generates a modesty and humility at its worst a smugness and arrogance.

So only born-again Christians will gain salvation. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and non-born-again Christians are doomed to spend an eternity in the torments of hell.”

5 Pietism

“In principle, the PM’s faith is “pietistic”. It is about the individual’s personal relationship with God. So faith is focused “upwards” on God in the here and now – and the hereafter. The result is that Pentecostalism is weak on the social implications of its beliefs. Social equity and social justice are very much on the back burner.

So you would not expect from a Pentecostalist like Morrison any progressive views on abortion, women’s rights, LGBTI issues, immigration, the environment, same sex marriage, and so on.

It would be difficult, for example, for a Pentecostalist to reject the Biblical teaching that homosexuals were bound for hell. The Prime Minister recently did so. But only after first evading the question and then through very gritted teeth.”

Nothing has ever stood in the way of science and technology. Its advancement has been staggering. So why are the conservative political and religious forces so opposed to it? I hope that these five beliefs answered the question.

I have not in the writing of this piece so far personalised it to the degree that some have asked me to. I will make some attempt now.

As to why I stayed in the church for some 20 odd years I find difficult to clarify. Suffice to say that we were surrounded with friends, work preoccupied me and I was well respected within the church.

It wasn’t until I retired and went to live in the country that I started questioning my belief in God.

At some point – while walking our dog Oscar – I asked myself a simple question what is it you truly believe in?

And so a battle began within me that has lasted more than a few years. I read the works of the popular atheists Sam Harris, Richard Hawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others.

I became enthralled with the logic of their intelligences. I watched many debates on the Internet and read many articles on the subject.

Along the way I found the Uniting Church and in terms of theology they are like chalk and cheese with the Pentecostals. They have a strong belief in science and follow the teaching of Jesus.

Of course, it was Mikael Gorbachev who said that Jesus Christ was the world’s first socialist.

I became friendly with ministers of that faith who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ; who were of the same political ilk as I was and who had the same interest in social justice, as I did.

I began writing religious articles for The AIMN.

The Future of Faith in Australia was one title, another on the Ten Commandants and another on the virgin birth of Jesus.

I smothered myself in a critical analysis of religion in general.

I studied the complexity of the Book of Revelation. The so-called explanation of the end times that Pentecostals are so fond of quoting, and found no concord within its pages.

The study of free will, I thought, was an important foundation of rational thinking and a requirement for an objective application of thoughts to actions.

However, its application, I found, is constrained by pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action.

In Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead confronted my learning and something to me that could only be accepted in faith even though it is central to the Christian affirmations about God.

In the journey I had undertaken, as soon as six questions were adequately answered another six arose and I expect this will happen until my last days, and the implausibility of many things will remain unanswered.

The reader will no doubt be interested in just where I am now in my quest for the truth. I shall try to answer my own set of questions.

Are you an atheist?

When asked as to my belief or otherwise in religion, or indeed my atheist thoughts, I can only say that I am in a perpetual state of observation, which of course is the very basis of science or fact.

Do you believe in God?

There is no evidence to prove that there is and none whatsoever to suggest there isn’t.  But on the balance of probability I would have to answer “no”.

Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact.

How would you describe yourself?

I think we humans still have much to discover about ourselves. For example, logic would seem to form the basis of our thinking. Just what percentage, we don’t know, but neuroscience is beginning to expose and reveal the basis of logic, belief, and disbelief, uncertainty, why we lie, why we commit atrocities and many other things. We still have a long way to go.

We are yet to discover the function and importance of emotion and reasoning in our person. Which of the two has the most relevance in our daily lives. How many decisions are based on our emotion rather than our logic?

So I would describe myself as nothing but an observer of life, a theorist, or a thinker. In short an ‘observationalist’. But I cannot deny that the church and some like-minded people within it changed me for the better.

My thought for the day

America, for example, may be the most advanced technological nation on earth but its social progress on matters of great moral importance is still fighting its way out of the dark ages when mysticism was rampart.

Note: This has been but a small part of my thinking on this subject. It was just impossible to put a lifetime into a couple of thousand words.

Link to Part 1

Link to Part 2

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Pentecostalism: A personal perspective (part 2)

A socialist leader with a far right following

Upon entering the Christian life (I will explain how why and when later) I found the church a mixed bag of people and personalities; ranging from the very weird through the meek and mild, to the kind, the dismissive and the intelligent but all seemed to have one thing in common: Most were looking for something that was missing in their lives and thought God might provide answers for them. I was no different (saving souls for Christ).

Unlike Catholics who are born into their faith or the Uniting Church who are more open to freedom of thought on many issues (very refreshing), Pentecostals are saved. They believe that Jesus will only come again when the Gospel of Christ has been preached to all corners of the world.

I once asked at a Bible group: “If the only way to be saved is by confessing Jesus as your lord and savior, how would you get on if you lived half way up the Amazon and you had never heard of him?”

I never got an answer to what I thought was a reasonable question.

Theology differs enormously from denomination to denomination.

As do Priests and Pastors. Having met many and conversed with them openly on a wide range of issues I can tell you that charismatic Pentecostals are on the far right of politics.

It was Ronald Reagan who made it possible. When he gave them the opening to become involved in politics he had no idea of the problems he was unleashing.

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rationale explanation.

One pastor I was friendly with had a junior school attached to the church. One teacher was a paedophile. The pastor lied to protect the image of the school.

The Pastor appeared before the Royal Commission.

Another pastor who I was on best friend terms was also a Financial Adviser who embezzled $2 million from his clients, and lost his pastorship, his business, his friends and his flock. He helped me in my own business. I trusted him.

Another spent time in jail for much the same thing.

Two other pastors were hounded from their jobs simply because they weren’t popular. A fairly common occurrence.

Often pastors are not natural leaders and lack the charisma demanded of them in the fundamentalist movement.

Luke 6:38 (DBY): Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall be given into your bosom: for with the same measure with which ye mete it shall be measured to you again.

On the basis of this scripture, church members are encouraged to give and give and give. On this basis they are promised that God will make them rich.

Do they want your money? Yes, they certainly do. Just like the local football club or the Country Women’s Association they need money but do so more abundantly; the flock is constantly hounded to give and give.

They justify this through a tithe. A system of giving that is based on ancient scripture that you should give 10% of the harvest to God. Serious scholars would think this scripture reference is unjustifiable.

They believe in growth, and this can only be achieved by capturing the young and they are successful at doing so.

Places like Hillsong are full of young people excited by the music and become intoxicated by the consistency of being told that they are important.

In charismatic circles the success of the pastor is judged on the wealth and size of the church and how many bums there are on seats.

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.

In an uncertain world the message of the gospel told from the feel good perspective of Pentecostalism is exactly what they want to hear. It gives them hope and they feel good about it, but it isn’t necessarily the truth.

However, these same city churches are bereft of older people. Over a period these same young people either by life experience or education find that many Christian concepts don’t meet the evidentiary standards of today.

The fastest growing sectors in education are the Pentecostal churches; all full to the brim with children who their parents think will walk away with better values than those the public schools teach.

One would think that they would get that at home. but it appears not.

Religion does not have a monopoly on morality. Or anything else in my experience.

Our local Catholic secondary college educates in excess of 1000 teenage boys and girls, but if you were to peak into Mass on Sunday morning you wouldn’t find a corresponding figure.

The more educated people become, the less likely they are to believe the Christian story. This is evidenced around the world.

Faith is the residue of things not understood and can never be a substitute for fact.

To believe in Christianity requires a faith ignorant of fact. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding. It has to rely on faith alone.

Elle Hardy, in her article in The GuardianToday’s Pentecostals aren’t tongues-talking hicks – they are slick Australian exports‘ says Pentecostals are “looking not to save souls, but to transform societies.”

That is also correct, they do want to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and see them changed in all areas of their lives.

But it is also judgemental – the carrot and stick approach a method of control. Do as we say or you will most certainly go to Hell. Give your life to Jesus and a life hereafter is guaranteed.

In an article in CRUCIS titled ‘Under the surface of Pentecostalism‘ Dr. Jacqueline Grey argues that:

“It is holistic change; that relationships will be restored, family’s reconciled, financial situations redeemed, their vocations and work given purpose. For this reason, many Pentecostal pastors will say that they preach to help people on Monday, not just Sunday…

However, the purpose of the practical emphasis is the transformation of people, communities, society and creation to live as consistently as possible with the gospel…

It is not, as Hardy fears, a political movement per se; its transformative impact, however, is widespread.

Grey also writes that:

“This is not to deny the pitfalls of such grassroots movements. Pentecostals have sometimes uncritically embraced secular practices. They have not been immune to the pervading challenges of money, sex and power.”

The problem here is that these things cannot be achieved without eliciting some form of control over people’s lives both in and outside the church. It is not as simple as preaching the Gospel and saying that is how you should live.

I find it difficult to pray for anything while at the same time knowing that 30,000 children will die from preventable deceases the day I am doing it.

In my time in the church, “control” was always an issue.

The transformation of people and communities by the church in order to create a theocracy, in my view, would be wrong.

It would always result in a clash of cultural norms and individual rights all of which form the foundation of our democracy.

That is why religion has always been held – and should always be held – separate from state.

My thought for the day

The study of free will is an important foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?

Link to Part 1

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Pentecostalism: A personal perspective

Of the many articles I have read about Pentecostalism on this site and in the mainstream media none have captured the inner machinations of the church.

I can assure you that the church has just as many scandals and intrigues as any other organisation, or political party for that matter.

In this piece (and subsequent instalments) I will attempt to paint a picture of the inner workings of the church in everyday language. If I used church language you would think me unintelligible.

Please note that I am writing this not with any angst against the church, but simply to give another person’s perspective.

My personal experience (part 1)

Of late, many articles on these pages and in mainstream media have appeared purporting some knowledge of Pentecostalism. All have lacked a lived experience. I have spent 20 or more years in fundamentalist churches so I think I can claim some knowledge of their workings.

There has been a surge of interest in Pentecostalism and its members in recent months. The association with it of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has mostly sparked an interest in this Christian community.

Why is it that religion assumes it has some bizarre ownership on people’s morality? To assume that an atheist is any less moral than someone religious is an absurdity.

But it is not just Pentecostalism. The Prime Minister has taken religion into the precinct of politics and there is an answer to why he has done so.

The answer to it is that religion or at least the Christian religion is likely, in Australia; no longer exist in the next 20 to 30 years. Someone must try to save it.

The 2016 Census doesn’t paint a very rosy picture for faith in Australia. If the figures are repeated in subsequent censuses then over time religion – as we have known it – will gradually fade away.

A Uniting Church minister friend of mine recently said to me that Christianity had been successfully sidelined.

I’m more inclined to the view that knowledge has done so.

Nearly 7 million Australians (roughly a third of all Australians) are now ‘no religion’. They make up the biggest category, overtaking Catholics who fell to 22%, and more than double the number of Anglicans.

39% of people 18-34 are of ‘no religion’ and there is no reason to expect people will become religious as they get older.

A third of Australians as ‘No religion’ represents a huge shift from 50 years ago, when the vast majority of Australians were Christian.

It’s the first time:

“… in Australia’s history the number of people who claim ‘no religion’ has overtaken Catholics.

The latest Census drop showed those ticking “no religion” rose from 22.6 per cent to 29.6 per cent, while those identifying as Catholic dropped from 25.3 per cent to 22.6 per cent.”

The Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Jacqueline Maley along to the church that the Prime Minister worships at to observe just what all the fuss was about.

She highlighted the smiling faces she saw and the positive vibes of the service.

The Guardian‘s Elle Hardy in her experience, emphasised the popular appeal of Pentecostals who have (she purports) developed historically “with less content, more show.”

Hardy caricatures Pentecostals as religious entrepreneurs with an inspirational message and a product to sell.

Hardy’s piece asks; “Is there any substance behind the ‘trendy image’ projected by Pentecostals?”

Well, all their observations are correct to a point. Yes indeed they try to portray a positive image. But there is much more to it than just an image.

With 20 or so years in charismatic churches I feel qualified to fill in the gaps left by pastors who like politicians fall for the lying by omission trend in society.

So allow me to put you straight on a few things.

Charismatic – fundamentalist – Pentecostal or churches of that ilk all believe in a literalist belief in that the Bible is the absolute truth and word of God. Literally so. Something I could never comprehend.

They not only believe it but also practice it. Preachers will bend the truth and cherry pick scripture to uphold a literal version.

If there is a conflict between scripture and science then scripture and the literal version of it wins.

The truth is though that in any Pentecostal congregation you will find any number of variations in how individuals interpret scripture. This applies in any church.

The preacher may preach the official theology of the church but there are many different voices that will interpret the spoken words in their own way.

The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.

Unlike mainstream churches who have a better more worldly understanding of life, Charismatic churches seem to attract folk of a more simple disposition who are even more susceptible to the word of the Lord in charismatic form.

I was always conflicted by my belief in the politics of social justice and conscience as opposed to the literal word of God.

Issues of sexual equality, gay marriage, the rights of women and civil rights in general. Free speech, Aboriginal rights, sexual harassment, the rights of the child, the environment and climate change, domestic and family violence, equality of opportunity in education, asylum seekers and multiculturalism, always seemed to be fighting with a very right wing conservative thinking and voting church.

I recall speaking at a men’s breakfast on the subject of women’s rights many years ago. Scripture was thrown at me in literal form left right and centre.

A friend who happened to be a paramedic told me on the way out that my thinking was far ahead of these guys and it was true. Having a view that contradicted scripture was like stepping on broken glass.

Another time I recall telling a pastor that I was a democratic socialist and that I believed that Jesus was the world’s first socialist. I put up a pretty good argument but the look on his face was one I will never forget. You mean you are a communist.

Yes, Pentecostals are on the far right of politics although the leadership will tell you they are “A” political.

Pentecostalism thrives in the lower socio-economic areas of the US and third world countries.

Jacqueline Maley’s observation of the smiling faces she saw and the positive vibes of the service are true but the attending flock is no different to any other group in the community.

Families have the same family issues, child problems, disputes, employment issues, people with businesses have issues and teens have their problems with schooling and the list goes on and on.

They come from a diverse range of backgrounds

The difference being that they all believe that in God or the pastor or prayer they will find the answer to whatever ails them.

The church tells them this is so but many fall by the wayside when their needs aren’t met. Or they shop around for another church with a Pastor sympathetic to their needs.

More often than not sermons are nothing more that inspirational words designed to make one feel better about oneself and the problems that confront you.

The truth is that prayer isn’t what its made out to be, the pastor isn’t qualified in all these matters or God doesn’t hear them.

When an answer isn’t forthcoming then the default button of “it isn’t God’s will” is pushed and that seems to resolve everything.

Pastors are more often than not are just ordinary people who complete a Biblical course and qualify to preach God’s word.

Having achieved that status they believe they have a spiritual gifting that has been bequeathed on them by God, but few have any extraordinary qualities.

They are often just ordinary men and women unqualified to deal with the many social issues of the congregation and the times.

I believe that a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems. That does not however mean that faith doesn’t have a place.

Unlike mainstream churches where ministers are required to complete a much more rigorous theological education pastors are, after being ordained, encouraged to start their own church.

After all, their entire mission is to save souls. The conflict here is that the souls to be saved are in the community and the church encourages its members to be totally involved in the church. In Bible study, music, drama, different courses and other ministries. All of which lock you into the church.

Dr Jacqueline Grey, in Crucis reports that:

In her visit to Horizon Church in suburban Sydney, Jacqueline Maley met various members of the congregation and staff. This included the media manager, Kristy. Kristy is described as “a pretty blonde woman with a soft floral scarf floating around her neck and a brilliant, bone-white smile.” From this definition, you would expect a person whose highest qualification is an Instagram account. Yet a basic internet search reveals that Kristy is an ordained pastor, serves as Executive Pastor at Horizon Church and preaches regularly. She is also on the board of an international aid agency and has degrees in Arts and Education, as well as a Masters (International Studies) from Sydney University. The theology of her preaching on a church podcast emphasises hope amid suffering. While this female Pentecostal pastor is dismissed in the Maley article as a “pretty blonde”, there is more substance behind the image than the reporting allows.

Similarly, the Hardy article harshly critiques Pentecostalism as essentially “peddling spiritualised self-help.”

If you read the Bible with literalist intent it becomes the only text book on living never updated but if you read it with logical reasoning and an exploratory mind all manner of things of historic and literary value are revealed.

This is entirely correct. Worshippers are spoon-fed first class pop music by first-class musicians, sermons by first-class speakers preaching a gospel of total self-righteousness self-help therapy.

All backed up by the hundreds of authors who write books effectively proclaiming they have an insight into God’s will that others don’t.

Is it superficial? Yes, it is. After all, it is a carrot and stick religion. Do good and you go to Heaven, do wrong and you go to Hell.

“If it were only that simple?” I hear you say.

My thought for the day

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society.

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Truth doesn’t have the same importance it once did

Lies are so commonplace now that people just discount them or factor them into whatever context they read into various methods of communication. Many believe them.

It is a shame that I and many other writers for The AIMN find it necessary to write on the subject but we do and will probably do so until some semblance of normality returns to the body politic.

Such was my upbringing that using the ‘F’ word in front of elders was taboo. Using it in front of women was outlawed.

Using the ‘C’ word was totality forbidden. Even by men, but both are as common now as red, green and amber lights at intersections.

Like lying and good manners, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The Rod Laver Tennis Centre now dominates an area of land where the Melbourne Olympic pool once stood. To its east massive Elm trees occupied the adjacent land.

It was under these huge trees that fierce political debates once took place.

Rather like Hyde Park in London. It was there that as a teenage boy I spent many a Sunday afternoon. Politics has been for most of my life something that had within its existence the means of making things so obviously wrong or unequal, better.

Other than what one might do in bed I can think of little that politics doesn’t invade in society in one way or another.

The circumstances of my growing up defined my future. I was exposed to injustice, inequality, unfairness and prejudice at an early age. Lying always seemed to underscore it all.

We may have been poor but we were taught values like truth, manners and honesty.

In my growing I became wise enough to understand that in a democracy the party I didn’t support had as much right to power as the one I do.

I am of the Left because social inequality is anathema to me.

There was, however, a time when I had a guarded tolerance for things Liberal and got on with life. But somewhere along the way things went horribly wrong.

Like rust finding its way, hate and untruth insinuated its way into the Australian politics.

It is now a cesspool of lying and ideological corruption where politicians use it as a legitimate political weapon. They just, in Trumpish fashion, brush aside their lies, and tell another one or repeat the same one.

At a time when the world is screaming out for collective answers to complex problems our government isn’t listening because it’s so busy telling lies.

Probably because I don’t understand the “why” of it is the reason I have developed a particular loathing for all this lying – this self-righteous attempt to corrupt the business of government.

Time and time again history would record the failure of lies yet the temptation is ever present. It seems to have worked for Donald, so why not give it a go.

Children learn from the age of four how lying works and one might argue that men who lie in copiousness have never grown up.

Having said that, I’m not naive enough to think that it is curable; lying has and probably will always exist.

However, Trump has taken political language into a new dimension. One where the craft of nefarious persuasion and communication has reached into a bucket of his sewerage and take from it the stench of his own bullshit.

Lying in American politics is now a legitimate and acceptable part of the cut and thrust of it. Because lying is a choice it would be unfair to suggest we have inherited it from America, but it is a fair assumption.

Lying in Australian politics has also reached unprecedented levels. The Prime minister and his Cabinet have taken lying to such depths that it is not disingenuous to suggest that this government under Morrison no longer has a moral compass nor any understanding of truth.

If this means I am saying that our Prime Minister is a pathological liar then so be it. I’m not it the habit of calling anyone a liar without proof (I do so with a heavy heart) but we are dealing with truth here.

It’s not so much that he is a serial offender, he is.

That he professes a practising belief in the Christian faith at the same time is both insulting and hypocritical.

He makes truth the victim. You can shape truth by telling lies in a way that embellishes crap and you can use the contrivance of omission to create yet another lie but when they are exposed they have little value.

However, the ability to admit you are wrong when found out is an absolute prerequisite to discernment and knowledge.

Admitting a lie requires a truthfulness foreign to conservatives. If a political party is not transparent in supplying all the information the public has a democratic right to be aware of, it destroys the very democracy that enables it to exist.

And if humility is the basis by which intellectual advancement is made then it is only on the basis of truth that we make any human progress.

Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it. It is far better to be comforted by truth than to be controlled by lies.

Is it plausible? Does what I am being told have the ring of truth about it? We make judgements based on our life’s experience.

Unless your personal bias clouds the ’Pub test’ … your inner conscience dictates your judgement. But in itself your emotion can never be a substitute for facts.

My thought for the day

Faith is the residue of what is not understood but can never be a replacement for fact.

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Inequality: Just what do you mean by that? Surely you don’t mean you are my equal?

Nothing divides a community, or a nation for that matter, more than inequality yet conservatives through out history have practised it with fervour unequalled by any other political philosophy.

Lack of equal treatment, inequality of opportunity as in education, inequality of opportunity in team selection. Inequality in sharing the country’s wealth, health services, aged care, or social service payments like the dole.

That’s what inequality means. It’s when the government assists those who have more than those who have not. It is a servant-master discipline or born to rule attitude that prevents it.

Conservatives say that their only responsibility is to help those who are in danger of falling through the safety net. After that they reward those who have a go. How they measure that, I don’t know.

Why then are they so hell bent on assisting those who “have”?

The Sports Rorts affair has shown just how elitist this government is. They are rotten, by any measure.

The evidence is in. The ‘Christian’ Prime Minister is an unmitigated liar. Nothing is more unedifying than a government handing out grants to sporting bodies in their own electorates.

If you judge a government on how it treats its most disadvantaged then this government would be lucky to score a point.

The common good, or empathy for it, should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

Do we in an equitable sense share the country’s wealth? When hundreds of companies pay no tax and others receive billions in subsidies while making huge profits could you say we are a nation of equality?

The notion that a few privileged individuals can own the vast majority of a countries wealth and the remainder own little is on any level unsustainable, politically, economically or morally.

When the rich and privileged have a smorgasbord of tax breaks from which to choose, could you say that equality sets us apart from other nations?

When the law becomes a resource affordable only to the rich can you honestly plead a case for equality?

When our Indigenous folk are told year after year that we will bridge the gap of inequality, and we fail them,  can you openly preach the gospel of equality? Of course not.

When the government openly admits that it is deliberately keeping wages low can you see any equality?

When women suffer high incidence of domestic violence how do you explain equality to others?

Now we even find that children with development delay and who live in lower socioeconomic seats are waiting longer for a diagnosis than their counterparts in government seats in order to seek assistance from the NDIS.

In recent years Australian conservative governments have changed the way rises to the pension are calculated to save them billions of dollars.

In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks far below getting things done for the common good.

A few years ago single mothers received $700 to help their children start the school year and pensioners got $1000 dollars toward the cost of their partner’s funeral. All have disappeared and there are many more examples.

The incidence of wages theft has become blight on the business sector but those on the right would have us believe that it is all so complicated that large businesses are just making tardy errors.

Home ownership is ever becoming but a dream for the low paid and in the meantime those who have purchase, with the assistance of the government, as many properties as they want.

I feel people on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

From Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian, (30 September 17):

“In a speech to the Business Council of Australia on Thursday evening, Morrison said the Treasury and the Reserve Bank had found, in specific analysis of current wage fundamentals, that wages were growing slowly across most industries in the economy, and most regions of the country.

And six months later Michael Janda for the ABC reports:

“Using Treasury data, as well as various ABS figures and the University of Melbourne’s HILDA survey, Per Capita calculated that major tax concessions totalling $135 billion to the rich per year were costing the budget more than the four main welfare payments — the aged pension, family assistance payments, disability benefits and Newstart — combined.”

That is astonishing. Even more amazing is the fact that the research for Anglicare finds more than half of the benefit from tax concessions goes to the wealthiest fifth of households.

“The vast wealth generated over the last three decades has decisively gone into the hands of the privileged few, and not the many.” (Inequality in Australia).

It is true to say that we haven’t had a recession since 91/92 but our wages growth has been the slowest of any sustained period since World War 2.

The fact that they are deliberately keeping wages down is both a mystery and an indictment of the Morrison government.

In terms of a more equitable share of the country’s wealth we did better post-war than we are doing now.

Despite record profits and record growth inequality in Australia over the last three decades has bounded along like an intoxicated roo.

The latest Oxfam report shows that Australia’s top richest 1% have more than double the wealth of the total bottom 50% – or more than 12.5 million of us.

Globally, the wealthiest 1 per cent of people in the world has more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people.

The problem is an historical misunderstanding of the relationship of money and society. The origin of money in ancient Greece resulted in the formation of class societies with inequality an unintended circumstance. It all happened at the same time.

Instead of being just a means of recompense or a medium of exchange, over time, money for public purpose came into being and the characteristic of money and inequality came with it.

The evolution of money was closely intertwined with the rise and consolidation of what we know as class society. Harmony and the use of money to procure it were forgotten and greed became entrenched. In modern society money, a class society, and inequality has become a huge problem because there is nothing natural about the existence of socioeconomic inequality.

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is a saying that we hear often and there is no doubting its truthfulness.

This concentration of wealth is astonishing.

The world’s billionaires, 2,153 people in 2019, have more wealth between them than 4.6 billion people.

Oxfam’s report cited World Bank figures showing almost half the world is trying to survive on $5.50 a day or less.

Conservatives have never understood that economics and the social structure are intertwined each dependent on the other.

Look around you see how obvious it is.

My thought for the day

We live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an equitable flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.

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“Keeping the bastards honest”: Was it just a passing fad that lost its way?

Don Chipp left the Liberals in 1977 to help create a new party, the Democrats, and famously promised to “keep the bastards honest.”

It worked for a period, but the passing years seem to have taken the gloss from the statement.

Many things have changed since then. None more so than the political environment which has found itself in a swamp of lies.

Prior to the last election many Labor supporters, including myself, had been tossing about ideas for Labor to include in their campaign.

By far, the most popular policy suggestions were to advocate for a National ICAC or something similar.

Then as if on cue Bill Shorten started to advocate for an inquiry into the viability of such a commission.

Bill Shorten supports an anti-corruption commission,” read the headlines.

Shorten was unequivocally robust in his support, saying that any reform needed to go beyond an independent parliamentary expenses system.

He supported “an open and honest discussion” about whether Australia should have a federal Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC).

“For me, reform doesn’t just stop at parliamentarians’ expenses,” he said.

“It must include greater transparency, greater accountability on political donations – and no discussion about electoral reform and rebuilding the confidence of Australians in the political process can take place without having an open and honest discussion about a federal ICAC.”

He further stated that:

“Before the last election there was a Senate committee set up to examine the existing capacities of the anti-corruption regime in Australian federal sphere of government.”

He was referring to a Senate Committee that lapsed after the last election. That inquiry received written submissions and held two public inquiries in April 2016, but lapsed before a final report could be handed down. It received little media attention.

Wouldn’t it be good if in our parliament, regardless of ideology, we had politicians whose first interest was the peoples and not their own?

Finally, when the Coalition took office the problem was hand-balled to the newly appointed Attorney General, Christian Porter.

The Coalition had also advocated an anti-corruption body – albeit a watered-down version – with questions being asked behind closed doors with the public having little insight into its enquiries or indeed its results.

With trust in politicians at an all-time low, there is genuine, overwhelming public support for some sort of ICAC with teeth.

So the question arises as to what stage has Christian Porter carried the proposed legislation forward?

Well, let me bring you up to date.

In September of 2019, Porter said that the proposed draft legislation was near completion.

It is now 2020, and over a year since the Coalition promised its formula for a federal integrity commission legislation.

It had promised to have it done and dusted by last December, but strangely, more than a few scandals seem to have gotten in their way.

That aside, Labor is rightly more than a little upset.

“Continuous scandals showed the government wasn’t interested in integrity, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.

“Despite overwhelming public support for a national integrity commission the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming all the way,” he said.

Albanese pointed to comments  Porter made in parliament in September, when he said a draft was “well advanced.”

In the meantime. critics have rubbished the draft:

“It would create two divisions, a law enforcement division and a public sector integrity division.”

“It would have the power to conduct public hearings in its law enforcement division, but the public sector integrity division will not have the power to make public findings of corruption.”

It is fair to say that the people have been screaming out for some sort of means of checking on the integrity of their politicians for some years. Or was it the time that they happened to notice that they weren’t as lily-white as they first thought?

Now that politicians on all sides of the divide have agreed to an integrity commission the battle has turned to getting one that has enough teeth to bite those who might or have been led astray.

The National Party’s Bridget McKenzie’s allocation of funds to sporting clubs is exactly the sort of scandal that an independent integrity commission would investigate, yet here we have a Liberal Attorney General who is responsible for pulling it all together; seemingly doing his utmost to delay and delay.

The scandals surrounding the practices of Energy Minister Angus Taylor should also be investigated, regardless of the AFPs decision not to take matters any further.

Instead, the Prime Minister, in the case of McKenzie, decided to have his department head take a look at it.

His findings wouldn’t pass a pub test anywhere in the world and to say that she was only guilty of not confessing to joining a gun club was nothing more than contemptible bullshit.

Where is the integrity, the transparency?

Is it any wonder that 32 retired judges from around Australia recently came together to speak as one?

“In an open letter published in the media, they used their considerable expertise in the corruption-integrity area to clearly state why Australia needs such a body at the federal level. They did not put forward a suggested model, deciding instead to try to have the issue placed firmly on the political agenda. Their approach has been successful.”

Well, in so much as we have some construct of an agenda for a commission and an objectionable draft. What we don’t have is a minister with the will and desire to get his legislation passed in the parliament.

The way we are governed has been in serious decline since Tony Abbott took power in 2013.

It has happened at a time in our history when we need an astuteness of leadership – that is seemingly beyond the current crop of politicians.

Never in our history, in the time in which we live, have the consequences of bad governance been more profound.

Getting any sort of reform, given the government is capable of drawing up the legislation, seems to get stalled in a philosophical vacuum that never gets emptied.

There was a time when the major parties could at least work together for some common goals but now even those ideals seem to have lost their appeal.

My Thought For The Day

If we are to save our democracy we might begin by asking that at the very least our politicians should be transparent and tell the truth”.

While our political system has always been adversarial, we used to be better at working together for common goals.

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What do the words Disaster, Adaptation and Resilience mean to you?

What do the words Disaster, Adaptation and Resilience mean to you? Do they mean that the government has given up on reducing our carbon emissions and are now taking the approach that the world’s carbon emissions will rise no matter what we do to limit it, and that we shall have to be resilient and adapt to whatever comes our way?

To find the answer to this question – and more – I spoke to Amanda Leck*, the Executive Director of The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR).

I pondered this question in the headline as I sat watching the endless ebb and flow of humanity on Flinders Street station as I waited for my train back to Traralgon.

My mind ran pictures of my grandchildren, particularly the youngest (aged 10) as I contemplated with awful dread the environment she will need to contend with when she is my age and earlier.

Along the way many young people boarded the train with their typical youthful appetite for schools’ end and I wondered how many might have had any insight into what they might confront in middle-age and beyond.

I drew consolation from my meeting with Amanda that there were good people and organisations such as The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience trying to make a difference in a political quagmire of unbelief and senselessness.

Sorry. I digress.

The purpose of my meeting was twofold. The first was to seek some explanation for matters concerning her organisation I had raised in an article for The AIMN titled “Asking Peter Dutton.”

The second was to find out more about adaptation and resilience.

It had begun with this message from a Facebook friend, which then led into many other questions.

“Hi John, Part of the bloated Dutton budget is spent on this group [AIDR]. Young Peter has been strangely silent of late so may be an appropriate time to highlight his expertise.”

Hence, my first question to Amanda was this:

Why is it the government never mentions the AIDR and your work in this area?

“I don’t know but I wish they would,” she replied.

I thought it rather obvious given all the adaptation and resilience talk the Prime Minister was throwing about.

I followed up with; Why was funding in the 2017 budget axed for The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility?

When it existed it worked to support decision makers throughout Australia as they prepared for the management of risks from climate change and sea-level rise.

The answer was that; “funds were likely withdrawn from 2013 onwards after Tony Abbott came to power and funding ended in 2017.”

“That would be right,” I thought to myself.

Their web page is still in existence.

My next question related to funding for AIDR: Why are you funded by the Attorney Generals department yet you come under the department of Home Affairs? Isn’t that a bit strange?

Her answer was along these lines:

“There isn’t anything sinister in this. It was just the complexity of the workings of government. How budgets start and end with overruns and unused funds becoming available. Our funding has recently been doubled.”

Are restrictions placed on you by the government in speaking out about the causes of Climate Change?

“No not at all, although I prefer to steer clear of the topic and concentrate on adaptation and resistance.” This led into another question on the same topic:

It maybe my imagination but I’m fascinated as to how the two words adaptation and resilience have become buzz words.

“I think that would be pure coincidence but I wish they would use them more often came the answer.”

Is there any connection between Twiggy Forrest forming a volunteer group and AIDR doing the same thing in WA?

“No, there is no connection except for one with his Minderoo Foundation and CSIRO’s Data61, the data science arm of Australia’s national science agency.”

Tell me about ADRC Australian Disaster Residence Conference.

“It had become an annual conference where a number of agencies come together to discuss the changing climate, and how reducing risk contributes to the resilience of our nation.”

But how do you adapt to an ever-worsening climate while we are simultaneously pursuing policies that are accelerating warming?

“That’s one for the politicians, John. I’m sorry about that. I do have a view but it would be off the record. I did, however, detect from the Prime Minister’s interview with David Speers a change in policy direction.”

But if we are trying to limit the increase in emissions to 1 1/2 % and Indications are that the frequency of major weather events links them to climate change. What if we reach 3%?

No definitive answer emerged from this question other than a discussion that I will touch on later.

My final question was:

What affect would a Royal Commission into the fires or drought or Climate Change have on your organisation?

Administratively, you mean?

Yes.

“Well depending on the terms of reference I imagine we might be called but to what degree I couldn’t be sure.”

I found after listening to Amanda’s answers to my questions and our general conversation that the matters I raised in my original piece were unquestionably without foundation.

As is often the case, there isn’t always controversy at the end of every story.

With any chance of some Facebook conspiracy theory laid to rest I found that I wanted to do what I could to publicise the work of the AIDR, which has a foundation in community involvement.

As I said earlier, what I had intended as a formal interview became more of discussion about adaptation and resilience.

On a meagre budget the amount of work the AIDR do is formidable, from education in schools, research, supporting emergency service agencies, non-government organisations, universities and researchers, production of handbooks and educating volunteers.

Climate Change is real and even at the lowest levels of increased emissions our resilience and how we adapt to it will form a vital, if not essential, part of change.

These two words, adaptation and resilience that seem to have suddenly entered the vocabulary of every conservative politician, invite further exploration by everyone.

On its website the AIDR has a comprehensive Knowledge Hub together with education for kids with a volunteer leadership program. It also has a number of booklets on various subjects for sale.

An example of AIDR’s effectiveness is shown by the fact that 11 years ago 173 people lost their lives in the Black Saturday fires. Since then, science and research has informed our knowledge to create more prepared and resilient communities for the future.

It is notable that in our current season that with significant developments in warnings and a more aware and responsive community appear to be important factors.

Build Back Better” is the current catchphrase:

“The use of the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases after a disaster to increase the resilience of nations and communities through integrating disaster risk reduction measures into the restoration of physical infrastructure and societal systems, and into the revitalization of livelihoods, economies and the environment.

The term “societal” will not be interpreted as a political system of any country.“

A planet subject to ever increasing heat will result in intensified drought, declining water supplies because of reduced rainfall, reduced agricultural yields, and health impacts to both humans and animals and of course more bush fires and floods.

Also impacted will be our primary industries like forestry and fisheries.

Livestock and many animals will be at greater risk of heat stress, reducing livestock productivity and reproductive rates.

Food productivity will suffer from crop failures caused by crop destruction or failures, and the social unrest and mental health problems caused by food shortages, potential loss of habitable land, and prolonged uncertainty.

Continued climate change will have far-reaching impacts upon our society and will necessitate great change. The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience and their research partners like the AFAC, CFA, Australian Red Cross and the CSIRO are at the forefront of what these changes will require from us; or indeed what we will need to change in order to survive.

Some of the problems mentioned are already evidenced in the frequency of major events we are currently experiencing.

My conversation with Amanda had to end sometime and I still have much to learn to pass onto my grandchildren.

But the big question for me remains:

How do you adapt to an ever-worsening climate while we are simultaneously pursuing policies that are accelerating warming?

As she said, that question is for the politicians. Should they allow a 3% rise in emissions then a great deal of resilience and adaptation will be required from my grandchildren.

Further reading

A useful article from the recent AJEM article that frames the meaning of resilience.

The Australian Disaster Resilience Handbook collection provides guidance  on national principles and practices for disaster resilience.

AIDR runs the Education for Young People program with a vision of creating a disaster resilient nation. You can join the Network here.

*Amanda is a community development and engagement professional who has provided leadership and strategic direction in the planning, implementation and delivery of programs in complex environments.

With 20 years’ experience in the emergency management and community sectors, Amanda led the community development area for the Country Fire Authority in Victoria. Joining AFAC (The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council) in 2009, she was appointed Director Community Safety in 2013, where she provided strategic advice in relation to risk reduction, community safety and warnings.

In 2019 Amanda was appointed as Executive Director of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR), an operating division of AFAC.

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You cannot be a leader and a bare-faced liar at the same time

It was marketed as his first key note address for the year. Any good marketing person, given that he really had things of great importance to confide in with the citizens of the nation, wouldn’t allow it to be hijacked by other problems his government was facing.

Well unless he had little to confide in and would rather be questioned just about the “Sports Rorts” scandal.

So bad had been its governance and such a shock had its win at the election been that drawing any attention to its ineffectiveness would make it look even worse.

Never in the history of this nation has a government been so unfit to serve, and never in the history of this nation has its people been so indoctrinated with so much propaganda that they, in effect, discarded any sense of levelheadedness or reasoning to re elect this sordid lot of corrupt politicians.

And yet again I am compelled to watch Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the one with the mouth that weaves its way in and out of problems with all the charm and vigour of a rattlesnake ready to strike, and thus my writing may be intoxicated with the venom of his untruth and lies.

In other words, I wouldn’t believe a word he says.

I shall, however, with the greatest respect for fairness and truth try to report fairly on the words spoken.

These were my feelings before the Prime Ministers address to the National Press Club and the nation.

A large part of the Prime Ministers speech addressed the subject of “disaster resilience” but again he never mentioned the AIDR.

The Conversation reminds us that:

 “In 2017 the government axed funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF), an agency that provides information to decision-makers on how best to manage the risks of climate change and sea level rise.”

And The Australia Institute tweeted:

 

As only he can, the Prime Minister sold his government’s performance as one of astonishing success where ministers were performing brilliantly. His capacity to leave out facts of great importance is astonishing.

Try these, courtesy of Sydney Criminal Lawyers as an example:

Hundreds of small businesses around the nation are bearing the cost of supporting the nation through these times, while big multi-national corporations get away with paying minimal or no tax.

Many farmers can’t feed their stock, some have given up. Fruit and vegetable producers are going bankrupt.

This is all contrary to the picture the Prime Minister painted. Once again he repeated his lies about meeting our emissions targets and later when asked a question about the combined nations of 1.4 emissions equalling 40% of total emissions he looked dumbfounded at the questioner as though it wasn’t possible. But it is true.

Deputy leader of the opposition Richard Marles countered with these remarks:

“We are not on target to meet our Kyoto targets … we are not on track to meet the commitments on the Paris accord,” he said.

“The global assessment of Australia is that we are ranked right at the bottom on the terms of climate change.

“I think the Australian people can now see through the fact this is a prime minister who lies.”

Morrison, in all his righteousness, hit back: “Australia is carrying its load and more,” he said on climate change, adding:

“We are doing what you would expect a country like Australia to do but what I won’t do is this: I am not going to sell out Australians – I am not going to sell out Australians based on the calls from some to put higher taxes on them or push up their electricity prices or to abandon their jobs and their industries and them they are collateral damage of a global movement.

These words smack of a constant theme in conservative commentary. A conspiracy theory.

We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet.

He was in good form. So much so that if you didn’t know better you would think that we lived in a Utopia beyond compare.

There was no mention of a grand plan to take the nation forward into the years beyond our understanding; of the dangers or indeed the enlightenment we might discover.

It was the same old Morrison bombastic speech where the lips moved at a remarkable speed but had little to inspire. It was a defense of everything his party had done or was doing. What a great nation we are he was telling us despite the view around the world..

He focused on two issues. The first was the Commonwealth’s role in national emergencies in which he raised some practical issues, and the second was National Mitigation Adaptation and Resilience Program for worsening climate change.

He also said that:

“… the summer’s bushfire crisis had proven the need for greater flexibility in calling out the Defence Force to assist in responding to emergencies.”

Something that will be discussed, I’m sure, at the next COAG meeting.

It means that it’s – for this government at least – easier to give up on lowering our emissions, be resilient and adapt to whatever comes our way.

And then came question time. The journalists were chafing at the bit. They new what they were there for and those like me knew why we were watching.

We had been grossly misled about the use of our money for political campaigning.

The first came from Sabra Lane, the President of the Press Club.

She asked the Prime Minister to reflect on his own performance during the bush fire crisis. He didn’t bother to answer. He waffled on incoherently about something else and by the time he had finished I think Lane had forgotten that she had asked a question.

A lie by omission.

Mark Riley was second in line and in an acknowledgement of the gravity of the scandal rather emotionally asked Scott Morrison:

“Can you say categorically your office had nothing to do with this, no involvement in the construction of this rort?”

Morrison assured Riley that both he and his department were at all times at arms length, which of course didn’t explain why cabinet a few weeks prior to the election increased the funding by an extra $40 million.

We now know that, with the leaking of incriminating emails to be an outrageous lie.

A lie by omission.

Make no mistake, even if no rules were broken this is corruption of the highest order. It was the corruption of the public purse to advantage the Coalition’s political campaigning.

And underlying what is really concerning them is the possible resurgence of Barnaby Joyce.

The ABC’s Andrew Probyn followed with Senator McKenzie’s coloured charts in hand for all to see, asked if there would be no further slush funds, Mr Morrison replied:

“Well Andrew, I’ll put your editorial to one side and your commentary on it, that’s your view…” and proceeded to ignore the question.

A lie by omission

Michelle Grattan – the Doyen of Australian political journalism – asked about who was better qualified to make decisions the public servants or politicians. Unequivocally Morrison answered it had to be ministers.

He must have thought that public servants were less human than politicians.

Bullshitting is bad enough but when someone believes their own, that is intellectual dishonesty.

When The Guardian’s Sarah Martin turn to ask a question came around she asked if there was nothing wrong as a matter of principle in using public funds for political interests and entrenching the government’s power, Morrison gave her two answers: “I just reject the premise of your question” and a “you can have an editorial on it”

Lying by omission

When it came to the ABC’s Laura Tingle to have a go she ventured into wondering what was the point of having guidelines if they were not followed. She is still wondering because he didn’t answer.

Lying by omission.

Ms Tingle also asked as to who knew what and when at the very top of the government – by asking how Cabinet on March 3 thought an extra $42.5 million could be properly spent as time ran out before the approaching election.

Guess what? Another lie by omission.

So confident with his answers was the Prime Minister that at the end of it he wanted more.

I said at the beginning that you couldn’t believe a word he said.

What further evidence do you need? And just where this “you can have an editorial on it” new verbal reply to journalists comes from is a mystery, let alone what it actually means.

Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s well-being for the sake of it.

You wouldn’t trust him or his ministers as far as you could throw them. The Prime Minister is a masterful liar to those who see through him, but he must sound like the Messiah to those who don’t.

(Note: I have something further to add to my post of last week titled Asking Peter Dutton in which I mentioned the entity of The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) and questioned its relationship to government and who it was that funded them.

Well, I was contacted via The AIM by the Executive Directors assistant of this entity and as a consequence was invited to interview her next Thursday, February 6).

My thought for the day

Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth that that enables human progress.

 

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Until death us do part

On 26 February I will turn 79, leaving me with but one year to achieve the average life span of the Australian male.

Given the assembly of the many different coloured tablets – each with its own purpose – that confront me morning and night, I’m confident of achieving this milestone.

It is surprising to me just how little interest people take in their death given they didn’t have any opportunity to do so in their birth.

These words are not meant to be pessimistic or morose, even humorous, but more to the point, they are simply about the process of death.

Truth be known people of my vintage ask themselves how many more times they will be called to vote. How many grand kid’s birthdays will I see, or grand finals, tennis opens, Melbourne Cups and others I have never missed? How many more articles for The AIMN?

We are not inclined to talk about death until we are face-to-face with it, and even then we try to push it away in the forlorn hope that it might be postponed.

Ask us to come up with stories about our birth and we will produce countless second-hand versions of family memories handed down.

Death is not the mystery it is made out to be. It is simply the reverse of the other mystery we call birth.

Death is a more remote thing. We allow it to hide from us until we have to talk to it.

Then when we are forced to ask questions about it in the quietness of self-reflection or with a friend, or relative, we find ourselves lacking any previous experience.

Can you remember your first experience of loss? When death first appeared in your life with any consequence. When your emotion stirred with an unexplained forfeiture. When you couldn’t marry death and loss together; what it looked like, what it was and how you should react to it.

Only when we face it with some experience of loss can we truly understand it. But the anxiety of it is something we carry with us all of our living days.

We never confront it until it becomes an immediate barrier to our living. Some older folk push it away, kidding themselves that it is a never-ending story.

People of faith have the promise of another and better life but not all are necessarily filled with conviction.

To be told that the life we are living is a forerunner or introduction to better one serves only to devalue the one we have.

In my own journey, I think about it a lot and try to put it into some sort of context that gives me an understanding of the why of it. But I struggle with my logic versus my emotion.

I guess I’m trying to understand the difference between the purpose of life and the reason for it.

I believe that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

After a lifetime of observation I have concluded that the purpose of life is about procreation and as to the reason for it, well, put simply, there doesn’t, when you think about it, need to be one.

Life has been to me a series of questions that after examination have an explanation or they don’t and are quickly replaced with another series. Such is the enormity of our experience.

I don’t want this “shock horror” thinking that usually comes with the sudden death of a loved one. The “why” of it often has no enlightenment.

The process is important to me and I want my family to understand my life, my family, its disappointments, its grace, its inner sanctum of love, its worth, its challenges and its termination. Although they have experienced much of it already.

If you are looking for the ultimate expression of the purity of love, there is no better place to look than in the sanctity of what we call motherhood.

Most families are ill-prepared for the death of a loved one because they don’t think or talk about it. Of course, the suddenness of one’s departure or illness or accident cannot prevent this, but generally speaking, we know where the destination of longevity is headed.

The manner in which people die are so variable that we have no way of pre-empting it but as we approach life’s conclusion we should give thought to those things that would better prepare your family for your death.

Forgiveness might play an important part of the process, as might the expression of love.

If you don’t explain your legacy, how you wish to be remembered, to your family then you don’t do your life, the living of it, any justice, you would have lived it in vain even devalued its importance.

Take the time to casually talk to your family about your death, how you wish to die and your after death desires for your funeral.

People of faith may want to reconcile with their maker or just put things right and this can be confusing for the non-believer who in my view should just let it go without judgement.

For sure, it might help them resolve the missing gaps they may have in their thoughts about you.

For some, death can be long-suffering or sudden and shocking. Not everyone ends up in palliative care a hospital bed or their own.

For me, the less fuss the better. I have had that conversation with my wife.

My thought for the day

A Death Certificate might show proof of death but the legacy you leave behind will demonstrate how you lived.

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The Coalition makes a miserable start to 2020

With January almost done and dusted the Coalition’s form over the past six and a bit years has shown no signs of improvement.

Sincerely, I would much rather be writing about the remarkable advancements the government has made since Scott Morrison came to power. I would gladly take it on the chin and congratulate his work.

About how when he took the reins of the leadership of our nation that he confronted the climate change deniers of his party in the best Whitlamesque “crash through or crash” style of leadership – won the day for the nation and now governs for the common good.

But alas, I cannot. The story is as sad as it is true. It is an ongoing seemingly never-ending narrative of poor leadership that has no vision, no goals that long for completion and no truth that the people can trust.

I would like to say that they have a blueprint, a narrative that inspires me to follow a leader I can have faith in, who has the nation in his heart.

Again, I cannot.

What they are good at is producing advertisements that falsely sing their own praises no matter the wickedness of what they have done.

I and others who write for The AIMN, over many years now have repeatedly explored the incompetence of the Coalition partners.

“Good government starts tomorrow,” said Tony Abbott in 2014. It never did. In fact, it has gotten progressively worse since to the point where the latest polls reflect the electorates current disdain for Scott Morrison’s leadership.

It has been and will be for the duration of its tenure a government lacking in confidence, without having their heart in it given they never expected to win the last election. Nor can it improve given the quality of its leadership, its outmoded economics and its untrustworthiness.

Never be burdened by the negativity of others. Wear positivity as if your life depended on it.

The worry is the time a new government, whenever it is elected, will take to restore any semblance of what we know of good governance, Our memories might have faded so much by then that its meaning might leave us altogether.

I can now confidently predict that spin of the political kind will start to emerge about the reasons why the government is now unable to produce a budget surplus. The fires burnt it all. Was it going to happen? Well, we will never will. Convenient, isn’t it?

The Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments, for many and differing reasons, have been a complete and utter failure. Why?

The main problem is that the team is full of highly-educated people who have been in the game for so long that they know nothing other than the negativity they have inherited from previous leaders.

They have a fear of doing the right thing, as is the case of Minister Bridget McKenzie’s pork barrelling distribution of funds to sporting clubs prior to the last election. That she was wrong to do so is beyond dispute but to admit it would be against the principle of fake news.

Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little. One thing I am certain of however is that there are known facts in the world because science proves them.

Seriously though, Labor is correct. This is exactly the sort of thing they suggest that should go before a National Integrity Commission.

Probably because they thought they would lose the election this effort at deception was particularly brazen. It was nothing less than using taxpayer money for campaign funding.

The Prime Minister, in this instance, isn’t immune to charges that he would have known. After all, he did the announcements on a daily basis.

Twenty-four years ago Labor’s Ros Kelly did a similar thing and resigned from the ministry. McKenzie should do the same.

Having the ability to admit that you are wrong is an absolute prerequisite to discernment and knowledge.

The only man I know who could possibly talk underwater was sadly out of form during the first month of the year. His leadership during the current bushfire crisis left a lot to be desired and this reflected itself in a large drop in the polls.

His woeful leadership doesn’t include a thought for the possibility of being wrong or the capacity to tell others of his own ilk they are.

It is in this inflexibility that we may see him lose his job during the course of a year that may have profound consequences for the citizens of this great land.

Speaking of leadership, the National Party itself demonstrates the dearth of talent we have in our country. The only candidate the party could come up with to replace Barnaby Joyce (a renegade politician with an obsession for the ownership of self-righteousness) was Michael McCormack who seems to suffer from foot in mouth disease an aversion to gay people and any socially progressive decisions made post his birth date.

During January the two most obnoxious politicians in the parliament; George (have you met my wife) Christiansen and Craig (if I cannot say it here I will fly to England to do so) Kelly continued to promote coal as opposed to common sense.

The Minister for Things including the NDIS, Stuart Robert (the man with the biggest NBN bills in the land) had the affront to claim that no one had died waiting for the scheme, despite the agency saying more than 1,200 people have died before they received a scheme plan and the prime minister describing those same figures as “unacceptable”. Go figure that one.

And while all this was happening Peter Dutton was nowhere to be found. “Let him stew in his own mess” probably preoccupied his thoughts as Morrison slugged it out in the heat of unwanted flames.

Or maybe he was privately talking about resilience and just how much the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) develops, maintains and shares knowledge and learning to support a disaster resilient Australia.

Or his absence might mean he is busy congratulating those asylum seekers who are this year entering their 8th year of forced incarceration for never having committed a crime.

There was one reason to take some joy from the first month of the New Year. It was that James and Kathryn Murdoch were quoted as saying:

“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial of the role of climate change among the news outlets in Australia, given obvious evidence to the contrary.”

They, of course, were referring to the overwhelming evidence that all Murdoch news outlets in Australia were to a large degree biased against climate heating and heavily biased toward the right of the political spectrum.

My Thought for the Day

Everyone has a choice. You can either whinge about the issues or do something about them.

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