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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.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission has fallen at the first hurdle

The decision by the head of the NACC not to proceed with any further investigation into the Robodebt scandal was greeted with 900 complaints about the decision.

The Inspector of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, responsible for overseeing the agency’s operations and conduct, has declared that it will commence its own investigation into the matter due to the overwhelming and sustained uproar.

The Inspector of the NACC, “Ms Furness said she will make the findings of her inquiry public in due course.”

“Many of those complaints go so far as to allege corrupt conduct or maladministration by the NACC itself.”

* * * * *

Let me remind you of Commissioner Catherine Holmes’s words about these individuals involved in Robodebt.

Of the former Prime Minister, the Commission found that:

“It was Morrison’s pathological incuriosity that allowed the cabinet to be deceived.”

“Mr Morrison allowed Cabinet to be misled because he did not make that obvious inquiry,” Holmes’s report says. “He took the proposal to Cabinet without necessary information.”

Of Minister Alan Tudge:

“Tudge, Holmes found, was motivated by a desire to “save face” both personally and on behalf of the Government. He wanted to “minimise public embarrassment” after he had publicly trumpeted the new era of debt compliance when he became minister the year before.”

“As a minister, Mr Tudge was invested with a significant amount of public power,” the report says.

“Mr Tudge’s use of information about social security recipients in the media to distract from and discourage commentary about the scheme’s problems represented an abuse of that power.”

Of Minister Christian Porter:

“Mr Porter could not rationally have been satisfied of the legality of the Scheme on the basis of his general knowledge of the [new policy proposal] process, when he did not have actual knowledge of the content of the NPP, and had no idea whether it had said anything about the practice of income averaging.”

Minister Stuart Robert:

When Stuart Robert was appointed minister for Government Services, he was briefed on a Federal Court of Australia case concerning a Robodebt victim in which the Australian Government Solicitor had provided draft legal advice warning the scheme was almost certainly not lawful.

However, Robert:

“… denies being briefed on this advice in June 2019, but the Royal Commission does not believe him. This poses a significant problem for the former minister because it was another five months before the opinion of the solicitor-general was sought. This was the definitive, scheme-killing legal advice.”

Why was there such a long wait? Officials argue it was simply a long process:

“In the Commission’s view, none of this justifies the five-month delay in preparing and delivering the brief.

Further, Commissioner Catherine Holmes said also that:

“… elements “appear to exist” of the little-known tort of misfeasance in public office, in detailed findings that targeted various former Coalition ministers over a scheme she described as wracked by collusion and dishonesty.”

The term ‘misfeasance’ means that the victims could sue the Ministers directly.

* * * * *

I’m seeking words to describe the NACC’s decision to walk away from Robodebt. Can you help?

When the concept of an anti-corruption commission was first muted, it was expected to be a powerful force against wrongdoing. However, as evident from its recent release, the NACC’s response to the Robodebt issue is as weak as a developing baby. This raises the question: What was the point of its establishment if it can do little more than a Royal Commission can? Why was it established if it could not investigate a government policy that was considered the worst policy failure in Australian political history?

The NACC evaluated six (mentioned above) individuals cited by the Royal Commission and decided not to pursue the investigation nearly a year later.

Rick Morton, a dedicated journalist who covered the Royal Commission from start to finish for The Saturday Paper, expressed his disbelief at the NACC’s decision, tweeting, “I dared not hope for more, but this is beyond belief.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the sorry saga as a “gross betrayal” of the Australian people and an example of great “human tragedy”.

In July 2023, Ms Holmes:

“… labelled the automatic debt recovery scheme as an ‘extraordinary saga’ of ‘venality, incompetence and cowardice’ when she released her final report into the scandal.”

The final report dubbed:

“Robodebt neither fair nor legal and has offered 57 recommendations.”

In my view, what the Commission is saying is this:

The Royal Commission did an exceptional job. Yet, despite being referred to matters, the NACC has chosen to refrain from diving deeper because it’s unable to offer any “remedies or sanctions”. It’s too much for us. Despite its powers, there is nothing more it can do. It’s a frustrating situation to fathom. The public couldn’t be blamed for thinking they had been conned and that our politicians have escaped yet again.

After a year of considering the six referrals, the Commission’s findings provide little solace to those affected by the Government and its Ministers’ decisions.

They also failed to address those who lost their life and others their life savings and failed those who sought to expose corruption by ministers and public servants.

The Commissioner’s flippant and uncaring approach to it is insulting, and his apparent handballing of the decision to an underling is pathetic.

The NACC says the Royal Commission’s final report contains “lessons of great importance” for the public sector to consider.

The NACC is saying there was probably corruption involved, but there is not much we can do about it, so we will take note and learn from past lessons. We don’t see any point in having anyone prosecuted for the alleged crimes.

This is what the statement said:

In a statement on Thursday, 6 June, “the Commission revealed it had received six referrals from Robodebt royal commissioner Catherine Holmes SC after she delivered her reportto the government in July last year.

“The Commission is conscious of the impact of the Robodebt Scheme on individuals and the public, the seniority of the officials involved, and the need to ensure that any corruption issue is fully investigated,” it said.

“However, the conduct of the six public officials in connection with the Robodebt Scheme has already been fully explored by the Robodebt Royal Commission and extensively discussed in its final report.

“After close consideration of the evidence available to the Royal Commission, the Commission has concluded that it is unlikely it would obtain significant new evidence.”

“There is not value in duplicating work that has been or is being done by others, in this case with the investigatory powers of the Royal Commission, and the remedial powers of the APSC,” the Commission said.

“An investigation by the Commission would not provide any individual remedy or redress for the recipients of government payments or their families who suffered due to the Robodebt Scheme.”

In revealing its decision, the NACC insisted the Royal Commission provided “lessons of great importance for enhancing integrity in the Commonwealth public sector and the accountability of public officials.”

“The Commission will continue through its investigation, inquiry, and corruption prevention and education functions, to address the integrity issues raised in the final report, particularly in relation to ethical decision making, to ensure that those lessons are learnt, and to hold public officials to account.”

So, is this what it has come to? An exercise in nothingness. If the NACC has so little power, why were the six referrals made in the first place? They sat on that knowledge for a year. There would be no penalty for the crimes committed, not even a slap on the wrist.

Their words don’t ring true, and the opposite is likely authentic. You must be able to rinse out convictions from arguably the best-conducted Royal Commissions to have any chance from a lessor standard.

“… particularly in relation to ethical decision making, to ensure that those lessons are learnt, and to hold public officials to account.”

After assuring the public that the NACC would have more bite than a Pit Bull terrier on steroids, we ended up with a golden retriever in a hairdressing salon. It shows Labor as being weak and the Coalition pulling the strings.

Let me finish with the exact words I used in an article on this subject in July 2023:

Never in Australian politics did the Australian public so unintelligently elect a series of right-wing governments over a decade that were rotten, to the core, infected with hatred for the less well-off but happy with the burden they carried. So ignorant of its incompetence. So willing to break laws and trash conventions. They were so utterly corrupted by lying that they sometimes knew not when or why they were telling them.

They were so brutal toward those seeking a better life on the waves of empathy, so unsympathetic to those domestically needing help, and so full of ministers who didn’t care about the corruption that engulfed them. They were so unendowed with leadership that every decision passed through the cabinet uncaringly and unquestioned.

That so many remnants of that era still exist in the ranks of conservatives must surely remind our citizens of how badly they governed. This is a sobering thought when the current Leader sees nothing wrong with their ideology.

My thought for the day

My reason cannot understand my heart, but I know my conscience does.

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Dutton is a man of little compassion and much less logic

All that I had predicted about Peter Dutton has come to pass. His comparing the 1996 mass murder of 35 people at Port Arthur with a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House could only be made by a person without the most basic human qualities.

People on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to goodness that goes beyond thoughtful examination. They have hatred on their lips, and their hate starts with the beginning of a smile.

Unsurprisingly, Peter Dutton has exhibited an unsympathetic attitude toward matters of the heart. His history in immigration shows it. Those who remember the tragedy that was Port Arthur recall the events with a mixture of shame and disgust, but overriding our abhorrence is a never-ending love for the victims and those left with nothing but the saddest recollections.

Making a comparison between two such events is, at its base, a horrible thing to do. What would those with inconsolable memory who survived think of such an intended offence? As one who has witnessed his naked profanity for so long, l believe Peter Dutton is devoid of sympathetic feelings.

To instinctively politicise every matter of importance that comes before him is unworthy of the position he holds and openly identifies his lack of intellectual introspection.

Again, his observations comparing the 1996 mass murder of 35 people at Port Arthur to a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House have been labelled “tone deaf” by one of the survivors of the horrific mass shooting.

The Liberal leader has copped a series of left hooks for his insensitivity after he used an address at the Sydney Opera House to draw links between the social significance of Australia’s deadliest shooting massacre in recent history and pro-Palestine demonstrations last October.

He has laid out his campaign strategy for the next election in full. The merits of any particular argument seem oblivious to him. His only interest is how much damage his negativity can impact on his opponent. Remind you of Tony Abbott; it does me – even Trump. In short, a disgrace.

Can he overcome his acute unlikability? If he is to have any chance of winning the next election, he must undertake a personality makeover. The only state that shows any endorsement of him is Queensland. That’s understandable, given his petulance of the authoritarian leader. It’s a Trump style that Australian conservatives seem to be adopting en-mass.

My thought for the day

We live in a time where horrible things are being perpetrated on us. The shame is that we have normalised them and adjusted accordingly.

 

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Nuclear Energy: A Layperson’s Dilemma

In 2013, I wrote a piece titled, “Climate Change: A layperson’s Dilemma” in which I pointed out the debunked theories of people like Andrew Bolt, Prof Ian Plimer, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts, and others who insisted that climate change did not exist.

Science won the day, proving beyond doubt that it indeed did.

Now, Australian conservatives and their media supporters seem to have changed tact. While softening their stance on climate change “almost” to the point of a pretence of acceptance, they are now promoting nuclear energy as the answer to Australia’s energy problems.

On the surface, this is a reasonable proposition except for a) the cost to build, b) the time it would take, and c) where to build the reactors.

Cleverly, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has started a debate that he hopes will become as clear as mud and confuse further those already so in the hope that he opens another option that isn’t one supported by Labor but one that gives him creditability in the debate.

Former Liberal leader John Hewson, writing for the Saturday Paper says, “The climate wars may be over, but the battle continues. Now, the climate deniers have become renewables deniers.”

And may I suggest an argument that appeases those on his backbench, like Senators Rennick and Antic, who still believe that climate change doesn’t exist and that Coal is the answer to our energy problems?

For those who want to think a little deeper, it guarantees old and new power companies an extra twenty years to dig up the dirty stuff, given the 20-25 years it would take to build the power stations.

Within the conservative nuclear argument is a bluff to appease the conspiracy nutter mentalities who gain prominence by being controversially stupid, the coal companies and the sceptics in the general public. Such as Peter Dutton:

“I’m strongly in favour of renewables, but we need to keep the lights on, and we need to keep our prices down.”

How could you possibly trust those first six words?

From the ABC:

“The opposition is pushing for the development of small modular nuclear reactors across Australia and, more recently, for large nuclear reactors to be built on the sites that close coal-fired power stations.”

The ‘GenCost’ report [which is produced annually by the Australian Energy Market Operator] considered the cost of new energy generators – including small modular reactors but not sizeable nuclear power plants – with and without associated ‘integration costs’ such as transmission and storage.

Even when those integration costs were considered, variable renewables’ cost range was still the lowest of all new-build technologies, with small modular nuclear reactors and hydrogen peaking plants being the most expensive.”

All Peter Dutton has to do is convince the punters that we cannot live without nuclear power. He can do this with his party’s renowned brand of negativity, lies, and scare campaigns. But remember, they couldn’t even build a few car parks.

What occurs to me now is that I’m faced with the same layperson’s dilemma as I had back in 2015: In the days of Tony Abbott’s “climate change is crap” lie. (Abbott interview with Kerry Obrien).

Upon introspection, I couldn’t help but wonder how could Abbott possess such an astute understanding of climate science to the extent that he could disregard it as nonsense when it was apparent that his knowledge of internet science was so minimal?

This, in turn, prompted me to question my own comprehension. I had to admit that although I followed the debate rigorously and considered myself well-informed, I needed to learn about climate science. Ask me about literature, art, political and religious philosophy, music, and sports, I can handle myself adequately, but science, no.

If asked about these complex topics, many people would need help explaining the splitting of an atom, carbon dating, space exploration, medical advancements, mobile phone systems, DNA, AI, genetics, or electricity production. The average citizen may need help understanding them.

So, as a layperson, where does this leave me? Whom do I believe? Well, for me, it is a no-brainer. I support science.

In the last few years, I have undergone several operations. I have had a heart attack (2 stents) and bowel cancer. Of late, it has been eye problems, another heart issue and a prostate issue. When confronted with these matters, I never questioned the specialists. I acknowledged the depth of scientific research that had given my doctors the knowledge to perform any necessary procedure.

So, why should I question the ‘good’ science of nuclear physics? There is no reason why Australia shouldn’t have it. It’s the cost and the time that are against it. Is the government going to foot the bill or private enterprise? Are they just pulling a swiftie in support of Coal?

In short, the nuclear debate began like this.

It’s been over a month since Mr Dutton criticised the CSIRO for their research on nuclear power, calling it Australia’s most expensive new energy source, and claimed that the estimates of the cost of renewables are unreliable. However, the CSIRO’s chief executive, Douglas Hilton, stood by their General Cost report and warned that it’s crucial for our political leaders to trust and support science. Despite this, the opposition leader repeated his incorrect claim that the report doesn’t accurately cost renewables and required transmission to integrate them into the grid.

On the other hand, Ted Obrien, the opposition spokesperson on energy, recently appeared on 7.30 to support nuclear power. Sadly, his argument was ineffective and lacked substance. I thought his main point, deceptively, was that “coal would last longer” if it took twenty or more years to build nuclear power stations. They plan for large reactors in disused coal mines and smaller reactors in locations yet to be named. How long it would take to build them is still an open question.

It’s essential to consider the long-term effects of our energy choices. By supporting renewable energy sources, we can create sustainable and affordable energy systems, reduce our carbon footprint, and ensure a better future for future generations.

There are better ways forward than disparaging science and spreading misinformation. Our leaders must prioritize science and make informed decisions to protect our planet and its people. A spine-tingling question, that one.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull explained that:

“Nuclear reactors do not ‘firm up’ renewables. Solar and wind are intermittent – depending on sunshine or wind to make electricity. But we have them in great abundance. To firm them we need flexible, dispatchable sources of zero emission energy such as pumped hydro, batteries or green hydrogen. Nuclear reactors cannot turn on and off, ramp up and down like hydro or batteries can. Nuclear reactors generate continuously.”

While Tony Abbott was proclaiming that climate change was crap, and the coal companies donating to the Liberal Party were given a reprieve. It set in place a decade of science denial that made Australia a laughingstock around the world. Now, the same fools are wanting, despite all the evidence that says it is too costly and would take too long, to impose nuclear energy on us.

The problem for lay people like me is that nothing has changed.

How does a layperson like me reach a view on such matters without formal training? It’s simple: do as I do. There are many areas (medicine, for example) in which, as an individual without an extensive analytical background, I, like many others, rely on experts, common sense, observation, and life experience to form my understanding. While theories, such as the theory of evolution, may be easily comprehended, many assume that theories need to be proven. However, it is crucial to note that theories are not merely conjectures or untested hypotheses. Instead, they are rigorously tested explanations supported by a vast body of evidence. As such, theories provide a framework for understanding complex phenomena and play a critical role in advancing knowledge across various disciplines.

In the scientific world, a theory has evolved to fit known facts.

Conversely, those who deny climate change and the overwhelming scientific consensus seek to justify their belief by attaching themselves to a minority of science deniers with obscure qualifications or, worse, to right-wing shock jocks and journalists with no scientific training whatsoever.

These people cannot evaluate the volume of data produced by the various scientific institutions.

So, for the layperson, the choice is to approve the science or default to the opinions of the Duttons and Bolts of this world. Good luck with that.

My thought for the day

“We should all read with an openness to the possibility of being radically changed.” (Author unknown).

 

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Triumph over Dutton-style politics: A retrospective look

Of course, any election will have various reasons for why a particular candidate or party won or lost. Therefore, what I write can only be taken as my opinion and may contain some bias.

So, how does one decide why a party won or lost? The facts will show that one party won because it got more votes than the other, or preferences played an important part. These are facts. Other than that, it is all assertion.

However, other reasons, of course, influence the result and are endless in their variety. They can only be considered views, and one has to consider the veracity of the statement, who is giving it and their qualifications or sentiments for doing so.

My own stab in the dark suggests that a large portion of the community rejects conservatism and its tactics of fear and scare. They have not yet forgiven the LNP for their deplorable governance over almost a decade since they were last in power. And might I add the absence of even the meekest of apologies?

Morrison may have gone, but he has been replaced by Peter Dutton, who this cohort dislikes with a vengeance; they know his history and reject what he stands for. Come the election, if he continues in this vein of Trumpish negative politics, he will offend more people.

Writing for The Guardian, Paul Karp had thoughts dissimilar to mine, saying that “attack lines about a tax on cars can do real damage.” He pointed out that:

“Over on Sky, Peta Credlin said the bullish early results showed ‘the strategy’s right, the positioning is right.’ Of course, the strategy is to falsely claim that a fuel efficiency standard that will give Australians a choice of more efficient cars amounts to a tax. But, hey, there are votes in it.”

In my translation, she is saying that we need to use more lying bullshit if we are to win office.

“When the results soured for the Liberals and it became clear they would fall short, Credlin’s prescription was that the opposition needed ‘more of the same’ to go one better next time.”

When the dust had settled, and it was apparent that Labor had won, she said the Dunkley by-election result was a “wake-up” for the Albanese government, with the Liberal Party securing “the preconditions you need to start taking seats off Labor at a general election.”

As simple as it seems, people demand truth from their politicians. Lies about taxes on cars, the cost-of-living crisis, and immigration will continue with further embellishment.

Sussan Ley is a politician prone to bizarre comments regarding the Dunkley vote swing. She claimed that:

“… if the same swing occurred in the upcoming federal election, the Coalition would win 11 seats, which would be enough to form a government.”

However, it’s worth noting that by-elections differ from federal elections, and the results may not necessarily be replicated.

On Sky News, Pauline Hanson said:

“The turn is on against Labor because they can’t stand his lies – he goes back on his word – and he’s not a true leader for this nation.”

Writing in The Australian (paywalled) on the Monday after the by-election Robert Gottliebsen reckoned that:

“With the right strategies, the Dunkley by-election was a poll the Drover’s Dog could have won for the Liberals.”

On ABC Insiders the next morning, David Speers interviewed Dan Tehan, the member for Wannan, who showed all the emotion of a politician who had won a momentous victory. The only problem was that they lost. It was something to see.

I have some opinions from my Facebook friend Tim Leeder, who voiced the following comments. Tim is a citizen who takes a considerable interest in politics. He is candid, astute, and has a brilliant memory:

  1. A liberal politician last night said a 3 to 4 per cent swing would put the libs back in government. Not true. It would not be enough. Swings are never uniform.
  2. A former liberal staffer said (No name was mentioned.) They need to stress out. We are better at economic management. There needs to be a product difference between us and Labor.
  3. They also need to negate issues like climate change.
  4. Former Victorian Premier Kennett was on the TV coverage last night saying people are waking up to Labor. They are hurting the middle class.
  5. The election is still 12 months away. I think, on balance, Labor will win, but in a minority government situation.
  6. The swing was higher than the ordinary by-election swing against a government in its first term but not against a government overall. It was always a big ask. I suspect the result was about what was expected, depending on the final swing. If it is under 5 per cent, I think it is disappointing for the Liberal Party.
  7. Labor got a sympathy vote. But I suspect the tax cuts issue saved the seat for them.
  8. One view is that the Liberals did not vigorously contest Dunkley last time, so the margin increased to 6 per cent.
  9. Libs have a real problem in Victoria; there is no doubt about that.
  10. Greens’ vote went down. One view is that they were too concerned with Gaza, etc. Aussies don’t care. They do care about the cost of living.

Tim makes some better points than those in the Liberal Party and the media, for that matter. However, at this stage of the election cycle, like polls, we can only take these events as a snapshot of people’s thinking.

But how do the readers of this site see it at this stage of the cycle? Do you agree with the examples I have raised in this piece? What is your perception?

My thought for the day

Just because we were governed by clowns it doesn’t mean Labor can be complacent.

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What has age got to do with it?

The ongoing commentary about the relative ages of the two Presidential candidates is becoming tedious. What matters most is their ability to lead. By the time of the election, Trump and Biden would have each spent a term in office. So, there has been sufficient time for the American people to have formed an opinion about their worthiness to take office for another.

So, how old is too old? Well, it depends on the individual. Many years ago, we were astonished when someone became a centurion. Now, it’s expected. It is part of our evolution. The same is true of our height, which has increased over centuries. People of seven feet are not uncommon.

Of course, this also applies to our cognitive abilities. Former Australian politician Barry Jones’s sagaciously intelligent mind is still writing books at 90, and Bob Hawke, at 89, took a significant interest in the world around him. John Howard will be 85 in July and takes an active interest in politics.

Rubert Murdoch is still telling lies. He is 91 and has become engaged yet again, while Paul McCartney toured Australia at 82.

Maggie Thatcher was very old until she lost it. Her friend Mikhail Gorbachev lived until 91. The famous French resistance leader and President Charles de Gaulle was 80. Fidel Castro was the President of Cuba, aged 82. Queen Elizabeth was still serving her people at 96.

Spanish artist Picasso was still knocking them out at 91, and the Russian author and philosopher Leo Tolstoy was still writing at 82. US Industrialist Henry Ford was still producing at 84. American inventor Thomas Edison was still working at 84.

These days, 90-year-olds have been known to obtain university degrees.

In America, you must be over 35 to be eligible for the Presidency, 30 to be a Senator, and 25 to enter the House. Its parliament is filled with aging politicians.

The New York Times lists twenty congressmen and women as aged. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is 81, and Nancy Pelosi will finish her term at 83. Plus we have:

  1. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, 90 (retiring)
  2. Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, 89
  3. Representative Grace F. Napolitano, Democrat of California, 86 (retiring)
  4. Representative Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, 86
  5. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat of the District of Columbia, 86
  6. Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky, 85
  7. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, 85
  8. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, 84
  9. Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, 83
  10. Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, 83
  11. Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, 82
  12. Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, 82
  13. Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas, 81
  14. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, 81
  15. Representative Frederica S. Wilson, Democrat of Florida, 80
  16. Representative Anna G. Eshoo, Democrat of California, 80
  17. Representative Kay Granger, Republican of Texas, 80
  18. Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, 80
  19. Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, 80
  20. Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, 80

(Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress).

Well, let me finish with the American Actor Cary Grant. He had five wives and fathered a child after he turned 60. (Steve Martin also became a father at 67, btw.)

People have children later in life, and sporting careers are being extended. Playing professional sports at 40 is common nowadays. Age is becoming less critical in all facets of society. Yes, we are living longer – for some, painfully so. Living to 80 was beyond my comprehension as a child, but here I am at 83, still writing for The AIMN, with an active interest in all that life offers those who enjoy its neverending wonderments.

Of course, the curious among us will contemplate life’s reason and others its purpose, while some will endure it. We all think about its unfairness, suffering, and the energy it requires.

Gaining wisdom to answer philosophical questions requires a deep understanding of all that inhibits us. This understanding comes from long-term observation and experience. With time, we develop the intuition to look at things from different perspectives and make wise decisions. Therefore, aging is not just a process of getting old but can also be a path towards gaining knowledge and wisdom.

The cohort of people most prone to age abuse or bias is those we call the baby boomers.

So, what has age got to do with it?

In particular, for the two aspirants for President of the USA.

Young politicians should not use their age to “create doubt” about the competency of aged politicians, and aged politicians should not use their age as a weapon of superiority.

Ageism is a critical issue that our society must address. To tackle this problem, we should only mention a candidate’s age when it’s legally required. It’s crucial to treat people of all ages with respect and dignity. We must focus our conversations on the candidate’s “qualifications and merits rather than their age.” Let’s have fair and thoughtful discussions that encourage us to value everyone’s contributions, regardless of age.

Understandably, American voters may have concerns about the competence of the candidates. However, we must remember that the First Amendment protects free speech, regardless of its accuracy. Thus, the challenge for the voter lies in finding a balance between protecting their rights and ensuring that the information shared is truthful.

And rightly so. Both have shown instances of observable ageism, be it by forgetting names, places, or physical difficulties.

In this instance, voters, the American people, will elect the (alleged) leader of the free world.

Despite everything I have written, how does one eliminate the age factor? Is it possible to overcome human nature?

Well, no, you cannot. You cannot eliminate it from your judgment. The American system has given its people these two men to choose from.

In my view, Donald Trump and President Biden should be ordered to undergo a mental examination to ascertain their fitness to govern the country. If necessary, the Supreme Court could order both to submit to a complete physical and psychiatric evaluation if they were not prepared to do so voluntarily.

President Biden appears to be medically fit. His mental faculties seem reasonable.

On the other hand, former President Trump might pass a fitness test, but his cognitive capacity is highly doubtful, and on that finding alone, he would be disqualified from running.

In addition, he faces many legal problems involving him defending many indictments (that could go on for years) while running for office, possibly from a prison cell.

My writing should not be interpreted as favouring those who have had the privilege of living long lives. Instead, I deeply empathise with those who seek the vitality and vigour of youth.

In 2016 I described Trump as follows:

“Australians see Trump as a sick, deluded, and sexually abusive narcissist and corrupt criminal with a limited understanding of complex world problems. He is a crash-through politician with a ubiquitous mouth who is entertaining to some but lacks the worldly character required for leadership.”

And that, has nothing to do with his age.

My thought for the day

Time doesn’t diminish the crime.

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Significant changes to a worn-out Australian democracy require some positivity from Peter Dutton (cont)

Continued from Significant changes to a worn-out Australian democracy require some positivity from Peter Dutton

Let’s envision a future where everyone has equal opportunities for growth and success. The key to achieving this noble goal is to let go of outdated social objectives and invest in a broader social and philosophical common good that benefits everyone. By embracing ideas, imagination and positivity, “we can reduce inequality and create a brighter future for all“. Together, let’s significantly impact society and work towards a better tomorrow.

The major parties have become fragmented, with Labor losing a large segment of its supporters to the Greens or independents.

Both parties have pre-selection processes rooted in factional power struggles that often see the best candidates miss out. Both need to select people with broader life experience. Not just people who have come out of the union movement or, in the case of the LNP, staffers who have come up through the party.

Our Parliament, its institutions and conventions have been trashed by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, and if he gets the chance, Peter Dutton will do the same.

Ministerial responsibility has at least been restored.

Political donations are out of control and should be recorded in real-time.

Question Time is just an excuse for mediocre minds who cannot win an argument with factual intellect, charm or debating skills to act deplorably toward each other. The public might be forgiven for thinking that the chamber has descended into a chamber of hate where respect for the other’s view is seen as a weakness. Where light frivolity and wit have been replaced with smut and sarcasm. And in doing so, they debase the Parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.

Recent times have demonstrated just how corrupt our democracy has become. We have witnessed a plethora of inquiries and Royal Commissions, all focusing on illegal sickening behaviour.

We now have a National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), but after almost a decade of Conservative government, when corruption flourished, no one has been punished. The NACC has to date:

  • received 2561 referrals
  • excluded 1984 referrals at the triage stage because they did not involve a Commonwealth public official or did not raise a corruption issue
  • 159 referrals awaiting triage
  • 212 triaged referrals under assessment including 13 under preliminary investigation
  • assessed 232 referrals

I cannot remember when my country was so devoid of political leadership. In recent times, we have had potential, but it was lost in power struggles, undignified self-interest and narcissistic personality. Under Albanese, it has stabilised.

The pursuit of power for power’s sake by an Opposition devoid of any ideas has so engulfed the political thinking on the right that the common good is forgotten and takes away the capacity for bi-partisan public policy that achieves social equity.

Then there is a ludicrous Senate situation where people are elected on virtually no primary votes, just preferences. It is also a system that allows the election of people with vested business interests without public disclosure.

One cannot begin to discuss the decline of Australian democracy without aligning it to the collapse of journalistic standards and its conversion from reporting to opinion. Murdoch and his majority-owned newspapers, with blatant support for right-wing politics, have done nothing to advance Australia as a modern, enlightened, democratic society. On the contrary, it has damaged it, perhaps irreparably.

The advent of social media has pushed mainstream media into free fall. Declining newspaper sales have resulted in lost revenue and profits. It is losing its authority, real or imagined. Bloggers reflect on the feelings of grassroots society. Social media writers with whom they can agree or differ but at least have the luxury of doing so. As a result, newspapers, in particular, have degenerated into gutter political trash, hoping they might survive. Shock jocks shout the most outrageous lies and vilify people’s character with impunity and, in the process, do nothing to promote decent democratic illumination. They even promote free speech as if they are the sole custodian of it.

A number of people/ideologies have contributed to the decline in our democracy.

For starters, the Abbott factor and the death of truth as a principle of democratic necessity. I am convinced Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton believe that the effect of lying diminishes over time and, therefore, is a legitimate political tool.

Mr Abbott has long set a high standard for not keeping promises. On August 22, 2011, he said:

“It is an absolute principle of Democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our Democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”

On the eve of that election, after crucifying Prime Minister Julia Gillard daily for three years, Abbott made this solemn promise:

“There will be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

This was an unambiguous statement that cannot be interpreted differently than what the words mean. To do so is to tell one lie in defence of another.

When you throw mud in politics, some of it inevitably sticks, but there is a residue that adheres to the chucker. That was Abbott’s and, in turn, a conservative dilemma, but the real loser was our democracy. In Australian political history, Abbott’s and Morrison’s legacy will be that they empowered a period emblematic of a nasty and ugly period in our politics.

Our democracy is nothing more or less than what the people make of it. The power is with the people, and it is incumbent on the people to voice with unmistakable anger the decline in our democracy.

People need to wake up to the fact that the government affects every part of their lives (other than what they do in bed) and should be more concerned. But there is a deep-seated political malaise.

Good democracies can only deliver good governments and outcomes if the electorate demands it.

“You get what you vote for” rings true.

An enlightened democracy, through its Constitution, must give its citizens a clear sense of purposeful participation. It must remain perpetually open to improvement in both its methodology and implementation. Importantly, its constitutional framework must be subject to regular revision, renewal, and compromise whenever everyday life demands it. There can be no room for complacency or stagnation in a genuinely effective democracy. Only through constant evolution and adaptation can a democracy truly serve the needs and aspirations of its people.

Unfortunately, without Peter Dutton’s cooperation, we can expect more of the same. Without it, constitutional changes and an Australian Head of State are just fantasies.

My thought for the day

The most objectionable feature of a conservative attitude is its propensity to reject well-substantiated new knowledge. science, in other words.

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Significant changes to a worn-out Australian democracy require some positivity from Peter Dutton

Continued from Is Australian democracy at risk from an authoritarian leader?

One day on a tranquil Sunday, I found myself lost in thought as the rain gently tapped on the rooftop, prompting me with profound questions. The word ‘democracy’ keeps coming back to me, and though I have written about it before, my inner political self urges me to revisit the topic. Our democracy is in dire straits, but I hope it can be saved from its current state of decay. May my passion for this cause not falter.

Before presenting any ideas for rehabilitating a democracy on its knees, one must first acknowledge the difficulty. When Anthony Albanese was elected Prime Minister on May 21 2022, he was expected to clean up the current state of our democracy and the political culture that goes with it.

He discovered that there is only so much one can do about meaningful and significant change without a like-minded opposition leader’s sincere, earnest cooperation. Dutton must find some positivity. It may be foreign to him, but find it he must.

However, Albanese learned it would never be forthcoming from a man like Peter Dutton, whose sole interest is obtaining power. This was decisively confirmed with the recent “Voice” referendum: The moment Opposition leader Peter Dutton (unexpectantly for Albanese) uttered “No.”

That would be the end of it. And so it was for The Voice, but any proposal that warranted change carried the same threat.

If we want to become a nation, independent, holding its place in a world of hard-earned international goodwill, we must become a republic, one with an Australian as our head of state; it can only happen with the help of Peter Dutton.

But Dutton will have differing views rather than agree to any proposal to upgrade our Constitution via a standing committee putting forward recommendations for the public to consider.

It is just ridiculous that a document that doesn’t even mention women is still with little change since January 1, 1901.

In this period of our political history, the only way for vital issues to be updated is to have all political party leaders agree on the substance of any proposal. For any opposition leader to oppose, such a proposal would render it dead in the water.

Unsurprisingly, our two-party political system was born from this very dreary document written by men for men. Our current combatant political two-party system could serve us better but needs more positivity to change it. Members sit on opposite sides in an auditorium where pit bulls are let off the leash for a bit of snarling and hatred.

Nobody wants to improve the system because it suits them not to. Once they are the winner, they have the power.

Democracy should be a “Work in progress”: Never ending

A clear indication of an Australian democracy in decline is the fact that people are giving up this voting gift, literally saying: “A pox on both your houses”.

Tens upon tens of thousands did so at the last election by not voting.

Our political system is in crisis because our solicitations need to speak with clarity on issues that concern people.

To truly serve the needs and aspirations of its people, a genuinely effective democracy must constantly evolve and adapt. We must be bold and persistent in building a more inclusive and just society. We must remain compassionate and sympathetic towards each other and work together towards creating a better future for all. A functional democracy should give its citizens a definite sense of meaningful involvement. It should always be open to improving its methods and implementation. Crucially, its constitutional framework must be regularly revised, renewed, and subject to political compromise whenever the greater reasonable demands it.

But above all, its function should be that:

“… regardless of ideology the common good should be served first and foremost. A common good healthy democracy serves the collective from the ground up rather than a top down democracy that exists to serve secular interests. One that is enforced by an elite of business leaders, politicians and media interests who have the power to enforce their version. That is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Every facet of society, including the democratic process, needs constant and thoughtful renewal and change. Otherwise, we become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that we never see better ways of doing things.”

Unfortunately, Australia’s democratic process, as defined by its Constitution, is struggling to keep up with the changing times. It seems stuck in the past, and moving forward requires significant changes. Labor’s desire for a republic and a modernised constitution is understandable, but it may need help from others. It’s a difficult situation, and understandably, many people feel frustrated.

With his opposition to the Voice, Dutton has shown that nothing can be changed without his agreement.

In my previous article I wrote – and wish to repeat – that:

“I am not a political scientist, historian or a trained journalist. I write this as a disgruntled and concerned citizen who wants change to the Australian Constitution I grew up with. The demise of Australian democracy originates in a monumental shift by both major parties in how they now interpret their individual philosophies.

They are now tainted with sameness.”

The Liberal Party has been replaced by a neo-conservative one, actively supporting rich individual identities against a collective one, and old-style Liberalism no longer has a voice.

Labor, as is usual, has come to power during a crisis and is managing its wimpy grip on power, unable to make the hard decisions it knows it promised less Dutton denies his support yet again. There is little or no difference between the Liberals and the National Party, who seem irrelevant as a political force in doing anything that benefits our democracy.

Conservatives are going down the path of a defined inequality with a born-to-rule mentality that favours the rich.

Continued tomorrow …

My thought for the day

If there is an acceptance by both sides that negativity is the only means of obtaining and retaining power, then we will get nothing more than what we have now.

 

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Is Australian democracy at risk from an authoritarian leader?

Continued from Authoritarianism is taking over the world. Will it snare Australia?

To recap, in Part 1 I wrote that:

In recent years, we have witnessed three individual politicians who have used the techniques of the authoritarian leader, fear, negativity, misinformation and lies. I refer to Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and the now opposition leader Peter Dutton. All have used the methods of an authoritarian ruler.

The best way to guard against a takeover by a popular authoritarian is to create the best democracy possible.

Democracy is a complex political system that involves various components. Still, at its core, it is about individuals with similar beliefs and values collaborating to create a set of principles that guide their actions and decisions. It is a process that requires active participation and engagement from all members of the community, with a focus on inclusivity and equality. Democracy is a mechanism for achieving consensus and promoting the common good through dialogue, debate, and compromise.

They then become the foundation of political parties. These ideologies pull in different directions in a quest for majority approval by the people. It is a far from perfect system that has variations all around the world. It is elastically flexible, unpredictable and, at its worst, violent and highly combative.

The system of Australian Democracy, when it functions optimally, is characterised by a sense of dignity and constructive engagement. It effectively serves society’s needs and can accommodate a broad range of ideas and perspectives, regardless of their extreme. However, it is worth noting that the Australian democratic system is not perfect; it is far from ideal.

What’s wrong with our Democracy?

In their article The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule, Sarah Repucci and Amy Slipowitz contend that:

“Undemocratic leaders and their supporters in democratic environments have worked to reshape or manipulate political systems, in part by playing on voters’ fears of change in their way of life and by highlighting the very real failures of their predecessors. They have promoted the idea that, once in power, their responsibility is only to their own demographic or partisan base, disregarding other interests and segments of society and warping the institutions in their care so as to prolong their rule. Along the way, the democratic principles of pluralism, equality, and accountability – as well as basic stewardship and public service – have been lost, endangering the rights and well-being of all residents.”

In fact, it can sometimes be cumbersome and unwieldy, and there have been instances where it has failed to meet the expectations of its constituents. Despite its imperfections, the Australian democratic system remains an important and valuable institution that plays a critical role in shaping the nation’s future.

Common to most Western Democracies (without anything better), it has a capitalistic economic system. One that is badly in need of an overhaul.

In Australia, the right to vote is the gift that democracy gives. People are free to vote for whichever party (or individual) they support, but overriding this is the fact that people cannot possibly believe in democracy if, at the same time, they think their party is the only one that should ever win.

A clear indication of an Australian democracy in decline is that people are giving up this voting gift, literally saying: “A pox on both your houses”.

The 2022 election had the lowest turnout for a century:

“For the first time since compulsory voting was introduced for the 1925 federal election, turnout fell below 90%.”

Our political system is in crisis because our solicitations need to speak with clarity on issues that concern people, particularly women.

I would argue that an enlightened democracy should give the people a sense of purposeful participation. It should forever be open to regular improvement in its methodology and implementation. Its constitutional framework should be exposed to periodical revision, renewal, compromise, and bipartisanship when the common good cries out.

But above all, its function should be that regardless of ideology, the common good should be served first and foremost. A typical good, healthy democracy serves the collective from the ground up rather than a top-down democracy that exists to serve secular interests.

Every facet of society, including the democratic process, needs constant and thoughtful renewal and change. Otherwise, we become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that we never see better ways of doing things.

Unfortunately, Australia’s version of the democratic process has none inherent in it and is currently sinking into a quagmire of American Tea Party hypotheses.

I am not a political scientist, historian or a trained journalist. I write this as a disgruntled and concerned citizen because it seems that the Australian democracy I grew up with no longer exists.

The demise of Australian democracy originates in a monumental shift by both major parties to the right, with the result that neither seems to know exactly what they stand for.

They are now tainted with sameness.

The Liberal Party has been replaced by neo-conservatism, authoritarian leadership.

Labor has lost its zeal for change and how to go about it.

We have ended up with an individual identity against a collective one, and old-style Liberalism no longer has a voice. There is little or no difference between the Liberals and the National Party, who seem irrelevant as a political force. Conservatives have gone down the path of inequality with a born-to-rule mentality that favours the rich.

They still carry the “lifters” and “leaners” tags so popular with the Abbott era.

“It is a distillation of the idea that there is no such thing as society, that we are only responsible for our own circumstances”. (Tim Dunlop, The Drum, 4/7/2014).

Labor seems unable to walk over the shadow of its past, a time when it did great things to advance the nation.

The Labor Party needs to rid its party of outdated objectives and invest in a social, philosophical common good. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.

To do nothing is to allow the authoritarian his or her way. I don’t wish to sound alarmist, but…

In recent years, we have witnessed three individual politicians who have used the techniques of the authoritarian leader, fear, negativity, misinformation and lies. I refer to Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and the now opposition leader Peter Dutton. All have used the methods of an authoritarian ruler.

Next week: Ideas for change.

My thought for the day

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.

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Authoritarianism is taking over the world. Will it snare Australia?

It would seem that many countries around the world have decided that democracy has run its race. Russia, India, Hungary, Turkey, Poland, China, Slovakia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Libya, Laos, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan have-authoritarian-governments.

An explosion of elections is due now or into the near future that will see far-right authoritarian leaders elected who have parroted:

“Amidst all the chaos and uncertainty in the world, it seems that some politicians are trying to gain our trust by making big promises. They pledge to tackle issues like promiscuity, immigration, and corrupt leaders. Do you think they’ll be able to follow through on their promises?”

Many people are concerned about the increasing popularity of right-wing populism, nationalism, and worldwide polarisation. In just a few years:

Within just a few years, we’ve witnessed the election of Donald Trump in the US, the Brexit decision in the UK, the rise of Matteo Salvini in Italy, Victor Orbán in Hungary, the Freedom party in Austria and the Law and Justice party in Poland. The world’s largest democracy, India, is menaced by a newly virulent nationalism and xenophobia.

And last year, the Philippines elected Ferdinand Marcos’ son as President, signalling their preference for strongman politics.

President Putin is expected to secure a victory in the upcoming Russian election. The President has criticised the Western concept of gender, labelling it as a “perversion” and a “complete denial of man.” According to him, the idea is part of an “overthrow of faith and traditional values” by the Western elites.

Many nations and their leaders have discarded democratic practices and turned towards authoritarianism, while some democracies have been shaken by populist forces that reject fundamental principles. Countries with authoritarian powers are banning opposition groups, jailing their leaders, and tightening the screws on independent media.

Findings, released as:

“… part of the 2023 ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, show 77.4 per cent of Australians say they are satisfied or very satisfied with Democracy compared to 81 per cent in 2008.”

Political scientists will tell us that:

“Authoritarianism is the enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom. It has a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others.”

And that:

“An authoritarian government is also one that inflicts strict rules that limit the personal freedoms of its people. Citizens of countries that have an authoritarian government have diminished rights and privileges and are typically unable to freely practice their faith, fully express themselves, or choose their leaders through free and fair elections.”

When in 1991, the USSR collapsed, to the surprise of many in the West, what materialised was not a liberal democratic government. It was not the end of soviet history as we knew it, for what emerged was Authoritarianism. Since then, it has slowly crawled like rust into a world uncertain of its future.

To vote for these authoritarian, often corrupt figures, the citizens of democratic governments have to be monumentally dissatisfied, firstly, with the governance of their country, secondly, with their leader. Then, they give in to the favoured candidate.

After that, they are confronted with rigged elections.

Having accepted authoritarianism, the peoples of all the nations mentioned increasingly have less to say about their destiny. They are victims of their ignorance and the misinformation used to scare them.

Unfortunately, many voters lack sufficient political awareness, creating a situation where less informed voters outnumber the more politically aware. Consequently, conservative politicians often resort to misleading information to sway public opinion. Such misinformation contains many untruths propagated through various channels to achieve their political objectives. This phenomenon undermines the democratic process and may lead to detrimental outcomes for the general public.

If we are to save our democracy, we might begin by insisting that, at the very least, our politicians should tell the truth.

We have to ask why it was that when Russia tumbled, communism wasn’t replaced with some form of Liberal Democracy. Therefore, the invasion of Ukraine, a democratic European country, by an authoritarian regime should have come as no surprise.

Over the past 15 years, the principles of Liberal Democracy have been experiencing a decline and have rapidly retreated. This trend has recently reached a point that was once considered impossible to imagine. A study by Professor Nicholas Biddle said that:

“… the most significant change was fewer Australians being ‘very satisfied’ with Democracy than 15 years ago – 14.2 per cent compared to 23.4 per cent.”

Within many liberal democracies, authoritarian leaders continue to gain strength and popularity

A new report by The Global State of Democracy 2023 says that the erosion of democratic norms has been engineered by leaders claiming to speak in the name of and with the people’s authority.

In many parts of the globe, the fundamental principles of democracy are threatened by various populist leaders whose only interest is in the power they can obtain and the privileges that go with it.

When looking for those ingredients that make a democracy, ask yourself:

Are there free elections?

Is there an independent law system?

Is there a separation of powers?

Is there any transparency in government?

Is there a real opposition?

Who is in control of the budget?

Are ideas and diversity trashed?

Are those who vehemently oppose authoritarianism brushed aside?

I understand that it can be disheartening to see the decline of Liberal Democracy worldwide. It is difficult to accept that this trend has been ongoing for the last decade and a half, and understandably, such an outcome would be hard to imagine.

Is Australia at risk? Could we have a better Democracy?

In recent years, we have witnessed three individual politicians who have used the techniques of the authoritarian leader, fear, negativity, misinformation and lies. I refer to Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and the now opposition leader Peter Dutton. All have used the methods of an Authoritarian ruler.

The best defence against authoritarianism is to create the best Democracy possible

Democracy is a complex political system involving rules and conventions with various other components. The essence lies in the coming together of people who share common beliefs and values, working in unison to establish a framework of principles that serve as a compass to direct their conduct and choices. It is a process that requires active participation and engagement from all members of the community, with a focus on inclusivity and equality. Democracy is a mechanism for achieving consensus and promoting the common good through dialogue, debate, and compromise.

They then become the foundation of political parties. These ideologies pull in different directions in a quest for majority approval by the people. It is a far from perfect system that has variations all around the world. It is elastically flexible, unpredictable and, at its worst, violent and highly combative.

Having declared authoritarianism a form of dictatorship, next week I will look at a better democracy and how to achieve it.

My thought for the day

We exercise our involvement in our democracy every three years by voting. After that, the vast majority takes very little interest. Why is it so?

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Sky News: where facts don’t seem to matter

At the risk of arousing my natural bias toward the truth, I have of late taken to reading Sky News. I have done so during the events surrounding Labor’s decision to change the settings for the stage three tax changes.

In doing so, I found a collection of half-truths, lies by omission and misrepresentation. I had to ask myself if we have reached the point in politics where truth is something that politicians have persuaded us to believe, “like alternative facts” rather than truth based on factual evidence, argument, and assertions.

I am convinced Peter Dutton and others of his ilk, including his supporters in the media, believe that the effect of lying diminishes over time, and they forget that they leave behind a residue of broken trust.

Take this piece by Caroline Di Russo, Sky News, 3 February 2024. At the foot of her piece, she runs out of words to condemn Labor for breaking a promise. She concludes:

“… Labor has opted for its tried and tested “class warfare” approach to politics.

The only change is a studious avoidance of the phrase “big end of town”, presumably because that didn’t work out so well for them during the 2019 campaign.

The politics of envy is the same though; it’s just a quieter version.

And I doubt we have seen the last of it.

During the Prime Minister’s National Press Club speech last week he refused to rule out changes to negative gearing.

Either it’s already on the cards, or the Prime Minister knew no one would believe him if he denied it so he just didn’t bother. Meanwhile, Treasurer Chalmers has since tried to reject such changes are on the cards.

Labor need to find more avenues to tax because they refuse to cut government spending – the true source of our domestic inflation.

Despite promising to go through the budget “line by line” to reduce government spending, Labor’s last budget included $185 billion in new spending commitments.

So instead of cutting spending to curb inflation, Labor will redistribute from the “top end of town” to pretend it is providing relief for lower- and middle-income earners.

The issue for voters is this: it’s not what Labor is giving with one hand today, it’s what they will take with the other tomorrow.”

Every time Labor tries to bring some counterbalance of fairness over Australian economics, the conservative response is always to shout at the top of their lungs, “class warfare”. When it is so evident that the wealthy and privileged enjoy wealth concessions way over that of the average citizen, why on earth do the conservatives not just admit it?

The country would be better off if politicians did change their minds when categorically demanded for the common good.

Why not just admit that the revised tax cuts are popular with up to 66% of the population and back them?

In my piece Money Money Money. It’s a Rich Man World I quoted research by the Australian Institute that is but one truth of how well the rich are looked after.

Last year, before legislation to fix the problem, their research showed that:

“… the cost to the federal budget of generous superannuation tax concessions was on par with the cost of the entire aged pension and more significant than the total cost of the NDIS as a whole in 2022-2023.”

My piece goes on to explain in detail just how advantaged the wealthy and privileged really are, so it’s a bit rich for Caroline Di Russo to cry “class warfare” every time Labor tries to make society a little fairer. But then it was that British lady with lousy hair who said, “There is no such thing as society, only individuals making their way.”

“Class warfare” is a terrible and disgusting term, and if anyone is carrying it out, it is the conservatives. They are doing all the complaining.

Labor need to find more avenues to tax because they refuse to cut government spending – the true source of our domestic inflation.

This statement by Caroline Di Russo is either an outright lie or a misrepresentation of the facts. One only has to do a search asking if Labor has made an effort to wind back Government spending, and you will find ample evidence that they have.

Shane Wright in the Sydney Morning Herald also noted:

“Almost $10 billion in federal spending will be either cut or pumped into other priorities in this week’s budget update as all levels of government come under pressure to reduce expenditure and ease inflation.”

And in another article for the same paper acknowledged that:

“In the space of 18 months, Treasurer Jim Chalmers has found the best part of $100 billion down the back of the budget lounge.”

Even way back in October 2022 it looked as though some in the Murdoch media were enthusiastic about Labor’s budget:

“Labor to slash $21 billion of government spending after audit of departments.”

And Ellen Ransey reported in the Great Southern Herald that Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallaher were to reveal $17.8 in savings in the 2023 budget.

There are other examples, but these make my point.

Returning to Caroline Di Russo’s article, her assertion that there were increases in spending is correct, but they were investments designed to start productivity and drive growth. Therefore, there is a return on investment. There are deficits, but they are designed to decline in dollar terms as a percentage of the economy yearly.

To assert as she has done that cutting government spending is the cause of high inflation is absurd. It is a far more significant problem and more complex than her analysis.

My thought for the day

When drafting a budget for the common good what should your priorities be?

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What will the conservatives campaign on at the next election?

Now that Australians have, depending on where they live, gotten through fires and floods or too many days at the cricket drinking excessively, some will turn their attention to what’s happening over the dunes in the world around them.

It may be too early to discuss such an issue like the next election, but it is worth considering now that Labor has changed its mind on the stage three tax cuts.

Will the Prime Minister go for an early election later this year or wait until 2025?

The earliest date for a regular election is August 3, 2024. The latest it can be held is 27 September 2025. The stakes are high between a man who has broken a promise and another who is the most distrusted politician in the country.

No matter when Albanese chooses to go, it will be another election vital for the country’s future. I say “vital” because the country needs change. Changes that will make for a better society, a fairer one. Fundamental, meaningful changes. First, cab off the rank has to be tax reform, and then it has to be continuous reform. They have started, and Labor is the only party that can bring about the changes, but it needs three terms.

Peter Dutton has already demanded that the Prime Minister call one over Labor’s tax revisions, but that won’t happen.

The Labor Party has skillfully executed a political tactic known as a reverse wedge on the Opposition. This strategy has forced Dutton to agree with the government’s proposed changes, which are aimed at promoting equity. Despite being reluctant, Dutton had no other option but to give in. However, it remains to be seen whether he realises that most Australians aspire for a fairer distribution of resources and opportunities.

Opposing a tax break for every Australian taxpayer while simultaneously demanding that the government take steps to alleviate the burden of living expenses was not only embarrassing but also appeared contradictory. On the other hand, supporting the proposed changes would be seen as hypocritical.

Paul Bongiorno wrote that:

“The redesign of the stage-three tax cuts is a watershed moment in the conversation the nation needs to have over expanding the revenue base to pay for the sorts of things that a modern, healthy, educated, secure and caring nation demands.”

According to research by the Australia Institute, nearly three in five voters across all demographics supported the changes.

Richard Dennis, at the Press Club on Wednesday, 31 January, said that the Albanese government’s decision to change the tax cut was the most honest thing he had seen by an Australian politician for a decade.

So far, in its first term, any agenda Labor may have had toward significant changes to our democracy has been thwarted by a worldwide economic downturn over which they have had little or no control. It has spent much of its first term picking up the mess the conservatives left behind, as duly noted by the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers:

“Upon taking office, the Albanese Labor government inherited not only $1 trillion of coalition debt but also a massive skills deficit. This situation is so dire that according to the OECD Australia is experiencing the second-most severe labour shortage in the developed world.”

The latest inflation figures of 4.1% in the December quarter suggest we have turned the corner and will begin to see interest rates come down this year.

The conservatives will, of course, be subject to the same economic advantages or disadvantages that exist whenever the Prime Minister decides to go to the people. However, a fair assessment looking forward is that inflation will be under control and the economy will be in better shape.

The average person may have a question in mind that is related to the Opposition, its leadership, and its policies for the Australian people. Peter Dutton, the current leader, is not a trusted figure for many, and some may see him as a replica of the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. According to some, the Opposition may only have little to offer except for criticism and a lack of constructive policies.

They could hardly, as they had proclaimed in many elections, claim that they are the best managers of money when they left the country a trillion dollars in debt.

Their persistent denial of a climate and energy problem over nearly a decade has also left them in a tough spot. They are now tasked with devising policies that effectively address both issues despite their earlier reluctance to acknowledge the problem. For almost ten years, they refused to admit that there was a problem with our climate and energy. Consequently, they now find it extremely challenging to formulate policies that address both issues effectively.

And all the spooky ultra-right-wing deniers are still there, as are their media supporters.

Again, on economics. It will be challenging putting forward a position of superiority on economics when your leader needs to learn more about the subject.

And it would be tough to say you had an anti-corruption policy when your own party practiced it.

When debating social services, a Royal Commission has found the LNP comprehensibly at fault over Robodebt. It will feature in the campaign. Many protagonists stand for re-election, and others will face a higher court of opinion. Added to the who you trust question is one of greater importance: why are you there?

If you are watching the ABC programme Nemesis, you would have noted that Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Mathias Corman, and Peter Dutton all refused to participate. I would suggest at the risk of tarnishing their images any further. If so, you will have concluded, as l did, that the Coalition spent more time on leadership infighting than actual governance. This shone through despite their inability to see that what they were doing was beyond contempt.

Labor can also easily argue away the tax breaks as being not a broken promise but a more equitable share of the pie. The promise is kept, but the configuration is altered.

No doubt, given their expertise in the subject, the conservatives will throw in a scare or two. Still, they could be hit to the boundary without an accompanying truth.

Labor has, to a large degree, restored our trade relationship with China, and other relationships have been repaired. Needless to say, Foreign Affairs is a no-go zone for the LNP unless they intend to shirtfront a few leaders.

Dutton can hardly campaign on his party’s record when in office. In fact, it would be difficult for him to put forward anything that wasn’t touched by corruption.

There is nothing wrong with the narrative of being an innovative country with a creative economy. In fact, it should be a worthwhile pursuit. So Dutton may devise some promise he knows he will never be obliged to keep. By that I mean he may run dead.

There are three problems, though. Firstly, all innovation is generated by education. If Dutton takes the private school’s route, he will be accused of prioritising Christian and private schools. Inevitably, Labor will accuse him of religious preferentialism and class nepotism. Innovation born of educational privilege is a hard sell.

Malcolm Turnbull even once warned:

“I suspect no federal government would retreat from funding and continuing to support the non-government school sector because there would be a concern that they would not get a fair go from state governments who obviously would have a competing interest with their schools.”

Strangely, conservatives have never realised that kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds are our most untapped source of potential growth. They are the most undervalued resource.

My thought for the day

My wife and I, together with other welfare recipients, would like to apologise to Joe Hockey and his government for being such a burden on them. (In remembrance of the 2014 budget.)

Another thought

Promises are always contextual.

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Money, money, money. It’s a rich man’s world.

The headline conveys a tale of acquisition, narcissism, and unimaginable wealth. The world is overflowing with money inherited, earned honestly or obtained through corrupt means. Nevertheless, little is acquired through equal opportunities. It is a world where the rich have a significant advantage. It is a rich man’s world.

Let’s begin our investigation with some sobering statistics.

Last year, before legislation to fix the problem, research by the Australia Institute showed that:

“… the cost to the federal budget of generous superannuation tax concessions was on par with the cost of the entire aged pension and more significant than the total cost of the NDIS as a whole in 2022-2023.”

And Oxfam’s latest report, “Inequality Inc.,” said that the income of Australia’s 47 billionaires doubled in the last two years to $255 million.”

If you are amazed by those numbers, you are not alone. I am, too. Never before have the wealthy been so well taken care of.

Tax avoidance through family trusts is also an industry unto itself.

“Earnings can be allocated to family members with low income from other sources so that the taxable income attracts the lowest tax rate possible.

In some circumstances it is possible to reduce the tax bill to almost zero.”

As if that’s not enough:

“The rich also get rewarded with tax concessions to employ armies of lawyers, financial consultants, and accountants to arrange their tax affaires to avoid tax.”

While Australians face a cost-of-living crisis, billionaires have been raking it in. One report said that 897 self-managed super funds produced $1 million or more in income.

We now have “more wealth in the hands of 47 people than around 7.7 million Australians,” – just absurd.

And the wealth of:

“… the three wealthiest Australians, Gina Rinehart, Andrew Forrest and Harry Triguboff, has more than doubled since 2020 at a staggering $1.5 million per hour.”

That inequality of such magnitude should exist in a wealthy country like Australia should open our thinking toward a wealth tax.

SOS Australia rightly points out that:

“… the rest of the community bears the “cost of these tax concessions. It siphons off revenue that would be better used to fund schools, TAFE and universities, as well as other services such as health care, mental health, public housing, unemployment benefits and so on. As the economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman have observed, tax avoidance is ‘the triumph of injustice.”

They add that:

“To compound the injustice, the wealthiest families in Australia also benefit from over $1 billion a year in government funding for the elite private schools they send their kids to. Figures published on My School show that 126 of the wealthiest schools in Australia received $1.25 billion in government funding in 2020. Not only do the rich avoid paying taxes, but they get massive subsidies from the taxes paid by the rest of the community. The sheer scale of the avarice is gobsmacking.”

The Australia Institute also points out that tax concessions for super items “such as medical benefits are $31.3 billion, and assistance to the states for hospitals is $26.6 billion.”

You have to wonder how individuals accumulate large sums in superannuation while receiving such generous tax benefits, not to mention negative gearing, franking credits, and CGT (capital gains) discounts.

When you stop to consider it, the situation is quite scandalous. How did we get here? Is it the result of consecutive conservative governments being too generous while in power? Or is it due to the Labor government’s reluctance to take action? Once you’ve given something, it’s tough to take it back.

I wanted to understand why significant wealth inequality exists in our society. I wondered why both conservative and left-leaning governments tend to reward those who already have a lot of money rather than support those with less. It seems counterintuitive that this pattern persists across different political ideologies.

A conservative philosophy might suggest they should, but it doesn’t say it should be unfair. Conversely, Labor philosophy unequivocally supports the less well-off.

I typed into my search engine, “Why do the rich in Australia receive so many tax breaks?” Google provided a multitude of headlines to peruse.

As I wrote this, news hit the airwaves that the stage three tax alterations would advance more equitably. The Opposition is now up in arms, of course, but logic has won over politics. They will shout broken promises, but Labor can hardly go against its philosophy and still maintain respect with its supporters.

The Australian started its salvo with six stories on its front page about the tax cuts the day after the announcement – none with equality in mind.

Distinguishing a change of mind from a broken promise is often precarious, particularly in politics. It takes courage to change your mind for the greater good.

Another article I read was by Aimee Picchi, from December 17, 2020, for MoneyWatch. Although it wasn’t Australian and a little dated, it contained a thread to what I sought. Picchi wrote that:

“The new paper, by David Hope of the London School of Economics and Julian Limberg of King’s College London, examines 18 developed countries – from Australia to the United States – over 50 years from 1965 to 2015. The study compared countries that passed tax cuts in a specific year, such as the U.S. in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes for the wealthy, with those that didn’t, and then examined their economic outcomes.”

The analysis discovered one significant change:

“The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries such as the USA, where tax rates were lowered, but instead of trickling down to the middle class, the tax cuts for the rich accomplished much more. Reagan inadvertently or deliberately helped the rich become more wealthy and exacerbated income inequality.”

Although the report doesn’t cover the period of Trump’s Presidency, his tax cuts lifted the ultra-rich’s fortunes even further.

A piece by The Guardian’s Stephanie Convery from 2023 tells us that the:

“Australian data showed that a wealth tax of just 2% on the country’s millionaires with wealth over $7m, 3% on those with wealth over $67m, and 5% on billionaires would raise $29.1bn annually, enough to increase income support payments to the Henderson poverty line of $88 a day for 1.44 million people.”

We inhabit a system with flaws where the principles of capitalism do not guarantee an equitable distribution of economic resources. This leads to a small group of privileged individuals accumulating enormous wealth while most people grapple with poverty in some shape or form.

Tax reform is necessary to generate additional revenue for the government, which can then be used to reduce poverty and improve human services.

We need tax reform to help those struggling with poverty and improve access to essential human services. By generating additional government revenue, we can work towards creating a more compassionate society that supports and cares for all of its citizens.

My last Google search was surprising. I found it hard to believe that more than 250 ultra-wealthy individuals were urging politicians to increase their taxes. It happened at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 15-19, 2024.

“Our request is simple: we ask you to tax us, the very richest in society,” the wealthy people said in an open letter to world leaders. “This will not fundamentally alter our standard of living, deprive our children, or harm our nation’s economic growth. But it will turn extreme and unproductive private wealth into an investment for our common democratic future.”

Like I said: I was surprised.

My thought for the day

Is it feasible for incredibly wealthy individuals with many advantages to comprehend what it truly means to be in poverty? It’s difficult to say for sure, but some of them may have some understanding of the experience.

 

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It’s a nasty business this, being in Opposition

A few years back, 2016 to be exact, I wrote a piece for The AIMN suggesting that being in Opposition was a thankless, powerless task with few positives. However, enormous expectations from those who follow you and your party are always present. Bill Shorten discovered that the release of party policy is considered shaky before the election campaign begins.

I wrote that the media focuses on the incumbent, and often, a 10-second grab on the nightly news is about all one can expect. You will be dammed if you produce a good policy that is unpopular with the party but good for the country.

I was wrong because being in Opposition provides, particularly the LNP, many opportunities to regain government through lying and negativity. It works; take the referendum for establishing an Aboriginal Voice to Parliament, for example. From its inception, the right of politics denounced the idea comprehensively with no word of endorsement.

In 2016, I befriended Stuart Whitman on Facebook, and we had coffee together at the famous Federation Square in Melbourne.

We immediately recognised a common thread of humanity that we both shared. At the time, Stuart worked in his own business before taking up an opportunity to work with Mark Dreyfus and his team. From there, he moved on to the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Catholic University.

In our conservation, l asked him about political motives and why people sought a political career; what made them tick? What made them do and say the ridiculous things they often do?

He suggested the primary motive was formed from two choices or a combination of both.

“I’ve spent enough years observing now to work out there are generally two motives for people who go into politics – those who enter politics for “who” they want to be, and those for “what” they want to do.”

I haven’t heard from Stuart for a few years, but our conversations are firmly embedded in my mind.

Stuart’s quote could easily be applied to politicians like Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott.

Was it for “who” they wanted to be or “what” they wanted to do that they entered politics? Their actions and words over many years suggest they were in it to do nothing but create a pathway to the top job.

Contrary to what l said about the Opposition back then, Tony Abbott made my thesis seem unremarkable. He proved that becoming the Australian prime minister was possible simply by opposing everything and being totally negative, telling lies with an absence of policy, and adapting to the requirements of a Trumpish personality.

Is it as simple as that? So far, Peter Dutton has followed Abbott’s example by being even more damaging. The media called Abbott the best Opposition leader ever and still needs to explain their criteria for doing so. If it was because being negative made him successful, then the Enlightenment never happened.

What motivates the right-wing media to do and say the things they do? A lust for power?

Is it purely to stir up hatred of those with a darker skin tone for political reasons? What pleasure do they get from their dalliances with sewer politics? Do they think that the public falls for their lack of compassion because they were both tough on asylum seekers and others? I now think they do.

Remember when Victorian Police described Dutton’s “African gangs” crime wave claims as “absolute garbage” and backed it up with facts? Dutton said that – because of these apparent gangs – people were so afraid they wouldn’t step outside their doors.

Kathleen Kildare tweeted at the time:

“Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs, is a disgrace and should be stood down for manufacturing community discontent with the complicity of the Daily Mail.

Furthermore, his Trumpesque attacks on Victoria’s Judicial system smacks of authoritarian overreach, grr!”

Dutton is the politician Stuart Whitman describes as the “who” they want to be and not the “what” they want to do politician.

Dutton stepped up the rhetoric against the judiciary the following day, blaming “soft sentences” on appointing civil libertarians as magistrates and labelling one Supreme Court judge a “left-wing ideologue”.

The judge in question, Lex Lazarus, is one of Victoria’s most respected jurists, and Dutton would know that by convention, he cannot reply.

And the “who” they want to be as politicians during times of poor leadership is a most dangerous animal because the likes of Turnbull at the time had no power to stand up to them.

So, Dutton has kept up his sarcasm (except for when he sleeps) and other offensive expressions calculated to raise racial hatred and break down society.

 

We can only conclude that Dutton is not in it to help create a better society and future for all. He has failed at his two Ministries, has a reputation for laziness, and compassion has eluded him thus far in his career. I can only conclude that the Liberal Party believes they need a man of ill repute in charge, a mongrel, in other words, so Dutton was an easy choice.

I do not doubt that what Stuart Whitman says is correct, and when you look at the current Shadow Ministry, it’s difficult to imagine any of them being in the “what” they want to do category.

My thoughts for the day

Sometimes, it is good to stop, think, evaluate and formulate one’s own opinion instead of being influenced by the media and other vested interests.

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The Mystery of why Scott Morrison is still in Parliament

On May 21 2022, Scott Morrison and his corrupt bunch of cronies were thrown out of office.

Most Prime Ministers who have lost their hold on power take the quickest possible exit, get another job with a salary equal to or better than their current one and remark on things they ought to leave be. In recent times, the only exception to this once-fashionable convention has been the first woman to be elected as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

As time becomes the essence of history and one year turns into the next, Scott Morrison has become the enigma of the House of Representatives, with speculation ever present that he is ready to quit Parliament and trigger a by-election in his New South Wales seat of Cook.

Why is he hanging around? Does he harbour thoughts of returning to the top job? Is he unemployable in the private sector? Rumour has always been constant that he has been trying hard to get a job, but trust is an issue. He may believe that being in Parliament protects him from prosecution over Robodebt.

These days, leaders who lose elections don’t usually hang around lest they embarrass the new leader.

History shows us that in 1908, former PM William Morris Hughes stayed for three decades after he was bumped from office. The “Little Digger” (as he was known) lost office in 1923 but hung around until he died in 1952.

But in the modern era, former PMs have, after losing power, vacated their seats and hastily abandoned politics. Malcolm Fraser probably established this precedent.

He walked away from the top job, initiating a by-election in the seat of Wannon’s seat two months after his party lost to Bob Hawke in March 1983.

Paul Keating disposed of Hawke in December 1991; Hawke resigned in February 1992, with his seat of Wills going to independent Phil Cleary in the following by-election.

Keating also retired from the Parliament after his Labor government lost power to John Howard in March 1996.

Howard’s end came at the hands of Kevin Rudd, who finished his prime ministership in November 2007 and with him went more than three decades as a member of Bennelong.

Kevin Rudd stayed around after being thrown out by his Parliamentary colleagues in June 2010. Angered by his dismissal and convinced of his righteousness, he remained for another parliamentary term, regaining the prime ministership in June 2013 from his vanquisher Julia Gillard.

Three months after his reinvention, the voters gave him the flick, and he resigned his seat.

Gillard resigned as the member for Lalor only weeks after being ousted by PM Rudd. Tony Abbott, who was clearly not up to the job, is the exception. He was defeated in a challenge by party-unpopular Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015, a little under two years after becoming Prime Minister.

At the time, Abbott was the worst and most bizarre prime minister ever.

Haplessly, he recontested his seat of Warringah again at the May 2019 election but lost to the independent Zali Steggall.

Turnbull, never a true blue liberal, left Parliament like a shot out of a gun once the right-wing nutters had had their way. After being dumped from the leadership in favour of Scott Morrison in August 2018, he resigned as a member of Wentworth within a week and took his intimidating intellect with him.

So, an unofficial club of former PMs formed with Rudd and Keating on the left and Howard, Abbott and Morrison on the right, defending themselves and offering advice to anyone who would listen.

Instead of being a formidable resource for their respective parties, former Prime Ministers are often ostracised and become a blame mechanism. The media treat them as controversial taps to turn on and off at will.

Modern former leaders, when dethroned, take the opportunity to make the most of what is available to them. Book writing deals, lecture tours, ambassadorships, business ventures, highly paid jobs, NGO and think tank appointments.

Ex-Prime Ministers today enjoy opportunities that their predecessors never had. Not to mention a lifelong pension that is staggering to most of us.

But now, back to the compelling character of Scott Morrison. He believed that God had gifted him the prime ministership but never allowed the holiness of his belief to interfere with his ruthless politics.

A person with an opinion of himself larger than life itself must find it humiliating to sit on the backbench with other mortals. Why is he doing it? We would have to dismiss his often-quoted words, “I’m relishing being the member for Cook.” In a recent Morgan poll, he was found to be the most mistrusted politician in Australia, just ahead of Peter Dutton.

The longer he stays, the more humiliated he must feel when he takes his plush seat in the House of Representatives. But losing the 2022 election has only increased his capacity for making headlines. Firstly, we had the astonishing revelation that he had commandeered several portfolios while PM and, secondly, because of the adverse findings against him by the Robodebt Royal Commission. Thirdly, the news that documents were missing from the annual release of cabinet papers.

What next?

Sky News Australia host Andrew Bolt has claimed the Coalition must “bring back” former Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the front bench and reshuffle the entire shadow cabinet to defeat Labor at the next federal election.

Would Dutton risk such a move? If Morrison and he are the most untrusted politicians in the country. Such a move would not be publicly unacceptable.

Another reason for his remaining in Parliament might be that as a sitting member, he might be entitled to financial assistance with legal fees should any Robodebt charges be laid against him.

Of all his options, as complicated as they may be, it takes guts to apologise to the House for past and present scandals, and it isn’t a gift conservatives carry in their top pocket. Intestinal fortitude doesn’t become them.

Retreating when faced with unresolved issues is like a priest unwilling to listen to a confession.

Of all his options, none has dignity attached to it. His sullied reputation is of his own doing. Never has an Australian leader shown such little regard for our democratic institutions, conventions and principles.

Indeed, staying on isn’t an option and would only damage the Liberal Brand more, but it wouldn’t be a surprise. It would only reinforce just how Trumpish they have become. Does Dutton really want him to stay? That is political madness.

I’m afraid the mystery of why he stays will be with us a little longer. Solving this requires intelligence, and it doesn’t apply here.

My thought for the day

The Australian Parliament is just an excuse for conservative, mediocre minds who cannot debate with intellect, charm or wit to act deplorably. And in doing so debase the Parliament and reveal themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals. Dutton and Morrison are two such individuals.

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2024: A Year of Change for Labor

It seems that whenever Labor comes to power, it is under the worst possible economic conditions. If you have a long memory, you will recall the period known as the world oil crisis. It began in 1973 and inflicted on the Whitlam Government a period of economic mayhem.

By 1975, inflation was 15%, and Australia was teetering on the edge of a recession that eventually transpired and continued throughout the seventies. The oil crisis of the 1970s was:

“… brought about by two specific events in the Middle East: the Yom-Kippur War of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979.”

In 1983, the Hawke Labor government:

“… came to office with inflation still at 11.5%, unemployment at 10.3% and Australia in the middle of a long-lasting recession.

Hawke’s treasurer, Paul Keating, would later say about his early period as treasurer that there needed to be a prominent place to look for an answer to the economy’s problems.”

During this period, I had an overdraft with 19% interest. Remarkable, I hear you say, but running a business without one was nigh on impossible.

Kevin Rudd was in power briefly when extreme stress in global financial markets and banking systems happened between mid-2007 and early 2009. It was known as the “Global Financial Crisis.”

Through no fault of his own, Anthony Albanese has grappled with the worst worldwide cost of living surge in decades. However, none of these events, a pandemic and a war, have elicited a word of sympathy from a media intent on saying that Labor couldn’t manage money. It has been the LNP’s catchcry for as long as I can remember.

After leaving the country a trillion dollars in debt 18 months ago, the LNP has sarcastically repeated, “Labor cannot manage money.” But even the Murdoch muck tabloids and others from the far right agree that it would be inflationary to just hand out money.

After almost a decade of perpetual political controversy and inept governance, the Opposition parties and their media friends have dared to emerge from a period of disgraceful, immoral and corrupt Government and say: “Elect us again, and we will fix the problem.” And just 18 months without even apologising for the damage they caused to our institutions and democratic principles. It is laughable that they are being touted as a real possibility to return to power. What were they doing when they were in power?

The only evidence for a LNP re-election is a victory was in The Voice referendum and in the bad economic news worldwide. Sure, Labor has struggled with the cost of living, rents and interest rates, but they seem minuscule against the backdrop of the 70s and 80s.

Indeed, inflation is higher than people under 40 have experienced. Their parents lived through sharper price hikes in the 1970s and ’80s, but the media paints the worst possible canvas of today. Those experiences should help shape the way today’s economy is viewed in comparison. But it doesn’t because the world of conservative commentators and media sluts doesn’t do such fairness.

We haven’t even entered a recession, which means today’s economic conditions bear no comparison with the bloody awful circumstances of previous times.

Favouring a Labor victory is that the hatred of Peter Dutton is still there, and it exposes his vile political nakedness every time the words ‘immigration’ or ‘First Nations people’ are used. His history is still very much alive with the policeman’s authority.

The Roy Morgan 2023 politicians distrust list has:

“… former Prime Minister Scott Morrison on top, Peter Dutton at two. Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong took the most trusted title for a second straight year, and Jim Chalmers was a strong second.

“The very high levels of distrust in Peter Dutton, and others in the opposition make it unlikely they would be able to win government in the current climate,” Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said.

As we leave 2023 and meander our way through the summer sojourn into 2024, both parties will leave a residue of little transparency. Albanese promised better politics, but somehow, it got left behind in the slipstream of too many overseas trips.

Labor has lost the flare for embellishment without exaggeration. In other words, it couldn’t sell ice to Eskimos. In policy terms, they have had an excellent first term so far, but you wouldn’t think so. Many of their promises have been fulfilled, but they face a year of re-engagement with change for the better.

In Peter Dutton, the right has a clone of Tony Abbott, excellent at negativity, but after that, he falls away to nothing. Outside of policing, does the electorate know his thoughts on anything? He reminds me of that night on ABC 7.30 many years ago when Abbott asked Kerry O’Brien not to ask him any questions about the internet because he didn’t understand it. “Wow,” I wonder how he does his banking these days.

How does he see the future of Australia in a rapidly changing world? Does he have the intellectual capacity to explain himself? For example, he has no knowledge of economics, and on top of that, his current shadow ministers would form his cabinet; yes, the same corrupt lot of them.

Albanese isn’t a natural-born salesman whose words fly off the tip of their tongues with consummate ease, able to convince anyone to buy their blabber.

He must learn quickly that life isn’t about perception, not what it is, but what we perceive it to be. He must learn how to convince people of his sincerity.

The first twelve months of Labor’s tenure were dynamic, but then muckraker Murdoch’s relentless cost of living campaign slowly began to hit a government preoccupied with The Voice referendum. Of course, a sage mind would have determined that the referendum was lost the moment Dutton said he would oppose it.

His belief that the result would be a triumph of hope over experience proved incorrect. Subsequent polling by the Australian National University has shown majority support for a legislated Voice. Why didn’t Albanese just delay it when the result became apparent.

Labor passed some excellent legislation in the months leading up to Christmas, but again, Albanese should have sold it to the public using the authority of his office. He should have shouted their virtue to the heavens and every electorate. Yes, even advertisements to publicise their necessity.

  • These policies included an agreement at the National Cabinet to create a National Firearms Register.
  • They made a deal with the states to ensure the NDIS is solid and sustainable.
  • They reached a landmark healthcare agreement to take pressure off hospitals and boost our health workforce and Medicare Urgent Care Clinics.
  • They passed critical laws in Parliament to protect workers’ conditions and to improve the environment.
  • Wage theft will become a crime, and industrial manslaughter will be legislated.
  • Companies underpaying workers through labour-hire loopholes will be outlawed.
  • They also passed a bill to establish a nature repair market. This will make it easier for farmers and landholders to carry out projects that repair nature – like replanting koala habitats.
  • On top of all this was an announcement to dramatically reduce immigration.
  • Add to that further funding to healthcare, childcare, and better policies on the environment and the Murry Darling, and you find Labor has done more in 18 months than the conservatives did in almost 10 years.
  • “But that’s not all,” as the man selling the steak knives said. The sale of EVs is really picking up. There has been a slow relaxation of export embargoes. Unemployment benefits have risen. $10 billion has been designated for housing.

Labor enjoyed a dream run in their first 12 months, stabilising the government and getting things done competently, in contrast to sloppy Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison governments.

In all this excitement about the Conservatives possibly winning the next election, one thing seems to have escaped the minds of those supporting this idea: When in the hurly burly of an election campaign, the electorate is reminded of the sins of the National and Liberal parties over nine and a bit years, the hairs on the ends of voter’s heads will stand on end. Will they then feel inclined toward a repeat dose of the same medicine?

My thought for the day

People on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond thoughtful examination.

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