Reason vs Emotion

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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

The Messiah from the Shire and other advertising slogans

If you believe the media, Scott Morrison is popular with the electorate because he is “genuine”.  Apparently, he is a man of conviction, a man who’s deeply held beliefs guide his actions, a man who sticks to his word.

Or should that be slogan?

Scott’s past was as an advertising man and one could be forgiven for thinking that’s all he’s got.

The whole Newstart debate has degenerated into a sloganfest.

“The best welfare is a job”.

“Labor’s unfunded empathy”.

“Conservative compassion”.

When Scott resists advice from everyone that the low level of Newstart is an impediment to getting a job, and when he resurrects random drug-testing for young unemployed people, and when he supports extending the cashless welfare card, and when he stubbornly sticks with the Robodebt debacle – he isn’t putting his surplus before the well-being of the people and the economy, he isn’t throwing red meat to the baying hounds of Sky After Dark, he isn’t stigmatising those who cannot find work no matter how hard they try – he is being kind.

In the ultimate display of self-interest and paternalistic hubris, the Messiah explains that his government’s priority was “not to overburden the welfare system”.

“I’m helping a lot of people if I’m careful about it, and if it’s well targeted, and I invest in getting a better understanding of what the needs are and what people have to overcome, in order to become more self-reliant.”

I am not sure that trying to make Scott understand is a worthwhile investment.

But back to the ad man’s slogans.

Defending his cruelty, Morrison tells us that he wants welfare to be “a trampoline, not a snare”.

Great line.  So great he’s been repeating it for years.

In his address to the IPA in July 2015 titled Positive welfare and compassionate conservatism, Scott called it “The Trampoline Effect”.

“An effective and reliable safety net that catches and supports the most vulnerable is absolutely necessary. But we need a safety net that acts like a trampoline, not a snare.”

When the Messiah rose from the ashes of the Turnbull knifing to reluctantly take the mantle thrust on him by a grateful party, he travelled to Albury in September last year to deliver a sermon rekindling the Menzies adoration and calling on us all to love each other.

Morrison said anyone worried about what he would do to Medicare or Centrelink should know he is committed to looking after people.

“Remember, my value is: we look after our mates,” he said.  “That’s why we have a safety net in this country, to protect people. But it works as a trampoline, not as a snare.”

As Morrison and co try to portray the unemployed as indolent, hedonistic addicts rorting the system, the fact is that the majority of Newstart recipients are aged over 50.

With the pension age rising to 67, and renewed calls to increase it further to 70, combined with the skills required in this new age of digital disruption, that number will only rise.

“If you have a go, you’ll get a go” doesn’t seem quite fair to say to a retrenched 65-year-old.

Just like he stuck with “Where the bloody hell are ya?” despite its obvious failure, this ad man will stick with the plagiarised slogans he has been using for years.

Genuine?  You gotta be shitting me.


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Pulled the wrong rein there

After my father was medically retired from teaching, he chose to take a lump sum payout of his superannuation.  When he lived longer than expected, he said to me “Pulled the wrong rein there, love.”

Are governments ever capable of, with hindsight, saying the same thing?

So many of the problems we are facing today could be addressed by going back on some of the decisions made in the past if only the government was willing to admit that something is not working as intended.

The Job Active Scheme is one case in point.  Introducing a profit motive in unemployment services has been a disaster.  Bringing back the Commonwealth Employment Service could not only make the process a lot more user-friendly, it would provide invaluable information to the government about where job vacancies are, skills shortages, identifying areas of disadvantage, referral to and collaboration with support services, educational requirements – and it might actually be able to hook people up with jobs instead of signing them up to ridiculous courses or cutting them off entirely for non-compliance with inflexible rules.

We bemoan the rising cost and deteriorating cover of private health insurance like there is nothing that can be done about it.  Had we not sold off Medibank Private, it could have provided a standard that other funds would have had to compete with.  The profit it made could have been invested in keeping premiums down.

We complain about rising power prices and the cartel-like behaviour of a market concentrated in the hands of too few players seemingly oblivious to the power we have to control that.  We own the resources.  We used to own the power generators and distribution network.  Instead of the government providing power and thus controlling prices, we handed it over to companies whose aim is to maximise profit.  Even so, if the government was truly concerned about energy prices, they could slash them by 10% immediately by making them GST-free to households as they are to businesses who claim the GST back as an input tax credit.

Privatisation and outsourcing was supposed to make so many things better but the reality is that it has led to higher prices, job losses, and poorer service delivery, particularly for those in regional areas.

And then there is carbon pricing which was successful in bringing emissions down and encouraging investment in sustainable practice.  Instead of collecting billions from polluters which was redistributed to the community and trade-exposed businesses, we now pay billions for no result and there is no incentive for businesses to change their practices.

Back in 2005, when we still owned half of Telstra, they wanted to move to fibre rather than remediating an aging copper system.  John Howard and the ACCC put such roadblocks in their way that Telstra abandoned the idea.  Labor valiantly tried to bring the nation’s communications into the 21st century with FttP NBN until Abbott gave Turnbull the instruction to “demolish” it.

Handing over disability and aged care services to for-profit providers has also proven problematic because the government failed to make or enforce an adequate regulatory framework.  That there is no required staff-to-resident ratio in nursing homes is a recipe for disaster.  As the Royal Commission has shown, staff are untrained and over-worked and unable to provide the care residents need.

When Menzies gave a one off grant to private schools to build science labs, he probably didn’t envisage a time when we would be giving the most elite schools pot loads of recurrent funding to hire Olympic rowing coaches and build sound studios and swimming pools.  The rise in public money being handed over to private schools has drained the public system of resources and created a two-tier education system where the disadvantaged must make do with less.

When the Howard government went on its vote-buying spree with tax cuts and changes to negative gearing, capital gains, franking credits and superannuation, not only did they squander the boom and entrench unsustainable budgetary pressure, they skewed investment away from more productive enterprises and made housing unaffordable.

By demonising and depowering unions and stacking the Fair Work Commission with fellow travellers, the Coalition has cut off their nose to spite their face, as unions lose their power to gain wage rises, protect workplace entitlements and secure employment, and to maintain safety standards.  Shoddy workmanship in the building industry has become a real problem and tradesmen are brought in on visas that ensure they will remain quiet and compliant.

One of the nastiest political decisions by the Coalition has been to brand people fleeing war and oppression as criminals if they happen to use a boat instead of a plane.  Meanwhile, the real criminals are courted by a system that allows them to launder money through buying special visas be they as a gambling tourist or a “special investor”.

The Coalition have deliberately fostered suspicion of “others” be they Muslim jihadis, African gangs, second or third generation Lebanese Australians, Chinese university students, Tamil families.  Gays asking for equality have “an agenda” that will undermine society.  Unemployed people will be drug tested.  Indigenous people asking for some say in their own affairs are engaging in bleeding heart “identity politics”.  Environmentalists are anti-job ecoterrorists.  Anyone who believes climate scientists is a weak as piss bedwetter.

Why do this?  Why divide us?  Why seek to marginalise people?  Why dismiss people?

It must take a certain amount of ego to run for politics but what seems to be lacking is the actual confidence to be able to say we got that wrong.

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The impact of climate change felt in the National Accounts

When Josh Frydenberg gave his press conference about the June Quarter National Accounts, he tried his hardest to stick to the designated talking point.

Josh said our continued growth was “a reminder of the remarkable resilience of the Australian economy and a repudiation of all those who sought to talk it down.”

In case anyone missed that, Josh reminded us again, finishing his speech with “The Australian economy has shown remarkable resilience and these numbers are a repudiation of all those who have sought to talk down the Australian economy.”

When asked if he was happy with the worst GDP figures since the GFC, Josh replied “what this number shows, is the resilience of the economy, a repudiation of those who sought to talk it down.”

In response to a question about declining public investment from state and local governments, the Treasurer said…wait for it…“these numbers show resilience in the Australian economy… twenty eight consecutive years of continuous economic growth is a repudiation of those who’ve sought to talk down the Australian economy.”

The constant repetition is deliberate and mind-numbing.  We are supposed to focus on one phrase and don’t look too hard at what is actually happening.  Others have done analysis on the figures and it isn’t good.

But one thing that struck me that I am sure that Josh didn’t intend, was the impact that climate change is having on our economy.

Continued repetition that we are meeting our emissions reduction targets “in a canter” can’t hide the economic impact of increasingly severe weather events and climate trends.

According to the Treasurer, the rise in government spending was driven by consumption rather than investment, including “flood remediation works in Queensland” and “the payments in relation to the floods and the droughts and the victims.”

Further, “with the terrible droughts and the floods, we’ve seen farm GDP down 8.3 per cent through the year.”

There was “a reduction in manufacturing, wholesale trade and mining inventories, partly related to weather events, particularly the drought.”

Josh also explained that a “major factor” in the decline in household saving this quarter was because household income in the previous quarter was significantly boosted by “pay outs on insurance claims for hail storms in New South Wales, but also the floods”.

In August, Guy Debelle, the Deputy Governor of the RBA, gave the Keynote Address at the 14th Annual Risk Australia Conference where he warned that “Beyond the near-term risks for the economy, climate poses a material risk for the economy and financial markets over a longer horizon.”

One paragraph in his speech to business people should be particularly heeded by our government:

“I would emphasise the importance of disclosure, echoing the comments by Geoff Summerhayes of APRA and John Price of ASIC, as well as the information that ASIC released earlier this week. You should all be aware of the recommendations of the recent report of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) chaired by Michael Bloomberg. It is important not just to have disclosure for disclosures sake, but to have consistent and informative disclosure. Investors need to be able to take account of that information in making their decisions, and be able to compare that across companies and across financial assets. Risk management under uncertainty is always challenging, but the challenge can be reduced with better and consistent information both in terms of the data inputs and the consistency of the scenarios considered.”

No doubt Matt Canavan would call him a “weak as piss bedwetter”.

Almost on a daily basis we are being reminded of the danger of ignoring the need for urgent action.

The AMA have declared climate change a health emergency.

Even the South China Post are pleading with us to save the Great Barrier Reef after it’s condition was downgraded to very poor by the GBRMPA.  Maybe we need an example of dying beauty to galvanise us to work together.

But what MUST happen is the government must understand the risk and stop playing what are, quite literally, lethal games.  Stop the spin, stop the cover-up, stop pandering to lobbyists.

If they won’t listen to the scientists, the financial and business world must show these dinosaurs just how expensive climate change is going to get.

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Message massacring

For democracy to function with anything approaching efficiency, the people who choose our representatives need to know the truth about the challenges facing us, have some understanding of the pros and cons of varying approaches towards dealing with issues, and should be given the choice between candidates who are capable of understanding, prioritising, and acting on solutions.

The sad fact is that, whilst we go through the motions of having elections, most voters are poorly informed, media and lobby groups distort the truth, political parties will do whatever it takes to gain power, and preselections and positions are bestowed on fellow travellers for their factional loyalty rather than their competence.

The latest quarterly update on greenhouse gas emissions was released on Friday. In amongst a lot of spin about per capita emissions and declines from the 2007 peak, there were two important sentences in this report:

Emissions for the year to March 2019 are up 0.6 per cent on the previous year.

Australia’s emissions for the year to March 2019 were 0.5 per cent above emissions in 2000.

If our emissions are above those in 2000 and have continued the trend of rising every year since abolishing the carbon price, we CANNOT meet our 2020 emissions reduction target.

Sure, we can bullshit about carryover credits and something about cantering, but the government’s own report demonstrates once again what crap that is.

We see the same message massacring from the ABS who, they assure us with no coercion from the government, decided to put a positive spin on inequality with a feel-good media release titled “Inequality stable since 2013–14”.

That too is, of course, crap.

Wealth inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient, “is at its peak now (0.621) since it was first comprehensively measured in 2003-04 (0.573)”, a phrase that was deleted from the draft copy after a direction to “focus on income over wealth”.

Another media release was engagingly titled “Average household wealth tops $1 million”. That’s the great thing about averages – a few billionaires make it sound like we are all going along just tickety-poo. Until you get to the part that says “the lowest 20% controlled less than 1 per cent of all household wealth, with average wealth currently at $35,200”, while “the wealthiest 20% of households still held over 60% of all household wealth, now averaging $3.2 million per household”.

And all policy settings are designed to keep that trend going. We can apparently afford tax cuts and a range of tax concessions for wealthy investors but we cannot afford to increase Newstart payments or provide affordable housing.

Wherever you look, we are being manipulated by messaging. The idea that, unless we persecute a hard-working Sri Lankan couple and their two baby daughters, our navy, air force and border force will be unable to repel an invasion by fishing boats, is beyond ridiculous.

The apathy brought about by the safety and comfort we have enjoyed in this country has led to an acceptance by the majority of the population of these massacred messages. The truth has been obscured by spin. No longer do we hear genuine debate about opposing ideas informed by factual evidence – we hear propaganda designed to maintain the power and privilege of the few.

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Morrison doesn’t want to talk about his anniversary – with good reason.

As the media falls over itself lauding Scott Morrison for lasting a year without being rolled, we are approaching the six-year anniversary of a Coalition government which invites reflection…

What have they achieved?

We hear a lot about jobs growth.

In September 2013, there were 706,400 people unemployed.  By July 2019, there were 715,600.

Average hours worked in September 2013 was 141.3 per month.  By July 2019, that had decreased to 137.6 hours.

We are told that the number of people on welfare is at its lowest rate in 30 years.

At the same time, the Poverty in Australia Report 2018 shows that over 3 million people, including 739,000 children, are living in poverty.

According to the Liberal Party page, “While electricity prices doubled under Labor, we have begun to turn the corner on power prices.”

The truth is that, since 2015, wholesale electricity prices have risen by 158 percent while gas prices have tripled.

Policy uncertainty has been a contributing factor in restricting investment and is it any wonder.

Last year, when Minister for Energy and the Environment, Josh Frydenberg was out on the hustings selling the National Energy Guarantee.

“People are sick of the hyper-partisanship which has dictated and dominated the energy and climate debate. They want practical, workable market-based solutions.”

Frydenberg said the NEG policy was “backed by business, industry and community groups”.

“Never have we seen such a loud chorus of support for a policy to boost the reliability of the energy system, deliver on our emissions reduction targets and to put downward pressure on power prices,” Frydenberg said.

“This is an opportunity which cannot be missed. It is time for all governments – federal, state and territory to put the national interest first and deliver a more affordable and reliable energy system through the national energy guarantee.”

Scott Morrison as Treasurer was likewise a fan of the NEG, saying it was how to “get the best functioning energy market with the lowest possible price for businesses and for households”.

Morrison also smacked down a backbench push for the Turnbull government to back a new coal plant, arguing that high-efficiency coal does not mean cheap energy, and taxpayers would also be left on the hook.

Now that they are the leader and deputy of the Liberal Party, the NEG is dead, any pretence at caring about emissions reduction is dead, power prices continue to rise and their solution is some sort of talk about “big sticks”.

The question should be asked, were they lying then or are they lying now?

We crow about being the biggest exporter of LNG as we suffer domestic shortages  – meanwhile, headlines overseas read European natural gas prices are at a historical low.

“Natural gas prices in Europe have plummeted thanks to a rising gas export war between Russia and the US, much to the delight of European consumers.  The clear winners from the war between these two gas powers are the European end consumers, who benefit from record-low natural gas prices, and power prices which have dropped more than 30% in the last six months.”

The Liberal Party page also tells us that “We have invested a record $328 million in preventing and reducing domestic family violence, including for new emergency accommodation.”

Compare that to the $423 million limited extension to the Paladin contract to provide “services” on Manus which currently works out at a cost of at least $1,600 per day for each refugee and asylum seeker, not including food or medical care.

Meanwhile, 26,500 children aged 0–9 were assisted by specialist homelessness services due to domestic violence in 2017–18, police recorded 25,000 sexual assaults in 2017, and 1 woman was killed every 9 days and 1 man every 29 days by a partner between 2014–15 and 2015–16.

Whether it’s aged care or foreign aid, wages stagnation or water security, Indigenous recognition or GHG emissions, government debt or hospital waiting times – the Coalition government, in all its iterations, has been an abject failure.

Morrison deprecatingly swept aside mention of his one-year anniversary as being narcissistic.

Narcissistic people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.

If the foo shits…

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“Weak as piss”

Just to underline how puerile politics has become, Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has called engineering firm Aurecon “weak as piss” and a “bunch of bedwetters” for severing its relationship with Adani.

“People of regional Queensland have kind of got over caving in to this kind of behaviour and conduct, it has to be called out, it’s exactly what they’ve done … apologies with being upfront with people,” he told ABC’s Radio National.

Upfront with people????  Calling companies names for commercial decisions they make???

Banks won’t finance the mine.  Insurers won’t insure it.  Another global firm, AECOM, had been designing a railway between Carmichael and Abbot Point, but walked away amid a financial dispute. A deal with integrated services firm Downer EDI collapsed in 2017.  The contract with Aurizon to use their railway hasn’t been signed and nor has the royalties agreement with the Queensland government.

If we want to talk about “weak as piss” and a “bunch of bedwetters”, let’s talk about the Liberal Party who were too chicken shit to accept Labor’s support to pass the NEG despite it having overwhelming support in their own party room.  They didn’t want Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly and Barnaby Joyce to make a fuss.  Personally, I would have done it just to get the picture of the three stooges crossing the floor to sit with the Greens.

Because of this cowardice, we have no energy policy, prices and emissions continue to go up, and our international reputation is trashed.

Meanwhile, Matt King Coal continues to try to find ways to waste public money on a project that no investor will go near.

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg were both vocal proponents of the NEG.

“The days of subsidies in energy are over, whether it is for coal, wind, solar, any of them.  That is the way I think you get the best functioning energy market with the lowest possible price for businesses and for households and that is what the national energy guarantee and our energy policies are designed to achieve.”  – Scott Morrison, April 2018

At a COAG meeting two weeks before the leadership spill, Josh Frydenberg said Australia could not have another failed energy policy, pointing to the collapse of the emissions trading and carbon pricing schemes.

“Today we must take forward the National Energy Guarantee and I’m confident that we can.  Australian eyes are on this room today and what happens here matters to the outcomes around every Australian kitchen table and every Australian factory floor.  We have a collective responsibility to deliver cheaper, more reliable and clean power for Australian families and businesses.  It’s not our job to re-litigate the mistakes of the past but rather to provide the solution for the future. Today, it’s up to us.”

But dangle the bauble of leadership in front of these two “bedwetters”, and they will dance to whatever tune you want.

Weak as piss indeed.

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Quiet Australians will never permeate the Morrison bubble

In what appears to be an attempt to emulate John Howard’s battlers, Scott Morrison tells us that he will be the champion of “quiet Australians”, whatever that might mean.

In a radio interview in 2004, Howard was asked what he thought a ‘battler’ was and replied that:

“… it’s not an exclusive definition, the battler is somebody who finds in life that they have to work hard for everything they get… normally you then look at it in terms of somebody who’s not earning a huge income but somebody who is trying to better themselves, and I’ve always been attracted to people who try to better themselves.”

But a new report from the Grattan Institute shows that, in Scott Morrison’s Australia, hard work is not enough with this generation set to be the first who are less well off than previous generations.

Underemployment, wage stagnation and job insecurity are part of the problem as is slow economic growth.

Another contributing factor is the taxation policy of the Coalition  – in particular, tax-free superannuation income in retirement, refundable franking credits, and special tax offsets for seniors – resulting in older Australians contributing a lot less income tax than we once did putting the burden on a smaller percentage of working Australians to underwrite the living standards of retirees.

Negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts have skewed investment towards property making it very difficult for first home buyers to enter the housing market.  A lack of supply has made rents grow making saving for a deposit and stamp duty that much harder.

Wealthy retirees fiercely protect their nest eggs so they can leave it to their children further exacerbating inequality and the wealth divide.

This has nothing to do with hard work or people “having a go” – it’s just the rich getting richer.

In a recent Roy Morgan poll, they asked “What do you think is the most important problem facing the World today?”

46% of respondents mentioned some form of environmental concern, more than doubling from the 22% recorded in early 2018, led by the issue of Global warming (34%) and including Pollution/Rubbish, Famine/Food shortages, Water conservation/Murray-Darling water problems.

When asked “What do you think is the most important problem facing Australia today?”, economic issues led by Unemployment, Cost of living, Economic problems, Poverty and the gap between rich and poor, Homelessness/ Lack of housing and Housing affordability were mentioned by almost 34% of Australians, with a further 24% (up from 11% last year) citing environmental issues including Global warming, water conservation and problems with the Murray-Darling, Drought, Pollution and Rubbish.

The government’s favourite themes of Terrorism/War/Security problems and issues surrounding the Energy Crisis, Energy and Power supply, Electricity grid, were mentioned by less than 4% of respondents.

Our inaction on climate change will unfairly place another huge burden on coming generations purely because we are too greedy and selfish to tackle the challenge now.

Morrison has also tried to copy Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric with his constant references to getting outside the “Canberra bubble” when all he is in fact doing is taking the Canberra bubble on the road.

The voice of quiet Australians sinking in poverty, or the pleas of desperate Pacific islanders fighting for survival, or the passion of Indigenous people asking to have some input in addressing the endemic disadvantage they face, will never be heard in Scott Morrison’s bubble where the noise from people like Craig Kelly and Andrew Hastie drown out all other sound.

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“Stale conventional wisdoms and orthodoxies”

In an astonishing display of projection, Scott Morrison has blamed the public service for the “trust deficit” in politics.

He then goes on with the most contradictory set of instructions on how they will change in order to win back the respect of “the forgotten middle class”.

Morrison wants a “diversity of viewpoints” whilst warning public servants that they must be “an enabler of government policy, not an obstacle”.

Whilst claiming to respect the public service’s professionalism, he demands that they “get on and deliver” government policy and that Ministers set the agenda rather than becoming “captive of their department” – giving birth to a new three-word slogan “respect and expect”.

Replete with Morrinsonisms about “quiet Australians”, moving outside the “Canberra bubble”, and an obscure analogy about football and farm animals (?), it is hard to decipher what he is actually trying to say in this waffling diatribe.

It sounded a lot like “shut up and do as you are told”.

He wants the public service to be “more open to outsiders” yet continues to appoint the party faithful to any position going.  Perhaps we will have a Voice from the Minerals Council enshrined in the public service charter.

Considering how much this government spends on consultants and outsourcing government services, it seems like they look at the public service as the typing pool.

In the most glaring example of cognitive dissonance, Morrison claims that – like the university sector – the public service risks a “trend towards conformity” and “stale conventional wisdoms and orthodoxies”.

This from the man who invites cameras to watch him pray, the man who fondled a lump of coal in parliament, the man who insists we study How good is Western Civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage, the man who thinks delivering a surplus is more important than anything, and the man who is so ideologically opposed to taxation that he has hamstrung us from any type of reform.

This was Morrison spin all over – it’s not our fault there is a lack of trust, it’s theirs, and I’m the man to whip them into line.

Yawn.  The headline should read Inaction Man Makes Noise.


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They don’t want freedom – they want dominion

According to the Universal Declaration of Rights:

“The freedom to observe and practise religious faith protects the inherent dignity of individuals, acknowledging the autonomy of individuals to make decisions about the way they live their lives.”

Yet many religious people want to deny that individual autonomy to others.  They don’t just want the right to practise their beliefs – they want to impose them on everyone through law.

The 17th century philosopher, John Locke, wrote about the importance of tolerating other religious beliefs:

“The Toleration of those that differ from others in Matters of Religion, is so agreeable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the genuine Reason of Mankind, that it seems monstrous for Men to be so blind, as not to perceive the Necessity and Advantage of it, in so clear a light.”

Thomas Jefferson, writing about religious freedom in 1781, said:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

During the debate about marriage equality, the religious extremists made ridiculous claims that the marriage act would be defiled in some way if extended to same sex couples – that their own marriages would become worthless.  Apparently, marriage must remain an exclusive club reserved for people like them.

The same sort of hysteria surrounded the Safe Schools program.  Apparently, if young people hear anything about homosexuality or gender diversity they will immediately be forced to give it a go – which might explain why so many religious people don’t want their children having any form of sex education so when young girls get their periods for the first time they can think they are dying?

The parade of religious men wanting to condemn as criminals women who terminate a pregnancy is gobsmacking.  It is an agonising decision for any woman to make but one that she must have the right to make.  After all, Tony Abbott lectured us that “this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold….needs to be moderated”, and contraception doesn’t always work.  But these men think a woman is obliged to give up her life should sperm meet egg.

When I was at uni in the 70s, on a poster proclaiming “Abortion is murder”, someone had scrawled “Does that make miscarriage manslaughter?”.

Graffiti was an art form in those days.  On another poster calling for “Free Vasectomies Now”, someone wrote “I didn’t know he was in gaol”.  Perhaps if women insisted that all men must have a vasectomy after fathering two children, they might decide that allowing us some say over our own bodies might be OK after all.

Whilst Scott Morrison commits resources to address the tragedy of youth suicide, men aged over 85 have the highest suicide rate in Australia, more than double that of teenagers.  The opposition to assisted dying is forcing our elderly to take their own lives, sometimes in terribly tragic ways.  They deserve better choices.

And that is what it is all about – personal choice.

Scott Morrison met with religious leaders to discuss progress in the government’s plans to introduce a Religious Discrimination Bill later this year but it seems to be more about protecting their right to discriminate than protecting them from discrimination.

I will absolutely defend the right of anyone to not enter into a homosexual relationship, to not have an abortion regardless of their health, circumstances or how capable they are of caring for a(nother) child, to not choose to end their lives regardless of how much suffering they are enduring, and to engage in archaic worship rituals with men wearing funny clothes.

They already have that freedom with or without my blessing or support.

But it isn’t freedom they want – it is dominion over others’ right to choose.

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Craig Kelly, the ultimate hypocritical NIMBY

When Craig Kelly gave his first speech in Parliament in 2010, he declared himself an environmentalist, citing a particular concern about the detrimental effects of diesel exhaust.

“As our cities and roads become more and more congested, I am concerned about the health effects from fine particulate matter in diesel exhaust, as studies in California show that diesel exhaust leads to 9,000 premature deaths annually.”

At the time, Labor were proposing an intermodal freight terminal at Moorebank in Kelly’s electorate where containers would be brought by rail from Port Botany and transferred to trucks for distribution to their final destination.  Kelly was opposed to the idea because of the pollution it would cause.

In October 2016, Infrastructure Australia added the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal facility to its Infrastructure Priority List.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development explained the benefits of the project:

“Projects like the Moorebank Logistics Park link Australia’s freight networks and our ports, drive productivity, improve our logistics industries, and create long term efficiencies that will benefit our cities and our economy into the future.”

Sounds like a compelling case, but not to Craig Kelly who insisted that it was imperative that all diesel locomotive engines should be fitted with the same air pollution filters as trucks.

“At the moment there are no regulations at all applying to diesel locomotive engines used by freight trains,’’ Mr Kelly said.  “For every container moved from Port Botany to an intermodal at Moorebank, particulate pollution would increase by 1,000 per cent.” (Love to see where he got that figure from).

“This would be devastating for air quality in western Sydney, where pollution levels are already above the recommended national standards.’’

This is the man who has railed against fuel efficiency standards and electric vehicles.

When it was pointed out to him that the huge cost of fitting air pollution equipment on freight train engines may make the project financially unsustainable, his response was “So be it.”

Forget the jobs, the congestion-busting, the cost cutting and the productivity gains – Craig cares about the environment, or at least his little corner of it.

If, however, it’s a coal mine a long way away, or a nuclear waste dump in another state, or land denuded of vegetation out in the bush, or shipping through the reef, Craig’s all for it.  Jobs and Growth.  More coal says the man who has overseas trips paid for by the coal industry. 

But how would Craig react if it was his water supply being contaminated or if it was the Georges River drying up with millions of dead fish floating in it?  How would he feel if the uncovered coal trains rumbled past his door or a severe weather event wiped out years of his work?

Kelly’s family furniture business went belly-up.  Whilst this loud-mouth ignorant bully continues to exert influence via threats to colleagues and an inflated media presence, his appalling lack of judgement risks doing the same to the country.


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Pusillanimous liars and cheats

Imagine the reception you would get if, having failed an exam, you went and saw your uni lecturer and said “Remember how I got a credit last year?  Well, I want to use those extra marks to convert this failure into a pass.”

Or if you went to your boss, having had dismal sales figures for the year, and said you still deserve your bonus because you had above-average sales last year.

Yet this is exactly what our government is doing regarding emissions reduction by using carryover credits from previous periods.

Russia and the Ukraine also plan to use carryover credits towards meeting their Paris targets but New Zealand, Britain, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and France have ruled it out (though Britain is now reconsidering it after they leave the EU who have legislation prohibiting it).

According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, Australia’s emissions for the year to December 2018 were actually 0.4 per cent above emissions in 2000, despite having committed to a reduction of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

The purpose of the Paris agreement was for countries to ramp up action towards more ambitious reduction targets.  Using our carryover credits would reduce the government’s effective 2030 emissions reduction target from 26 per cent (based on the higher 2005 level) to about 16 per cent, according to the Investor Group on Climate Change.

Many in the Coalition argue that Australia’s emissions are comparatively negligible in a global sense so doing anything won’t make a difference.  But as pointed out in the AFR, “Australia’s 370 MT of carryover credits wouldn’t break the Paris Agreement, but the 13 billion tonnes of carryover credits sloshing around the world certainly would.”

What’s more, the reductions the government is claiming from its Emissions Reduction Fund should be taken “with a hefty grain of salt” according to research by Melbourne Law School among others.

To be eligible for ERF funding, projects must satisfy three tests:

  • Newness: is a project new? Has work on it already begun? If it has, the project is ineligible, because it is considered already commercially viable.
  • Existing regulations: is a particular project or emissions abatement already required by law? If so, the project is ineligible for ERF funding.
  • Other government funding: does a project have access to other sources of government funding? If it does, the proponent should use those funds instead.

These tests have been largely ignored with the government handing out funding to projects that were going ahead anyway.

Tim Baxter quotes the case of LMS Energy’s Rochedale landfill gas project.

“First, it predates the ERF by a full decade. Second, the capture and disposal of methane from landfill sites is required by Queensland’s air pollution laws. Finally, it receives renewable energy certificates under the Commonwealth Renewable Energy Target.  Nevertheless, this project is funded by the ERF.”

Also, 22 ERF projects have been terminated over the last four years for failing to deliver promised carbon abatement.

“The biggest default contract was the Pilbara Carbon Group which had promised to deliver 4 million tonnes of carbon abatement planting trees in the Port Hedland area. Another West Australian project, the Goldfields Carbon Group – which promised to grow native tree species on former agricultural land to deliver about 4 million tonnes of carbon abatement – was the second-largest project to lapse or be terminated.”

Who is going to use water trying to grow trees in the middle of a crippling drought?

By far, our greatest claimed emissions reductions have come from the land-use sector but these figures, by the department’s own admission, are very difficult to verify and have a large degree of uncertainty.  Land-clearing seems to be happening at a faster rate than reforestation yet we claim great reductions in this area every year, mainly by saying we didn’t clear land that we might have.  How that amounts to reducing emissions is beyond me.

Whilst the government repeats slogans like “in a canter” and the Murdoch press continues its misinformation campaign, the rest of the world regards us as pusillanimous liars and cheats, more interested in keeping our advantage than in helping with the heavy lifting.

Much to my shame, they are right.


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Conservative Christians running foreign policy are scary

Much has been written about Andrew Hastie’s idiotic comments this week comparing the rise of China to that of Nazi Germany.  Having James Patterson come out in support just added to the Nazi theme with his unnerving likeness to the stereotypical Hitler Youth image.

Did it not occur to Hastie, as head of the parliamentary security and intelligence committee, that writing articles insulting our major trading partner is perhaps not a wise idea?  If there are security concerns, is the newspaper the best place to address them?

Or is this just called profile raising?

China is, understandably, not impressed.  But we have an ace up our sleeve.

Tony Abbott’s daughter will soon take up a position in the Australian Embassy in Beijing.

Speaking at the CPAC conference in Sydney – which has disturbingly close connections with the gun lobby – Tony revealed what he said to his daughter when she asked for his advice on the best things about China.

He said she should be more focused on what’s good about us and to act as a judge rather than an analyst regarding China.

What a typically narcissistic, self-absorbed, ridiculously provocative thing to say publicly.

It got worse.

He recommended she read Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples as well as the Bible.  Gee that should prepare her well for dealing with the Chinese government and people.

“I would certainly say to anyone who wants to be an effective centre-right activist or conservative activist, you can do no better than immerse yourself in the great books of which by far the greatest is the New Testament,” the Mad Monk preached to what must have been a rather strange audience.

Perhaps Tony’s daughter could quote 1 Corinthians 15 to warm up the crowd in Beijing:

24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

I heard Gareth Evans quote Bill Clinton once with words to the effect of “Is it better to put all your resources into trying to stay top dog or should you try to help shape the world you want to live in when you are no longer top dog?”

Tony thinks Jesus is still top dog, backed up by the military might of the English-speaking Judeo-Christian Western world crusaders.

Scott Morrison’s foray into the matter was not helpful when he relegated China to “customer” status.

And they wonder why our relationship with China is at an “all-time low”.

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Who needs due diligence when you have billions of public money to splash around?

It has come to the stage where nothing surprises anymore.  The government is not even pretending to do due diligence as it hands out billions of dollars.

The latest revelation, in a very long list of questionable decisions, is that the government has given $8 million to an ex-Nationals party executive and failed candidate, Nick Cleary, to develop a business case for the first stage of high-speed rail (HSR) linking Melbourne and Shepparton.

Cleary is a would-be property developer who went bankrupt in 2010.  The business address for his Consolidated Land and Rail Australia (Clara) consortium is his solicitors’ office (which came as a surprise to them).

According to the Guardian:

It has just $422,000 in paid-up capital and so far has no major shareholders or directors with expertise in infrastructure projects, property development, construction or financing.

Asic searches show a web of companies behind Clara, but the ultimate controlling shareholders are Cleary, his wife, Erin Cleary, and his assistant, Alexandra Johnson, who acts as Clara’s contact point.

Reminiscent of the $423 million Manus Island contract awarded to Paladin, a tiny unknown company  whose business address was a beach shack at the end of a dirt road on Kangaroo Island.

Or the gifting of $444 million to the charity Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF), which at the time had annual revenue of about $10 million and only six full-time staff.

As with the dodgy water buybacks and Healthy Headwaters funding, the names of Angus Taylor and Barnaby Joyce are linked to the grant to Clara, with the HSR a shared responsibility between the Ministers for Transport and for Cities.

Taylor is a fan of the project as it would go through his electorate.  He was minister for cities at the time of the first call for submissions and when the field of 26 was whittled down to 13. In November 2017, Barnaby Joyce became Minister for Transport.

Despite Clara saying it has secured land at the site of one of its proposed “new cities”, farmers at Tallygaroopna say the options agreements have lapsed and they haven’t seen or heard from Cleary for months.

Interestingly, at the time the decision was being made, Barnaby’s girlfriend Vicki Campion was supposedly “working” in the office of the Victorian Nationals MP Damien Drum, whose seat covers Shepparton and Tallygaroopna.

Barnaby was also the driving force behind the inland freight rail which, according to the AFR, has the potential to become a white elephant and a fiscal time bomb for future governments.

When Scott Morrison was Treasurer, the Coalition government made a $9.3 billion equity investment in the Australian Rail Track Corporation to get the project off the ground, a move that allowed them to take it off-budget.  But if the project is commercially unviable, it will have to be brought back on budget.

A 2015 business case for the inland rail conducted by former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader John Anderson found it could not pay for itself without government funding in the first 50 years of operation.

There are also questions to answer about the proposed route, which Labor had promised to investigate had they won office.

Whether it’s gifts to Foxtel, or arms procurements without tender, travel contracts, or grants to prop up fossil fuel enterprises – the government seems to think they have no need to explain and resent any suggestion that they should be accountable for how they spend our money.

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In Barnaby’s world, everything is about him

It comes as no surprise that the bill to have NSW catch up to the rest of the country in decriminalising abortion has all of a sudden become about Barnaby Joyce because, in Barnaby’s world, everything is about him.

One week we have Barnaby telling us we should raise Newstart because he was struggling to support his six children, his ex-wife, and his lover on the measly $211,000 (plus expenses) that he is gifted for being a beer-swilling backbencher.

Then the next week, he intones that women who have terminations, and the doctors who perform them, should be judged as murderers because they were some sort of threat to his unborn child whose rights he must protect.

Pity he wasn’t as concerned for the rights of his born children when he chose to abandon them because, hey, a man can’t be expected to remain faithful when he’s away from home so much.  Poor Barnaby was lonely and using a condom would have been infringing the rights of his unborn sperm.

And that cringeworthy interview he did with mistress and baby was necessary regardless of how much it must have hurt his wife and daughters because, hey, his son didn’t have a trust fund yet.

Barnaby also made the marriage equality debate personal, telling a rally that his four daughters would be affected if same-sex marriage was allowed.

“We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them.  I don’t want any legislator to take that right away from me.”

Yeah … nah.

When, in a blatant porkbarrelling exercise that went against all advice, Barnaby decreed that the pesticides authority should be moved from Canberra to his rural electorate, he seemed to have no consideration for the fact that he had just told a couple of hundred people that they would have to leave their homes, make their spouses quit their jobs, and their children leave their schools and friends.

Barnaby tells us that, as a farmer himself, he understands how devastating the drought is.  Whilst his family did run a sheep and cattle property, Barnaby went to boarding school in Sydney and then became an accountant.  The closest he has come to farming is speculating on land that may have CSG deposits and that may improve in value depending on the route of his inland rail boondoggle – a project that won’t generate enough revenue to cover its capital cost.

In order to satisfy his mates at the pub, Barnaby is more than happy to declare climate change is crap and that they can take all the water they need.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” Barnaby told them.

Gina needs a few more dollars so Barnaby is happy to champion the push for more coal to be mined and burned.  A man’s gotta look out for the people who look after him, and if that means interfering in their relationships (and court cases) with their children, Barnaby has no qualms when it comes to looking after his patroness.

After the 2013 election, Joyce said to Tony Windsor, ‘You know, Tony, until you had decided not to run I had the money for the Armidale Hospital, as well as funding for the Legume to Woodenbong Road.’

‘When you were still the member and running,’ he said, ‘Abbott’s office said we could have a range of things, including $50 million for the hospital. But when you didn’t run they withdrew the money for the hospital and the road.’

So much for concern for his constituents.  Once he had the job, who cares?

Barnaby is certainly incompetent, possibly corrupt, with the empathy of a blood-sucking tick and the morals of an alley cat.

It is a mystery as to why decent country folk would re-elect this self-absorbed, self-serving charlatan.

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Foreign influence in Australian politics

We hear a lot about Russia and China trying to influence politics in other countries, including in Australia, when sitting in plain sight are blatant attempts by the US and the UK to do the same.

Next week, Australia will host its first Australian Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.  The organiser says the event will “not be a one-off” and that its US backers, the American Conservative Union (ACU), had committed to holding the event long-term.

“We’re all looking at having this event running many, many years down the track,” Andrew Cooper told Guardian Australia, “and we have a vision for this that has thousands and thousands of attendees, not hundreds and hundreds.”

When Kristina Keneally called on the government to block the visa of one speaker, Raheem Kassam, a former chief adviser to Nigel Farage and editor-in-chief of Breitbart, Donald Trump Jr weighed in saying Labor was trying to silence conservative voices.

Who the hell does this turkey think he is?  An infantile narcissist whose grasp of politics extends to posting nasty memes, who has done nothing except be a front man for his daddy’s businesses while he plays president, has the effrontery to try and tell us who we should allow into our country.

Kassam has called the Koran “fundamentally evil” and has written online he “can’t stand Islam” saying it had become “the de facto state ­religion” in Britain.  He tweeted that the Scottish National party leader Nicola Sturgeon should have her legs taped shut “so she can’t reproduce”.  He also asked on Twitter if former British Labour minister Angela Eagle was “in the special needs class” and called German Chancellor Angela Merkel “a dumpy old hag”.

In order to hear this jerk’s pearls of wisdom, you can pay $599 for a “Reagan VIP pass”, an “Iron Lady general pass” for $349, or a “Menzies three-day pass” for $149. They throw in an “activism bootcamp” on the final day of the conference.  I wonder if it will include marching?

You also get to hear from ACU’s executive director Dan Schneider and their chairman, Trump fundraiser Matt Schlapp, whose wife Mercedes is Trump’s Director of Strategic Communications.  In his role as vice president of federal affairs at Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, Schlapp directed the major federal public policy strategies on anti-environmental and energy policies, financial markets, legal reform, and international and domestic tax issues.

For your entertainment, you can also listen to Nigel Farage – the man who so desperately wanted Brexit and then had no idea what to do with it when he got it.

Home grown contributions will come from luminaries like Craig Kelly, Mark Latham, Tony Abbott and Amanda Stoker as well as Fox News host Jeanine Pirro and sundry kids from the IPA.

The ACU have been involved with some shady fundraising practices in the past.  Asked whether they saw an Australian conference as a financial opportunity, Cooper disagreed. “My perception of the ACU is that they are looking to spread their message,” he said.  “If anything they are going to be investing in us for a long, long time.”

Considering how the government is going in the US and the UK, I fail to see what advice we could get from this bunch of tossers.

Unless it’s on how to put a fool in power.

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