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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.”

Will Turnbull turn to jelly when threatened by the sugar plum fairy?

George Christensen has decided he is important and, as such, is making demands accompanied by threats.

Now I am sure George views himself as some sort of crusader but closer examination shows George is really all about George.

This is the man who publicly announced during the election campaign that he would make a “personal donation” to a local charity if he was re-elected”.

He then got very upset when others pointed out this could be perceived as buying votes and, in a huff, withdrew his offer of a donation.

Mr Christensen denied any suggestion of electoral bribery.

“Only the turtles materially benefit from my pledged donation and the last time I checked, turtles can’t vote,” he said.

“The upshot is that, to avoid any confusion over what’s in the guidelines and what’s not, I’ve had to withdraw my offer of funding to the turtle rescue service.”

What George seems oblivious to is that he made the offer contingent on him getting the popular vote.

Moving on …..

George has been extremely vocal on opposing marriage equality, the Safe Schools Program, and every facet of a Muslim’s life.

He says he has done this because of his religious beliefs.

He was elected to a secular parliament to make fair laws for all but he is making decisions coloured by his chosen religion and wanting to impose his beliefs on us all. Muslims have repeatedly assured us that they are not trying to impose Sharia but George is sure as hell trying to impose his very conservative view of Christianity on everyone.

Because of Turnbull’s sellout to the RWNJs to gain the crown, followed by a wafer thin majority, George is realising he can really push this personal benefit thing.

He publicly announces that he has a letter of resignation ready to go unless the government does exactly what he says by day’s end on February 28th or he will blow the joint up, metaphorically of course.

And what crucial thing is George demanding?

An opportunity for some wealthy cane farmers in his electorate to lock in pre-orders to take advantage of record world prices on sugar.

Mr Christensen said if the Turnbull Government failed to act in the interests of cane growers, he would be politically “dead” in his electorate – and “I might not as well bother running at the next election under the LNP banner”.

In his Canberra office and in front of Mr Christensen, The Courier-Mail spoke to the Burdekin District Cane Growers president Laurence Dal Santo.

“George will not be the member for Dawson unless he gets this (code of conduct) deal … if that means he leaves the LNP and joins One Nation, then so be it,” Mr Dal Santo said.

Christensen is also a climate change denier.

It is very important to him that coal be encouraged so he can pretend it is going to provide jobs for people in his electorate.  He has pushed for legislation to stop court challenges and for the government to give a billion dollars to a company that no-one else will lend to.

When he was spruiking the Abbott Point port expansion, I pointed out that the government’s own report said it would create less than 100 jobs during 1 year of construction and then 2 ongoing jobs.  He promptly blocked me from commenting on his facebook page.  George likes the echo chamber of affirmation rather than any factual intrusion.

Apparently George is disgruntled that he was not given a Cabinet position.  How could he be more influential?  He has made our Prime Minister completely backflip on every value he ever pretended to hold.

If we see a Code of Conduct in the sugar industry, but no sugar tax which health professionals have called for but George won’t allow, and then George given any sort of promotion, we will know that Malcolm Turnbull has been completely and utterly compromised and is incapable of leading the country.

The tough man who traded blows with Trump, the man who looks billionaires in the eye (sorry, I know I keep using that line – it makes me chortle every time), is a quivering bowl of full sugar jelly with no labelling just waiting to be devoured by the sugar plum fairy.

 

Legitimising hatred and misinformation

You know you have really crossed the line when that champion of free speech, Andrew Bolt, says you should have been “booed off the stage.”

Yet this is exactly what he said of Larry Pickering’s performance at Kirralie Smith’s fundraiser to pay for the defamation case ensuing from her false assertion that halal certification funds terrorism.

Why should I care what Bolt, Pickering, or the pretty blonde trying to out-hate Hanson to also join the political gravy train have to say?

Mainly because several politicians, past and present, are championing Smith’s cause, appearing at two fundraising dinners organised by the anti-Islam Q society to help fund Ms Smith’s defence which is expected to cost $1 million.  That is a very dangerous precedent in my opinion – using your parliamentary status to back someone facing a defamation suit.

Aside from the odious Pickering, we had Ross Cameron, Angry Anderson, George Christensen and Cory Bernardi all taking part to offer their personal support.

Thursday night was hosted by Angry Anderson with Pickering and Cameron both giving rambling diatribes peppered with Muslim and gay bashing.

Cameron, who was at pains to reassure us that he was heterosexual, said “the thing I love with Kirralie Smith, the first time I saw her on television I thought there could not be a more authentic expression of the goodness of Australia than Kirralie Smith.”

Reading the transcript is tortuous.  I doubt Mr Cameron will be getting too many gigs on the speaking circuit.

He constantly mentioned homosexuality in his speech.

He spoke about the classical philosophers, who valued reason over orthodoxy, and said Socrates “might have had a bit of same-sex attraction”.

He said the Roman emperor Hadrian had a young male lover who “fell off the back of a barge.  I’m sure he was snorting coke at the time.”

In front of two Sydney Morning Herald journalists, who were in the room, he called the paper the “Sydney Morning Homosexual”.

“Trigger warning for the Herald, there are some heterosexuals in this room. I don’t want you to be offended by that, but there are some males who are attracted to females in this room,” Mr Cameron said.

“Now, I know, the NSW division of the Liberal Party is basically a gay club. I don’t mind that most of our parliamentary class is gay. I just wish, like Hadrian, they’d build a damn wall. That would be my preference.”

Pickering’s contribution was predictably despicable.

“I can’t stand Muslims,” he said. “If they are in the same street as me, I start shaking. But they are not all bad, they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings.”

On his website, Mr Pickering later said his remarks were nothing more than “the sort of bullshit banter exchanged between holes on a golf course”.

Pickering donated for auction one of his own works depicting the rape of a woman in a niqab by her son-in-law – the cartoon fetched $600.  Another Larry Pickering cartoon auctioned depicted an imam as a pig, being roasted on a spit, with a “halal certified” stamp on its rump. A case of wine called “72 Virgins” was also up for grabs.

This caused Andrew Bolt to call on defenders of free speech to condemn Pickering.

 When a Pickering speaks so fouly, we must say so. We must condemn. We must with our good speech damn the bad.

To fail in this is to give the cops-calling Left their excuse to say we’ve been exposed: that what we really seek is not the freedom to speak but the freedom to vilify, free of even the restraint of any goodness.

And that, Andrew, is the consequence of unleashing the hounds.  You may consider your motives pure but they embolden others who make false accusations, whose irrational hatred and fear is being stoked by the media and, even worse, legitimised by the support of currently serving politicians.  This gives them an extraordinary platform to spread their discontent which grows like ripples in a pond.

Cory Bernardi and George Christensen both attended another fundraising function the following evening.

Christensen said, “I attended the ‘defending freedom’ event because I believe we are slowly seeing the erosion of free speech with the myriad of anti-discrimination laws we have in this country and the threats of violence from Islamist and leftist groups like [anti-fascist] Antifa.”

Senator Bernardi told the $150-a-head fundraiser that those there were described in pejorative terms as “hard right” but were actually just normal “people with concerns”.

I find it farcical that they called the evening defending freedom when what they want to do is take away freedom from Muslims.  But Ms Smith is good at casting the wrong people as victims.  Apparently the media should stop picking on Larry and Ross.

“I felt in the context of his speech and his dry humour he had every right to say those things at a dinner defending freedom of speech. His walk through history and his dry, sharp humour highlighted the danger we now live in when the media elite and political class censor, abuse, deride and isolate people because they hold a different view. The SMH article was actually a perfect illustration of how when the media don’t like something they throw their full weight behind whipping up offence and shutting people down without engaging in debate,” she wrote.

So much for the freedom to criticise which, in Ms Smith’s world, only goes one way.

Australians must resist this attack on our social cohesion and help defend the constitutional right of our Muslim brothers and sisters to live as they choose without Kirralie Smith telling them what they can eat, what they can wear, and how they must worship.

The death of Malcolm’s idealism, if any such thing ever truly existed

In 2012, Malcolm Turnbull delivered the George Winterton Lecture at the University of Western Australia, in which, coincidentally enough, he discussed the importance of truth, particularly in the climate change debate, and how the demise of journalism and the deplorable behaviour in question time are instrumental in damaging both the public’s trust and their ability to make informed decisions.  The following is an extract from that speech.

Republican virtues: Truth, leadership and responsibility.

“Politicians and shock jocks, scientists and coal barons, all of them can argue for as long as they like, but they cannot change physical reality.

The reason our planet is not a frozen chunk of ice is heat trapped by greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Increasing the amount of those gases will necessarily over time cause the earth to warm.

I won’t linger on climate change – the hopeless, confused, hyper-partisan nature of the debate is too well known to rehearse. But there was irony aplenty in Tampa last week when the first day of the Republican Convention was cancelled because of a cyclone, even as the extent of Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest area since satellite measurements began and the worst American drought in more than 50 years sent corn and wheat prices soaring.

How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?

Seldom, and even more rarely if a camera is rolling.

Most Australians believe we need an honest, informed policy debate. Yet I don’t see many people who believe we have that. Instead, we all hear again and again that Australians are ashamed of the parliament, that they see it as nothing more than a forum for abuse, catcalling and spin.

There are reasons for this view. Question Time, Parliament’s most visible ritual, is one. If you love your country, have an interest in politics or policy, and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time.

Normally this is doubly the case if the party you favour is in opposition; Governments tend to wield the advantages they have in Question Time with the subtlety that Trotsky’s assasin wielded his ice pick. There is a reason it is called Question Time and not Answer Time.

The journalists of Australia, the media, play as important a role in our democracy as any elected representative. But their numbers are dwindling fast and the media’s capacity to report on, let alone hold to account, governments and oppositions is diminishing.

As they endeavour to make do with fewer resources, newspapers and other media as well resort to more and more commentary and opinion. An opinionated columnist costs less than a team of news reporters. It is so much easier to put one slanted opinion up against another than to investigate and objectively report on the facts of the matter.

Increasingly too the journalists who cover politics are drawn into the game – often praising politicians for their skilful use of spin, their cunning ability to avoid a difficult question or their brutal ability to misrepresent and destroy their opponent’s arguments. Commenting on the play takes a lot less time than painstakingly pointing out where the spin has misrepresented an issue.

In my view, all of this requires politicians to be especially careful to remember our responsibility to explain the big issues of our time. Dumbing down complex issues into sound bites, misrepresenting your or your opponent’s policy does not respect “Struggle Street”, it treats its residents with contempt.

Call me idealistic if you like, but we have a greater need than ever for informed and honest debate and, yet, with the decline of journalism less means to deliver it and hold to account those who seek to frustrate it.

So what can be done? Well for a start all of us can consciously do a better job at explaining issues. Shouldn’t one key benchmark for politicians be: have we made an issue clearer and the complex comprehensible? We all want “cut through” messages- how about cutting through with clarity, rather than with spin?

And while newspapers are shrinking think tanks seem to be expanding – wouldn’t it be great if some of those public intellects actually held politicians like me to account, pointing out where we had exaggerated or misled. Public fact checking would raise the quality of debate.

In this environment our public broadcasters have an even heavier responsibility to be objective, balanced and comprehensive in their news coverage – it may not be long before the largest employer of journalists in Australia is our ABC.

The ABC enjoys a very high level of trust in the Australian community – much higher than in politicians or bishops I saw recently -and as the rest of the news media decline, they will have to work harder and harder to retain it.

But let us return to Question Time.

In our Parliament every sitting day has a question time in which most of the questions are asked of the Prime Minister. For the last two years the questions from the Opposition have been almost entirely focussed on people smuggling and the carbon tax.

Are they really the only important issues facing Australia? A regular viewer of Question Time would be excused for thinking they were.

In Britain’s House of Commons the Prime Minister takes questions for half an hour every Wednesday but on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday question time deals, by turn, with one of the other departments.

If we were to do that, or some variant thereof Question Time might actually serve to hold the whole of the Government to account and enlighten the public as to what is going on in all those other departments that are not concerned with carbon tax and people smuggling.

Now I don’t have any silver bullet to make us politicians more accurate or more likely to keep our promises.

But we can make it easier to earn and keep the people’s trust. We should be much more careful about raising false expectations – whether on what we can do or what our opponents will do.

And we can waste less time on tedious “gotcha” moments when an opponent’s phrase is taken out of context and used utterly to misrepresent his position.

In case you think my call for a change of attitude and practice to truth in politics is just idealism – let me make a practical political point. It seems to me that we don’t simply have a financial deficit, we have a deficit of trust. We can argue for hours which side and which politicians, which journalists indeed, have contributed most to it. But it affects all of us and all of our institutions. The politicians and parties that can demonstrate they can be trusted, that they will not insult the people with weasel words and spin, that they will not promise more than they can deliver, that they will not dishonestly misrepresent either their own or their opponents’ policies – those politicians and parties will, I submit to you, deserve and receive electoral success.”

Would that it were so Malcolm but, as you have so pointedly demonstrated, the temptations of the dark side are even too great for the man who “looks billionaires in the eye” to resist.

Right back at ya Malcolm

In August 2010, in response to the knifing of Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull wrote a piece for the ABC titled Politics and moral courageThe following is an extract from his article.

“We are all faced with occasions when we are put to the test, and face a choice between doing the easy thing which is wrong, and the hard thing which is right. And that is what requires true moral courage. Examples of this choice abound in every stage of life.

You might be a legal adviser who is asked to give advice to a client, and tells the client what he wants to hear rather than what you know to be the truth.

You might be an investment banker who is asked to give a valuation of a company that is about to be floated, and you might be persuaded to give it a higher valuation than it deserves. (HIH and FAI ring a bell?)

You might, for example, be a politician who knows what is right but is presented with opinion polls that suggest you ought to do something differently simply because it will be popular.

The temptations abound.

But it seems to me that moral courage derives from strength of character. It comes from a kind of moral core within you. It requires that you believe in yourself, for if you do not belief in yourself you cannot ask others to believe in you.

 courage, in the truest sense of standing up for one’s convictions is a vital element of one’s character.

And it is something that ought never be neglected. I have formed the view over the years that character is like a muscle. If you neglect it, if you allow yourself to take the soft option again and again, all the while justifying these actions to yourself as being “just little things” or “not really a big deal” – then, I guarantee, the time will come and you will be faced with something important where you are called upon to be strong, but you will find yourself weak.

It was an horrifying thing to see a Prime Minister in his first term in office poleaxed by his own party. I understood how he felt at the time! But the difference between my situation and that of Kevin Rudd was the events that led to my very narrow demise as Leader of the Opposition were built around a matter of principle.

I believed then, and I believe today that Australia must take effective action on climate change, effective action to reduce our emissions. And I felt that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) was a good way of working towards that goal. It wasn’t perfect – mind you, nothing emerges from Parliament that is perfect. But we should never allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good – that, it seems to me, is an important lesson that the Greens need to learn.

But the reality of Rudd’s demise was truly a shocking one. We should recall that he enjoyed the longest political honeymoon that any of us had ever seen, and yet it came to an abrupt end. It fell off a cliff after he decided to shelve the CPRS.

Why did he do it? We are told that the hard heads in the Labor Party, including Julia Gillard, told him that there were deep political problems surrounding the scheme and that he should back away from it. They wouldn’t have done so if they didn’t think it was politically advantageous.

But what happened, of course, was a loss of faith with the Australian people who had elected him to take action on climate change, and who couldn’t understand why he didn’t call a double dissolution election – as Judith Troeth, a very courageous Liberal, and I were certain he would.

So what brought Mr Rudd undone, in my mind, was not an issue of policy but of conviction. In politics people will forgive you for incompetence – up to a point, of course, and you don’t want to test the electorate’s patience. But if they feel there is no conviction there, if they do not believe that you have the courage to fight for what you believe in, then why on earth should they vote for you?

There is simply no substitute for conviction. Leaders cannot allow themselves to get into a situation where by endeavoring to please everybody they expose themselves as truly being a “hollow man” – or woman, as the case may be.

And that, I think, is the lesson we ought to draw from the tumultuous events in Canberra over the past few months.

But let me be clear about courageous leadership. Leaders have to consult, they have to engage – leadership is not dictatorship. Leadership is about listening, it is about reaching out and drawing strength from the people you work with. But at the end of the day, those that you are seeking to lead need to know that you stand for something. They need to know your vision. And if you cannot deliver that, then you cannot be a successful leader.

It is very easy, of course, to position oneself in an environment where courage is not demanded. But let me make what I believe is an extremely important observation. Courage is not the absence of cowardice. There are many people who strive to make their lives so safe that they never are called upon to make a courageous decision.

And badly led organizations can actually encourage such timidity. Just think of the many organizations in which conventional thinking is encouraged, dissent is dangerous, and failure is punished severely. If you find yourself in a culture like that, the only rational response is to do nothing. Better to do nothing, to risk nothing, than to fail.

Ultimately, in politics, the real issue is one of character. People often talk about elections as being a conflict between policies, that different parties will take different policies to the people. And that’s true, to an extent. But policies change and new circumstances frequently demand new policies.

What people look for at election time is the candidate that has the character that will enable them to make the right decisions in new and unforeseeable circumstances.

I was genuinely horrified by the events that precipitated Kevin Rudd’s demise.

As I watched him go, and saw what replaced him, I couldn’t get out of my mind that stanza from William Butler Yeats’s haunting poem, The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; / the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.””

Right back at ya Malcolm.

There is nothing pragmatic about destroying the planet

Last week Malcolm Turnbull addressed the National Press Club where he proclaimed “the battlelines have been drawn: it is clear that the Coalition stands for cheaper energy.”

No doubt mindful of Abbott’s successful campaign to “axe the tax”, Turnbull is now dishing up his version of the same thing, calling on all governments to co-operate on achieving the trifecta of affordable, reliable and secure electricity.

What Mr Turnbull studiously ignores is the fourth, and arguably most important part of the equation – sustainability.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is the body responsible for national transmission planning for electricity.  In December last year they published the NATIONAL TRANSMISSION NETWORK DEVELOPMENT PLAN, “an independent, strategic assessment of an appropriate course for efficient transmission grid development in the National Electricity Market (NEM) over the next 20 years. This assessment balances reliability, security, and cost considerations while meeting emissions reduction targets.”

The report makes the stunning admission that the government has no plan for reducing emissions in the electricity sector.

“All studies in the 2016 NTNDP assume that the NEM achieves at least a proportionate share of the COP21 commitment (28% emissions reduction). The mechanisms to meet the target, and any targets beyond 2030, have not yet been specified. The review of Australia’s climate change policies in 2017 should provide more information on the potential mechanisms that will be applied to achieve it.”

So, bereft of government direction, the AEMO went on to suggest what they believe needs to be done.

AEMO projects Australia’s 2030 emissions reductions target will be met mostly by large-scale renewable generation with coal generation reducing from 74% of NEM generation in 2016–17 to 24% in 2035–36.

AEMO’s 2016 National Electricity Forecasting Report (NEFR) projected grid demand growth to be flat over the next 20 years but concedes it could, in fact, be much lower than current forecasts for reasons including the following:

  • Rapid growth of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) – projected to represent between 34% and 60% of new generation installations. Installed capacity is projected to exceed 20 GW by 2036, becoming the technology with most generation capacity in the NEM. Uptake could accelerate faster than projected if a variety of factors, such as further cost breakthroughs or material rises in electricity prices, combine to improve the economics of PV ownership. The recent launch of Tesla’s Powerwall 2 represents a further step down the cost curve for residential battery storage. Tesla’s website indicates that a fully installed 14 kilowatt hour (kWh) system with integrated inverter is expected to cost $10,150.
  • Declining electricity-intensive manufacturing operations in the NEM regions. Sectors with projected growth, like services, use comparatively little electricity.
  • Energy efficiency initiatives, combined with more efficient appliances. The 2016 NEFR projects that energy efficiency will reduce grid demand by 27,082 GWh in 2035–36 (greater than the projected generation from rooftop PV of 25,442 GWh in the same year). Further emphasis on energy efficiency, as a relatively cheap form of abatement to meet emissions reduction targets, could reduce grid demand by more than current expectations
  • Changing consumer behaviour.

Of the existing coal generation fleet, almost 70% of the generation capacity will exceed 50 years from first operation by 2036, indicating that a large proportion of the fleet is approaching the end of its intended life. The 2016 NTNDP projects that up to 63% of the fleet (15.5 gigawatts (GW)) may withdraw from service in the next 20 years under a Neutral economic growth scenario, of which 9 GW is projected to be withdrawn in the 2030s. Whether coal generation is refurbished or replaced will depend on future climate change policy.

They suggest that any medium term gap in energy production whilst renewables ramp up would probably  be better filled by gas-powered generation (GPG) rather than coal and warn that these decisions need making now.

“The timing and location of coal generation withdrawals will impact when and where new generation and transmission development is required over the next 20 years. Limited notice of withdrawals at such a scale would not allow for coordinated planning and could compromise efficient NEM development.”

In his address, Malcolm Turnbull said, “We’ve invested $590 million since 2009 in clean coal technology research and demonstration and yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with carbon capture and storage.”

The pompous gall of Turnbull defies belief.  There is a good reason we don’t have working CCS technology.

In the 2014 budget the Abbott government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years.

In addition, the coal industry “paused” a levy on black coal producers, which was supposed to build a $1bn industry fund to also finance research and demonstration into clean coal technology. It cited low coal prices for the halt.

The objectives of Coal21, set up in 2006, were also changed to allow the industry to use funding already collected to promote the use of coal. Its constitution now allows money to be spent on “promoting the use of coal both within Australia and overseas and promoting the economic and social benefits of the coal industry”

At the time, Tony Abbott said “For now and for the foreseeable future, the foundation of Australia’s energy needs will be coal. The foundation of the world’s energy needs will be coal.”

Tony Wood, the energy program director at the Grattan Institute, said: “CCS is the only way Australia, and the world, can keep using coal and also do what it needs to do about climate change, but neither industry nor government seem to be serious about doing anything about it.”

John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute, said CCS “has to be one of the clean energy options available because all the modelling says that to avoid temperature rises of more than two degrees, we have to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”.

It costs several billion to build a new coal-fired power station.  Instead, we could:

  • Increase the quota of gas retained for domestic use and fix it at an affordable price – after all, we own the stuff.
  • Subsidise the installation of roof top solar as the Coalition promised they would do in the 2013 election
  • Stop indiscriminate large-scale land-clearing and plant more trees
  • Invest in wind energy instead of inquiries into whether or not it makes you sick – we know coal is killing us.
  • Electricity is an essential item whose price could be reduced by 10% by not charging GST (a price signal has been effective in reducing demand but this could be an option if necessary)
  • Stop guaranteeing profits when privatising our services

Turnbull pontificated “We are approaching this issue clear-eyed, pragmatic and objective. Labor’s approach is driven simply by ideology, heedless of cost or the thousands of jobs that it will destroy.”

I thought removing the carbon tax was supposed to make electricity cheap and provide thousands of jobs?

Malcolm perhaps revealed his true motivation when he said “as Australia is a big exporter we need to show we are using state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology.”

Trick the world into thinking coal is clean to keep profits up for a few more years for your billionaire mates?

There is nothing pragmatic about destroying the planet.

 

 

Dumb politicians are doing the terrorists’ work for them

When formulating our defence against terrorism, it is important to understand the motives of those who encourage such violence.

The immediate aim is to cause fear.

Despite you being much more likely to die at the hands of your partner, we have people like Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and Sonia Kruger telling us we are afraid to walk down the street because of ‘Islam’!

The Conversation put the domestic terror threat into perspective in an article titled Australians have little to fear from terrorism at home – here’s why.

More Australians have died at the hands of police (lawfully or unlawfully) in ten years (50 at least from 2006 to 2015) or from domestic violence in just two years (more than 318 in 2014 and 2015) than from terrorist attacks in Australia in the last 20 years.

Australian security services, supported by the public and community groups, have been very successful in monitoring the threats. According to the government’s 2015 review, the number of people in the country who have been prepared to commit terrorist acts here remains low.

Public opinion in Australia has an exaggerated view of the terrorist threat inside the country. As early as 2006, two Australian scholars put forward a “thought contagion theory” to explain this phenomenon. It suggests misleading ideas become commonly held beliefs after they are conveyed to many people.

The anxiety is often unnecessarily fuelled by politicians and journalists. One striking example was a warning from The Australian’s Greg Sheridan in November 2015 that the Paris attacks can be viewed as part of a series of threats that may lead to the end of Western civilisation.

But the over-anxiety about terrorist attacks in Australia conforms to a more longstanding phenomenon of Australian insecurity and exaggeration of international threats in almost all quarters. It also comes from the exaggerated fear of becoming a victim of domestic crime.

In this environment of supercharged public anxiety about terrorist threats on Australian soil, opinion leaders in politics, the media and academia have a responsibility to not inflame them.

Another aim of the current crop of Islamist extremists is to create a backlash that turns non-Muslims against Muslims, legitimising the claim that there is war between the West and Islam.

Donald Trump and xenophobic right-wing parties in Europe and here have fallen for this making victims of those people who have been fleeing just such terror in the Middle East.

This persecution of innocent Muslims in their own countries delights the terrorists.  It is exactly what they want – for us to turn on each other.

When we unfairly alienate and discriminate against people because of their religion or ethnicity rather than because of anything they have done, we provide fertile ground for those who would groom vulnerable disaffected youth.

David Irvine, head of ASIO until his retirement in September 2014, rejected as “un-Australian” a proposition floated from the right that immigration from Middle Eastern countries should be limited, and praised the efforts of leaders in the Muslim community in helping counter terrorism.

Australia is different to other countries in that, provided we can get the refugees through the ring of steel, we offer very good resettlement and support services to help during the inevitable adjustment period it would take anyone fleeing from war to a very different place.

We should be welcoming them, telling them they are safe now, earning the trust of people who may be very scared, helping them heal and start new lives.  It has been shown time and time again, our investment is returned manyfold as they become productive contributing members of the society that gave them a chance to live without fear.

To those that perpetuate this irrational fear of our Muslim brothers and sisters, I have one thing to say.

You’ve been played.

It’s a pity our Treasurer does not recognise our value and price it accordingly

As parliament resumes, the Coalition will be aggressively pushing their company tax cuts.  Their branding has always been “jobs and growth” but there has been a subtle change lately to stressing the need to attract “foreign investment”.

The Australia Institute has just released research examining the reality about foreign investment by looking at the facts – an increasingly rare approach now that governments don’t bother with modelling .

Because of Australia’s unique system of dividend imputation, any reduction in company tax would reduce the amount withheld on behalf of dividend recipients and so increase the amount shareholders will have to ‘top up’ at tax time.  Australian investors will receive no benefit.

This does not apply to foreign shareholders who will unambiguously benefit from a tax cut which is probably why Morrison is now trying to sell the idea that this would attract foreign investment.  But would reducing taxes make any difference?

By value 71 per cent of foreign investment applications come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate and by number a large 97 per cent come from countries with company tax rates lower than Australia’s rate.  All of this raises the question – if Australia is already successful at attracting foreign investment why would we give tax cuts to foreigners?

Throughout the whole debate it is assumed that company tax rates are the critical variable affecting investment. However, any returns to the ultimate investors will depend on the individual tax system as well as the company tax and the interaction between the two. When we look at company tax alone Australia has the equal fifth highest among OECD countries yet when we examine the implied total tax rate Australia falls to fourteenth and is only marginally above countries such as the UK.

There has been no correlation in the past between decreases in company tax rate and the rate of foreign investment.

Michael Keating AC was formerly Secretary, Department of Finance and Secretary, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  He agrees the company tax cut will make no difference

Frankly it is hard to think of reasons why this extension of the company tax cut would represent value for money, as it is unlikely to make much difference to investment nor growth. Indeed, company tax has been cut by a lot over the last few decades in a lot of countries, but in no country was there a significant impact on investment, output or employment. Second, the Government’s own modelling shows that this company tax cut would only increase GDP by 1% after as many as 20 years – which is an infinitesimal impact in the foreseeable future.

You cannot tax a profitable business into being unprofitable.  Australia is an attractive place to invest because we provide a well-educated, skilled, healthy workforce, a stable social and political environment (comparatively), a strong legal and judicial system and established infrastructure.

We have invested a lot of money to provide that environment and businesses have seen the value in taking advantage of the quality labour, the transport infrastructure, and the stability our society provides.

It’s a pity our Treasurer does not recognise our value and price it accordingly.

I see dangerous people

Forget ISIS.  The greatest threat to humanity at this moment has become the United States government.

Some would argue that their military and political interventionism has always made them a threat but the stakes just got a whole lot higher.

Donald Trump is waging war on several fronts to undermine our rights and protections.  He is doing everything in his supreme power to facilitate corporate greed, militant Christianity, and white supremacy, liberally sprinkled with threats and revenge against anyone who displeases him.

This is not how the ‘leader of the free world’ is expected to behave.  He has thrown out all expert advice, all checks and balances, and is dismantling government bodies either directly or by placing his ‘people’ in charge despite them having no relevant experience and very dubious credentials.  Departments have been forbidden from speaking publicly – so much for the champion of free speech.

He is apparently going to pull out of the Paris Agreement, stop all action on climate change mitigation, dismantle environmental regulations and disband the EPA, and hugely cut funding to the Energy Department.

VP Pence addressed pro-life marchers while Trump tweeted his support.  They have threatened health organisations in third world countries that if they even mention abortion their funding will disappear.  Trump at one stage during the campaign said he thought women who had abortions should face punishment, before backtracking in the face of public outrage.  Now that he has supreme power, there will be no backtracking.

Trump has redefined terrorism to mean radical Islam.  All other terrorists will no longer be on the watch list.  But it’s not Muslim bashing – just a thank you to all the neo-nazis who support him.

The conflict of interest between Trump’s position and his business dealings is echoed throughout his appointees, most of whom have business connections that will directly profit from the decisions they are making.

Trump has sent shares in companies plummeting because of a tweet, trade deals, alliances and long-standing relationships are threatened, all on twitter.

Trump has significant business interests in both Russia and Saudi Arabia which puts him in a difficult position regarding Iran who are backing opposite sides in Yemen.

It seems inconceivable that Trump will survive a full term without scandal or legalities like the emoluments clause precipitating his removal.

Should that occur, what then happens to the multitude of businesses worldwide that pay to bear the Trump name?  The man with supreme power won’t allow this to happen without a fierce battle.

And the people in Australia who celebrate the Trump ascendancy pose a similar threat – Hanson, Bernardi, Christensen, Roberts, Burston, Abbott.  What will these people promise to appease their hero?  Warships in the South China Sea?  Missile launchers in the top end? Religious persecution? Control over women’s reproductive health choices?

I see dangerous people who must be resisted.

The naivety of the man-child they call Mr President

If anyone thought Trump’s campaign rhetoric was overblown bluff, the last week should have disabused them of that notion.

The man-child that they now call Mr President has been issuing executive orders at a blistering pace.

The only trouble is, there is no plan behind any of them.

Many of them appear to be unconstitutional, others illegal, others a green light for wealthy mates to transfer public money to private pockets without oversight, and others that are just not feasible.

Some, like the ban on people from certain countries entering the US, were enacted with no warning causing total chaos for people in transit and immigration and airline employees.  A judge has already put a stay on that one for those who were in transit.

One example of the human face of this decision – Seyed Soheil Saeedi Saravi, by all accounts a brilliant young scientist from Iran, was due to travel to Boston to take up a fellowship to study cardiovascular medicine at Harvard – but his and his wife’s visas were suspended indefinitely.

Trump did not suspend entry for citizens from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey – perhaps because he has multimillion-dollar business operations in all those countries.

Donald says he can build the wall because that is his expertise – construction.  He can get it done.  I would hazard a guess that Donald has never actually constructed anything in his life or even considered the logistics involved beyond paying for it, and even that he is unreliable about.

His idea of putting a 20% tariff on Mexican imports shows he has absolutely no understanding of the trade between the two countries and that it would be American consumers paying for it and American jobs that are reliant on that trade lost.

And where will the wall be built when the border is the Rio Grande?  Will he block off access for American farmers to the river?

He has signed an order for the joint chiefs of staff to submit a plan in 30 days for defeating Islamic State.  If it was that easy I think it would already have been tried.  How will Americans feel about committing ground troops and how will they tell who are the terrorists?

He still wants to know what’s the point of having nuclear weapons if you don’t use them.

Trump apparently thinks that, by wiping all mention of climate change from the US government web site and placing gag orders on government departments, that he can make the problem go away.  Approvals are to be fast-tracked, objections ignored, full steam ahead on two pipelines.  This has prompted scientists to take the unprecedented move of organising to march on Washington.

There are many threats in the orders, for example the threat to border sanctuary towns which have many illegal immigrants – do as I say, deport them or I take away your funding.

The language of these proclamations and orders is unsophisticated.  They read like the Christmas demands of an over-indulged child.

Don’t tell me there’s no such thing as a pink unicorn.  Get me one or you’re fired.

Donald is very used to barking orders at people and, when things go wrong, walking away leaving disaster in his wake.

We are about to witness that on a grand scale.

Hear ye Hear ye. Will Trump’s proclamation embolden the Coalition to destroy public education?

President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, has not delighted the education community, particularly those in her home state where many say that her push for school choice and a free market for charter schools has not worked for Michigan kids.

DeVos and her husband are major political power brokers.  The couple contributed $50,000 dollars to the campaigns of senators whose votes she needed to be approved as a nominee and, since 2015, members of the DeVos family have given more than $2.6 million dollars in contributions to the Michigan Republican party and other candidates and political organizations in the state alone.

In 1994, the DeVos family was instrumental in passing legislation that attached funding to the student instead of the school district.

The idea that money follows the student began to fail when the student population started to decline, but the number of schools kept rising. Now schools — public and charter — are in bidding wars to attract kids and the money they bring, leading to campaigns to attract students with iPads, bicycles, and gift cards, often times in poor neighbourhoods around the holidays.

In 2010 Ms Devos opened up her own charter school on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids which kids from 40 different districts attend.

In 2011, the DeVos’ education advocacy group — the Great Lakes Education Project — successfully lobbied for legislation that removed the cap on the number of charter schools and the organisations that could operate them.

Detroit is the lowest performing big city in the country, but over the last 15 years, the entire state of Michigan has declined when it comes to student performance. And many say the push to deregulate charter schools — who can open them, close them, and where they can be placed — has played a major role in that downward turn.

“When I hear her name and I think about education, I think about choice without quality,” said Tonya Allen, president and CEO of the Skillman Foundation, and a member of a coalition to help fix Detroit schools.

“Nearly half of charter schools here are ranked in the bottom of American schools, according to the Education Trust Midwest. Twenty percent were given a “D” or “F” grade. And 80 percent of charter schools in the state are now operating as for-profit institutions.

“We focused on the proliferation of choice and creating as many charters as we could as quickly as we could, rather than focusing on whether the schools that we were going to open were going to be high quality,” Allen said.

“In Michigan DeVos is viewed as the architect of the Detroit system for better or worse and obviously I and many others believe it’s for worse,” said Aaron Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, “I think it’s very much a market mechanism argument.”

According to billionaire DeVos, “If a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child…we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.” That “alternative” could mean allowing states to use federal money to provide vouchers to families who want to enroll their children in public charter schools or private schools.

And it seems, despite the poor results of her experiment so far, DeVos has prevailed.  Trump has issued “A Proclamation”.

NATIONAL SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK, 2017

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

The foundation of a good life begins with a great education.  Today, too many of our children are stuck in schools that do not provide this opportunity.

Because the education of our young people is so important, the parents of every student in America should have a right to a meaningful choice about where their child goes to school.

By expanding school choice and providing more educational opportunities for every American family, we can help make sure that every child has an equal shot at achieving the American Dream.  More choices for our students will make our schools better for everybody.

With a renewed commitment to expanding school choice for our children, we can truly make a great education possible for every child in America.

As our country celebrates National School Choice Week, I encourage parents to evaluate the educational opportunities available for their children.  I also encourage State lawmakers and Federal lawmakers to expand school choice for millions of additional students.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 22 through January 28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand seventeen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.

DONALD J. TRUMP

It would be timely to point out that, in his maiden speech to parliament, our Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed similar views.

“It is time that at least one state, in at least one region, trialled the implementation of school vouchers – affording all families the opportunity of choice, the opportunity to allocate the government funding for their child to pay the fees to the school of their choice.”

He also showed an interest in performance-based pay for teachers as a way to boost student results.

In a 2012 opinion piece, Senator Birmingham said, “Parents should be free to choose the education that best suits their child, with government funding appropriate to the students’ needs moving with that student, regardless of the type of school they attend”.

He also expressed support for US-style charter schools

Is this another area where we will follow the failed model of the US and abandon public education in favour of big profits for political donors who want to make a motza from deregulated private colleges?

Because Trump says he will do something is no reason to follow

When the GFC sent most of the world into an economic tailspin, Wayne Swan broke from the international pack to follow Treasury’s advice to go hard and fast with stimulus.  This has been recognised throughout the world as an exemplary move that largely saved Australia from the troubles felt elsewhere.  This was effective leadership which has been petulantly and unfairly tarnished by the Coalition.

As we face uncertain times again, our current Treasurer shows no such leadership, no such understanding.  Instead, he has a bad case of follow the leader, and I don’t mean Turnbull.

The US and UK are reducing company taxes so we must.  Apparently we must do this to “remain competitive”.

Funny – I used to think competition meant the best deal for the consumer but now it means who will give investors the best deal.  We compete to make them more profit.

And by investors, I mean foreign investors because, due to our unique imputed dividends system in Australia, cutting company tax will not advantage Australian shareholders, who will have to pay more income tax as a result, but it will send greater profits to foreign shareholders who do not pay tax here.

The theory is that those foreign shareholders will reinvest that greater profit in Australia which will create jobs and growth.

Except, even making that questionable assumption, the modelling shows a paltry return for huge cost.

Treasury’s modelling finds that the cut in company tax would cause real GDP to be 1 per cent higher than otherwise in the “long term” (taken to be about 20 years).

But the level of real GNI (Gross National Income) would be only 0.6 per cent higher than otherwise due to the benefit going largely offshore.  As budget papers routinely predict GNI to rise by about 1.5% a year, this is hardly a blip on the radar.

We are told by Morrison that most of this miniscule increase would go to wage earners.  Modelling shows that, after 20 or 25 or 30 years, the level of real after-tax wages will be 0.4 per cent higher than otherwise.

As for job creation, the Treasury modelling finds that the level of employment in 20 or 30 years’ time will be just 0.1 per cent higher than otherwise.

And the price of this me-tooism?

The phase-in will have a cumulative cost to the budget of $48.2 billion over the next decade and, when completed, an ongoing annual cost of $8.3 billion (according to modelling by Independent Economics).

That shortfall in revenue will be paid by those of us who are not companies by cuts in services and welfare payments and bracket creep on our income taxes.  The government will cry that funding increases every year – it just doesn’t increase to what was promised in signed agreements with the states to address needs-based funding in education and under-resourced public hospitals.  Compensating for inflation and population growth does not equate to increased funding.

And never forget that they are planning on spending $400 billion over the next twenty years on war machinery.

We really need to get rid of this amateur who knows nothing about economics, who cares nothing for long term results, who is totally disinterested in truth, but does a great “Hallelujah Brother Trump – whither thou goest we shall follow,” ably (?) backed up, or perhaps shoved, by Kate Carnelll’s doo wop chorus line.

 

Do we live in a fascist regime?

In an article yesterday in response to the news that Trump had gagged government scientists and agencies, I included a list of the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.

As I read through the expanded explanation, I got a very uneasy feeling that I was reading about our own government.  The similarities are chilling.

Recognise any of this behaviour?

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
  4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Is this where we are headed?

And so it begins …

Thanks to AIMN regular Kronomex for bringing this to our attention.

Trump silences government scientists with gag orders

Trump Administration Puts Gag Order on Several Government Agencies

Employees at several federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture have been barred by the Trump administration from making any statements, or providing any documents to the public or journalists, according to published reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are also impacted by the orders, which were reportedly handed down this week, and include a prohibition against some of the agencies posting on social media.

It’s not clear how long these gag orders will remain in place, or whether they are simply designed to freeze activity until President Trump’s hand-picked staff can issue new regulations for those agencies for posting on social media and interacting with the public. The EPA has also been ordered to freeze all grants, contracts and other agreements until further notice, according to numerous reports.

A memo sent to EPA staff said that there should be no press releases sent to “external audiences” and that “no social media will be going out,” according to a report by The Hill. The memo also says that a digital strategist will be coming in to oversee the agency’s social-media policies, and that “existing, individually controlled social-media accounts may become more centrally controlled.”

The memo also ordered that no new posts be made to any agency blogs, that staff send a list of any external speaking arrangements, that no new documents be uploaded to any public website, and that “incoming media requests will be carefully screened.”

14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
4. Supremacy of the Military
5. Rampant Sexism
6. Controlled Mass Media
7. Obsession with National Security
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
9. Corporate Power is Protected
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14. Fraudulent Elections

 

On the day of Trump’s inauguration, climate change ceased to exist.

There are many things to be worried about with a Trump presidency but this is perhaps the most potentially damaging.

On the day of his inauguration, climate change ceased to exist.

All References to ‘Climate Change’ Deleted From White House Website at Noon Today

‘At 11:59 am eastern, the official White House website had a lengthy information page about the threat of climate change and the steps the federal government had taken to fight it. At noon, at the instant Donald Trump took office, the page was gone, as well as any mention of climate change or global warming.’

“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule,” the site now says.

Climate Depot statement: “Climate skeptics are thrilled that one of the very first visible changes of the transition of power between President Obama and President Trump is the booting of “climate change” from the White House website. Trump is truly going to make science great again and reject the notion that humans are the control knob of the climate and UN treaties and EPA regulations can somehow regulate temperature and storminess. Welcome to the era of sound science!”

Update: With White House “climate change” page now removed, a pledge to increase drilling has been added as part of ‘An America First Energy Plan.’

Perhaps we need to invite Donald to come and experience an Australian summer.

 

There is a big problem in the construction industry but it isn’t the CFMEU

In November last year, Malcolm Turnbull issued a press release titled ABCC necessary to stop CFMEU lawlessness

The statement tells us that “The ABCC was established by John Howard in 2005 to ensure unlawful union action was properly investigated, dealt with and penalised”, emotively claims that “militant unions are making it more expensive to build hospitals, schools and roads – or international sports facilities”, and warns that “Australia can’t afford such lawlessness and dysfunction in our third-largest industry.”

The PM goes on to make the completely false statement that “During the seven years the ABCC was in place, construction industry productivity increased by 20 per cent.”  This is just a flat out lie.

He further claims “Since the ABCC’s abolition, productivity has flatlined, while the rate of disputes in the sector has increased by 40 per cent. In all other industries, the rate of disputes has declined by 33 per cent.”

Turnbull said “When there’s a problem with the construction industry, it flows through our whole economy. And there is a big problem.”

He’s right about that.  He just isn’t being honest about the real culprits who were exposed in a Senate report on insolvency in the Australian construction industry which was published in December 2015.  The following is an excerpt from that report.

The industry’s rate of insolvencies is out of proportion to its share of national output. Over the past decade the industry has accounted for between 8 per cent and 10 per cent of annual GDP and roughly the same proportion of total employment. Over the same period, the construction industry has accounted for between one-fifth and one quarter of all insolvencies in Australia.

This outcome isn’t, as some have argued, the result of market forces. While the construction industry is highly competitive and market forces play a part, there are other powerful factors at play. The structure of the commercial construction sector, serious imbalances of power in contractual relationships, harsh, oppressive and unconscionable commercial conduct play a major role when combined with unlawful and criminal conduct and a growing culture of sharp business practices all contribute to market distortions. As a result, the industry is burdened every year by nearly $3 billion in unpaid debts, including subcontractor payments, employee entitlements and tax debts averaging around $630 million a year for the past three years

In the view of the committee, the relative inaction that has characterised most government responses to the completely unacceptable payment practices in the construction industry has to end. The continued viability of the industry in its current structure requires Commonwealth intervention to ensure that businesses, suppliers and employees that work in the industry’s subcontracting chain get paid for the work they do.

The committee considers that the estimates of the incidence of illegal phoenix activity detailed in this report suggest that construction industry is being beset by a growing culture among some company directors of disregard for the corporations law.

Over three thousand possible cases of civil misconduct and nearly 250 possible criminal offences under the Corporations Act 2001 were reported in a single year in the construction industry. This is a matter for serious concern. It suggests an industry in which company directors’ contempt for the rule of law is becoming all too common

Recent studies indicate that illegal phoenix activity (across all industries) may cost between $1.79 billion and $3.19 billion per annum. Given the over-representation of construction businesses in insolvencies and phoenixing, the committee believes the construction industry is responsible for a substantial proportion of this cost.

The economic cost of insolvencies in the construction industry is staggering. In 2013– 14 alone, ASIC figures indicate that insolvent businesses in the construction industry had, at the very least, a total shortfall of liabilities over assets accessible by their creditors of $1.625 billion. Others who have analysed the data place the amount at $2.7 billion. The construction industry consistently rates as either the highest or second highest as against all other industries when it comes to unpaid employee entitlements.

Businesses now operate in an environment in which non-payment for work carried out is commonplace, cash flows are uncertain and businesses lower down in the subcontracting chain have little power relative to those at the top of the chain. In this environment, there is very little incentive to invest the necessary capital to adopt new and innovative construction methods, invest in new capital equipment or invest in workforce skills development.

The construction industry consistently ranks in the three least innovative industries in the country. According to latest available ABS innovation data, only a third of construction businesses could be classed as ‘innovation-active’ compared with more than half of businesses in the warehousing, media and telecommunications and retail sector businesses. Less than fifteen per cent of construction businesses had innovation in development, compared with over thirty percent of manufacturing businesses and 35 per cent of media and telecommunications businesses.

As innovation is a key driver of productivity, profitability and job creation, the lack of innovation in the industry must be addressed.

The construction industry accounts for an unacceptably high proportion of total alleged criminal and civil contraventions of the Corporations Act. This is indicative of a culture that has developed in sections of the industry in which some company directors consider compliance with the Corporations Act to be optional.

This culture highlights the importance of a reform to legislative and regulatory framework so that it better protects law abiding industry participants from unscrupulous business practices.

Section 596AB of the Corporations Act prohibits transactions entered into with the intention of preventing the recovery of employee entitlements or depriving employees of their entitlements and imposes a criminal sanction for breach. Yet, despite clear evidence of this occurrence, no prosecution under section 596AB has ever been initiated.

The report goes on to make 44 recommendations whilst pointing out that the problems have been known, and recommendations ignored, for decades.

This report is the latest in a long series of inquiries and reports dating back to at least 1995 that have considered the merits of changes to the law to regulate the payment of head contractors, subcontractors, workers and others in the building and construction industry. These inquiries have provided report after report, recommendation after recommendation, to State and Commonwealth governments, providing compelling evidence that any participant in a construction project who holds or receives money on account of the contract and is under an obligation to pay another participant, should be subject to a statutory obligation to hold the money as a trustee.

Similarly, a number of inquiries and reports have recommended the introduction of uniform, national security of payments legislation in the construction industry.

Yet, little or nothing has been done.

And it seems this will continue.  Why go after the company directors when you have unions to bash.