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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.”

Scared politicians stampede to embrace coal

If anything highlights the self-serving nature of politics, it is the unseemly stampede by scared politicians to throw out the science, ignore the independent authorities, bypass the judicial process, forget our international obligations, and disregard the future in their haste to embrace all things coal.

Peter Hannam’s explainer in the SMH gives a good rundown of the current state of play for Adani’s mine.  Personally, I can’t see them going ahead without some government money which Matt Canavan has been itching to give them from his secretive NAIF fund.

But there are other things which should give the government some pause.  They are setting themselves, and us, up for failure again.

According to The Australian Industry and Skills Committee,

“Since the mining boom peaked, there has been a shift in focus towards productivity and efficiency gains in the Coal Mining sector. The focus on productivity, has led to an increased uptake of technology and automation within the sector, reducing demand for low-skilled labour. The move towards remote operations centres in the sector has increased the need for skills in interpreting data from machines.

Future demand for thermal coal is expected to decrease as China and the Asia region looks to develop renewable energies, this in turn will likely reduce demand for thermal coal miners.”

On Wednesday, BHP’s CEO Peter Beaven delivered a strategy briefing to analysts in which he recognised the core areas that it needs to address to ensure its future operations, including the decarbonisation of electricity generation, the electrification of transport, the need for biodiversity conservation and greater obligations to be part of a circular economy.

BHP says it cannot see a case for new thermal coal investments, noting there is “no appetite” for such investments, and it also warns that gas is likely to be leapfrogged by renewables, particularly in developing countries, and the long pay-back for LNG projects carries significant risks.

Rio Tinto, which sold off the last of its coal assets less than a year ago, has pledged to support renewable energy and climate action – and to “publicly argue against” government subsidisation of coal power – while using its significant clout to urge associated industry groups to do the same.

Globally renowned resource analytics firm Wood Mackenzie’s research found that jobs and exports from existing coal regions will be decimated if the Galilee Basin is developed for coal mining.

And it is inferior coal.

…the low energy, high ash coal in the Galilee Basin is inferior to the Australian / Indonesian / South African / Columbian export market average

IEEFA estimates that Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal of 4,950kcal energy and 26% raw ash content would currently be valued at a 60.5% discount to the Newcastle 6,000kcal benchmark, suggesting a current price of ~US$39.50/t.

Mining operators at the Galilee Basin could wash the raw coal, marginally reducing the ash content and boosting the energy content, but this would significantly increase production costs and would be subject to seasonal variations including water availability.

Of concern to the drought-stricken Queensland community are the severe water draw-down risks posed by the cumulative impact of multiple, huge coal mining plans for the Galilee Basin. The Adani Group alone wants to extract up to 12.5-billion-litres per year to 2077 from the Galilee Basin’s Belyando River for use at their proposed Carmichael mine, with the maximum total water potentially doubling this amount when coal “dewatering” is included.

So to sum up, automation means there would be very few jobs provided by a mine producing inferior coal which would use an enormous amount of water and cause job losses and production cuts in existing coal-mining areas as the market for thermal coal declines due to the global movement towards renewable energy.

And then there’s climate change…

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Who voted for them?

Knowing, as we do, the dishonest campaign employed by No-Policy Morrison, the question must be asked – who was sucked in?

And the answer is not what you would expect.

It wasn’t rich people seeking to protect the advantage they know they receive through overly generous tax concessions or seeking to have their taxes cut even further.

It wasn’t the people who actually know what franking credits and negative gearing mean.

It wasn’t migrants protecting their children from moral decay.

It wasn’t old people scared of change and longing for the golden days of the past.

An analysis by Nick Evershed at the Guardian shows some very interesting results that should inform future campaigns.

“Electorates that swung harder to the Liberal and National parties are more likely to have higher unemployment, lower income, lower levels of education and fewer migrants”, whereas “electorates that swung to Labor were more likely to have higher levels of education, more young people, more people in work or study, and more people over the age of 80.”

As Labor fell into the trap of talking about the minutiae of unsustainable tax concessions, they failed to sell their message to the very people they would have helped the most.

Those with higher education qualifications, or more political and economic engagement, were able to see through the razzamatazz of the ProMo show.

Those who are concerned about the environment, young and old, recognised the danger.

But those who just want someone to look after them without them having to be involved in thought or deed, handed the reins to Scott the Messiah who tells us that everything is just fine and dandy – don’t you worry about that you people.

The interference run by Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer was also influential in directing preferences to the Coalition.  Some of the biggest swings to the government came in coal-mining regions but often via a primary vote for one of the fringe parties.

Labor must change the way they communicate – less about the how and more about the why, less about the numbers and more about the benefits.

None of the current crop of politicians could be genuinely called inspirational so, in the absence of a real visionary leader, it must be a team effort by all of us to identify the challenges we face, to better communicate the needs of our society, to hold our politicians to account, and to explain more simply the path to a better future.

As Bill said, we cannot change the past, but it is our duty to do the best we can for the future.

Maintain the rage and keep the bastards honest.

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Me or us?

This election has boiled down to a question of who do you care about – me or us?

People who like to call themselves self-funded retirees are insisting they should keep their government handout for excess franking credits – what was a tax offset to avoid double taxation has morphed into zero taxation from companies as they pay their tax to their shareholders instead of the government.

Property investors are insisting that they should be able to reduce their tax liability from other income earned by claiming a deduction for the interest they are paying on their loan – something those struggling with a mortgage on their home cannot do.

Those who have assets like investment properties and shares feel they should only be charged tax on half the money they make when they sell. Unlike workers whose entire income is counted when determining the tax they pay – and they have to work to earn it.

Wealthy people are insisting they should get a tax cut because they pay so much tax.  They never talk about how they collect so much income and own so much wealth. They also want to be able to claim whatever they pay to accountants to minimise their tax, thus cutting it even further.

We are assured that if businesses make more profit, and rich people pay less tax, they will share the wealth by employing us all and giving us wage rises.

Except they want to employ us as labour hire or casuals or sham contractors so they can lay us off whenever they want and don’t have to pay sick or annual leave. No-one ever gets to long service leave. They want to employ backpackers and international students and temporary visa labour because, hey, they can’t complain.

And we don’t need wage rises because inflation is so low. Forget any idea about sharing in the record company profits your labour has delivered – you don’t need it.

Miners earning $250,000 a year want to keep their jobs – who wouldn’t? They don’t care about that inner-city bullshit about climate change or water tables or endangered species or native title.  What are you gonna do to cut our tax Bill?

Irrigators can’t be expected to worry about the people downstream. Find your own water. And those are roads, not levees, though I might have some spare floodwater if the price is right.

People who can afford to send their children to so-called “private” schools have demanded that more and more money be diverted from the public education system to fund their choice to send their child to a school with swimming pools, squash courts, recording studios and an Olympic rowing coach.

Religious people are insisting on their right to discriminate against anyone they choose – find a bible verse and you can ignore the law of the land. We will pay for religious chaplains to go into public schools to instruct anyone whose parents have neglected to indoctrinate them but we will not tolerate schools talking about respectful relationships or diversity – that sort of stuff, unlike religious education, should be left up to parents.

There will be no consideration of a rise to Newstart by the Coalition because the best welfare is a job. All those who don’t have one just aren’t trying hard enough and those who can’t live on what they earn should just move back in with their parents.

We want house prices to go up because that makes us wealthier. To help young people get in the market we will allow them to take on greater debt. Rents will go up if you are a tenant and down if you are a landlord…apparently. Social housing? Communism!!

Permanent migration will be slashed to bust congestion. Temporary visas, on the other hand, will continue to rise in order to keep us out of recession and to allow our universities to make up for the cuts in funding.

Indigenous people will not get a voice to parliament – who do they think they are? Clive Palmer?

Come Saturday, the choice is clear.  Do you care about yourself or the country?

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What’s the story with Kathy Jackson?

In June 2015, the Health Services Union (HSU) sued Kathy Jackson over allegations she spent $660,000 of members’ funds on personal expenses while national secretary.

Before the trial, the HSU sought an injunction freezing Ms Jackson’s assets and blocking the sale of her $1.3 million NSW property to her partner, vice president of the Fair Work Commission Michael Lawler.

Ms Jackson’s lawyer said blocking the transfer of the property would be a devastating blow to her client that would prevent her from being able to pay her legal bills, school fees and daily living expenses even though, under the proposed injunction, she would be allowed $2,000 a week.

Lawler told the court that he had no assets and was financially strained despite earning $435,000 a year.

A couple of weeks later, just prior to her trial, Jackson declared bankruptcy despite having recently filed an affidavit declaring net assets of $278,683 including her Wombarra property (valued at $1.3 million), a 2005 model Mercedes (valued at $15,000), bank accounts containing less than $2,000 and an engagement ring worth $20,000.

In August 2015, the court found she had misappropriated the union’s money and ordered her to pay the Health Services Union about $1.4m though I doubt any of that has been paid or is likely to be.

More than two years later, Jackson was committed to stand criminal trial facing a total of 147 charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception, 18 counts of theft and one charge of obtaining property by deception.  She pled not guilty.

There have been several court appearances since then which have all been adjourned with Jackson remaining on bail whilst she seeks Legal Aid funding which has so far been denied.

Legal Aid has opposed the application, stating her defacto partner Mr Lawler has sufficient equity in his house that he could access to meet the costs.

“She should rely on that rather than publicly-funded social security,” Legal Aid barrister Angel Aleksov argued.

But Jackson said her partner should not be compelled to sell his house.

“I have no money. I am a bankrupt. I have no assets apart from my car, which is probably worth a couple of thousand dollars,” she said.

“I want to make clear that Mr Lawler and I are separate human beings. He will not sell his house.”

So to sum up, Kathy gives Michael her house so she can fund her legal costs, but then wants the government to fund her because she is bankrupt and her de facto partner’s assets (which used to be hers) shouldn’t count.

Ms Jackson was due to appear again on April 29th this year.  I can find no record of that appearance having gone ahead.

It seems that, until we promise to pay all Kathy’s bills, she just won’t bother turning up and will continue to spend any money they might have.

Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne described Jackson as ‘decent, brave and revolutionary’.

I can think of better descriptions.

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We really need to talk about Rosalie

Rosalie has become the face, or the name at least, of Scott Morrison’s campaign against reeling back John Howard’s franking credit cash giveaway.

“I saw Rosalie today, I talked about her yesterday at the launch, she lives in Perth, in Ken Wyatt’s electorate. She has $1,800 of her 30,000 income which comes in the franking credit support that – not support, it is the pass-through of the tax that the company has already paid through to her as a shareholder. $1,800 out of a 30,000 income.

Bill Shorten calls that a gift. You know what she uses it for? She pays her private health insurance with it. She is taking care of her healthcare needs.

She is on a $30,000 income a year. I take my hat off to her. She has done an amazing job. She was a school teacher.

She is not making any complaints, except if the Labor Party change the rules on her.”

For starters, Rosalie, having been a teacher, would have retired with some superannuation.  She can thank Labor for that.

Secondly, in order to be affected by Labor’s proposed changes, she must not qualify for even a part pension.  An annual income of $30,000 certainly wouldn’t preclude her so she must have assets beyond the threshold.

A single person has to have assets over $567,250 above and beyond their home, or $774,250 if she doesn’t own her home, to be ineligible.

If Rosalie has a partner, they would have to have assets of over $853,000 to be ineligible, or $1,060,000 if not a homeowner.

To receive a franking credit refund of $1,800, Rosalie must have received share dividends of at least $6,000.

Rosalie may not be a squillionaire but she certainly has enough assets to have some choices about how she organises her affairs.

Unlike people whose only income is the aged pension.  Or worse still, Newstart.

So if the government is going to give a cash handout, should it go to Rosalie or should it go to those who are actually living in poverty who cannot even afford to see a doctor let alone entertain any notion of private health insurance.

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A free ride on the gravy train

When Tony Abbott rolled Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal Party leadership back in 2009, he immediately threw out the constructive negotiations towards an emissions reduction scheme.

“Oppositions are not there to get legislation through,” Abbott intoned, heralding his approach for the next 4 years.

There would be no discussion, no amendments, no working together to improve legislation, no alternatives offered. It would just be NO to everything.

And here we are a decade later with no energy or climate change policy.

So used to this approach did the Coalition become that, when they did finally become the government, they had nothing to offer. They have spent six years still opposing Labor’s ideas.

Our overly generous property tax concessions are a prime example.

In his 2005 tax policy paper, Malcolm Turnbull described negative gearing and the CGT discount as a “sheltering tax haven” that is “skewing national investment away from wealth-creating pursuits, towards housing”, and has caused a “property bubble”. Turnbull also acknowledged that “Australia’s rules on negative gearing are very generous compared to many other countries” and that “the normal deductibility principles do not apply to negatively geared real estate such that the taxpayer is not obliged to demonstrate that the negatively geared property will generate positive cash flow at some point in the distant future”.

In 2014 he said, “Looking at Australia’s tax regime you would say that it is too tough on people earning income…but is incredibly concessional to older people who have made their money…”

When Joe Hockey made his final speech to parliament in 2015, he said: “negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on an existing property.”

Today, the ABC is reporting that Scott Morrison was also considering reforms regarding tax concessions when he became Treasurer in 2015.

Obtained under freedom of information laws, a senior NSW Treasury official in October 2015 wrote: “The Commonwealth appears more willing to consider broader tax reform.

“The Commonwealth Treasurer has indicated that all options need to be considered, including superannuation, capital gains tax and negative gearing.”

Mr Morrison in February 2016 said there were “excesses” in negative gearing and that the government was considering changes.

So everyone was in agreement that change was necessary, until Labor announced their policy a month later. The Coalition’s reaction was to go to their safe place of just saying NO again.

In his 2009 book Battlelines, Abbott wrote

“The next Liberal government won’t need to assume office with specific policies on all topics down to the last detail. Too much detail can easily give the government material for a scare campaign.”

And that has been their mantra ever since. If you have no policies, no-one can criticise them.

But that isn’t called governing. It’s just a free ride on the gravy train.

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Elective surgery

For six years the country has been feeling unwell.

A few of us, particularly some older people, have been on such a high sugar diet for years that they have become addicted to injections from the government to satisfy their craving for more.

Most of us are too exhausted to have anything left over beyond survival. Every dollar earned is passed. We are not putting on any weight because we spend every waking moment making sugar for the few.

Even worse, in a country of such abundance, far too many are starving – malnourished of dignity, of opportunity and choice, neglected and denied the life-giving water of hope.

Bio-indicators are showing terminal symptoms. Our animals, our rivers, our reefs and our fish are dying as our temperature rises.

The team of doctors in charge keep telling us that we are fine and congratulating themselves that we haven’t died yet.

They say the cost of any treatment would be too much anyway even if there is something wrong and that elective surgery is too risky.

Time for a second opinion.

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Chris Bowen is setting himself up for failure

As Chris Bowen proudly released Labor’s costings today, the RBA was busy blowing it out of the water.

As reported by the ABC:

“Australia’s annual economic growth rate in 2018 was 2.3 per cent, well below the RBA’s last forecast (in February, a few weeks before the data came out) that it would be 2.75 per cent.

In response, the bank has hacked its forecast for growth over the year to June from 2.5 to 1.7 per cent — its forecast was as high as 3.25 per cent as recently as November.”

Despite all the evidence of an economic downturn, Mr Bowen has chosen to use the real GDP growth forecasts from PEFO which were the same as the April budget:

2018-19  2.25%

2019-20  2.75%

2020-21  2.75%

2021-22  3%

2022-23  3%

Every single budget keeps predicting growth of 3% (or even 3.5%) coming soon.  The last time we achieved that was in 2012 when the growth was 3.9%.

He has also used the wage growth figures from PEFO.

2018-19  2.5%

2019-20  2.75%

2020-21  3.25%

2021-22  3.5%

2022-23  3.5%

According to the ABS, the private sector wage growth of 2.3% through the year to the December quarter 2018 was the highest through the year growth since December 2014. But annual rises of 3.5% are expected soon?????

Why do treasurers, or those aspiring to become treasurer, keep doing this? Or perhaps more to the point, why do the treasury and finance secretaries keep doing this?

I am sure Mr Bowen’s figures all add up, but predicating them on unrealistic assumptions whilst locking in promises of really really big, much bigger than yours, surpluses is a recipe for failure.

Labor has a far better policy agenda and an actual vision for where they want to take the country. Why spoil it by playing surplus wars?

Will they ever learn?

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A star rating for companies and what it would mean

In a world that puts profit first, the idea of a social licence to operate seems to be disappearing.

Shareholders are removed from the reputational damage that once kept business owners more accountable for acting responsibly.  It’s all about the cheque.

Worker exploitation, environmental vandalism, tax avoidance and market manipulation are goals rather than anathema.

Businesses no longer feel an obligation or responsibility to contribute to the health, education and skills training of their employees.  Importing labour from overseas is cheaper and their well-being is their own lookout.  Cutting wages is seen as a legitimate way to increase profits.

Environmental regulation is not seen as a safeguard but an impediment to development, described as “green tape” by our temporary PM and “environmental lawfare” by the onion muncher.

Businesses want the government to provide the infrastructure and uphold the rule of law to provide a secure and stable environment but do not want to contribute to the cost of doing so.

And all the economic and legal brains in the country don’t seem able to come up with rules that can make businesses pay the tax they should.  Rather, politicians have been convinced that we should reduce their tax obligation in the hope that a few more of them might pay it.

There has been vague talk of naming and shaming.

So what?

We have to make it worth their while to actually do the right thing.

We have star ratings showing the energy efficiency of our appliances.  We have nutritional ratings for our food.  We have ratings on our drivers licence indicating our driving record.  We all have a credit rating.

So let’s do the same for businesses.

They should be evaluated on how much they contribute to society, not on how much profit they make from us.

They could be ranked on their environmental impact – ethically sourced materials, waste management, recycling, emissions, impact on water and native species habitat, sustainability.

They could be ranked on care for their employees – living wages, ongoing professional development and skills training, flexible workplaces, complaints handling, occupational health and safety.

They should be forced to publish their company structure and where they are domiciled for tax purposes and how much tax they pay in Australia.

Our governments at all levels should only deal with companies who achieve a certain rating that shows them to be fulfilling their part of the social contract.

A similar requirement should be made for investment by our Future Fund and our industry superannuation funds.

Businesses who do not comply should be ineligible for government contracts or investment and face stringent conditions and regulation for any approvals along with ongoing scrutiny.

At the moment, business lobby groups dictate government policy.  Let’s use the power of the trillions of dollars at our disposal to take back control.

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How will you fill in your time?

We have seen three leaders’ debates now (well a couple of us have), and the overarching takeout is that this election is all about Bill Shorten and Labor policies.

After six years in government, Scott Morrison has nothing to say about why we should vote for his party other than we will get him as PM as opposed to Bill Shorten.

Even the journalists are over it.  Patricia Karvelas said she feels like Bart Simpson writing lines over and over – “if you vote for Labor, you get Bill Shorten, if you vote Coalition, you get me.”

It was Tanya Plibersek who asked, “Is that supposed to be a selling point?”

Barrie Cassidy asked Josh Frydenberg, “Aside from the tax cuts, what will you do?”

Cue motherhood statement about strong economy and safe borders.

This is becoming a recurring question to which we have not been given an answer.

How on earth would the Coalition fill in its time if re-elected?

Tax cuts, then what?

Sure, there have been spending announcements, but none of them requires legislation.

So what the hell are they going to do for another three years?

Will it just be a three-year photo shoot of Scott Morrison in never-ending baseball caps attempting to beat ten-year-olds at sport?

Will they spend another three years talking about Labor?

Will it just be endless announcements about which Liberal Party apparatchiks have been given a high-paying government sinecure and which Liberal Party donors are receiving a government handout?

Other than tax cuts for the wealthy, what legislation do they actually want to introduce for the betterment of Australia?

Anyone???

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PEFO is the Bible, John Howard is the Messiah, and Labor are the Devil

On Monday night, when Leigh Sales pressed Scott Morrison about his claims of having delivered a surplus when we are actually still in deficit, the PM told her that PEFO was an independent document from Treasury and Finance that had confirmed that the Liberal Party would produce a surplus in 2019-20.

It is worth remembering that, when Chris Bowen produced an economic statement before the 2013 election, the PEFO released 11 days later suggested he had underestimated the predicted surplus in 2016-17, increasing the projection from $4 billion to $4.2 billion.

That was, of course, before the Coalition gifted an unnecessary $8.8 billion to the RBA, got rid of the revenue from the carbon price and the mining tax, spent billions on Direct Action resulting in increased emissions, spent billions on offshore detention and Operation Sovereign Borders and failed resettlement deals, embarked on unprecedented spending on an arms race, and entered into free trade agreements which slashed revenue from tariffs and destroyed the car industry and made local producers compete with cheap imports.

Morrison said that the Coalition were paying down Labor’s debt, but Sales pointed out that the debt has more than doubled under their watch.  Once again, Morrison blamed Labor for spending it had supposedly locked in.

Yet in 2007, treasurer Peter Costello expressed concerns at the “sustainability” of the amount of money the Government was spending at Howard’s insistence.

“I have to foot the bill and that worries me,” Mr Costello said. “And then I start thinking about not just footing the bill today but if we keep building in all these things, footing the bill in five, and 10 and 15 years and you know I do worry about the sustainability of all these things.”

This is exactly the problem that Labor is attempting to address by winding back the overly generous tax concessions for investors and tax minimisation schemes for the wealthy introduced by the Howard government

John Howard has morphed in the memory of the Liberal Party into some kind of economic guru, purely because he happened to be PM when the country was experiencing a resources boom.

They seem to forget what happened when he was actually in charge of running the economy during the Fraser government.  At the end of Mr Howard’s treasurership, inflation was running at 11 per cent and bank interest rates for home loans were 12.5 per cent.

Much is made of the fact that there was no net debt at the end of the Howard government’s term in office, with claims they had paid down Labor’s debt – mainly by selling off our assets as it turns out.  But was it Labor’s debt?

When Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister in November 1975, the Government sector had net financial assets – that is, there was negative net government debt equal to 2.7% of GDP.  The Fraser Government, with John Howard as Treasurer for the bulk of that time, ended its time in office with net government debt equal to 7.5% of GDP in 1983-84.

In reality, the government has limited influence on the economy with much of what happens beyond their control.

Chris Bowen has fallen into the trap of promising to deliver bigger surpluses than the Coalition in order to be better placed to face unexpected headwinds.

What he should be stressing is that Labor will address the structural problems in the budget, which they are doing with their taxation reform, whilst maintaining the flexibility for the government to react to unforeseen circumstances or societal need as required.

He should be stressing that by investing in education, skills training and health, and in a transition to a lower emissions economy, Labor are investing in our future.  The cost of the investment will be far outweighed by the return.

He should be explaining the need to diversify the economy away from a singular reliance on resource exports.

He should be decrying the failed trickle-down neoliberal approach and extolling the virtues of lifting people out of poverty which will increase demand, stimulate growth, and improve the lives and prospects of those most in need of a boost.

Labor has the right message – they just don’t know how to communicate it to an electorate too accustomed to individual wealth creation and protection.

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How John Howard contributed to the aged care crisis

In 2000, when Bronwyn Bishop was the minister responsible for aged care, a horrific story came to light where residents of an aged care home were subjected to kerosene baths in order to control an outbreak of scabies.  Several suffered second-degree burns and blisters. One woman, aged 84, died two days later.

Reports of similar horrors across the country followed as health workers, relatives and pensioner groups seized on the rare media attention to speak out.

Prime Minister John Howard adamantly defended his minister, Bishop, and denied the existence of any nursing homes crisis. “I don’t accept it’s a crisis,” he said on the ABC Lateline TV program. “I mean that is just a ridiculous exaggeration. It is a very sad and regrettable incident concerning one nursing home.”

Yet a litany of reports surfaced in the media about conditions in other nursing homes, indicating that the problem was systemic. Bishop acknowledged that her department had received over 4,000 complaints in the previous two-and-a-half years but had not withdrawn any licences.

So how did this situation come about?

In the 1996-97 budget, the Howard government slashed $1 billion from aged care funding and introduced its Aged Care Act, claiming that higher fees and bonds would provide the incentive for investors to expand and improve the industry. Instead, conditions in nursing homes deteriorated and average waiting time lengthened significantly.

Under the Act, nursing home operators no longer had to allocate a set proportion of government subsidies to patient care. Links between the level of funding received and the number of qualified staff employed were removed. In 1998 the previous requirement for a registered nurse to be on duty was scrapped.

Homes and hostels were to be licensed for three years, with standards monitored through spot checks. Yet no such checks were ever conducted, Bishop admitted. According to Tim Burns, the general manager of the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency, its ability to carry out monitoring was severely compromised due to insufficient funding. He stated during Senate estimates hearings that the agency was 60 to 65 external assessors short in New South Wales and Victoria alone.

The Aged Care Act specified that audit reviews of nursing homes be made public on a regular basis. However, in late 1999, a list rating nursing homes was removed from the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency’s web site in order “not to put undue pressure on homes, which may be rapidly moving to improve their situations”.

The government’s changes made the industry a more lucrative target for corporate takeovers. Under the headline, “Golden Oldies,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported on 2 March 2000 that “Nursing homes are big business, with handsome profits, for some”. American-based corporations were “moving into Australia to capitalise on a growth industry protected by an assured flow of government funds”.

Managing director Kevin Moss said: “Once you are in the business you have a guaranteed government income. It’s a very good business. It’s been a cottage industry in Australia … and some have milked the cow. But we are trying to get it more corporatised and professional.”

Having been given cash to spend as they saw fit for the previous three years, business operators were free to exit the industry before January 1, 2001, the next accreditation deadline, without having invested a cent in improvements, and then sell their bed licenses for up to $35,000 each, the going price on the Sydney market at that time.

The doctors’ organisation, the Australian Medical Association, and the nurses’ union, the Australian Nursing Federation, warned that between 600 and 2,500 beds would close on January 1 in the state of Victoria alone, intensifying the crisis.

In 2000, Regina Lohr and Mike Head ended their article about the aged care crisis with a chilling warning.

Like every other aspect of life, aged care has become an increasingly two-class system. High quality homes with modern facilities, strict medical and hygiene standards, fresh and nourishing food and tranquil surroundings exist—but they are reserved for the wealthy who can afford fees in the order of $900 a week and entry bonds around $250,000. For lower middle class and working class retirees, the conditions have become Dickensian.

Increasingly stripped of all protective and regulatory remnants of the post-war welfare state, the unleashing of the “free market” is producing conditions where the majority of elderly people are treated as so much unwanted refuse. Medical science has significantly increased life expectancy, but, under the imperatives of the profit system, those who suffer the misfortune of being poor are simply being disposed of as cheaply and quickly as possible.

Twenty years later, we are paying for a Royal Commission to try to clean up the mess caused by Howard’s funding cuts and the tragedy of sacrificing our elderly to appease the Liberal Party’s obsession with deregulation, corporatisation, and profits for big business.

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The ‘economy’ is not working as it is ‘supposed’ to

The old rules of thumb about the economy do not seem to be working and I have a theory as to why. But let’s look at the evidence first.

Company profits are high. Unemployment is low. But wages aren’t growing.

Factors contributing to this include significant underemployment, job insecurity, exploitation of temporary visa workers, the rise of labour-hire firms, and the undermining of unions…and the greed of those who think they are entitled to a larger return on investment than those who actually work for a living.

Interest rates are at record lows but investment has not been forthcoming.

This is partly due to uncertainty about government policy but also largely due to a lack of demand. People aren’t spending.

Despite the most generous property tax concessions in the world, construction is decreasing, there is a lack of affordable housing, and 120,000 people are homeless.  Investors drove up house prices and then took advantage of the scarcity to charge high rents.

When money was rolling into government coffers during the Howard era, he decided that he would give people who didn’t work and didn’t pay tax, but owned shares, a tax refund of what the company had paid in tax. That is patently unsustainable, especially when we are in deficit, yet the recipients are fighting tooth and nail to hang onto something they must surely see is not fair.

When we had carbon pricing, polluters paid and the government redistributed that revenue through a higher tax-free threshold, increased pensions, and various other payments to welfare recipients to alleviate any costs passed on by business. Businesses paid for research and development of new technologies to help them reduce emissions.

Now, the government pays billions to polluters and emissions keep rising every year.

We have signed various free-trade agreements but, in every budget, they have been reported as a cost through lost tariffs and cheap imported competition for many local industries. The free trade agreements combined with government refusal to extend subsidies saw the extinction of our motor vehicle industry and the many thousands of jobs it provided.

The government is promising lots of money in the future for treatment of various ailments but little towards prevention. Despite primary healthcare being much cheaper than hospitals, funding has been frozen leading to increased costs for consumers that make them less likely to have regular tests and to see a doctor early when there may be a problem.

Funding for community groups that help with crime prevention through early intervention and support has been slashed resulting in shocking incarceration rates, particularly for Indigenous Australians.

We spend a fortune on anti-terrorism yet hundreds of people die each year in a domestic violence epidemic.

There is an enormous cost to our economy and our society from alcohol and gambling addiction, yet we see some of our politicians think it appropriate to go on a giant pub crawl around the nation, and to wind back gambling reform laws and advertise horse-racing on the sails of our Opera House.

So now to my theory (well everyone’s really) as to why the good economic figures are not translating into good outcomes for society.

Wealth concentration.

Scott Morrison wants to tell you how much tax the top 10% pay but he will never tell you how much wealth they own.

As fewer and fewer people own an increasing proportion of the world’s wealth, they are strangling the very people they rely on – their workers and their customers.

It seems greed wins for now. But sooner or later, they will realise that we either play as a team or we perish.

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Who do you trust?

As they wander round in their high-vis vests, shearing sheep, drinking beer, kicking footballs, and joining in the factory production line, Coalition politicians keep asking us “who do you trust” as part of their determined attempt to cast Bill Shorten as untrustworthy.

As a measure of their judgement, it’s perhaps more informative to ask who do they trust.

Tony Abbott and John Howard have both expressed their admiration for convicted pedophile George Pell.  Abbott described him as “a fine man…one of the greatest churchmen that Australia has seen”, a personal mentor.

He also described James Ashby as “a decent man” for whom he “had a lot of sympathy”.

Abbott described Kathy Jackson, a woman who systematically robbed the Health Services Union of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund her lavish lifestyle, as ‘brave’ and ‘decent’, while Christopher Pyne called her a ‘revolutionary’, a ‘lion of the union movement’.

One of Abbott’s first acts was to appoint Maurice Newman as head of his Business Advisory Council.  This is the man who wrote that the world was ill-prepared for a period of global cooling and that the United Nations was using debunked climate science to impose a new world order under its own control.

Tony has also described Rupert Murdoch as a “hometown hero”, comparing him to John Monash and Howard Florey.

In this bizarro world, Gina Rinehart advises on tax policy, Twiggy Forest on Indigenous disadvantage, and Noel Pearson on education.  The creche for aspiring Liberal politicians, aka the IPA, regularly dictate what is to be done to make their members wealthier – the only goal worth aspiring to.

Treasury advice is ignored in favour of “independent” modelling from the Minerals Council and the Property Council.

Government departments are regularly bypassed as compliant consultants produce reports supporting Coalition policy.

Scientific bodies and climate scientists are ignored in favour of tame (or should that be lame) economists who always seem to have links to the fossil fuel industry.

If you genuinely wanted to save the Great Barrier Reef, would you give half a billion dollars to universities and the CSIRO for research and action plans or would you give it to a few business middlemen to dole out to private companies who they may or may not have connections with?

And then there are the Ministers.

Trusting mining lawyer Melissa Price with the stewardship of the environment is a cruel joke.  She should be called the Minister for Approvals.  She is as trustworthy as Barnaby Joyce was as Minister for Water or Tony Abbott as Minister for Women or Michaelia Cash as Minister for Attacking Unions or Malcolm Turnbull as Minister for Destroying the NBN or Mitch Fifield as Minister for Foxtel.

For some unknown reason, and despite the horror expressed by the majority of their party and the nation at large at the notion of Peter Dutton becoming PM, he is entrusted with the most power of anyone in the country – the power to singlehandedly decide the fate of people’s lives.  Every evaluation of his handling of every department he has ever overseen has been damning, but on he sails as a trusted lieutenant.

How many MPs trust tax havens to increase, and hide, their wealth?  As Minister Taylor would say, “Fantastic.  Great move.  Well done Angus”.

Look at the candidates they have trusted to represent the Coalition in the upcoming election – racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, sexism, misogyny, white supremacy, religious fundamentalism – these appear to be the traits of those who aspire to join the conservative side nowadays.

If you ask the electorate who they trust, I doubt the answer would ever be a politician.

But if politicians are the only choice, then it certainly isn’t your mob Scott.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”

Noam Chomsky “Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America”.

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Better economic managers, keeping us safe, lower taxes – a mantra with no basis in reality

Scott Morrison’s campaigning revolves around very little aside from photo shoots, attacking Bill Shorten, and making announcements about money in marginal seats.

He tells us they are better economic managers which might sound true if you were a large corporation or a rich individual.  Their wealth has certainly increased.

But to the more than three million Australians who live in poverty, to the 120,000 who are homeless, to the 10% who are underemployed or the 5% who are unemployed, to the workers whose wages have stagnated, to pensioners struggling to pay rent and power bills, to parents unable to afford childcare, to young people starting their working lives with a large debt for their education and skills training – this is not their lived reality.

Morrison tells us that only the Coalition can keep us safe.  I guess if stopping 1,000 refugees from starting a new life in Australia makes you feel safe, he has done that.

The boats carrying refugees actually stopped when Kevin Rudd introduced the policy that boat arrivals would never be resettled in Australia.  Boat turnbacks have enforced that policy.  A flood of asylum seekers much larger than those who arrived by boat have come by plane instead.

But I’m not sure that the tens of thousands of victims of domestic violence are feeling safe.  And I wonder how safe the rainbow community feel as their lives are judged and voted on and with religious organisations insisting on their right to shun them regardless.  How safe are our kids in the institutions to which we entrust them?  How safe are our elderly when in aged care?  How safe are Indigenous people in our judicial system?  How safe are women in their workplaces or to walk alone at night?

With excruciating predictability, Scott Morrison has promised more CCTV cameras.  Does that really have to be dragged out every election?  Just do it.

And of course – taxes.

Morrison tells us that the Coalition wants us to keep more of our own money in our pockets.

Except they were the ones who undid the freeze on fuel indexation, an increased tax burden on everybody both directly and indirectly.

They imposed a budget repair levy on high-income earners, didn’t repair the budget, but got rid of it before an election in order to claim they were reducing taxes.

They hugely increased the taxes on smoking which was, arguably, a good thing.  Except it was a Labor proposal that they adopted after having previously lambasted it as an unfair tax on poor people.

After promising not to change superannuation, the Coalition reduced the threshold at which high-income earners pay an extra 15% additional contributions tax from $300,000 to $250,000 as well as other changes limiting contributions and capping pension phase accounts.

They got rid of a carbon price which was working to reduce emissions and introduced a carbon price through their inefficient safeguards mechanism which has seen public money used to pay polluters yet emissions have increased.

And if you wanted people to keep more of their own money in their pockets, why would you reduce penalty rates for the lowest paid workers?

All of these things have happened.  But what is even more concerning is what might happen if Scott Morrison was given the reins for a third term.

Let’s not forget, it was the Coalition who introduced the GST and made the decision to impose it on power bills (and tampons) despite essential items being supposedly exempt.  Shower caps are apparently more essential than electricity.

In January 2016, then treasurer Scott Morrison made the argument that the GST needed to be on the table if the government was going to deliver income or company tax cuts.

Morrison said it was a “fantasy” that cracking down on multinational tax avoidance, or reducing the generosity of superannuation tax breaks, would deliver sufficient scope to enable the government to counter the impact of bracket creep, or deliver broader personal income tax cuts beyond basic bracket creep compensation, or cut company taxes.

Businesses, of course, get to claim back any GST they pay – not so for normal working people or pensioners.

The Grattan Institute calculated that, in order to achieve its arbitrary cap on taxation as a proportion of GDP, the Coalition will need to cut spending by about $40bn a year by 2029-30.

They warned that “achieving such a reduction [in spending] would require significant cuts in spending growth across almost every major spending area, during a period when we know that an ageing population will increase spending pressures, particularly in health and welfare”.

Will the GST rise?  Will GP co-payments make a comeback?  Will the retirement age increase to 70?  Will eligibility for pensions get harder?  Will young people be cut off from unemployment benefits?  Will family benefits be further cut?  Will remote communities be cut off from government services?

These are all things the government has wanted to do or already done.

They have to pay for their tax cuts to big business and the wealthy somehow.

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