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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.”

Finding the pathway to humanity

A few weeks ago, an international peace conference was held in Cairo at Al Azhar University, the most prestigious centre of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Speaking at the invitation of its grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, to an audience of some 300 religious leaders, professors and scholars from Egypt and several other countries in the region, Pope Francis reminded them that “religion is not meant only to unmask evil, it has an intrinsic vocation to promote peace, today perhaps more than ever before.”

The Pope called on Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Egypt and throughout the Middle East to join in building “a new civilization of peace” by declaring together “a firm and clear ‘no’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion and in the name of God” and to “affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.”

“What is needed are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.”

The grand iman spoke first, calling for an alliance of all organizations that work for peace.  He condemned the small minority who misinterpret Islam to kill and terrorise innocent people and accused “some parties,” whom he did not name, “of financing these persons and groups” and denounced the arms trade “as the principal cause of our problems today.”

The Pope began his address by thanking “my brother” the grand imam for the invitation to speak.

Interestingly, considering his upcoming meeting with Donald Trump, the Pope remarked “it is disconcerting to note that, as the concrete realities of people’s lives are ignored in favour of obscure machinations, demagogic forms of populism are on the rise.”

These forms of populism, he said, “certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability. No incitement to violence will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.”

He insisted that declarations are not enough “to prevent conflicts and build peace. It is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation, where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.” Moreover, he said, “it is necessary to stop the proliferation of arms that, if they are produced and traded, will sooner or later be used.”

He described violence as “the denial of every authentic religiosity” and declared that “as religious leaders we are called to unmask the violence that dresses itself with presumed sacredness….as religious leaders we are called to denounce the violations against human dignity and against human rights, to bring to light the attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion and to condemn them as an idolatrous falsification of God,” who “is the God of peace.”

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue, such as that being conducted together by the Holy See and Al Azhar, he declared that “in the field of dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, we are called to walk together, in the conviction that the future of all depends also on the encounter between religions and culture.”

He told the conference that in dialogue it is necessary “to educate to respectful openness and to sincere dialogue with the other, recognizing the fundamental rights and freedoms, especially that of religion, constitutes the best way to build the future together, to be constructors of a civilization.”

At this critical moment in history, Francis said, “the only alternative to a civilization of encounter is the incivility of confrontation” and “to truly contrast the barbarities of the one who breathes on hate and incites to violence, one must accompany and bring to maturity generations that respond to the incendiary logic of evil with the patient growth of good.”

He emphasized the importance of educating the young “because there will not be peace without an adequate education of future generations.”

He concluded by saying that religious and political leaders as well as “those who are responsible for information” are called “by God, by history and by the future to start, each in their own field, processes of peace.”

The two religious leaders embraced to a standing ovation from the audience.

This inspirational gathering was quickly juxtaposed against the Trump cabaret replete with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new arms to pour into the Middle East that he obscenely referred to as “a lot of beautiful military equipment”.

He then gave a lecture where he seemed to be declaring his friendship with the Sunni Muslims of the world and his enmity towards the Shia Muslims.

Trump blamed Iran – rather than Isis – for “fuelling sectarian violence”, pitied the Iranian people for their “despair” a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer as their president, and demanded the further isolation of the largest Shiite country in the Middle East. The regime responsible for “so much instability” is Iran. The Shiite Hezbollah were condemned. So were the Shiite Yemenis. Trump’s Sunni Saudi hosts glowed with warmth at such wisdom.

“Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination,” he grandiosely declared.

The politicians and business people of the world have lost the plot.  They have created the inequality and greed that provides fertile ground for unrest and environmental devastation.  They see caring for society as a drain on their profits and power.

There are things about organised religions that trouble me but if they can change their focus from a pathway to heaven to helping us find the pathway to humanity, if they have the courage to recall our leaders to decency, then they deserve our support.

 

The broody hen sitting on a huge pile of our money

After Peter Costello conducted a fire sale of our assets while stashing away surpluses from the mining boom, he put aside over $60 billion of our money to establish the Future Fund.  This has now grown to $130 billion.

We are told the purpose of this fund is to pay for “unfunded Commonwealth superannuation liabilities.”

As all employers, including the government, are required to pay the superannuation guarantee into their employees’ super funds, how can there be an unfunded liability?  There is a continuous stream of income into superannuation funds.

As a sovereign currency issuing nation, it is impossible for us to be unable to meet this obligation.

Along with the Future Fund, Costello’s crowd are responsible for investing the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, the Medical Research Future Fund, the Building Australia Fund and the Education Investment Fund – a further $18 billion.

So what are they doing with this $148 billion?

The following are the returns achieved in 2015-16 and the current balance as at March 31, 2017:

FUTURE FUND   4.8%   A$129.6bn

MEDICAL RESEARCH FUTURE FUND   2.1%   A$4.6bn

DISABILITYCARE AUSTRALIA FUND   2.5%   A$6.2bn

BUILDING AUSTRALIA FUND   2.5%   A$3.8bn

EDUCATION INVESTMENT FUND   2.6%   A$3.8bn

Not only are the returns woeful, the expenses for running this fund are exorbitant.

In the year ended 30 June 2016, expenses for wages, management fees, performance bonuses, brokerage fees and the like were over $288 million, down from $316 million in 2015.

The Australian reported that three Future Fund employees earned salaries ranging from $1.058m to $1.235m last year, while more than $10m was paid out in performance bonuses to Future Fund staff in 2015-16.

“All permanently employed staff at the Agency at the reporting date are eligible to receive an entitlement to a performance related payment as approved by the Board. Employees who receive an entitlement may elect to have the entitlement converted to cash and paid to them. Alternatively, they may defer part or all of the payment for an initial two year period and receive a commitment from the Agency to pay them a future amount which will be dependent on the performance of the Fund over this two year period.”

As the majority of fund investments are in other countries, they also paid $62 million in tax to foreign governments in 2015-16.  In 2015 they lost $2.7 billion on foreign currency exchanges.

As at June 30, 2016, 21.7% of the funds assets were held in cash.

In the budget it was revealed that the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund the government promised would find a cure for cancer won’t deliver the $1 billion promised for medical research by 2020 because of poor earnings.

Research Australia says while the government has banked $4.6 billion in health savings in the scheme it has so far released just $125 million in research funding.

Also in the budget was the government commitment to delay drawing down from the Future Fund until at least 2027 rather than 2020 as originally legislated allowing it to build to a projected $300 billion by 2027-28.

Whilst Peter Costello sits on this huge pile of money like a broody hen, the total face value of CGS on issue (gross debt) is projected to rise from $537 billion in 2017-18 to $725 billion by 2027-28.  The Government’s total interest payments in 2017-18 are estimated to be $16.6 billion rising to over $20 billion in 2020-21.

Surely this money could be better invested.

House prices in Sydney grew by 19% and in Melbourne by 16% over the year ending March 2017.  Couldn’t we use several billion to buy or build some affordable housing?  The government would benefit from income tax returns from those employed in construction, maintenance and management.  The Future Fund would benefit from rents and capital gains.  The citizens would benefit from having somewhere affordable to live with the security of long term leases and regulated prices.

The dollar return on investment in education, health and research is way beyond the paltry returns the funds are currently achieving.

Instead of investing overseas, losing money on foreign exchange rates and paying tax to other governments (they are exempt from tax here), they could be building Australian infrastructure like the High Speed Rail and an NBN that actually works.  They could be the ones to invest in our air and sea ports and electricity grids.  They could have bought the Kidman farm rather than giving it to the Chinese via Gina.  Instead of paying hundreds of millions to middlemen brokers, they could be investing in profitable assets.

Speaking at the Australian Shareholders Association Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, Peter Costello welcomed the Turnbull government’s decision to lower the funds’ targets in line with a low-return investment environment.

Rather than accepting this misappropriation and mismanagement of our money, we should be putting it to work to benefit current and future generations.

Risk assessment does not mean examining the latest Newspoll and doing surveys in marginal electorates

Whilst there has been a great deal of discussion about individual measures announced in the budget, there has been less analysis of what it is trying to achieve in the long run.

I can’t keep up with the slogans but as far as I am aware, everyone still thinks it is a good idea to try to get people working but, aside from big promises about infrastructure and defence spending which will likely be a long time in the planning, there seems little coherent strategy about our changing employment or, more broadly, about the risks facing us both domestically and globally.

Last year, the Department of Employment released a report on Employment projections for the five years to November 2020.

  • Employment is projected to increase in 16 of the 19 broad industries over the five years to November 2020, with declines in employment projected for Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing, Mining and Manufacturing.
  • The long term structural shift in employment towards services industries is projected to continue over the coming five years. Health Care and Social Assistance is projected to make the largest contribution to employment growth (increasing by 250,200), followed by Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (151,200), Education and Training (121,700) and Retail Trade (106,000). Together, these four industries are projected to provide more than half of total employment growth over the five years to November 2020.

Considering this advice from their own department, policy decisions are even more inexplicable.

We lost billions of dollars by repealing the carbon and mining taxes and cutting tariffs (far more quickly than our trading partners).  We are going to spend further billions on emission reduction payments to polluters (or paying farmers not to carry stock or clear land), fossil fuel subsidies, inland rail, a possible railway to the Galilee Basin, assistance for farmers and grants for mining exploration.

We are propping up industries that, by their own admission, will be decreasing jobs even as our population increases.

Health Care and Social Assistance has been the primary provider of new jobs in the Australian labour market since the 1990s.  With the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Australia’s ageing population, and increasing demand for childcare and home based care services, this trend will only continue with employment growth likely to favour part-time and female workers.

But the Coalition government has cut wages and funding in several of these crucial growth areas and hospital funding remains an ongoing battleground.

Growth in employment in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and in Education and Training reflects ongoing strength in demand for the services of qualified and highly educated workers throughout the economy.

But the government is cutting university funding, reducing promised school funding by $22 billion, cutting research funding, and persisting with a bastardised NBN which has resulted in us not even making the top 50 for internet speed.

Historically low interest rates and an improvement in domestic tourism as a result of the lower Australian dollar are expected to underpin solid employment growth in Retail Trade and Accommodation and Food Services.

But the government cut penalty rates for workers in these industries and seem totally unconcerned about destroying our natural environment which is the draw card for tourism.  Business confidence may ride high on the wave of promised tax cuts but consumer spending is nose-diving.  Without customers with disposable income, these industries suffer.

Construction industry employment is projected to grow by 87,000 (or 8.3 per cent) despite a decline in construction associated with the resources sector.

But the government has done everything in its power to destroy the union that protects these workers against widespread exploitation.

The 2017 Global Risks Report produced by the World Economic Forum examines “globally interconnected risks, risks which must be factored into modern life.”

“The most pressing of these risks relates to our environment. Even though the risk will play out over the long term, actions have to be immediate and long-lasting to have any hope of reversing the trajectory of climate change.”

Extreme weather events, large natural disasters and failure of mitigation and adaptation to climate change are the most prominent global risks in terms of both impact and likelihood.

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

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its most recent major assessment report, pointed out that Australia can benefit significantly from taking adaptation action in highly vulnerable sectors.

These areas of vulnerability include: the risk of more frequent and intense floods; water shortages in southern regions; deaths and infrastructure damage caused by heatwaves; bushfires; and impacts on low-lying coastal communities.

But Scott Morrison says not one word.

The WEF also highlighted socio-economic considerations exacerbating global risk, including rising income inequality and the polarization of our society along ethnic, religious and cultural lines.

“Underfunded state social systems, the rise in “non-traditional” employment models from gig economies to zero-hour contracts, prolonged periods of low interest rates that increases the burden of saving for retirement, and demographic pressures like ageing populations and mass migration all place great strain on social protection systems.

We need social protection options that are flexible enough to adapt to new realities in 2017 and beyond. The best social protection solutions will be highly interconnected. Collaboration among state, business and the individual will be crucial. Fail to act and we risk threatening government finances and increasing social unrest.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the economic and social benefit, our government does nothing to address inequality.  Quite the reverse.  They cut taxes for the wealthy and increase them for the poor.  They cut wages for the lowest income earners and regulations and taxes for big business.  They destroy workers’ capacity to collectively bargain for workplace entitlements.  They pursue welfare recipients mercilessly whilst refusing to rein in concessions for the rich.

Until the government understands that the well-being of our poorest citizens, the health of our Indigenous people, the safety of our most vulnerable, the future for refugees fleeing war and oppression, the quality of life for our aged, the education of every child, and the protection of our environment, are all inextricably linked to the prosperity and cohesion of the nation, we face a bleak future.

Risk assessment does not mean examining the latest Newspoll and doing surveys in marginal electorates.

Respectful debate

As our politicians hurl abuse at each other across the chamber each day, they laugh and sneer and interject but it means nothing to them.  It’s all about looking for a witty line, a grab they might put on the news.  It’s all about the politics as Scott Morrison explained when asked why the debt and deficit disaster had disappeared.

Then off they go happily together to share a drink or seven, or perhaps to enjoy an expensive cigar, giggling about their latest quip.

At the same time, these supposed leaders of our country assure us that the Australian people are capable of having a mature and sensible debate about social issues and it is an insult to suggest otherwise.

They insist that we will all be perfectly respectful when they show utterly no respect towards each other.  They don’t seem to realise that their political game-playing sets the tone for the wider debate.  The Murdoch gutter press and the belligerent shock jocks grab the ball and run with the hatred and demonisation and there are a lot of people out there who get very fired up as a result.

The government’s opposition to legislating marriage equality, purely to pander to the rabid religious right, led to Qantas boss Alan Joyce being assaulted by a man who said he wouldn’t be bullied by corporate leaders expressing their opinion.

So much for a respectful debate.  Religious zealots and rabid homophobes are not going to allow that to happen.

Likewise, the government’s Islamophobia and obsession with watering down Section 18C of the racial discrimination act, whipped up further by the media, led to four young women being attacked in Sydney yesterday purely because they were wearing a hijab.

Every day we hear the government attacking people on welfare.  Despite the facts showing there are many times more unemployed people than jobs, those on unemployment benefits are categorised as bludgers, cheats, and addicts.

Instead of using scientific testing of sewerage to decide where they should offer help by way of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and counselling, they will use the information to start drug testing welfare recipients because the more people they can put on the cashless welfare card, the more money Stargroup will make.

As many have pointed out, they are far more likely to find drugs in the rich suburbs – $38 a day doesn’t leave anything over for cocaine.

On one hand, the government talks of the need to Close the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage, whilst on the other, they hail Bill Leak as a champion for his tasteless, unfunny, stereotyping of Aboriginal people.  They insist on locking up black people for paltry offences so they can look tough on crime.  There’s always money for more jails and more police, but not for more teachers, nurses, social workers and refuges.

They ask for respect whilst actively fomenting stereotyping, hatred and division.

Clean up your own act.  Make Question Time an example of the way you would like to see the community discussion held.  Try listening and giving honest answers.  Stop looking for scapegoats to blame and start working together to provide help to those who need it.

And most of all, stop giving Rupert Murdoch the monopoly rights on informing the public.  It’s time his poison was gone.

Barnaby’s baby – boon or boondoggle?

As Scott Morrison announced $8.4 billion is to be spent on an inland freight rail linking Brisbane to Melbourne, Barnaby Joyce went purple with excitement.

But is it a boon or a boondoggle?

The proponent’s stated benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 1.1.  When wider economic benefits (WEBs) are included, the stated BCR rises marginally, but is still 1.1 when rounded.

Infrastructure Australia has identified a number of risks which could impact on the economic viability of the project. Factors such as a decrease in demand for Australia’s coal exports, weak oil prices, reduced demand for interstate freight, and upgrades to the Newell Highway, could adversely impact the economic case for Inland Rail.

The budget papers concede that, given the marginal nature of the BCR, an increase in project cost could have a significant impact on the final BCR.

“Project costs will not be finalised until procurements, alignment and reference designs are completed. The project is sensitive to increases in project cost and lower revenues from users, and these risks could decrease the returns on the Government’s investment in the project.”

The budget also included funding for a Regional Road Freight Corridor in NSW—New England Highway: $30.3 million, Princes Highway: $52.5 million, Mitchell Highway: $5.6 million, Newell Highway: $78.8 million.  As stated by IA, these road upgrades lessen the projected benefit from inland rail.

The budget states that the inland rail project “will support 16,000 direct and indirect fulltime equivalent jobs at the peak of construction” and 600 jobs when operational.  But have they considered the number of jobs that will be lost in the road freight industry?  Or even those employed in road construction and maintenance as 7.5% of the total benefit comes from “Reduced lifecycle costs for infrastructure owners and operators on the road network as a result of lower freight volumes, with reduced maintenance costs and capital investments able to be deferred.”

All parties seem to be supporting this investment but I suspect that has more to do with not being the one to upset the regional voters than through any actual comparison of the value with alternatives.

High speed rail has a similar BCR but has the advantage of facilitating decentralisation which would help with housing affordability, urban congestion, the high volume of air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney, and regional revitalisation.  It would also, with less private traffic, free up existing rail lines and highways for freight.

This is definitely a win for the National Party but perhaps Barnaby had a more personal reason for his glee.

According to a map published on May 1, there will be a new section of rail built between Narromine and Narrabri.

“Approximately 307km of new track.  This new track will reduce the overall journey time and complete one of the missing links between Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane.”

Serendipitously, this line will go through a little place called Gwabegar where Barnaby Joyce happens to own  two neighbouring properties totalling 2400 acres.

When he bought them, the locals were bemused.  A successful farmer and exporter from a nearby area said of the Joyce’s purchase, ”This is scalded country. It could not support the number of animals that would be needed to make a return on investment.  It is a strange buy, put it that way.”

Perhaps not so strange now.

Shopping for the advice you want to hear

As the budget is about to be handed down, there is nervous optimism about a possible increase in infrastructure spending but will it go to the right projects?

At a CEDA conference in June 2013, Infrastructure Australia’s national infrastructure co-ordinator, Michael Deegan, said that groups within the public services were putting “self-interest before reform” and were “stolid, hesitant and reluctant” about implementing changes.

“You would expect that somebody, somewhere, knows all the key pieces of economic infrastructure, what is needed for the future and that all relevant land spaces are monitored, protected and planned,” Mr Deegan said.  “You would expect common sense and effective planning.  You’d be wrong.”

The Coalition came to power promising to overhaul Infrastructure Australia but what they did, almost immediately, was introduce legislation without consultation that would allow the Minister to take control over what projects the body assessed and whether their assessments would be publicly released.

Dr Deegan objected through a submission to the Senate warning that the statutory body’s independence would be compromised by such an arrangement.  The changes were “diametrically opposed” to providing the government and public with fearless and transparent advice.

In answer to a question from Senator Rhiannon about the East-West link in Melbourne, Dr Deegan provided the following information on notice:

The Victorian Government provided Infrastructure Australia with a ‘short form business case’ for the East West Link Stage One in June 2013. In this document, the Victorian Government claims the project has a Benefit: Cost Ratio of 1.4:1 if wider economic benefits are included and 0.8:1 if wider benefits are not included.

That sort of truth would not be tolerated.  Shortly afterwards, Deegan was gone.  The government appointed a whole new board and a new CEO.

Since then we have seen a plethora of reports and recommendations with yearly updates on priorities.

But the new head of IA, Mark Birrell, is of a similar mind to Mike Deegan regarding transparency.

“Governments – federal and state – have come a long way over the last decade, but still need to establish a more rigorous evidence base for infrastructure investment decisions,” Mr Birrell told the AFR’s Infrastructure Summit in June 2016.

The government has claimed they cannot release business cases because they contain commercially sensitive information. But Mr Birrell said it was still possible to release thousands of pages of documents, with governments only keeping the most sensitive numbers confidential.

With the cost of congestion in capital cities expected to rise to about $53 billion in 2031 from $13 billion in 2011 if action is not taken to address it, Birrell has called for more debate on how to best incentivise government departments and agencies to make good decisions and plan for the long term, and urged governments to take advantage of technology, such as building information modelling, when building projects.

The home page for Infrastructure Australia describes their role as following:

“Infrastructure Australia is an independent statutory body with a mandate to prioritise and progress nationally significant infrastructure.

We provide independent research and advice to all levels of government as well as investors and owners of infrastructure on the projects and reforms Australia needs to fill the infrastructure gap.

We publicly advocate for reforms on key issues including financing, delivering and operating infrastructure and how to better plan and utilise Australia’s infrastructure networks.”

So imagine my surprise when, on the Austender site, I found the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development lodged on April 28 a call for “Tender for the establishment of a Panel for the provision of Infrastructure Advisory Services.”

Description:

The Panel will be used to provide the following advisory services relevant to infrastructure (Service Categories):
• Transport Planning, Regulation and Policy
• Economic and Financial Analysis
• Engineering and Operations Services
• Infrastructure Project Services
The Department requires expert advisory services from providers that have extensive experience and capabilities on:
(a) major infrastructure projects;
(b) government policy development; or
(c) a combination of the two.
As a guide, the Department is seeking providers that have either project-related experience on at least five economic infrastructure projects with a total project cost of $250 million or more; or have policy experience in strategic infrastructure policy at a Commonwealth, State or Territory level.

Huh?  Don’t we already have one of those?

Or are we going to shop around for a private firm who will agree that secret deals with mates in the right electorates are the way to go?

Dutton plays politics but he doesn’t have what it takes to play God

Back in 2004, a Senate Select Committee on Ministerial Discretion in Migration Matters made the following finding:

In assessing the appropriateness of the ministerial discretion powers, the Committee is concerned that vesting a non-delegable, non-reviewable and non-compellable discretion with the immigration minister without an adequate accountability mechanism creates both the possibility and perception of corruption.

The inquiry was sparked by concerns that the previous Immigration Minister, Phillip Ruddock, appeared to be using his discretionary powers to grant visas in return for donations to the Liberal party.

The new Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, refused to release the files and department notes that may have given Ruddock’s reasons for intervening in a record number of cases causing the Committee to state that the “lack of transparency and accountability of the minister’s decision making process is a serious deficiency in need of urgent attention.”

Since that time, the Minister’s discretionary powers have increased enormously, legal rights of appeal have been curtailed, and, under this government, oversight has completely disappeared.

We now have a Minister who blatantly lies for political purposes and uses his power to stop anyone from speaking out about his lies and from bearing witness to the tragedy we are inflicting on the victims of our offshore detention program.  Staff are forced to adopt a political bias in favour of government policies under threat of prosecution for any dissent.

Dutton absolves Australia from any responsibility for the safety of the people we have unjustly incarcerated, supposedly placing the duty of care with the PNG and Nauruan governments yet interceding to prevent other politicians or journalists from investigating the conditions in these hell holes.  He deliberately rejected the offer from New Zealand to resettle refugees because he wants these people who sought our help to be sentenced to a lifetime exile.

There are two new pieces of legislation before the Parliament which will extend Dutton’s powers even further.

The first is the “visa ban bill”, formally the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 – a proposed law that would prevent any adult taken to Nauru or Manus Island after 19 July 2013 from ever making a valid Australian visa application.

The second bill, currently before the Senate, is the Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016. This bill allows the minister to personally issue a revalidation requirement for entire specified cohorts of visa holders, immediately preventing them from being able to enter Australia until their visa is revalidated. 

As the Guardian noted, “This expansion would increase his power, decrease government accountability and all but write out the courts’ review powers. They would allow the immigration minister to play God; to make significant decisions that would affect the lives of vulnerable people, and to do so unchecked.”

Numerous reports over the years have expressed concern about this rapidly growing power of one individual to make such crucial decisions which determine the course of others’ lives.  When that power is placed in the hands of scheming political hacks like Dutton, abuse of power is irresistible and inevitable.

If you are going to give “non-delegable, non-reviewable and non-compellable discretion” to someone, Spud Duddy would be the last person you would choose.  He has shown himself to be totally devoid of compassion, humanity, ethics and credibility.  His department has been lambasted for their incompetence and his narrative of conditions and events on both Manus and Nauru totally discredited.

Dutton plays politics but he doesn’t have what it takes to play God.

Weird scenes inside the Abbott mind

I didn’t think it was possible but Tony Abbott is getting worse.

He is now claiming that a “cultural cowardice” at the heart of public institutions such as the ABC and the public service has caused people to abandon the major parties and mainstream political leaders have failed to promote the “virtues and benefits” of Western civilisation including “Gospel values” and free speech.

Right.  So a few good Hallelujahs will make us all forget about their incompetent management, the poor quality of candidates, the lies they tell, and their blatantly self-serving policies.

“Whether it’s official persecution of Queensland students for a bit of justified sarcasm, state governments promoting gender fluidity programs in schools, or a federal government-approved activist being disrespectful of Anzac Day, there’s this pervasive ambivalence verging on hostility to our country and its values from people who should know better,” Mr Abbott said on Wednesday night.

“When the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet thinks that his decisions may have been tainted by ‘unconscious bias’, when the newly appointed ABC chairman thinks that his organisation has no objectivity problem, when dozens of big companies are more ready to campaign for same-sex marriage than for economic reform, when shareholder activism has intimidated big banks against investing in coal, and when it’s all-but-impossible to discuss race, gender or religion in our universities without ‘trigger warnings’, the long march of the left through our institutions is almost complete,” he said.

Yes these are the most important challenges facing our nation according to the man who was kicked out of office by his own party – the Human Rights Commission, the Safe Schools program, marriage equality, the ABC, ANZAC day, free speech (for some), and some good old gospel jingoism.

Tony suggested that “values disruption” is even more concerning than job security, economic disruption and national security.

Ever the populist, Abbott took time to really put the boot into Yassmin Abdel-Magied.

“Of course she was wrong to claim that Islam was the most feminist of religions. Of course, you can express any opinion you like; but why is it that only some opinions get you sacked, or investigated by the Human Rights Commission?” Mr Abbott said.

Ummm…because nothing Yassmin said was racially offensive?

“Still, an over-promoted, politically correct 26-year-old is merely the symptom of the cultural cowardice that’s penetrated to the very heart of our institutions. While officialdom wrings its hands in nervous self-doubt about anything that might be labelled anti-youth, anti-women, anti-black or, perhaps worst of all, anti-Muslim, Australians show what they think of our country’s knockers by turning out in ever increasing numbers and ever greater enthusiasm on Anzac Day.”

Young Muslim women with dark skin should know their place.  They have no right to remind us of the suffering of victims of war on our ANZAC day!

Tony knows a lot about over-promotion.  The people of Warringah have been rewarding his incompetence for decades.

Gonski 0.5

As the details of Malcolm Turnbull’s “new” announcement to “stop the arguments” about school funding emerge, it is worth revisiting how we got into this position.

On August 29, days before the 2013 election, Christopher Pyne said ”you can vote Liberal or Labor and you’ll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school”.

By November he was saying the Coalition would stick with the agreed arrangements for 2014 but would introduce a new funding model from 2015.

Mr Pyne declared the Gonski needs-based model a ‘‘shambles’’ and promised to go ‘‘back to the drawing board’’ to create a new system.

Apparently, the model is no longer a shambles but a blueprint for the future.

‘‘Our election policy was that we would support a four-year agreement … we won’t be honouring a six-year agreement,’’ Pyne said.  ‘‘There’s no year five or year six in the Coalition’s funding agreement.’’

But now it’s a ten year funding agreement with the vast majority of the funding in the out-years – exactly what the Coalition blasted Labor for.

‘‘I think we’ve had a lot of talk, a lot of conferences, a lot of reports, a lot of analysis of those reports, we’ve had an election campaign, we’ve had election policies from both sides. It’s time for the government to be allowed to get on with the job and that’s exactly what I intend to do,’’ said Pyne.

So now we are to have another report by Gonski on how the extra money should be spent.

Except the “extra” money is about $22 billion less than Labor had budgeted for.

Oh and that federal Department of Education data showing that more than 150 private schools across Australia received funding above their Schooling Resourcing Standard in 2014, has, under intense negotiation with the Independent schools sector, magically reduced to 24 overfunded schools.

So the increase is actually a decrease, the budgetary burden (and benefit) won’t kick in for about five years, independent schools will continue to be overfunded, and we are going to have another Gonski report but it will be Turnbull’s, not Gillard’s.

And that seems to be the whole point of the exercise.

Good debt, bad debt, and the stuff that is already paid for

Morrison’s “good debt, bad debt” spin has a twofold purpose.

Firstly, it is an admission that the Coalition has abandoned its foolhardy promise to eliminate debt and an attempt to justify them borrowing for pet projects.

Secondly, with his categorisation of recurring expenditure as “bad debt”, Morrison is softening us up for cuts to health, education and welfare.

But the figures show that we are not borrowing to fund these crucial aspects of our society.  We pay for them with our taxes and the revenue from our assets.

The last budget estimated that general government receipts would be $411.3 billion in 2016-17.  The total spending on education, health, social security and welfare was estimated to be $263.7 billion or 64% of receipts.

In 2019-20, total receipts were projected to be $500.7 billion with spending on education, health, social security and welfare to be $306.9 billion – 61% of receipts.

In other words, contrary to government rhetoric, recurrent expenditure on these items is projected to fall as a proportion of revenue.

Health and education are proven productivity enhancers, and the provision of a genuine safety net is a responsibility for a wealthy nation like ours.

Debt is certainly increasing with no sign of going backwards any time soon but it isn’t going towards health, education or welfare which are more than paid for by the citizens of Australia.

Let’s have a cost benefit analysis for 12 submarines and 72 dud jets and hundreds of billions being spent on war toys, war games and our interference in foreign conflicts.

Or a CBA for the offshore detainment of refugees.

Or a CBA for the Coalition’s Direct Action policy and ERF auctions.

Or a CBA for politicians’ expenses and the hundreds of millions given to parties by the electoral offices.

Or all the other non-productive things that we don’t want our money spent on that the government is borrowing to pay for.

Make up your bloody mind

For an organisation to run successfully, they must identify goals, prioritise them, examine alternative ways to achieve them, then decide on a co-ordinated approach to move forward.

Nothing could be less descriptive of government in this country which seems to actively work against itself, flip-flopping around to appease interest groups resulting in policies that contradict each other.

For example, take the latest decision to fiddle with the skilled visa program.  Employing Australians first is a good idea but cutting funding to TAFE and universities leaves us with skills shortages.  If you want to be self-sufficient then you need to invest in education and training but this recurrent expenditure will no doubt be put in the “bad debt” basket by our shallow Treasurer.

We are similarly self-defeating when it comes to action on climate change.  We had the carbon price that everyone agrees is the best way to create changed energy behaviour but it was axed because, according to the Coalition, it made energy prices too high.  Except abolishing the carbon price did nothing to curb rising energy prices and led to increased emissions for the first time in a decade.  There is no longer any incentive for polluters to pay for the research and development into more sustainable practice.

We had a bipartisan renewable energy target.  Until we trashed it and cut ourselves off from billions in private investment.  Policy uncertainty has made investors wary so, instead of letting the market decide, we now find ourselves in the ridiculous position of the government paying polluters, shelling out for new coal mines and gas plants and for a grand scheme to pump water uphill, all at the same time because their own indecision has made private funds dry up.

Under a barrage of evidence of aggressive tax avoidance, the government has made some token attempts to pursue guilty corporations.  But at the same time they cut thousands of jobs from the ATO and greatly reduced their capacity to investigate.  Then they hired some back to make a special taskforce, at the same time as they are fighting to reduce taxation even further for these companies.

The government has repeated the mantra of jobs and growth ad nauseum, signalling hundreds of billions will be spent on building defence materiel to create a couple of thousand jobs (maybe).  Or railways to nowhere for a couple of hundred jobs (until it gets fully automated).  At the same time, they have cut over 15,000 public service jobs with the likelihood of many more to go as continued efficiency dividends cut to the bone.  Many of these were forced terminations costing the government a fortune in redundancy payments and the public the frustration of severely curtailed services.  Try ringing Centrelink.

We are told over and over again anecdotes about small business and how they are the backbone of the country but the government’s competition laws and purchasing policy are killing small businesses.  The local store can’t compete with the supermarket chains.  The local chemist can’t compete with the discount warehouses.  The farmer is at the mercy of monopoly distributors.  The government insists on buying as cheaply as possible so gave the contract for military dress uniforms to a Chinese company.  Not to mention the reporting burden placed on small businesses by the introduction of the GST.  Doing monthly Business Activity Statements is an onerous task let me tell you.

Uncertainty about funding has hamstrung many government agencies.  Funding for the CSIRO was slashed causing many scientists to be lost and programs to be cut, and then funding was increased again.  Funding for ASIC was slashed and then partially restored.  Same with funding for Community Legal Centres and domestic violence programs – slashed in one budget, restored a year or two later.  We had future funding agreements for schools and hospitals until Abbott tore them up, only for Turnbull to slowly dole out dribs and drabs to cover short term funding crises.  It might sound good when you announce the new funding but only if you ignore the previous cuts and the damage they caused in lost expertise, reduced services and uncertainty causing stagnation.

The government says it wants to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure yet they have completely ignored the advice of Infrastructure Australia and refused to do cost benefit analyses in many cases or to release them in others.  Barnaby tells us they don’t matter.  Instead their priorities seem to bear the stench of pork-barrelling and grandstanding – literally – you can count on getting an upgrade to the local grandstand come election time.  Oh and some CCTV cameras.

The prime example of the government working against its own goals is the sacrosanct property tax concessions.  Their hysterical defence of same has seen the government contradict themselves so many times it’s hard to keep up.  Negative gearing doesn’t inflate house prices but it will send them tumbling if reined in.  Morrison says that more investors will mean longer term leases and rental security but the evidence shows that investors are more interested in the capital gains which are realised when the property is sold.

If you want to create jobs, you don’t create conditions that skew investment away from productive enterprises and into existing housing.

Morrison is now saying that downsizing helps to free up housing supply but it was his government which scuttled Labor’s program encouraging older Australians to downsize their homes announced in the 2013 budget only to be scrapped the next year.

Seniors over age pension age who have lived in and owned their home for more than 25 years, who then downsize to a home of lesser value, will be able to place at least 80 per cent of the excess sale proceeds (to a cap of $200,000) from the sale of their former home into a special account.

This special account will be exempt from the pension income and assets tests for up to 10 years, or until a withdrawal is made from the account, whichever occurs first.

Superannuation is another area where the government is all over the place.  In 2014 they abolished the low income earner co-contribution only to reinstate it two years later.  They promised no adverse changes to super and then froze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% instead of it increasing incrementally to 12%.  They also made retrospective changes that affect wealthy superannuees instead of grandfathering the new rules to allow for future planning without adversely affecting those who invested under the laws of the day.

With concerns about an aging population, freezing the SG and considering allowing young people to raid their superannuation for the deposit for a house are bad ideas.  The first decision lessens the retirement income of all workers, particularly the young who would be even worse off if they withdrew early from their account.  Adding more buyers into an overheated market will do nothing to curb rising prices.

Increasing the retirement age to 70 is also a very questionable decision.  When they increased it from 60 to 65 it just resulted in a spike of people on the disability pension.  Keeping older people in the workforce reduces the number of jobs available to young people and families.  Delaying the age at which they can access the pension sends people in their 60s on the soul-destroying job hunt when they could be helping to care for their elderly parents and their grandchildren.

And let’s not forget the NBN which could have facilitated the decentralisation that Barnaby wants to impose on us.  Now we have a hotch potch of technologies which rely on inadequate infrastructure and insufficient technicians to cater for the many different required skills.

These are just a few examples of the directionless flip-flopping that is dished up by our politicians who follow rather than lead so can never be sure of where they are headed.

Businesses and investors need stability.  They are not getting it.  The vulnerable need support.  They are not getting it.  The environment needs protection.  It’s not getting it.  The country needs vision and leadership.  It is most definitely not getting it.

Instead of focusing on good policy, our Treasurer is spending his time working out how to sell pork-barrelling and handouts to the rich as good debt and recurrent expenditure on health, education and welfare as bad debt.

Digging policy holes and then filling them in is not productive.  Just make up your bloody mind.

One could be forgiven for thinking this is just another shameful dog-whistling lie

Spud Duddy is demanding that the ABC and Fairfax apologise to him for doubting his version of events leading up to shots being fired on Manus Island.

“These people can take the word of somebody that’s been discredited but that is an issue frankly for the credibility of the ABC, Fairfax and others, and I think they need to reflect on their position because they’ve really turned into advocates as opposed to professional journalists.”

Speaking of credibility…..

The government attacked Gillian Triggs for the AHRC Forgotten Children report which found prolonged immigration detention caused significant mental and physical illness, while hundreds of assaults and 128 cases of self-harm were reported between January 2013 and March 2014.  It also uncovered 33 reports of sexual assault.

Tony Abbott dismissed it completely saying “It’s absolutely crystal clear, this inquiry by the President of the Human Rights Commission is a political stitch up.”

Until the government’s own Moss Review confirmed the horror detailed by Ms Triggs.

The review by former Integrity Commissioner Philip Moss found evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors, and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours inside the centre on Nauru.

It also exonerated 9 Save the Children staff who had been deported under instruction from Scott Morrison for suspected “subversive” behaviour.

“They are employed to do a job, not to be political activists. Making false claims, and worse allegedly coaching self-harm and using children in protests is unacceptable, whatever their political views or agendas,” Mr Morrison said in October during a press conference as he launched the Moss Review.   “The public don’t want to be played for mugs with allegations being used as some sort of political tactic in all of this.”

He was wrong.  In January this year the department settled a court case compensating the Save the Children staff and issuing a statement saying it “regrets any hurt and embarrassment caused to the SCA employees.”

When Reza Berati was killed on Manus Island, Scott Morrison blamed the refugees for leaving the centre.

“I can guarantee their safety when they remain in the centre and act co–operatively with those who are trying to provide them with support and accommodation,” he said.  “When people engage in violent acts and in disorderly behaviour and breach fences and get involved in that sort of behaviour and go to the other side of the fence, well they will be subject to law enforcement as applies in Papua New Guinea. But when people co–operate and conduct themselves appropriately within the centre then yes I can.”

Except he was beaten to death inside the centre by people employed by our government.

When Sarah Hanson-Young said she had been spied on when she visited Nauru, Peter Dutton called her an “embarrassment to the country”.

“My experience of Senator Hanson-Young is that she gets most of the facts wrong most of the time.  She makes these allegations which are completely unfounded.”

Until a Senate committee found out it was true and that security had been instructed to destroy the evidence.

 

When it comes to offshore detention, this government has no credibility at all and I will believe Dutton’s version when he provides proof.  Until then, I give it as much credence as every other shameful dog-whistling lie this government has told ever since they found it politically advantageous to demonise asylum seekers and anyone who dares to advocate for them.

Who’s running this show?

When asked about the conditions of the written agreement between the Liberals and Nationals to form a Coalition government after last year’s election, Barnaby Joyce said “The first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential. That’s aspiration one, two, three, four, five and six.”

What did they have to hide?

As Mark Kenny put it, “to actively deny that exposure dishonours the democratic process… if the Prime Minister’s first act is to ink a private arrangement in which policies and patronage are seen to be traded.”

It has been widely reported that part of that horsetrading was Barnaby’s insistence that a plebiscite would precede any changes to marriage law.

A Galaxy poll in August 2012 showed that 64% of Australians believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Another poll conducted by Crosby|Textor in late June 2014 showed that almost three-quarters of Australians (72%) now support legalising same-sex marriage, including around half (48%) ‘strongly supporting’ it. Just a fifth (21%) opposed this to any degree with those strongly opposed, a small and shrinking 14%.

A Reachtel poll in February this year revealed almost 62% of those surveyed believe that their Federal member should be allowed to vote for same-sex marriage when the issue comes to parliament with almost 60% believing that should happen this year.

There are 226 elected representatives in Federal parliament.

Of the 204 that do not belong to Barnaby’s Nationals, 62% are in favour of marriage equality, 17% are undecided, and 21% are opposed.  This roughly correlates with community opinion.

Of the 22 Nationals members, 18% are in favour, 23% are undecided, and a whopping 59% are opposed.  This is completely unrepresentative of what the people of Australia actually think.

Ever since the election, Barnaby has been flexing his muscles.  Fiona Nash has announced that, unless they can present a case as to why not, the entire public service will be moved to the bush.  Matt Canavan is strongly pushing for the Nationals slush fund (aka the NAIF) to be spent subsidising an Indian billionaire’s coal venture.  The inland railway, that may or may not make Barnaby Joyce’s Pilliga property more valuable, will go ahead.  Dog whistling about 457 visas and citizenship is designed purely to shore up Barnaby’s party against James Ashby’s One Nation.

Approximately 10% of Australians live outside urban areas.  Nationals make up about 10% of our MPs but they occupy over 21% of the ministry giving them a disproportionate voice in Cabinet.

After Tony Abbott deliberately scuttled any chance of marriage equality by inviting Barnaby’s bozos to join the Liberal’s party room debate, Malcolm Turnbull contacted Alan Jones asking him to intercede.

“This is ridiculous Alan, this plebiscite stuff,” Jones quoted Turnbull as saying at the time.

Well Malcolm, you’re the boss now – well at least in name.  You could actually have the courage of your convictions for once and allow the lawmakers to vote now on what is an inevitability.

Not only would it remove a festering topic, it would put Tony Abbott in his place and remind Barnaby that he isn’t running the show.  Despite what Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews may think, it would undoubtedly give you a lift in the polls and would give you some clear air to get on with more pressing issues before the next election.  It would remove a wedge issue from Labor’s arsenal.

Why are the Nationals allowed to impose their will on the country against the wishes of the vast majority of politicians and citizens?  What is Barnaby going to do if you decide to have a parliamentary vote – give up being Deputy PM?  I don’t think so.  Dissolve the Coalition?  Hardly.

The February Reachtel poll also showed that 41% of voters are less likely to vote for the Government if the Liberal Nationals Coalition continues to block members voting according to their conscience.

For everyone’s sake, show some ticker and to use Barnaby’s words, just get ‘er done.

The world is bat poo crazy

The world is bat poo crazy.

Barnaby Joyce is our Deputy Prime Minister, Pauline Hanson is dictating policy, and Spud Duddy is being touted as our next leader.

Action on climate change is seen as too expensive.

We can’t afford foreign aid for our neighbours but we can afford $400 billion for new war toys on top of 2% of GDP each year on defence.

In order to stop terrorists killing innocent people, we spend a fortune bombing innocent people in other sovereign nations.

In the name of keeping people safe, we close the door to those fleeing war and oppression.  In order to stop refugees drowning at sea, we lock them up indefinitely in corrupt hellholes or send them back to their tormentors.

The Western defenders of democracy, freedom and human rights continue to pour obscene amounts of armaments into any hotspot with the bucks to pay.

To create tolerance and cohesion, we scapegoat minority groups.

To fix the budget, we cut income to the poorest consumers and revenue from the wealthiest tax avoiders.

A gross debt of $260 billion was a disaster but a gross debt of $500 billion is sound economic management showing a credible path back to surplus.

In order to “create jobs”, we pay billions of dollars to subsidise coal-mining which is moving towards making everything autonomous from pit to port but could not afford to subsidise car manufacturing which employed many more people and kept manufacturing alive.

To facilitate decentralisation, and to improve competition, we build a hopelessly inadequate NBN.

To fill skills shortages, we close TAFEs and then argue about what hoops imported workers must jump through to be exploited by unscrupulous employers.

To encourage children to attend school we employ truancy officers and threaten to cut off their parents’ income or block their citizenship.

To foster creativity and innovation we revert to Direct Instruction with a focus on phonics and our Judeo-Christian heritage.  We cut research funding and increase university fees.

With youth unemployment at dangerous highs, we extend the retirement age to 70.  Expect a spike in disability pensions as happened when they increased it from 60 to 65.  Unless you are a politician (past or present), judge or one of those endless Board members, getting a job in your 60s is pretty hard.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Australia are homeless and more than 13% live in poverty despite the country having achieved 25 uninterrupted years of growth.

In an attempt to lower electricity bills, we have watered down the Renewable Energy Target saving households, on average, 50c a week while adding to the uncertainty that has strangled renewable energy investment.  The government continues to collect 10% GST on every electricity bill.

To make health more affordable, we cut preventative health programs and make going to the GP more expensive.  Despite the statistics showing how much is spent in the last few days of life, dying with dignity remains a forbidden topic.

To help young Aboriginals who are struggling to cope, we lock them up, abuse and humiliate them, and then punish them more for not becoming model citizens.

Homosexuality is still seen by the lawmakers of the country as deviant behaviour that precludes gays from the same rights as others.

“Intellectual” and “do-gooder” are now derogatory terms and environmental protection is “lawfare” or, even worse, “socialism”.

As the world struggles with the challenges of climate change, inequality, overpopulation, resource depletion, famine and war, all our time is spent discussing “fake news” – a term I have come to loathe.  Truth and evidence no longer matter when we have facebook confirmation.

And what’s more….

Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Can the lunacy end or are we doomed to hasten our own destruction?

Barnaby’s thought bubble is blatant pork-barrelling

Yesterday, regional development minister Fiona Nash told the Press Club about the Nationals grand scheme to move the public service to the bush.  Their decentralisation policy would be applied across the whole of government.

“All portfolio ministers will be required to report back to Cabinet by August on which of their departments, functions or entities are suitable,” Senator Nash said.  “Departments will need to actively justify if they don’t want to move, why all or part of their operations are unsuitable for decentralisation.”

“Relevant ministers will be required to report to Cabinet with robust business cases for decentralisation by December. It’s important for government to lead by example and invest in rural, regional and remote Australia.”

In March, Jack Waterford wrote a scathing criticism of this thought bubble.

“Success in politics may entitle a party to expend public resources in support of pet theories or so as to reward and punish enemies, or to seek to cultivate constituencies. But the current Joyce crusade about getting government agencies into the bush – transparently so that the Nationals can out-Hanson Hanson – will do the Nationals no good, will do the country no good, and will do the nation no good.

The big losers from self-indulgent transfers of bodies such as the pesticides regulatory authority to Armidale, in the New England region of NSW (and Joyce’s electorate), will be people involved in agriculture. And the taxpayer, stiffed for an extra $40 million or so. The consequence of the disruption that Joyce is demanding will almost certainly be a worsened access by farmers and graziers to the best agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and a reduced quality of service to Australian agriculture and our export trade. We can scarcely afford it.

Think-tanks, repositories of specialised knowledge, regulators, and consultative bodies only rarely operate effectively away from their key audiences, and away from where the power is. The pesticides authority has almost no direct interaction with farmers or graziers, almost no association with university research, or the sorts of professions educated by institutions such as the University of New England. Very little of its work is on the ground with farmers. Its dealings are with chemical and pharmaceutical companies, with agencies at national and state level, and with the world of regulation, control and information sharing.

[T]he National Party, One Nation and many of the ragbag of people focused on decentralisation, a more human scale society, or, perhaps, the turning back of the clock for a recreation of some imagined monocultural bucolic past can’t get much beyond feelings and prejudices, convictions and emotions. The intellectual sloth and ingrained ignorance of the National Party, or at least its Barnaby Joyce wing, ought to be particularly galling to taxpayers, given the party’s access to the resources, funds and brains of government, and its lack of scruple about the misappropriation of public resources to its own.”

Waterford points out the hypocrisy of the idea when so many government services in rural and regional areas have closed and there are so many other services needed that would be of actual benefit to the community.

We have seen the closure of banks, post offices, schools, TAFEs and police stations, the centralisation of Medicare and Roads Authority offices, the amalgamation of local councils, and the privatisation of employment services leading to the closure of CES offices.  Small businesses have been sucked into the vortex of regional cities, concentrating health services and leaving smaller towns without local facilities.  The corner store has been replaced by a supermarket, the local chemist and the local hardware shop by large discount warehouses, all much further from home for those in rural and remote areas.

Communities are crying out for aged care facilities, for more teachers and police, for nurses and ambulance officers, for Aboriginal services, for baby health facilities and child care centres, for dentists and doctors and legal aid, for counselling and community support groups to address the tragedy of depression and suicide that is far too prevalent in country areas.

Instead of spending a fortune pork-barrelling and grandstanding and making announcements with no thought of the cost, consequences, logistics or benefit, it’s time the National Party actually did some good for the people they represent rather than playing politics with Pauline.

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