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Yes, Barnaby, you were wrong

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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.”

Yes, Barnaby, you were wrong

Barnaby Joyce seems to be trying very hard lately to find someone to be popular with.

First, he tried for the climate change deniers by penning a ridiculous piece that he thought would attract attention.  It didn’t.

Then he called for an increase in Newstart for people in regional areas, something he was not interested in when he was leader of the Nationals.

Now he has admitted he was wrong to resist a banking Royal Commission.

And that he was wrong to classify the Indigenous Voice as a third chamber of parliament.

While you’re on a roll, let’s get it all out Barnaby.

You were wrong to piously lecture us all about the sanctity of marriage when you were rooting a junior staff member.  (And you were wrong not to use contraception)

You were wrong to lie to your family and colleagues.

You were wrong to organise jobs for your mistress.

You were wrong to change Hansard to cover up an incorrect answer and then lie about it.

[At the time, the head of the agriculture department, Paul Grimes, said he no longer had confidence in his “capacity to resolve matters relating to integrity” with Joyce.

Joyce’s response was to sack Grimes “to remind him where the authority starts from”, boasting that he “got a lot more sense” out of bureaucrats after the firing.]

You were wrong to move the AVPMA to Armidale on a pork barrelling whim.

You were wrong to make cuts to the animal welfare branch of the department leading to a lack of regulation in the live sheep export trade.

You were wrong to divert environmental water from the Murray-Darling for agricultural use and you were wrong to hand over many millions of dollars to a select few to buy back water that doesn’t exist.

You were wrong to accept a cash award from Gina Rinehart and you were wrong to meddle in her family affairs.

You were wrong to try to drive through a flooded river leading to your brand new taxpayer funded $95,000 Toyota Landcruiser being written off.

Barnaby has shown appalling judgement, and morals, throughout his political career.

These poor decisions are always presented with the arrogance of someone who doesn’t need to listen to advice from anyone, a man who likes to receive and bestow favours.

A man who is absolutely certain he is right, until he thinks it might be politically advantageous to admit he may have been wrong.

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The failure of the small government approach

Over the last several decades, the scope and influence of government has dwindled.

Assets have been sold, businesses privatised, services outsourced, public servants retrenched, funding cut, and deregulation pursued.

To what end?

We used to own the Commonwealth Bank and Medibank Private, giving us the ability to help determine interest rates and private health insurance premiums.

We used to own Telstra and the power generation and transmission grids, giving us control over prices and the crucial communication and energy networks.

We used to have a Public Works department to build and maintain the infrastructure we needed.

We used to have a Commonwealth employment service which actually hooked people up with jobs rather than imposing draconian compliance regimes and fines.

We used to run the aged care, disability, and mental health service sectors.  Making them for-profit businesses has led to some terrible outcomes for clients.

We used to own our air and seaports and our railways.  Now, foreign companies set prices and enjoy the profits.

We used to value the expertise and independent advice from an experienced public service.  Now, departmental advice is regularly ignored by Ministers without explanation, and private consultants are engaged to produce reports with a desired outcome – or we just let the lobbyists like the Minerals and Property Councils and the gambling and hotel industry write scripts for the government.

When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “we allowed the building industry to self-regulate and it hasn’t worked”, she was congratulated for her frankness when she should have been castigated for her naivety and her abrogation of duty.

When you let the market rule, maximising profit becomes the only consideration.

Our regulators have become too timid, lacking the expertise, will, or funding to enforce regulations.  Occasionally fines are handed out for transgressions but prosecutions are rare and jail time for company directors basically unheard of.

The government is so keen to attract investment that they are willing to offer tax concessions and royalty holidays and approvals based on promises rather than plans.

It’s all about the jobs, the government says.  But what sort of jobs?  The government itself could be making investments and providing services, creating secure employment where workers’ entitlements are protected and results are open to scrutiny.

The role of unions in protecting workers’ rights has been deliberately and systematically undermined.

Taxes for wealthy people and businesses have been coming down for years but this has not trickled down to lifting the lower end out of poverty.

Privatisation hasn’t resulted in lower prices.  Outsourcing hasn’t resulted in better services.

Deregulation hasn’t shown businesses stepping up to fulfil their part of the social contract in return for making things easier for them.  They have done what they can get away with at every turn.  Very similar to the politicians’ response when they are caught spending public money on themselves.

Ethical businesses falling over themselves to provide the best product or service for the lowest price with the best interests of their employees, the community, and the environment uppermost in their decisions is a myth that small government proponents wish was true.

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Jim Molan says he deserves to be gifted a Senate spot – again

Appearing on Q&A, retired general and former senator Jim Molan told us that he deserves to be gifted the upcoming senate vacancy which will be created by Scott Morrison’s need to get rid of Turnbull ally Arthur Sinodinis.

When asked why he felt he should be given the job, his answer was “on merit”.

Kudos for the confidence Jim, but is it actually justified?

Molan spent his whole working life in the military and has several military awards.  But some question his role in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq during 2004–05.

After he retired in 2008, Jim published a book calling Running the War in Iraq.  He may be the only person who calls that war a success.  The next year he wrote an article calling for us to double our troop numbers in Afghanistan.  Go harder, was Molan’s advice.

It’s unsurprising that Jim sees the military solution to everything, which is perhaps why our immigration and customs turned into Operation Sovereign Borders enforced by a black-clad bemedalled paramilitary Border Force.

Jim was given a job and he did it.

He didn’t have to think about the cost.  He didn’t have to think about what would happen to the people who came seeking asylum but ended up incarcerated in offshore gulags with no future in sight.  Or those who were prevented from even trying to flee.  He didn’t have to consider what the reaction from people smugglers would be, diverting people to travel by plane to come here or sending them on hazardous Mediterranean crossings instead.  Jim stopped the boats.

He was appointed Special Envoy by Tony Abbott and given a few million for something that no-one seems able to specify.

On the back of that, Molan ran for preselection for the Coalition Senate ticket for the 2016 elections.  He obviously did not sufficiently impress the powers that be who put him in the unwinnable 7th position on the ticket.

After several senators fell on the section 44 sword, Jim puffed out his chest as he was called up from the reserve bench.

After once again failing to impress his own party in the 2019 preselections, this time being relegated to the unwinnable 4th spot, Molan cancelled a scheduled appearance on Q&A, saying he “would find it hard to defend my party”.  They, like many of us, had apparently failed to recognise Jim’s self-proclaimed “merit”.

Jim then ran his own personal under the line campaign much to the chagrin of the Nationals.  He bragged on Q&A that he got the most votes ever of anyone in the whole wide world, or something equally as hubristic.  The short answer to that is, once again, you didn’t get near enough Jim.

The thing that sticks most in my mind from Molan’s time in parliament is the climate change denialist speaking tour he went on with Craig Kelly, Tony Abbott and Andrew Hastie.

That and his constant calls for a stronger military.  He stated on Q&A that we need a national security plan and “I’m your man” to deliver it.  Jim has been an advocate for veterans but he’s hellbent on making more of them.

And if we don’t do something urgently to reduce our emissions, Jim will have a whole heap more refugees to deal with adding to the victims of his wars.

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Christians don’t want to protect their rights – they want to take yours

Many of the same people that are calling for religious freedom protection are also resisting constitutional recognition of our First People.  They say we are all Australians and no-one should be given special consideration – unless they are religious, in which case they want to be exempt from the laws of the land.

Religious people want protection from discrimination enshrined in law but want to ignore the laws that offer that same protection for people of diverse sexuality.

They want to ignore the marriage equality law and teach their children that it is evil.  They don’t just want religious schools to teach that – they mounted a concerted campaign against the optional Respectful Relationships program in state schools.

They insisted that we have religious chaplains in state schools to reinforce their message.  Parents have to go to the trouble of asking for their children to be excluded from scripture classes rather than the other way around.

One state school principal sent home a note advocating Special Religious Education saying “The potential to develop moral and ethical positions within a framework of Christian values should not be underestimated in today’s world.”

Which kind of implies that the rest of us are incapable of behaving ethically without the fear of divine judgement motivating us.

They want the choice to send their children to religious schools, but they want you to pay for their choice by taking money from the public system which is available to all.  They then want the right to decide who they will accept in their schools whereas state schools must provide a place for all children and cater for the needs of the individual no matter how challenging they may be.

Despite our Constitution insisting on the separation of state and church, Christians resist any call to remove the Lord’s Prayer from parliamentary proceedings.  The juxtaposition of promising to do God’s will on Earth with the dishonesty, greed and cruelty of the proceedings that follow just make the whole exercise a farce.

Christians have an abiding belief in the sanctity of life with seemingly no regard for the quality of that life.  They insist that others must not be given choices about reproduction or assisted dying.  Because of their beliefs, they feel others should have no agency over their own lives.

Charities face deregistration if they engage in political advocacy.  For some reason, this rule seems to be ignored when it comes to religious organisations.

Their tax-exempt status applies not only to their charitable work but also to their profit-making business enterprises.

As was painfully exposed in the Royal Commission into child sex abuse, Christianity does not automatically confer some higher moral status.  It does not guarantee goodness.  The prospect of ‘burning in hell’ did not cause these men of the cloth to repent and seek forgiveness.  On the contrary – they abused the trust placed in them and the power given them.  They protected their reputation at a dreadful cost.  Even now, they refuse to comply with the mandatory reporting of suspected abuse claiming the sanctity of the confessional overrides the law of the land and the protection of innocent children.

To ask now for even greater ‘special protection’ is gobsmackingly arrogant and shows a complete lack of awareness of the dangers of exalted status.

There are many wonderful Christians making practical contributions towards making this world a better place.  I would suggest that is because they are good people rather than a consequence of their worship (or fear) of any supernatural being.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI gave a Declaration on Religious Freedom.

“..all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility

…men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.”

Or as twitter puts it:

Freedom of religion is “Hey, that’s against my religion so I can’t do that”, not “Hey, that’s against my religion so YOU can’t do that”.

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Scott Morrison’s leadership is a mirage

If Scott Morrison was leading the Coalition, he would have announced that a referendum on constitutional recognition will be held during this term.  He seems to want to do it with Labor’s help.  He even sent the well-meaning but ineffectual Ken Wyatt out to gently test the waters, suggesting a Voice could be legislated.

But Craig Kelly said no and the threats were followed by a hasty retreat.

If Scott Morrison was leading the Coalition, he would repeat to them what he said in April last year – that electricity from new coal-fired power plants would cost twice as much as power from existing coal power stations.

Or what he said about the NEG and subsidies for coal and gas energy:

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

But Craig Kelly said no to the NEG, we want coal.  Angus to the rescue with a fund to subsidise coal and gas with a few renewable projects thrown in for cover.  And here’s a feasibility study for a new coal-fired power station to tide you over.  And a great big new coal mine to boot.

If Scott Morrison was leading the Coalition, he would distance himself from the climate change deniers in his party.  He would state that the views expressed by backbenchers Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly are ill-informed and not consistent with the government’s commitment to meet its Paris targets.

But this weed is allowed to flourish.

If Scott Morrison was leading the Coalition, Jim Molan would not be running a personal campaign against the wishes of the party.  Twice the Liberal preselectors rejected him, presumably for good reasons.  His public job application for a Senate spot that is not yet vacant is inappropriate.  It will be a party decision.  A leader would tell him that.

When the NSW Liberal Party state executive tried to dump Craig Kelly, he threatened to go to the crossbench if he wasn’t chosen as the candidate.  Scott Morrison pleaded with the executive to endorse Kelly so he wouldn’t embarrass the PM.  That is not how a leader responds to threats.

If Scott Morrison was competent enough to lead this government, we wouldn’t have to rely on prayers and miracles.

But sadly, that may be all we’ve got for the next three years.

How good is ScoMo?

Not even good enough to stand up to a failed furniture salesman lobbing bombs from the backbench.

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The batshit crazy ramblings of Barnaby Joyce

Two days ago, the drunken adulterer who used to occasionally fill the role of leader of our country posted this on Facebook:

Warning:  The following post was written by Barnaby Joyce and contains no commentary or analysis by me.  If you don’t want to waste time reading his ramblings, this isn’t for you.

“The very idea that we can stop climate change is barking mad. Climate change is inevitable, as geology has always shown.” These are the views of New Zealand lecturer of geology, David Shelley. A person vastly more competent than me and the flotilla of others telling the kids the world is going to end from global warming.

The central theme of David Shelley’s analysis is that sea levels are rising and have been for thousands of years and will fall during the next ice age which is expected about now, give or take a thousand years.

When the ice age does arrive temperatures will drop around ten degrees. A warmer planet will be a disconsolate chronicle and many, maybe most, will die from starvation as is the usual experience of man or beast in previous ice ages.

The weather is going to brutally win the population problem and the parliament of Australia has no power against it. One may suggest that warmer weather is the better problem of the two.

One of the few graces of being on the backbench is you can be honest with what your views really are. I believe this is one of the greatest policy phantoms, the misguided and quite ludicrous proposition that Australia can have any affect on the climate. If we could we should be the first to make it rain and, more importantly, stop the recurrence of an ice age anytime in the coming millennium.

Politics takes politics to the absurd. We have to absolutely affirm that our domestic settings can deal with a proposition which is stated quite clearly by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

You don’t get the feeling when you listen to the political propaganda or the supporting lobbyists that there is any doubt about their capacity to “fix the climate problem” I do get the feeling that you will be tried for heresy if you dare question the zeitgeist so you basically have to lie about your honest assessment of what the hell we are doing to our economy, standard of living, our basic rights and the real future of our children.

Today, more than in the past, the political debate is set within a predetermined paradigm. Participants can not ague outside these preset boundaries. Maybe it is over cynical but I believe the promotion of the primacy of the state over the individual is very well served by the apparent necessity of climate policy.

Private property rights are removed, by the implementation of vegetation laws, because of “climate action”. The state will limit your access to electricity because of “climate action”. You will drive an electric car because of “climate action”. You will divest the nation of its largest export because of “climate action”. Rather than state there is no prospect whatsoever that any action of ours, and most likely of anyone else, will have any affect whatsoever on the trajectory climate is on.

We have instead the congenial narrative that we are all trying to make the world get cooler, but one path or the other path is the better alternative of cooling policies . We will do this by shutting down all our power stations, replacing them with windmills and rejiggering our nation away from our largest exports of mining and agricultural resources to carbon neutral tourism and the knowledge economy. Australia will be the catalyst to a global epiphany and the totalitarian Chinese regime will follow our lead because of our righteousness followed by India and the United States.

No, I don’t think that will happen. I hate to say it but I doubt the majority of people on the planet, give a toss about the Paris Agreement. I would be amazed if one percent of the planet could competently explain it.

I will make one prediction; after this is published it will be promptly followed by the remnants of the traditional media in furious pursuit of my heresy. Questions will be asked by the fourth estate and high octane derision will issue forth from the climate change actionistas.

No doubt I will be accused of not knowing what I am talking about, and when it comes to predicting the weather more than a fortnight or so out, that is true. But of those who ask the questions, will any of them truly understand what on earth are they are talking about.”

Barnaby, you are the last person anyone would bother asking about climate change.

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Australian Values are for migrants, not governments

Last year, Peter Dutton was making a lot of noise about “Australian values” as part of a push by him to make it harder for migrants to gain citizenship.

Despite his proposed bill not having seen the light of day, the Home Affairs website advises that, in order for people to apply for permanent residency, they must sign an Australian Values Statement:

“Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good.”

Fine words no doubt, but more impressive in their aspiration than their application.

How can we say we respect freedom and dignity of the individual when we keep thousands of people in immigration detention indefinitely?  Or when we impose the cashless welfare card on people based on their postcode rather than their individual circumstances?  Or when we see Aboriginal youths locked up and abused in juvenile detention?  Or mothers taken from their children and incarcerated for not paying a fine?

How can we say we value religious freedom when a noisy minority, including politicians, call for a ban on Muslim immigration, the building of mosques, the wearing of the burqa or even the hijab, halal certification, and the private practice of Sharia law?  The same people who want to demonise Islam regard any criticism of their religious beliefs as victimisation and persecution.

Conservative Christians in this country don’t want the freedom to practice their religion – they already have that.  They want to be exempt from the laws of the land regarding discrimination and to impose their beliefs on everyone by opposing legislation on issues like same-sex marriage, stem cell research, abortion and assisted dying.  They have insisted that secular schools employ religious chaplains yet demand the right to employ only those who adhere to their beliefs in their own schools.

Government secrecy and their increasingly heavy-handed approach to whistleblowers and media reporting shows the government has little regard for the rule of law.  Their inaction and suppression of information about illegalities – the Australian Wheat Board/Sadam Hussein scandal, the RBA Securency/One Note bribery case, the bugging of the East Timor parliamentary offices, the payment to people smugglers to return asylum seekers to Indonesia, possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, bugging of the phones of foreign politicians, the abuse of asylum seekers held in indefinite detention – all raise important questions about the application of the law when it comes to our government.  As does the constant rorting of expenses, opaque process for giving out contracts and grants, and post political employment of Ministers.

I am not sure what Parliamentary democracy even means when the government views all MPs who aren’t them as losers and the PM tells us it will be him alone that will determine policy.  It is ridiculous for the government to tell Labor and Greens MPs that they must agree with all Coalition legislation because they won the election.  Everybody sitting in those chambers won and have a duty to represent their constituents.  If we really had parliamentary democracy, the government would be willing to amend legislation to improve it.  All votes would be free rather than party dictated.

If men and women are considered equal in Australia, why is there still a pay gap?  Why was Julia Gillard treated so appallingly?  Why are female politicians bullied by their colleagues?  Why is feminist a dirty word, eschewed by conservative women as well as men?  Why is their a domestic violence epidemic that sees a woman killed by a current or former partner every week?  Why are there no female priests or imams or rabbis?

Any idea that our government ‘embraces mutual respect, tolerance and fair play’ is laughable when you look at how they conduct themselves during Question Time and in interviews, constantly denigrating and misrepresenting Opposition parliamentarians and launching very personal attacks.  The lies told during the recent election campaign show no respect for the electorate and absolutely no intention of fair play.

If it is intrinsically Australian to show compassion for those in need, why is the government ignoring the universal cry to increase Newstart payments?  Why are asylum seekers locked up?  Why are 116,000 people homeless?  Why are people being bombarded with historical Robodebt overpayment claims?  Why can’t pensioners afford to pay their power bills (which could be immediately cut by 9% if they chose to classify electricity as an essential item and exempt it from GST or they could subsidise it through an energy supplement to welfare recipients)?  Why are we classified as ‘lifters and leaners’?

Any government who claims to pursue the “public good” whilst ignoring climate change cannot be taken seriously.  Their idea of public good has degenerated into a mad scramble for individual wealth.

In so many areas, this government is failing to respect and uphold the Australian values they make migrants sign up to.

They fail the test for permanent residency.  After their temporary visa expires in three years, they should be deported forthwith.

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The first step towards fixing a problem is to admit you have one

The first step towards fixing a problem is to admit you have one.

If you have an addiction to drugs, alcohol, smoking or gambling, you have to accept that you have a problem in order to take the first steps towards breaking the addiction.

If you are in an abusive relationship, you have to recognise the behaviour as unacceptable in order to move forward.

If you are suffering from chronic depression or anxiety, you need to admit you need help to combat it.

In order to remain fit and healthy, you must take responsibility.  Have regular check-ups.  If your lifestyle is contributing to health problems, change it.

If your business is failing, you can’t just carry on doing the same thing.

You don’t ignore the leak in the roof or the smoke coming out of the oven.

So why does none of this apply to government who has the health of the nation in their hands?

We pretend that the Great Barrier Reef is doing fine.  We pay a lot to kill a few crown of thorn starfish and we talk about cleaning up plastic and demand that any mention of the reef being stressed be removed from international reports because we have a glossy brochure with some lovely pictures and lots of promises.  Astonishingly, or perhaps not, it does not mention climate change.

The Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan was released in 2015 to satisfy the Unesco World Heritage Centre, which was considering adding the Great Barrier Reef to its list of world heritage sites in danger, that its condition could be improved.

Two years later, experts from government science agencies tasked with advising on the implementation of the plan said that improving the natural heritage values of the reef was no longer possible.

“There is great concern about the future of the reef, and the communities and businesses that depend on it, but hope still remains for maintaining ecological function over the coming decades.  Members agreed that in our lifetime and on our watch, substantial areas of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are experiencing major long-term damage which may be irreversible unless action is taken now.”

So what does the government do?  Approve huge new coal mines, whose produce will be shipped through the reef, and push for approval of great swathes of land-clearing in the catchment area.  Oh, and yet another feasibility study, this one into opening new coal-fired power stations.

The cyclical nature of the climate has altered.  There is an undeniable warming trend with all that entails – worse droughts, bushfires, heatwaves, cyclones, floods, hail storms, sea level rises, increasing ocean salinity, spread of diseases.

The government reacts with flood levies, disaster relief payments, drought assistance, cheap loans to maintain unsustainable farms, more extraction of water for irrigators and miners.

They talk a lot about jobs, bragging about how a record number of Australians are in work.  As Malcolm Farr pointed out on Insiders, that’s only because there are a record number of Australians.

Once again, the government is pretending everything is fine when millions are living in poverty, wages have stagnated, job insecurity has gotten much worse, and underemployment figures are at record highs for recent times.

The only time you hear the government talk about housing is the necessity of protecting tax concessions for “mum and dad” investors and keeping house prices rising to boost wealth.

With over 110,000 people homeless, public housing in crisis, the residential construction industry contracting, first home buyers priced out of the market, and city rents unaffordable, the discussion has been highjacked by those with a “property portfolio”.  Some people just long for a bed under a roof, an address.

We have an aged care crisis that is only going to get worse.  It’s all very well to have another Royal Commission but it is painfully obvious, literally, that the sector needs greater regulation starting with a staff to resident ratio and better training for staff.

But this government’s aim is to reduce regulations, despite the daily stories of businesses engaging in immoral and illegal conduct, ripping off workers and customers to maximise profits, creating pollution and waste and using resources with no regard for the environment, and paying financial advisers to reduce taxation.

One of the few examples of the government acknowledging that we actually have a problem is in closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.  But every move they make only serves to intensify it.

You don’t teach people to accept responsibility by taking it away from them.  The cashless welfare card will never solve the cause of the problems.  Truancy officers won’t make kids want to go to school.  You don’t instil pride by rejecting the idea of people having a Voice in their own self-determination.  You don’t improve child welfare by locking their mother up for not paying a fine.  You don’t reduce incarceration rates by imposing mandatory sentences.  You don’t increase economic participation by closing down services to remote communities.

This government is addicted to ideology and slogans.  Until they start being honest about the reality of the problem’s we face as a nation, we will continue down the slide of an increasingly divided and fractured society where selfishness and greed are the only motives and more and more people fall through the cracks.  The beauty of our natural wonders and our unique wildlife will be lost.

The government has delivered tax cuts.  Some of us who already have a job will get an extra 20 bucks a week.

So fucking what?

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The power of religion vs the power of unions

Two pieces of legislation will come before the parliament in the near future.

One is an industrial relations bill to expand the powers of Government to go after both unions and union officials.

The other is some sort of religious freedom bill.

About the same number of people are trade union members as attend church regularly.  Both are around the 15% mark.

This government has branded trade unionists as lawless thugs, yet the occupations with the highest union membership are education and training (33%) and public administration and safety (30%).

They talk endlessly about the CFMMEU and the many convictions they have received.  The vast majority of these have been for people withdrawing their labour or for union officials entering sites without the appropriate approval.

Which hardly compares to the extraordinary number of allegations and convictions against religious men for child sexual abuse.

When the Royal Commission suggested that priests be compelled to report child sexual abuse disclosed to them in the confessional, they just said no.

A succession of religious Prime Ministers have even hastened to provide references for priests accused of abuse or of covering it up.

The government talks of how unions waste their members’ money on political campaigns.

Yet religious organisations spend an enormous amount on political campaigning without anyone showing concern.  If they want more money, they just hand round the plate.  Or introduce a rule that you have to give them 10% of everything you earn.

Then there are their profit-making businesses, subsidised by government and exempt from paying any tax.

If they want more public money for their schools, they just exert political pressure via letters home to parents, sermons from the pulpit, and private meetings with government ministers.

They are organised and cashed up and making a significant push to expand their political power.  They have a ready-made band of devoted followers accustomed to doing whatever they are told to by the church hierarchy.  They are infiltrating political organisations and providing concerted support to religious candidates.

The unions can threaten to down tools if employers don’t do as they say.  The churches can threaten eternal damnation burning in the fires of hell.

Unions seek better workplace conditions for their members.  Churches seek power and control through fear and indoctrination.

As a primary school age altar boy, my husband was punched in the face by a priest so hard that he hit the wall opposite.  This was not done in a moment of rage.  It was in the vestry after mass because he had apparently pulled a face at one of his friends.

He then attended a catholic boarding school where physical violence from the brothers was an everyday occurrence.

So who are the bullies and thugs and criminals?

Why is the government, on the one hand, wanting to introduce legislation to allow religious organisations and individuals to be exempt from the laws that govern the rest of us and, on the other, insisting that they need legislation to make union officials adhere to the laws that govern business executives (who btw don’t really seem to be held to any sort of account at all) with the right to expel the whole union if they don’t toe the line.

They want legislation that, on the one hand, protects religious people from abuse and vilification, and on the other, enshrines their right to vilify others as freedom of speech.

It does not fill me with hope when I hear government ministers say they are praying for an end to the problems we face and speaking about miracles.

I would much rather see the collective voice and bargaining power of workers protected than the archaic rituals and superstitions of cults that worship a supernatural being.

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Ah Bridget, too far?

It was June 2012 and an inebriated Barnaby Joyce had risen in the Senate to speak about the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Amendment Bill when he was “distracted” by the sight of fellow Nationals Senator McKenzie.

“Madam acting deputy president McKenzie, you are looking wonderful tonight,” he said. “You are a flash bit of kit in this chamber, there is no doubt about you.”

When an embarrassed Ms McKenzie tried to interject, Barnaby reassured her “It is non contro. Roll with me on this.”

Mr Joyce said his wife had made no comment on the incident: “She knows me better than that.”

Uh huh.

Anyways…back to the ‘flash bit of kit’.

Bridget is taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded to her.

In 2017, despite being a Victorian backbencher, Bridget claimed thousands of dollars to attend a shooting awards ceremony in Sydney.

A spokesman said: “The travel undertaken was consistent with Senator McKenzie’s official duties as Chair of Parliamentary Friends of Shooting. She attended the 2016 Australian Shooting awards as a guest speaker and award presenter.”

Except the rules specifically state that expenses related to parliamentary friends groups are not claimable.  For some unknown reason, they were ultimately deemed to have been incurred ‘in accordance with the rules’ and no disciplinary action was taken.  Apparently having an interest in something means it is ok to charge the government to indulge it.

But our girl Bridget seems to be afforded more leniency than others.

In 2014, she bought a unit in Melbourne while supposedly on Parliamentary business.  All quite kosher apparently.  Sussan Ley, who was sacked from the Ministry for doing the same thing, must be wondering if she should invest more in her “kit”.

Being a team player, backbencher McKenzie chose to fly to New England to help Barnaby Joyce with the by-election caused by him having forgotten his father was a Kiwi.  She neglected to disclose the gift of the free return flight when she updated the register in November 2017 with her latest gifts – free tickets to the AFL Grand Final, hospitality during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and accommodation for dairy awards in Adelaide.

Her expenses were claimed as “electorate business”.  One wonders what electorate business a Victorian backbench Senator had in New England – most of us would call campaigning (and celebrating) party business.  But it paid off, with Bridget being given the deputy leadership five days after Barnaby’s triumph.

Senator McKenzie holds the distinction of being the politician to claim the most in travel allowances last year, spending $652,697 for travel for her and her staff.

In explanation for the claim of 217 nights’ worth of accommodation allowance, Senator McKenzie’s spokesman said the responsibilities of being Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation required her to spend most of her time in regional Australia, except she only spent 32 nights in regional areas including two nights in Bendigo, 115 kilometres from her home in Ballarat.

Previously, she charged taxpayers more than $1000 for three trips to Melbourne while she was living in the inner-city suburb of Elwood. Now that she is living in Ballarat, last year she charged us $449 a night for 17 nights to stay in Melbourne, an hour and a half from home.  Most of us would call that a commute, particularly when someone else is driving you.

But that’s small fry really.  For some undeclared reason – perhaps something about Beef Week(?) – Bridget found herself in Rockhampton in May last year.  As she hadn’t claimed for expenses to get there, one can assume she went there for private reasons.  Except she then claimed almost $20,000 for a chartered flight back to Melbourne to watch an ice hockey match.  She also claimed $14,000 for a charter flight to meet Prince Charles in Cairns at a basketball game.

Bridget loves to turn up for a photo when grants are being handed out to small sporting clubs.  Considering the cost of having her in the photo often exceeds the grant, one wonders if it wouldn’t be better left to the local member to hand over the grant, perhaps with several thousand extra saved if Bridget didn’t insist on being there.

In September last year, the senator farewelled the Australian Youth Olympic team before attending the NRL grand final and staying at a hotel. Which might have been ok except she was scheduled to speak at a function farewelling the same junior team the next day.  Obviously, their departure was a day late for the footie so saying bye twice was necessary.

Politicians are “personally responsible” for deciding if their use of public resources “achieves value for money”, is “publicly justifiable” and is “ethical”, according to the IPEA guidelines updated in January 2018.

The IPEA also says MPs should be “prepared to publicly justify your use of public resources” and “bear community expectations in mind because your use will be measured against these”.

Which begs the question – ah Bridget, too far?


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The RBA must be tearing their hair out

The Governor of the RBA gave a speech on Tuesday where he basically pleaded with the government for some help.

“… we should not rely on monetary policy alone. We will achieve better outcomes for society as a whole if the various arms of public policy are all pointing in the same direction.”

Philip Lowe also pointed out that the benefits of the easing of monetary policy are not evenly distributed across the community.  It’s great for investors wanting to expand their share or property portfolio but the majority of people are not in the position to take advantage of lower interest rates to take on more debt.

And we are not seeing a rise in business investment, in part due to policy uncertainty but also due to a lack of demand.  There is no point expanding if you don’t have customers.

Whilst the government might be proud of their record on employment, that optimism is not shared by the RBA who say there is too much spare capacity in the economy and that it is both “possible and desirable” to reduce unemployment and underemployment.

They are hoping that an increase in the tax offset for low and middle income earners will increase disposable household income but it is much more likely to be eaten up by bills and, unlike franking credits, it is not refundable so those on the lowest incomes will see no benefit at all.

One obvious strategy would be to invest quickly in building infrastructure as the Labor party did during the GFC.

“This spending adds to demand in the economy and – provided the right projects are selected – it also adds to the country’s productive capacity. It is appropriate to be thinking about further investments in this area, especially with interest rates at a record low, the economy having spare capacity and some of our existing infrastructure struggling to cope with ongoing population growth.”

Unfortunately, the government has preferred a piecemeal porkbarrelling approach to infrastructure rather than allowing the experts to determine priorities based on need and value.

The commitment to delivering surplus budgets is madness at a time when the economy is lagging and interest are so low.

As the Governor pointed out…

“the Australian Government can borrow for 10 years at around 1.3 per cent, the lowest rate it has faced since Federation in 1901. It is also able to borrow for 30 years at an interest rate of less than 2 per cent.”

It is inconceivable that they would choose now to pay down debt when they could borrow money at such low rates and really kick start the economy through government spending on productivity enhancing investments.

It’s not only the surplus fetish that is a problem as former head of the RBA, Bernie Fraser, points out. The government’s self-imposed cap on tax-to-GDP would also act as a restraint on the economy.

“What this dopey cap does is that it acts as a cap, not just on tax but also on expenditure, so if you have to do something you’ve created a problem for yourself,” he said.

With borrowing costs so low, an exchange rate at the bottom end of its range in recent times, surging iron ore prices boosting our terms of trade, and a nominally low level of unemployment, things should be going a lot better than they are.

But the reality is that social security payments are too low and many people are living in poverty, wages have stagnated, underemployment is rising and job security is falling.

Yet all this government can talk about is tax cuts for the wealthy and delivering a surplus.


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A nation held to ransom

With a Coalition majority in the lower house but not in the Senate, the fate of the nation now lies in the hands of six Senators – three from South Australia, two from Queensland, and one from Tasmania.  The two most populous states are not represented in this power block which will, for the next three years, have the power to pass or block every piece of legislation to come before the parliament.

Already, the smaller states are over-represented in the Senate.  Tasmania has one Senator for every 43,500 people and South Australia, one for every 139,750 people.  NSW has one Senator for every 666,000 people and Victoria one for every 531,600.

In both NSW and Victoria, Labor won more HoR seats than the Coalition (45 seats to 37) yet, when it comes to the Senators who will make the decisions, they are unrepresented.  Likewise the territories, where all 5 seats went to Labor.

We are now in the hands of Pauline Hanson and the seriously weird Malcolm Roberts representing Queensland and the One Nation ‘policy’ agenda, Cory “slippery slope to bestiality” Bernardi and two Senators who represent a party which used to be called South Australia Best to push the SA agenda, and Jacqui Lambie who is fiercely Tasmanian and focused on veterans – a recipe for horse-trading.

These people will be under huge pressure for the entire term, without the assistance of the staff available to the major parties.

Are they capable of making decisions in the best interest of the nation as a whole?  Will they use their position to get favourable treatment for their state or cause?

Time will tell whether spin and trinkets outweigh evidence-based decision making.  It’s going to be a long three years for all of us but especially so for the six who will effectively rule the country.

Rex, Stirling and Jacqui, we are in your hands.

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Scott Morrison won, but can he govern?

After an entirely unexpected election win, Morrison is being hailed as a genius.  His judgement is impeccable according to those who aren’t still traumatised by the disaster of another three years of inaction on climate change, contracts without tender, jobs for mates, unregulated profit gouging, undermining of job security, and increasing wealth inequality.

Whilst our tireless PM never resiles from a photo opportunity, be it shearing a sheep or serving up a snorker, is he actually up to the job of leading the country?  Can he turn off the political posturing and start thinking about what is best for the nation?

His choices so far make that doubtful.

One of Morrison’s first actions was to appoint a rich white man who arrived on a boat from England, who has since only ever lived in Sydney aside from a couple of years spent in the hallowed halls of Oxford, and who had recently cut over half a billion dollars from the ATSI budget, as Special Envoy for Indigenous Affairs.

Tony’s best effort at achieving anything was to employ more truancy officers.

Morrison also appointed the man who pretty much single-handedly destroyed the Murray-Darling Basin plan, handing over millions of dollars to mates and unmonitored water to irrigators, a man who does not believe climate change is real and who wants to build more coal-fired power stations, as Special Envoy for Drought.

Aside from handing out potloads of money, Barnaby’s mission seemed to be a never-ending country pub crawl.

Scott interceded to overturn the local preselectors’ choice in Hughes and insist on Craig Kelly again being the candidate in the safe Liberal seat.

One visit to Craig Kelly’s facebook page reveals an absolute nutter obsessed with the worst case of climate change denial one could ever find.  It’s all he ever posts about.

Scott’s decision to parachute Warren Mundine into Gilmore to replace the preselected candidate was not as successful.

As Tanya Plibersek put it, “For a long time Mundine was desperate for the Labor Party to give him a seat in parliament. There is a reason we didn’t, and I’m sure the voters of Gilmore will discover that.”

It doesn’t take long listening to Warren to realise he is as dumb as a post.  But that hasn’t stopped the Coalition from giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars to host a tv show on Sky.

Peter Dutton’s incompetence in every portfolio he has ever held has been no impediment to his continued power grab, and so it remains in the Morrison government.  The Monkey Pod group are reconvening.

The choice of wind farm opponent and Cayman Islands company director, Angus Taylor, as Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction may seem particularly perverse, but the Taylor family have done very well from their foray into public life.

Matthias Cormann is hailed as a competent strategist.  It was his idea to court Pauling Hanson before the Western Australian state election and it was his backing that led to Peter Dutton challenging for the leadership.  He retains the Finance portfolio despite his disloyalty and obvious inability to count.  When he assures us that the economy is strong, it’s about as believable as when he said he was loyal to Malcolm Turnbull.

When you knowingly surround yourself with unscrupulous incompetents for political purposes, the question needs to be asked – were you just trying to win an election or do you seriously want to take on the job of actually running the country?


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Beware the man in the trenchcoat offering lollies

The Coalition claim to be better economic managers – a claim that the evidence does not support – as they call for lower taxes and less regulation.

It’s a threadbare ideological position.

At a time when the despicable bank practices have been exposed, when the Aged Care Royal Commission is revealing heart-wrenching stories of abuse and neglect and impossible working conditions, when the Murray-Darling dries up while a lucky few are paid for stealing water, when three miners have died in Queensland in the space of a few months, when four young men lost their lives implementing the government’s home insulation program, when high-rise units in Sydney are crumbling, when aquifers are being contaminated due to mining activities, when hundreds of species are on the brink of extinction, when the reef is dying and the natural disasters are worsening – is it really the time to have less regulation?

Even some actual monitoring and enforcement of existing regulations would be a start.

Or better still, a clear idea of what benefit to society comes from their proposals.

Aside from John Howard’s gun laws, the Coalition has fought tooth and nail against pretty much every social reform, against the very things that make Australia such a great place to live.

When Gough Whitlam tried to introduce universal healthcare, it was repeatedly blocked by the Coalition in the Senate, providing the trigger for the 1974 double dissolution election.

Whitlam won the election, but not the Senate where the Coalition once again rejected Medibank, which was only eventually passed by holding a joint sitting of the two houses. This drawn-out process, and prolonged negotiations with the states to end means testing of public wards in their hospitals, meant Medibank only came into effect in July 1975.

After 1975, despite promises to preserve Medibank, Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government undermined the new scheme. Medibank was abolished in 1981. However, the Fraser attempt to build an alternative based on private health funds degenerated into chaos, with four major changes to Medibank in five years.

Large sections of the population were again denied access to affordable health care. When the Hawke government revived Medibank (under the new title of Medicare) in 1984, the Coalition remained intransigent in opposition, but no longer commanded the Senate.

It is a similar story when it comes to superannuation.

Compulsory national superannuation was initially proposed as part of the 1972 Whitlam initiatives but up until the 1980s superannuation was solely the privilege of predominantly male professions, clustered in the public sector or available after a long qualifying period in the private sector.

In 1985, a deal between the government and the ACTU saw the trade union movement forfeit a claim to 3% productivity improvement as wages to instead be paid in compulsory superannuation – endorsed by the Arbitration Commission and managed by superannuation funds with equal representation of the unions in the industry and the employers.

Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, responded:  “That superannuation deal, which represents all that is rotten with industrial relations in Australia, shows the government and the trade union movement in Australia not only playing the employers of Australia for mugs but it is also playing the Arbitration Commission for mugs”.

The Coalition has steadfastly opposed every increase in compulsory superannuation since that time, whether it be from 3% to 6%, or 6% to the current 9.5%.

In the 1995 budget, Ralph Willis unveiled a scheduled increase in compulsory super from 9% to 12% and eventually to 15%. It was to be one of the Keating government’s major legacy reforms.

In its superannuation policy for the 1996 election, Super for all, the Coalition, which had hitherto been implacably opposed to Labor’s policies, promised it would enforce the scheduled increases in the superannuation guarantee, only to abandon this promise after winning the election, saying it was too expensive.

In 2012, the IPA’s John Roskam wrote “Compulsory superannuation offends practically every principle of what should be Liberal Party philosophy. If an Abbott government does keep compulsory superannuation it must, at a minimum, make drastic changes.”

This week, the newest member of the Morrison government’s frontline economic team, Jane Hume, said it would be immoral to ask Australians to put more of their money into an inefficient super system as she signals a major shakeup of the $2.8 trillion sector.  Klaxons blaring.

It’s interesting how mandates only apply to some promises.

In 2002, when Tony Abbott was Employment Minister, he told a Liberal Party function in Victoria, “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

After Julia Gillard introduced government-funded parental leave, Tony Abbott had a change of heart and took a much more generous scheme to the 2013 election.  That also took less than six months to abandon after he won.

In 2010, the Coalition promised that “To achieve the goal of one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020, the Coalition will provide an extra $1,000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems.”

Two days before the 2013 election, the rebate promise was reduced to $500 capped at 100,000 rebates per year with a time frame of ten years to achieve the one million additional installations.

This was also abandoned straight after the election.

It’s all very well to offer tax cuts but it kinda feels like a man in a trench coat is offering us a bag of lollies.

How will they simultaneously deliver surpluses whilst collecting $158 billion less in revenue, and keep the economy growing when it is only government spending and a temporary boost in commodity prices that is keeping us out of recession?

Increase the GST?  Increase the pension age to 70?  Introduce GP co-payments?  Sell off the ABC?  Increase fuel taxes?  Tighten eligibility to family payments and disability support?  Underspend on the NDIS?  Tougher compliance rules for Newstart?  Workchoices 2.0?  Increase university fees?

Before you gleefully grab the bag of lollies, you should be wary of what’s under the trenchcoat.


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There was a time when Australia enjoyed a good reputation

There was a time when Australia enjoyed a good reputation.

When called upon to defend freedom, we were there.  But that seems to have morphed into demanding regime change in foreign nations, too often to those who are more sympathetic to US trade aspirations.

In the past, we opened our arms to refugees from war and persecution.  Now we lock them up indefinitely.

We were one of the first to introduce a price on carbon.  Now we have the ignominious distinction of being the only country to abolish it.

Our treatment of Indigenous Australians has always been shameful but things like the 1967 referendum, the Apology to the Stolen Generation, the Reconciliation marches, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, whilst largely symbolic, gave us some hope that we were moving forward.

Now we have spiralling incarceration rates with documented abuse of youth detainees, large numbers of children in state care and a worsening substance abuse problem, the infantilising Cashless Welfare Card, the rejection of a Voice to parliament, and the apparent shelving of constitutional recognition for our First People as too hard.

We used to have a free press expressing a variety of views.  We have now slipped to #21 in the World Press Freedom Index, and that was before the raids, with rising concerns about increasing media ownership concentration, draconian legislation targeting journalists and whistleblowers, excessive defamation laws, and laws on terrorism and national security making covering these issues almost impossible.

The ABC, in an impossible never-ending attempt to deflect accusations of bias, has become a regurgitator of press releases and a purveyor of populist puff.

As a wealthy nation, blessed with resources, a favourable climate, lots of space and no shared borders to squabble over, we used to feel an obligation to help poorer nations.  Now, foreign aid funding has been cut in the last six budgets to a record low and any help we do offer is likely to be military.

Australia has strong anti-discrimination laws.  Now they are being criticised as an inhibition to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Or an attack on men’s rights.

We used to trust the experience and expertise of educators to manage a continually evolving curriculum to best prepare students with the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in the society and job market of the future.

Now we have bureaucrats demanding we focus on phonics, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and more standardised testing.  We have parents demanding the removal of resources designed to promote respectful relationships.  We have demands for higher standards for teacher trainees with no offer of better pay or conditions or greater support.  And resources poured into religious and wealthy independent schools at record rates.

There was a time when Australians understood and valued the work of unions in giving workers a collective voice to protect their safety and gain entitlements like holiday pay, sick leave, parental leave, overtime rates, compulsory superannuation, equal pay, meal breaks, skills training, job security, and a myriad of other things that workers don’t appreciate until they are under threat.

Now unions are collectively labelled as thugs, bullies and thieves.

There was a time when Australians accepted a genuine contest with the best team on the day winning.  Now we have football teams placed on experimental performance enhancing drug regimes and cricketers using sandpaper to tamper with the ball.  And politicians willing to say all manner of hyperbolic lies to get elected.

Australians used to hate bullshit.

Boy, has that changed.


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