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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.”

Collective culpability

A very thin-skinned and defensive Scott Morrison tried to convince us on Thursday night that he has a wonderful record of supporting the Muslim community and any suggestion to the contrary is an outrageous slur.

“Over the last decade, I have spent my time as a public figure working with the Muslim community in south-western New South Wales,” he said. “That’s why I’m welcomed when I attend mosques in south-western Sydney, with warm embraces.”

On Saturday he took the cameras along for a photo shoot with Muslim leaders at Lakemba mosque, pretending all was sweetness and light as they hugged each other.

What he failed to mention was what was said in the meeting.

“The tragedy in New Zealand yesterday – it wasn’t something overnight, it’s been something that’s been a build-up over the last few years because of the incitement of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against groups like the Islamic community,” Dr Ibrahim Mohammed told Morrison.

“We need to look into the causation of what makes such a tragedy that took place yesterday and it all comes down to the hate speech… that takes place.”

Lebanese Muslim Association Director Ahmad Malas said “The group raised several concerns, grievances with the position that senior members of government have taken on immigration, previous incidents such as the Bourke St attack, and political rhetoric about Muslims being detrimental. Also, a review of the laws to prevent religious discrimination and vilification of Muslims, and the need for the Government to take responsibility at stamping out the ideology of white supremacy and do more to address Islamophobia.”

Four months ago, those same Muslim leaders wrote to Morrison expressing their deep concern and disappointment with statements made by “senior Government Ministers and the Prime Minister” which inferred “that the community is collectively culpable for the criminal actions of individuals and should be doing more to prevent such acts of violence.”

 

On Monday, five highly qualified articulate Muslim women appeared on the Drum and were in total agreement about the damage being done by some politicians and media in stoking Islamophobia.

When Zaky Mallah warned that young Muslims in Australia felt vilified by a government “looking for votes” and that “ASIO and counter-terrorism police” benefit from community relations, all hell broke loose, with Tony Abbott saying that “heads should roll” (really Tony?) at the ABC for giving Mallah a platform.

We are bombarded with stories about cultural practices from other parts of the world that we find abhorrent, seemingly ignoring the fact that those practices are illegal here.  People who choose to live in this country agree to abide by our laws.

Morrison righteously intones that an attack on people of faith is an attack on all faiths, yet several members of his party, including his Deputy Josh Frydenberg, former PM Tony Abbott, and the very ambitious Andrew Hastie, have all said the problem stems from Islam itself.

It must be utterly galling for the Muslim community to hear Morrison spruiking his credentials at promoting harmony (the third finger in his election slogan – “keeping our economy strong, keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians together.”)

Where is the collective culpability for encouraging an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust where raids on suspects’ houses are televised before they have even been charged with anything?

Where is the admission that collectively blaming all Muslims for the acts of a few has promoted fear and hatred?

Where is the acceptance that conflating asylum seekers with criminals is dogwhistling?

Wasn’t me, says Scott.  They love me.  I even went on a walk with some Muslim boys once.

Scott says he has led by example and that he has set the tone.

The tragedy is that he is right about that – and look at what has happened.

 

 

 

Greg Hunt’s assurances mean fuck all

Perhaps in preparation for threatened defamation action against Waleed Aly for reminding us of the reports of Scott Morrison suggesting the Liberal Party should capitalise on community concerns about the inability of Muslims to integrate, Peter Dutton and Greg Hunt have lined up to deny it ever happened.

“Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Health Minister Greg Hunt have revealed what really went on during shadow cabinet discussions about Muslims, denying Scott Morrison urged the Liberals to use Islamophobia to win votes,” reports Samantha Maiden in the New Daily.

Except Greg Hunt wasn’t even at the meeting.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t at the meeting, but I know Scott, and his style is deep compassion, he is deeply compassionate, he agonises around the issues of protecting people who are being lured to their deaths,” he said when the article was published in 2011.

Greg goes on to assure us that “Our position is very clear. That we are completely colour blind, race blind, religion blind on the issue of immigration.”

Right.

So when Peter Dutton, Morrison’s other referee, suggested white farmers facing violence in South Africa “deserve special attention” from “a civilised country like ours”, and when he said that people in Melbourne were too scared to go out to dinner because of African gangs, he was being colour blind.

When Tony Abbott said we would resettle an extra 12,000 refugees from Syria and Scott Morrison, as social services minister, said Christian Syrians would make up the bulk of the intake, they were being religion blind.

“Middle Eastern Christians have been run out of town in the Middle East now for many years and that is why our government right from the outset has had a much higher priority focus on those persecuted minorities in the Middle East which are predominately Christian and that is where our focus will be,” Morrison told reporters.

A spokesperson for Dutton said “there will be a lot of Christians who come under the program, but ultimately we want to make sure that we’re bringing the right people; people who can integrate into our community, that can get a job, can speak English, can give their kids the opportunity to go to school.  That’s what we want from people that come under these programs and Mr Dutton is going to make sure that’s what we achieve.”

When Dutton said it was a mistake for Malcolm Fraser to let Lebanese Muslims migrate here in the 1970s because a few of their great grandchildren had been charged with crimes, he was being race blind…apparently.  Ignore the fact that these kids were born, raised, and educated here.

Greg Hunt is the man who, in 1990, wrote his Honours thesis on the necessity of a carbon tax and, when he became environment minister, devoted himself to destroying our carbon pricing, earning him an award from the oil-producing nations for being the Bestest Minister Ever In The Whole Wide World”.

Greg Hunt is the health minister who would have us believe he has approved over 200,000 new drugs for inclusion on the PBS – except the vast majority of those are just allowing new companies into the market supplying their version of the same drugs.  Hospital waiting lists have grown by an average of 2.4% per year over the last 4 years.

The peak body representing GPs is also not enamoured with the ministry of Dutton or Hunt, joining the political campaign with a grim warning.

“If we do not see action, general practice will not be able to keep delivering quality preventive, acute and chronic care. This will lead to increased hospital use and costs.”

Dutton and Hunt had in their mind that they would be PM and Deputy leader last August.  Both have been censured for their disrespect for the legal system.  They have no loyalty, no honesty, no integrity – just naked ambition.

If they are the best you can come up with to provide alibis/cover/character reference, then you are stuffed.

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We need to talk about Australian Conservatives

In 2017, the day after the London Bridge terrorist attack, Cory Bernardi’s newly formed party, Australian Conservatives, emailed his supporters with a survey titled We Need to Talk About Islam.

The preamble to the survey stated:

Our founder, Senator Cory Bernardi, has been a regular critic of Islam, including here calling on Muslims to ‘reject, refute and reform’ Islam, and here where he called out the error of Britain’s migration program accepting Islamic migrants.

One question states that “some have attributed the migration of people of Islamic belief to terror attacks in Australia and abroad” and asks people for their view.  In an obvious attempt to solicit negative responses, other questions included, “What is your view on the practice of sharia law in Australia?” and, “What is your view on the Islamic practice of allowing men to marry girls who are under the legal age of sexual consent?”

Bernardi defended the timing of the survey saying “We’re not politicising anything, we’re trying to decide what the Australian people want.”

Far from an innocent information gathering exercise, the very format was intended to offend.

A graphic next to the survey showed the Islamic “shahada” or proclamation of faith, written in Arabic with a large cross through it, a move labelled “fiercely extremist” by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, and offensive by Sydney Muslim community leader Dr Jamal Rifi.

AFIC spokesman Ali Kadri made a very prescient warning.

“Bernardi’s party are trying to reverse the gains of the Western world and eventually the people will pay for it, just as people in the Muslim world are paying now, because they excused extremism and thought it was the answer.”

Whilst not a member of Bernardi’s party yet, member for Dawson, George Christensen has appeared with Berrnardi at anti-Muslim speaking events and has addressed anti-Muslim rallies.

In 2016, he tried to set up a site (unsuccessfully it seems) specifically designed to attack Islam.  He appealed to Facebook for writers to make contributions (for free).

“The website will seek to expose radical Islamic practices, its adherents and its appeasers within our midst. The site will also root out political correctness and its purveyors who seek to stymie free speech on this, the most important subject for the future of our Western civilisation,” George grandiosely claims, promising to expose the “practices of so-called moderate Muslims in this country or elsewhere [who] are found to be less than moderate or appeasing the extremists.”

“The pay rate for writers and researchers is a whopping total of nothing but you’ll be helping fight for a cause which could determine the future of Western civilisation, freedom, liberty and humankind.”

The fact that these two politicians make much of their personal religious adherence makes their perfidy in demonising other people of faith all the more galling.

Whilst Hanson and Anning are rightly ridiculed and dismissed as fringe dwellers, Bernardi and Christensen were part of the government, contributing to the debate about national security and forming the policy and laws to enforce it.  They, along with Morrison and Dutton, gave a legitimacy to Islamophobia.

Hate speech was defended by the white men in the Coalition, the rights of bigots being apparently more important than the rights and safety of their victims.

Just as the Islamists who would seek to corrupt our youth must be exposed and vigorously opposed, so must these politicians who are, to use their own words, “appeasing the extremists” and enabling those who would seek to impose their warped views of White Supremacy and the superiority of something they call our “Judeo-Christian heritage” on us all.

The hate speech must stop and those who promote it must be removed from public office and, if necessary, prosecuted for inciting hatred and violence.  This is not about political correctness or censorship.  It is about opposing those who threaten our social cohesion.

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What Liberals really think

When politicians make their first speech, we hear about their history and their aspirations.  When they leave parliament, we hear the truth.

Former leader John Hewson is particularly scathing about the current crop of Liberals who he described as “a directionless rabble”.

“The party is now characterised by disunity and disloyalty, by tribalism, not by principle or policy but by personal interests – not even party interests and certainly not the national interest.

Despite what they claim, few who stand as Liberals come with a genuine policy agenda or commitment. Their end game is simply to be a politician, or a minister, or even prime minister. Not necessarily to achieve anything in particular – just to be there, and to enjoy the trappings of the position.

While aggregate growth and employment numbers are a constant boast of the government, voters are increasingly concerned about the distribution of those jobs and growth, about income security as well as job security, having to live with increases in their costs of living while wages are stagnant – having to fund their daily lives by running down their savings and/or increasing their debts.

Therefore, it is a massive insult to voters when Liberals, individually and collectively, are more concerned about themselves, their careers and what they can suck out of the political system for their personal benefit.”

Julia Banks echoed these sentiments in a speech announcing her resignation from the party.

“Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, pre-selection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability and disregarding that teamwork and unity delivers success.

The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties obstructionist and combative actions and internal games – all for political point scoring rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.

The Liberal Party has changed. Largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves, rather than listening to the people.”

Ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken of the impossibility of getting any sensible policy on climate change through his party room.

“The truth is … the Liberal Party and the Coalition is not capable of dealing with climate change.

It is just a fact I regret to say. It is like a third rail. We have at the present time in the Coalition, a group of, a constituency, that is the best way to describe it, who believe we should get out of (the Paris Agreement), that climate change is a fraud, the more you have the better, and are literally on another planet.

They are not prepared to play ball with everybody else.”

Mr Turnbull said the anti-­climate change group in the ­Coalition and his own party took the attitude that “if you don’t do what we want, we will blow the show up, and that is essentially what you’ve seen — and so the problem is that everybody loses”.

His Deputy, Julie Bishop, echoed the frustration and its implications for energy policy.

“Our party is divided on the issue of climate change and whether – or how – we respond.”

“I don’t see a solution to the current impasse, but investors need regulatory certainty given the large and long-term investment needed for building energy generating capacity,” she told business leaders.

“The closest we have come to achieving bipartisan consensus with Labor, sufficient to get an energy policy through Parliament, was the National Energy Guarantee – no longer Coalition policy.”

Tony Abbott’s former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, boasted about their cynical duplicity regarding carbon pricing.

“Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”

Departing Liberals all agree that the party has a women problem with Turnbull comparing it to “the corporate world in the 1980s, maybe a bit earlier. It’s far, far too blokey.”

Any pretence that preselection and promotion are made on merit was blown away with the intercession of Scott Morrison to save Craig Kelly from his own local preselectors and with the promotion of Peter Dutton to the most powerful position in the country.

I note the Australian Federal Police Association have said the AFP must split from Dutton’s ministry in order to regain its “organisational integrity and its ability to carry out investigations without government influence.”

Former Attorney-General, George Brandis, used his final speech to warn about the dangers of Dutton’s power grab and his colleagues’ contempt for the judiciary.

“Increasingly, in recent years, powerful elements of right-wing politics have abandoned both liberalism’s concern for the rights of the individual and conservatism’s respect for institutions, in favour of a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them,” Senator Brandis said.

“I have not disguised my concern of attacks upon the institutions of the law: the courts and those who practice in them. To attack those institutions is to attack the rule of law itself,” Senator Brandis said.

“It is for the Attorney-General always to defend the rule of law, sometimes from political colleagues who fail to understand it or are impatient of the limitations it may impose upon executive power.”

Former Treasurer Joe Hockey also dished up some truth as he was leaving.

“Negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property,” he said. “We should be wiser and more consistent on tax concessions to help pay for that, in particular tax concessions on superannuation should be carefully pared back.”

This is exactly what Labor is proposing to do and what the current Liberals totally reject.

Hockey also praised Labor for bringing in the national broadband network admitting it was a “very significant commitment” – one which has been bastardised from the second the Libs took over.  We can’t undermine Rupert’s monopoly now can we.

From their own mouths, those who were, until recently, in the top positions in the Liberals, have told us that their colleagues are liars, incompetent, self-serving rorters who couldn’t care less about the best interests of the country or its people, and who have scant regard for the institutions that uphold our society.

If the Liberal Party is to survive as any form of credible alternative government, this rabble must be removed.

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We have a chance to turn the pages over

Around the world, schoolchildren have taken up the mantle of demanding action on issues that are important to them in creating the society in which they want to live and raise their children.

Malala Yousafzai spent her 16th birthday addressing delegates at the UN about her fight for girls’ education – a fight that saw her shot in the face by a Taliban gunman the year before.  By age 17, she had won the Nobel Peace Prize for her fearless determination to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland high school massacre, has become the face for young people fighting for gun control in the US.  Her message is simple.  “We are going to be the last mass shooting.  We are going to change the law.’’  Tragically, mass shootings haven’t stopped but the laws are beginning to change.

Schoolchildren in many countries march to insist that we take urgent action to save the planet from the ravages of climate change.  The greedy excesses of the past and present mean there are plants and animals these children will never see.  It is almost certain that they will not be able to take their children snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.  Will they be able to paddle down the Murray?  They are rightly furious about our lack of stewardship of their future.

We have raised our children to believe that gender and sexual orientation should not limit opportunity and that all people should enjoy the same human and legal rights.  So it was unsurprising that they came out in droves to support marriage equality.  Young people hurriedly enrolled to vote for the first time.  Many, including Tony Abbott’s daughter Frances, spoke out in bemusement at the intolerant hypocrisy.  “She’s just Aunty Chris,” Frances said of Abbott’s gay sister.

The shock of the horrific murders in Christchurch have prompted an outpouring of grief but also solidarity with the Muslim community.  Our young people never knew the White Australia policy.  They have grown up with a wonderfully diverse society where their friends and classmates come from many different ethnic backgrounds.  They welcome refugee children into their classrooms and fiercely protect them, appealing to the government to allow them to stay, sadly too often unsuccessfully.  They are less religious than their grandparents but they are not threatened by the sight of classmates and teachers wearing veils.

Anyone who lives with young people will know that they do not consider respecting other people’s identity some sort of draconian imposition curbing their free speech.  They will very quickly tell you that you cannot call a woman a slut and you may not use racially derogatory terms or stereotypes and that sexuality and gender should be irrelevant.

Our children offer far more hope and inspiration than our government.  To them I say

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear,

We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear

This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better

We can’t change the past but we can determine the future.

We have the chance to turn the pages over

We can write what we want to write

If Australia is to move forward, we must dump the Howard legacy

The fact that the Liberal Party consider John Howard some sort of elder statesman with great knowledge to impart, the fact that they wheel him out every election like he has some relevance to the contemporary electorate, shows just how bereft of ideas they are.

The blame for pretty much every problem we have can be sheeted squarely at the feet of the Howard era, exacerbated by his disciple, Tony Abbott.

They squandered a once in a lifetime windfall.  They sold off our assets.  They privatised essential services and utilities.  They introduced unsustainable tax concessions that skewed investment away from productive enterprises.  They gave huge tax cuts to corporations and high-income earners.

They used refugees as political pawns.  They changed the marriage act.  They insisted on religious chaplains in state schools.  They instigated the Northern Territory Intervention and refused to apologise for the Stolen Generation.  They sent us to war in Iraq based on a lie.

Despite a pre-election promise to match Keating’s increases to the Superannuation Guarantee, Howard immediately reneged.

They introduced Workchoices which undermined job security, workplace entitlements and wages growth.

Between 1999 and 2005, federal funding for public schools increased by $261 per student compared to an increase of $1584 for each private school student.

Howard’s government corroded Medicare by misdirecting money into tax deductions for inefficient private health insurance.

Infrastructure spending was arbitrary, reduced to porkbarrelling in Coalition and marginal seats.

The public service was politicised and the independence of the ABC attacked.

They torpedoed the referendum on finally getting an Australian head of state.

After negotiating to be one of only three countries permitted to increase emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, they refused to ratify it.  Ever since his defeat in 2007, Howard has spent his time pouring scorn on the “alarmist” scientific consensus on global warming, comparing those calling for action on climate change to religious zealots – a line often repeated by Abbott and Pell.

The Howard legacy was to suck the country into a vortex of power, privilege and greed where ambition, self-aggrandisement and the pursuit of wealth have replaced integrity, public service and acting in the best interests of the nation.

In 1996, Keating said “When you change the government, you change the country.”

How right he was.  But undoing the Howard legacy will be a huge mountain to climb for any government.

Politicians are making themselves irrelevant

The more politicians lie to us, the more they think advertising replaces substantive debate, the more they rely on talking points rather than considered informed opinion, the more they use their position to reward their mates, the less relevant they become.

Scott Morrison can say until he is blue in the face that we will meet our emissions reduction targets but we can actually look up the facts for ourselves.

Tony Abbott can keep spinning on his arse doing the Paris hokey pokey – no-one is listening to him.

Matt Canavan and George Christensen can pray for more coal-fired power stations but no-one will put up the money.

Peter Dutton can cry wolf till he is hoarse but the citizens of Melbourne continue to enjoy its culinary delights.

The “better economic managers” myth is a persistent one but how long can they even hang onto that when we are in a per capita recession because of stagnant wage growth and increasing cost of living?  I know company profits are high, but companies don’t vote.

How can we avoid cynicism when newly promoted and extra keen Linda Reynolds tells us that wage suppression is not a tool they are using to boost employment and that anyone who said so knows nothing about economics……until she was told it was a quote from her Finance Minister and not Bill Shorten as she at first thought.  She went from he knows nothing to he’s absolutely right in the space of 16 seconds.

We still have politicians who think that our gender or sexuality is their business.  As they moralise from on high about “ideal families”, we are subjected to seemingly never-ending scandals about their own tawdry behaviour.

As people on welfare are labelled leaners and bludgers, politicians fight tooth and nail to retain what they call ‘entitlements’ which roughly translates to having someone else pay for everything, hopefully for the rest of your life.  Want to see a concert?  A football game?  A fashion show?  You name it, here’s a free ticket for you and your family and here’s a jet to take you and a chauffeur to drive you because, as Barnaby reminded us when defending Bronwyn Bishop’s use of limos to go to the opera, they are often obliged to drink at these events.

We are expected to believe that it is refugees who are responsible for a lack of affordable housing, long hospital waiting lists, unemployment, and congestion on our roads.  Nothing at all to do with the people who plan the infrastructure and set the immigration levels and the spending priorities.  Nothing to do with the people who overstay on tourist and education visas or all those who arrive by plane and then seek asylum.  Boats, drowning, Bill Shorten, soft borders…..someone pass me the talking points, I’ve forgotten what I am supposed to say about Christmas Island.

Trade unions are habitually attacked because we can’t have the workers having a voice about the value of their labour.  Groups like GetUp! and Greenpeace are likewise vilified.  They seem to fear ordinary people having a say.

But our children have had enough.  Girls are fleeing the oppression in Saudi Arabia.  Schoolchildren in America are fighting for gun laws.  They are bemused by the intolerance of some adults to diversity.  And around the world, children will march tomorrow to demand that we put the health of the planet before profit.

More power to their arm.  Politics is not confined to the Canberra bubble boys much as you may have fought to keep it that way.

We are people hear us roar

In numbers too big to ignore

Cause we know too much to go back and pretend.

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When the wealth of the few is more important than the well-being of the many

According to Scott Morrison, he is being “honest” with the Australian people when he warns that Labor will decimate the economy with $200 billion worth of higher taxes.

Let’s examine that in a bit more detail – not Scott’s strong suit.

At a business summit in Sydney, ProMo promised that he “will maintain the continuity of the policies that have been so successful in restoring the budget.”

Pardon?

The Coalition are about to hand down their sixth budget and they are yet to deliver a surplus.  There have been countless promises of one, but you don’t get to count a promise as a success until you deliver on it.

Despite “higher than expected revenue, lower expenses and lower net capital investments” than predicted in MYEFO, at the end of January, the underlying cash balance for the current financial year was a deficit of almost $22 billion and net debt was over $373 billion.  The net debt at the end of August 2013 was $161 billion.

No gold stars there.

So how about policies?

When Peter Costello introduced a 50% discount on capital gains tax back in 1999, he skewed both the housing market and the tax system heavily in favour of landlords over first home buyers.  Prior to that, negative gearing did not cost the budget anything because roughly equal numbers of people were making rental profits and losses balancing the tax situation out.

As Richard Denniss points out,

Since Costello introduced the capital gains tax discount, the “smart money” has bid up the price of houses beyond their capacity to ever generate a rental profit, in the hope that the low-tax capital gains made the whole venture eventually worthwhile. The annual cost of negative gearing has blown out from around zero to $1.6 billion. And the capital gains tax concessions on investment housing now cost a further $3.7 billion per year.

A policy that costs billions in lost revenue and makes housing unaffordable for those hoping to buy their first home is hardly something to be proud of.

Costello was also responsible for making superannuation income tax free and for allowing people to make a voluntary tax free contribution of $1 million in one year.  Tax concessions for superannuation now cost the budget more than $46 billion per year, and will soon cost more than the age pension.  Even the Coalition have recognised this is not sustainable.

Another of Costello’s concessions that the government is fiercely defending is the ridiculous situation where people can claim a refund on tax they haven’t paid through excess franking credits.  We are constantly told that the majority of people who would be affected by Labor’s policy to stop this are poor retirees.

The Grattan Institute points out the perfidy of this line.

Take the example of a self-funded retiree couple with a $3.2 million super balance, plus their own home, and $200,000 in Australian shares held outside super. Even drawing $130,000 a year in superannuation income, and $15,000 a year in dividend income, they would report a combined taxable income of just $15,000, and pay no income tax whatsoever.

With pensioners excluded, this policy change will only affect people who already have significant assets and/or income.

Another tax avoidance measure that Labor are targeting is family trusts where income is shared between family members thus lowering their individual tax obligation.  Normal PAYG employees are not able to do this.  The Coalition have been quieter on this measure because they know it has been abused and recognise it probably should stop.

So back to the $200 billion.

This is the extra revenue that the Coalition estimates that Labor will raise over the next ten years but the vast majority of it comes from not proceeding with the second and third stages of the government’s proposed income tax cuts for high income earners.  Judging the impact on the economy of stopping tax cuts that have not yet begun is highly theoretical and, as we know, the government tends to just make up numbers rather than doing any genuine modelling.

It also ignores Labor’s proposed income tax cuts which would see everyone who earns less than $125,000 a year – that is, most Australians – hundreds of dollars a year better off compared to what the Coalition is offering.

Coalition policies got the budget in trouble in the first place.  They facilitate tax avoidance by those who can most afford to contribute at the expense of government services and payments to those who can least afford to pay.

If you call that success, then you patently care more about the wealth of the few than the well-being of the many.

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They lie to each other so why on earth would we trust them to tell us the truth?

The thing that struck me most about Julie Bishop’s latest homage to herself was the revelation that 17 of her colleagues lied to her.

No-one goes into a leadership spill not having canvassed the numbers.  Obviously, some of them are not very good at it – whoever thought Peter Dutton was a good idea needs help – but Bishop was very specific – she thought she had 28 votes wrapped up which should have been enough to see her through to the second-round ballot in the three-way contest.

As we all know, that support evaporated when the secret ballot actually took place with Julie only securing 11 votes.  Her colleagues had lied to her.  Whilst it may not be quite on the scale of how bad Hilary Clinton must have felt losing to Donald Trump, Julie was humiliated.  She lost to a man who none of the electorate wanted, as polling showed, and who the bookmakers considered a very long shot as betting odds demonstrated.

Whether she would have been a good leader or not is debatable but not the point.  She has chosen to leave after being betrayed by her own people.

Bishop should not have been surprised because lying has become second nature to the Coalition.

Whether it is Angus Taylor telling us emissions have come down, or Peter Dutton telling us people will be kicked off hospital and public housing lists if sick refugees access urgent medical attention, or Josh Frydenberg telling us that tax concessions are mainly utilised by poor people, or Barnaby Joyce every time he opens his mouth about anything, the lies just keep on coming.

For a democracy to function successfully, there must be checks and balances on power.  Government decisions must be transparent and accountable.  The electorate must be told the truth so they can make informed decisions about alternative approaches to address the challenges facing the nation.

Increasingly, the Coalition have removed our right to know and the protection for those who would inform us.  They have deliberately sought out non-government agencies to produce reports that say what they want them to (the Minerals Council and the Properties Council are hardly independent advisors) yet refused to release genuine reports which might reveal what is actually going on.

How many times have we heard “it’s a report to government, not by government” as an excuse not to release reports they have paid for with public money?  But even the reports by government are suppressed when it suits them.  The Auditor-General has been silenced regarding defence contracts.  The Agriculture Minister is sitting on the State of the Forests Report.  NBNco demanded police raids when the truth was revealed about their lack of progress and cost blowouts.

Media have been threatened on a number of fronts.  Have you noticed how articles always come with the caveat now that “The X news site is not suggesting any wrongdoing by any of the corrupt people we have just written about”.  Certain topics will land journalists in gaol and whistleblowers who go to the media will be persecuted and prosecuted.

The ABC has been under continual attack and now, in a misguided attempt to appease those who accuse them of bias, give voice to a disappointing array of crackpots and allow politicians’ lies to slide by rather than offending them and being completely cut off.

Isaac Asimov once said “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

We are now in the territory of an election being fought on my lies are better than your truth.

PS Special mention should go to Matthias Cormann whose appalling judgement and despicable disloyalty should disqualify him from being trusted by both his colleagues and the electorate.

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This government makes no sense

It doesn’t really matter what policy area you look at, there is no coherent plan as ProMo bounces around like a demented Santa offering sweeteners to all.

The result is a chaotic shamble where the gift offered by one hand is snatched away by the other in a government that is at war with itself.

Tony Abbott came to power offering a paid parental leave plan designed to encourage “women of calibre” to breed and then return to the workforce.  Not only was that abandoned, those women of calibre were now “double dippers” rorting the system and their existing entitlements were reduced.

After a tortuous process, marriage discrimination was ended – praise be.  But then we have an inquiry to work out how churches can ignore the law and continue to discriminate against gays.

The community and the majority of the parliament decide we have an obligation to provide medical care for seriously ill refugees under our care (I still can’t believe that is something they had to actually debate).  So people who are traumatised by being incarcerated with no hope on an island gulag will be shifted to another island gulag with no hope of any future and the promise of being sent back should they get well.

Successive Prime Ministers take their entourage to remote communities to find out first hand from Indigenous people what must be done to close the gap on disadvantage.  We have a (white) Special Envoy appointed to show how much we care.  And then we cut off services to them because we can no longer afford to fund their “lifestyle choice”, we ignore their call for a Voice to advise parliament, we quarantine their income, we lock them up in record numbers, and we take their children.

Budget assumptions show that the promised surplus is largely dependent on wages growing at a much faster rate than they are now.  Yet the government cuts penalty rates, argues against increases in the minimum wage, fights public sector pay rises (except those bestowed by the Remuneration Tribunal who determine politicians’ pay), and boast about the bill for welfare payments decreasing despite there being over 3 million Australians living in poverty.

When Labor announced their policy to change negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions, we were told this would decimate the property market and strip people of their meagre wealth.  Yet changes to lending practices have prompted a far greater crash in property values than any change Labor was proposing was likely to make.  But the government is silent on this with no response forthcoming.

In April 2012, Joe Hockey gave a speech to the Institute of economic affairs in London:

Despite an ageing population and a higher standard of living than that enjoyed by our children, western democracies in particular have been reluctant to wind back universal access to payments and entitlements from the state.

So, ultimately the fiscal impact of popular programs must be brought to account no matter what the political values of the government are or how popular a spending program may be.

Let me put it to you this way: The Age of Entitlement is over.

Yet when Labor propose to wind back the largesse of excess franking credit refunds, the government goes into overdrive about this “retirees’ tax” which is, as per usual, not a tax at all.

Foreign Aid is slashed until China starts filling the void.  Rather than recognising the value and efficacy of soft diplomacy, we scramble to join the arms race.

Action on climate change and energy policy is where it gets truly ridiculous.

Faced with a slew of Independents contesting the next election in previously safe Liberal and Nationals seats and all campaigning on climate change, Scott is trying to convince us that he actually has a plan.

We will spend billions on hydro energy whose business case only stacks up if coal is phased out.  At the same time we will underwrite new coal-fired power whose future is so risky that no bank will take it on.

We export gas at record levels whilst we endure sky-rocketing prices here.

We will spend billions paying farmers to plant trees that they must then try to keep alive through bushfires, floods, droughts and cyclones.  If they are hit by any of these extreme weather events, we will pay them more.

We will pay farmers to reduce herd sizes.  And then we will pay them money to restock after their herds are decimated by floods or fire and we will pay more to feed them during drought.

Meanwhile, the big polluters are free, and even encouraged, to increase their emissions, and rampant land-clearing by farmers and property developers continues apace.

We give billions to different groups to protect the Great Barrier Reef whilst allowing dredge to be dumped on it and ignoring toxic spills from coal ports.  The warming of the oceans and the damage from severe cyclones that will almost inevitably lead to the death of the Reef is ignored as we concentrate on the impossible task of eradicating crown of thorn starfish one creature at a time.

It seems the government’s only clear purpose at the moment is to use its few remaining months to reward as many fellow political travellers as they can with high-paying appointments and to secure employment for themselves post-politics.

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Nothing underlines white privilege more than the government’s reaction to child sex abuse

Nothing underlines white privilege more than the government’s reaction to child sex abuse.

When allegations of paedophilia rings and child sex abuse in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory were made, the government sent in the army, stripped people of their rights, and made draconian rules affecting whole communities.

When allegations of child sex abuse were made about children in offshore detention, the government attacked those making the allegations.

When rampant child sex abuse in the Catholic Church was exposed, former Prime Ministers lined up to provide character references for the offenders.

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Forget gender and ethnicity, our parliament isn’t even representative of our vote

In the last federal House of Representatives election, the Coalition collectively got 42.04% of the first preference vote, Labor got 34.73% and the Greens got 10.23%.

If we had proportional representation, that would equate to 63 seats for the Coalition, 52 for Labor and 15 for the Greens, instead of which we got 76 for the Coalition, 69 for Labor and just 1 for the Greens.

Of particular note is the Nationals Party who, with just 4.61% of first preference votes, got 10 seats.

This disproportionate representation might go a long way towards explaining why we spend so much time talking about the plight of coal miners and irrigators rather than the catastrophic effects of climate change.

People who care about the environment are disparaged as virtue-signalling latte-sipping smashed-avocado-eating inner-city-dwelling dilettantes who don’t understand that milk comes from a cow and that coal is responsible for their prosperity.

This derision usually comes from people with an eye to their profits rather than long-term solutions for what is an increasingly urgent problem.

I do understand that, for some, it is genuine concern about their livelihood, but if your job puts at risk the livelihood of many others, and further, the actual health of the planet, then we need to find you a new job.

It is true that the Greens vote is somewhat inflated comparatively because they run candidates in every seat while the Nationals just target those they think they will win, but over 10% of the country voted for a party that was not going to form government which shows the wider concern in the community for environmental and social justice issues.

The way things are, we have two opponents with a winner-takes-all result.  This makes them timid.  They are too scared to ever open up an avenue for political attack.  We can’t even say we want to help sick refugees without the hysterical hyperbole unleashing followed by ignominious backpedalling.

Tax cuts are used as sweeteners with both sides feeling they must outdo the other.  Surpluses are presented as the Holy Grail.  Responsible fiscal management is auctioned off.

They make announcements to appease certain voting groups rather than to prosecute good policy, with no guarantee then that they will follow through after the election.  After promising to match Paul Keating on superannuation, it took John Howard less than 6 months to abandon that promise.  Or Tony’s infamous “no cuts” election eve lie.

Richard Marles was very keen to assure everyone that Labor would match the Coalition promise to spend 2% of GDP on defence as well as committing to continue the massive spend on war machinery that will likely be obsolete before it ever arrives.

As pointed out today in the SMH, the future will be challenged by entirely new forms of war.

“Cyber, space and media conflicts are equally implicated in upending the established order.”

What use will our fighter jets and submarines and frigates and patrol boats be in defending us against the real dangers of the 21st century and the realities of modern warfare and influence peddling?

The only solution to this endless game of “me too” that I can see is if we have a multi-party executive that proportionally represents the community.  Perhaps if we did that they might start working together to actually find solutions rather than telling lies, making false promises. and matching the other side in a race to the bottom just to pick up votes.

They might start being leaders rather than followers of popularity polls.

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Coalition unveils its emissions reduction strategy – increase the population

Anyone who has followed the toxic climate change debate over the last decade must be questioning their sanity after the Coalition’s media blitz announcing their newfound interest, and apparent success (according to them), in reducing emissions.

Minister for down down prices are down, Angus Taylor, proudly boasted on The Project (kinda, cause I’m guessing he knows what a con this is) that emissions per capita are at their lowest level in 28 years.  That is true.  Not because emissions have come down but because the population has increased by over 2 million between September 2013 and now.

Scott Morrison exasperatedly said to Leigh Sales on 7:30 report that he can’t understand why people aren’t praising the Coalition for a “1.1 billion tonne carbon abatement turnaround”.

Perhaps because it didn’t happen?

Annual emissions for the year to September 2013 were estimated to be 542.1 Mt CO2 -e.  The latest data (which is 8 months old) shows that emissions for the year to June 2018 were 547.0 Mt CO2-e.  Anyone who can count would call that a significant increase in emissions.

Our first Kyoto target was to, by 2012, limit our increase in emissions to 8% above 1990 levels – hardly a worthy goal when the plan was to reduce emissions.  Because we didn’t increase by quite as much as we were allowed, we are calling that a carryover reduction to claim towards the next Kyoto target which is to reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels.

Just as well because the figures from June 2018 show we are only 2.4% below 2000 emissions and not a hope in hell to meet our 2020 target without that creative accounting.

We have also had the Prime Minister tell us that “Labor’s target of 45 per cent will cost everybody’s wages $9000 a year.”

Say what?

So where did that figure come from?  Oh a story in The Australian.  And where did their story come from?  A two page non-peer reviewed analysis by Brian Fisher whose writing in support of the coal industry has been rubbished before for its inaccuracies and wild assumptions.

ProMo could, of course, have referred to modelling from Frontier Economics which said that power prices will go down by 2030 and that the extent of the decrease is very little different under an emissions reduction target of 26% or 45% – 20.8% for the former compared to 18.3% for the latter – but instead he has gone full throttle into ‘Whyalla wipeout $100 lamb roast’ territory saying Labor’s policy is “a carbon tax on steroids.”  The only thing on steroids here is, once again, the hysterical rhetoric.

Another $2 billion over ten years will top up the Emissions Reduction Fund – oh sorry, the Climate Solutions Fund (nothing like a name change to make it seem like you are doing something) – which will be used to pay farmers to not clear land, or to plant some trees.  Wonder how that will go with fires and floods and droughts now a regular occurrence.

The Clean Energy Regulator recently cancelled six contracts from the government’s emissions reduction fund because they did not deliver the necessary cuts to carbon emissions.  The projects, worth a total of $24m, were cancelled at the end of October and should have delivered 2 million carbon credits.

The six contracts that were cancelled were all land-based projects that would have allowed the restoration or reforestation of land that had previously been cleared.

“To date, none of the projects associated with these contracts have generated abatement,” the regulator’s spokeswoman said.  How many other such contracts have also failed to deliver what they promised?

The government’s own agencies admit that the emissions reductions claimed in the land use sector are estimates with a high level of uncertainty.

ProMo also announced some money towards an interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria to help with Victoria’s power supply.  But hey, I thought renewables caused blackouts?  I can see some Coalition politicians having real trouble embracing this 180 degree turnaround.

It was only October, when asked if Australia would be held to the target to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% from 2005 levels, Morrison said: “No, we won’t … we’re not held to any of them at all. Nor are we bound to go and tip money into that big climate fund. We’re not going to do that either. I’m not going to spend money on global climate conferences and all that nonsense.”

What a difference an upcoming election makes – well to the words anyway.

If the lies that have been told on day one of the sales pitch are anything to go by, they are pinning their hopes on us just trusting them and on forgetting that infamous lump of coal so fondly caressed by the man who would have us believe he now gives a damn.

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Coalition women must stop enabling their misogynistic sexist male colleagues

Back in 2014, a confident Julie Bishop, buoyed by a substantive win at the 2013 election, took to the lectern at the National Press Club to tell us all she was no whingy whiny feminist.

“[Feminist] is not a term that I find particularly useful these days.  I just don’t use the term … It’s not part of my lexicon.”

She then went on to deny that Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, was the target of sexism and misogyny.

“I recognise that there was an extraordinary outpouring of goodwill towards Julia Gillard as our first female prime minister. But then, as should be the case, she was judged on her competence. And that’s where she was found wanting.  She then turned herself into a victim and portrayed herself as a victim. That was her choice”

Gender has nothing at all to do with it Julie tells us, which sounds awfully like the victim-blaming that we women know only too well.

“I’m not saying there is no glass ceiling. But you’re not going to get me saying that my career has been stymied because of a glass ceiling.   I’m not going to blame the fact that I’m a woman for it not working. I might look at whether I was competent enough or I worked hard enough or did the breaks go my way but I’m not going to see life through the prism of gender,” she said.

Michaelia Cash had expressed similar sentiments when she addressed the NPC in the lead-up to International Women’s Day.

“In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.  I consider myself a very lucky person whose parents told their four children to achieve, you work hard… All I know is that I believe in women … but I also believe in men.”

As Jamila Rizvi reminds us

“Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. And this isn’t just about who has the bits that make the babies. Australian women earn less from the very first year after they graduate from university and TAFE.

Women still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties.

Women are almost 51 per cent of the population and yet we hold less than 30 per cent of elected positions in the federal Parliament. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions.

Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes.

We earn less, we are heard less and we are hurt more.

And all of this pales in comparison, to the women around the world who still do not share the basic rights, safety, freedoms and equalities that here in Australia we all take for granted.”

But let’s not upset the boys by mentioning it.

This sort of enabling by Liberal and National women has consequences.  Not only is there a dearth of women representatives, we have endured the unedifying spectacle of claims of sexual harassment and bullying by male politicians.

When a few women were so shocked by the behaviour of their male colleagues during the leadership spill that they actually called them out on it (without naming names), they were quickly silenced.  Here, take an all-expenses-paid trip to New York.  Oh and you two can have an Assistant Minister’s job, there’s a good pet.  And any of the rest of you who don’t know what’s good for you, remember your preselection is not guaranteed (unless you are that stellar performer Craig Kelly).

The oh so earnestly sincere Greg Hunt, the man who has perfected the puppy dog look, launched into a tirade against the mayor of Katherine when she had the temerity to speak to him about better resources to deal with contamination from fire-fighting foam in her region.

“The very first mouthful was ‘you’ve got to f–––ing get over it, you’ve got to make Senator Scullion your f–––ing best friend’,” Ms Miller told ABC radio.  “The next two sentences also contained the F-word, and then he sat back a little in his chair and said, ‘I’ve heard you’re feisty’.  And I thought, ‘Really?’ I hadn’t said a word, not a word at this stage, because I was in such a state of shock at what he was saying.”

Asked how she found Mr Hunt’s attitude during the meeting, Ms Miller replied: “Misogynist.”

The tone had been set by the leaders of the Coalition parties.

In the lead up the 2013 election, when Tony Abbott was asked about the attributes of candidate Fiona Scott, he described her as young and feisty “with a bit of sex appeal”.

Prior to that, in 2012, Barnaby Joyce, who had by his own admission “consumed a few drinks” before entering the chamber, was speaking on a water efficiency bill when he was “distracted” by the sight of fellow Nationals Senator McKenzie, who was sitting a few feet away.

“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.”

Both of these women, though obviously embarrassed, laughed it off as a compliment.

No.  That is NOT how one should treat female colleagues at work.

Until women find the courage to recognise the problem and call it out, until we draw a line in the sand and demand respect for what we do, not comments on how we look, we will continue to be patronised by those men who would prefer we remained in domestic servitude rather than challenging for the jobs they feel are rightfully theirs.

So Julie, why do YOU think your party abandoned you when, according to all the polls and the bookmakers, you should have been a shoe-in for the top job.  Not competent enough?  Didn’t work hard enough?  Or a room full of men who just can’t stand the idea of having a woman boss?

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Better economic managers? You gotta be shitting me

According to just about every journalist, commentator, and Liberal/National politician, the Coalition are better economic managers.

Crap.

Pretty much every problem we have can be laid squarely at their feet.

Despite being the unwitting beneficiary of a mining boom largely due to the expansion of China, John Howard made the stellar decision to sell off Telstra and hasn’t that gone well for us.

Back in 2006 when we still owned a majority share (he had only sold off 49% at that stage), Telstra wanted to move away from copper and start rolling out fibre-to-the-node which could have been slowly upgraded to fibre-to-the-premises to prepare us for the future.  Howard and the ACCC put up so many hurdles regarding competition that Telstra gave up.  That decision set our telecommunications back twenty years.

We hear a lot about power prices from this government.  As the Australia Institute points out:

“The promise two decades ago to Australia was that privatising, corporatising and marketization of the electricity sector would deliver cheaper and better electricity supply. That never happened.  Between December 1996 and December 2016 Australian electricity prices increased by 183 per cent—almost three times the overall increase in prices.  Instead, privatisation has seen a blow out in the number of managers relative to other workers in the electricity labour force and it now employs an army of sales, marketing and other workers who do not actually make electricity.”

Everybody from the RBA boss on down is saying workers must have a wage rise to keep the economy moving along.  But the Coalition, instead, reduce penalty rates for low paid workers, demonise and undermine unions and their ability to negotiate, and stack the Fair Work Commission with fellow travellers who will support the employers’ side every time.  This has resulted in a period of the lowest wage growth in history, a growth in precarious employment, and an increase in worker exploitation.  Oh, and the highest private debt in the world.

The business and social services community are also in furious agreement that unemployment benefits are so low that they are a hindrance to seeking employment.  Despite the fact that over 3 million people are living in poverty, the Coalition launch an all-out attack on welfare recipients, chasing possible debts from a decade ago, imposing draconian compliance regimes, and excluding people from payments altogether for various reasons.

A hot topic for the election – well with Tim Wilson and his cousin anyway – is protecting one of John Howard’s many unsustainable tax concessions.  Howard’s tax cuts combined with changes to negative gearing, capital gains, superannuation, excess franking credits and various other claimable expenses etc has severely eroded our revenue base now that the boom is fading away.  But as we have seen in some ugly incidents at seniors meetings, trying to get self-funded retirees to actually fund themselves is no easy matter.  A gift once given cannot be taken away – unless it’s the baby bonus or the schoolkids bonus or the clean energy supplement to pensioners.  Poor people don’t have politicians organise seminars for them to express their displeasure.

There is an enormous body of evidence of the economic return from tertiary education, not just to the individual, but to society.  But the Coalition want to pursue the American model where our children must pay, meaning anyone who doesn’t have rich parents will start their adult life with a huge debt which limits their ability to borrow money to buy a home or start a business.

Rather than supporting our vocational education sector and anticipating our future workforce needs, we now import foreign labour to fill skills shortages.  Private colleges get accreditation with no evaluation or oversight – all it takes is a wink wink scholarship to a politician’s daughter or attendance at a Liberal Party fundraiser with cheque book in hand.  Then they are free to offer intellectually disabled people a free laptop to sign up for courses in rocket science.

As the government wrings its hands about the increasing cost of private health insurance, they sell off the government owned competitor who could have acted as a price standard.  But hey, a one-off $5 billion sugar hit in the hand towards being able to promise a surplus is better than the profits it was contributing to the public coffers and any handbrake it may have exerted on prices.

Coalition politicians are eager to tell us how crucial coal is to our economy.  So much so that they are considering investing billions of dollars of public money into it.  I am yet to find one stockbroker who is advising his clients that they should do likewise.  Or any bank that is keen to be involved.  Economies that are too reliant on single products expose themselves to great risk, particularly if that product must be phased out for humanity’s survival.  How about the economic contribution made by the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling?  How about the economic cost of extreme weather events exacerbated by global warming?

And don’t tell me it’s about jobs.  How they can spin that line after refusing to support the car industry is beyond me.

The last couple of weeks have highlighted the Coalition’s practice of handing out huge amounts of government money to dubious players without going through due process let alone diligence, oversight or evaluation.  It has gotten so bad that the government has gagged its own Auditor-General from releasing his reports.

These people are not “good economic managers” just because they happened to be in government during a boom time decades ago when my pet rabbit could have delivered a surplus.

They are rank amateurs spouting lines they learned at Young Liberals meetings and reading scripts fed to them by the IPA and the Minerals Council and anyone else out to avoid contributing anything whilst diverting public money into their own pockets.

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