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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.”

The trouble with being privileged is that you cannot fathom what it is like for those who are not

When Linda Reynolds and Christian Porter shed public tears, it was not for a young employee who had allegedly been raped in your workplace by another hand-picked employee, it was not for a friend from years ago who had tragically taken her own life.

Oh no, those tears were solely about the possible political consequences for the Ministers involved.

When Joe Hockey increased the fuel excise, he told us it wouldn’t impact poor people because they “either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far.” Ignore the tolls that cripple those who live in the outer suburbs, ignore the price rises that businesses pass on to cover higher distribution and delivery costs.

Julia Banks told us that she “could live on 40 bucks a day knowing that the government is supporting me with Newstart looking for employment.” I would suggest lawyer and businesswoman Julia, has never drawn up a budget in her life without a sizable bank account, portfolio of assets, and high income to back it up.

Michaelia Cash didn’t whinge when she had “practically nothing” as she spent three years backpacking around the world after finishing university. She knows what it’s like to try to survive on $40 a day whilst holidaying overseas decades ago.

But hey, the poor are getting an extra $3.50 a day. Hawaii here we come!

When Jon Faine was discussing how his children could not break into the property market, Malcolm Turnbull’s response was that Faine should “shell out for them – you should support them… You can provide a bit of intergenerational equity in the Faine family.”

Joe Hockey had an even better plan.

“The starting point for a first home buyer is to get a good job that pays good money,” he said. “Then you can go to the bank and you can borrow money.”

Simples.

Whenever the Coalition carries on about ‘mum-and-dad investors’ and self-funded retirees, I wonder if they realise that, for so many Australians, investment is something entirely beyond their means. Too many families struggle to feed and house their children. The idea of investing to provide for a comfortable retirement will never be on their radar.

What the hell are franking credits and how did they become so important?

The government cannot understand why the public want transparency about contracts and grants. The money is theirs to give to whoever they want and if they want to give millions to Foxtel, they will.

When Gladys Berejiklian was questioned about handing out grants to Coalition seats with no consultation, her office had sadly shredded all documents and erased all emails about the matter.

And why should porkbarrelling concern us anyway wondered an incredulous Gladys. Everyone does it. It’s not illegal.

When Indigenous men were accused of child sex abuse, we staged a military style Intervention. When Catholic priests were accused of child sex abuse, Prime Ministers wrote them references.

When Indigenous people have an alcohol problem, we subject them to income management. When politicians have an alcohol problem, they write a book.

The government want to cut taxes again.

But all that means to those who pay no taxes – the young, the elderly, the poor, the unemployed, the disabled – is that there will be less money to provide the services they need.

But hey, why should the vulnerable spoil a political strategy. I’m sure Crosby-Textor have their tax misinformation campaign cocked and ready to fire.

And that’s without mentioning some of the consequences of male privilege… which I am too exhausted to talk about any more.

The notion that we are all treated equally before the law is one that only privileged people could possibly believe.

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We’re not advocating violence or revolution … yet

When Martyn Iles, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, recently suggested at a Church and State Conference in Brisbane that society would not be so concerned about climate change or gender identity if we were at war with China, conference convener Dave Pellowe, who once appeared in an infamous selfie with members of the neo-fascist Proud Boys group, interjected: “We’re not advocating violence or revolution … today.” Mr Iles added: “Not yet, that’s down the line.”

The conference, titled “Kingdom Come”, is about “arming Christians” to be influential in “the ongoing formation of our society’s culture, institutions & legislative bodies” through political participation.

This supposedly ‘non-denominational, nonpartisan’ collection of Christian Right activists exhorted people to join the Coalition parties.

“It’s not branch stacking, it’s participation. It’s what they’ve been doing with the Frankfurt School and the infiltration of the institutions for 50 years. It’s just turning up. And it’s our turn to turn up,” said Pellowe.

George Christensen suggested Christians proceed by stealth.

“We have got to pick the battles that we can win on in the public arena in order to get elected and be in government, and then prosecute the other battles while you’re in government,” he said.

Obviously still fuming about losing the marriage equality debate, Iles has identified the “transgender thing” as the weakest part of the LGBTQI rights movement.

He boasted about his organisation’s campaign against Victoria’s recent ban on “conversion” therapy which he said yielded 13,000 calls to MPs.

“All of a sudden I’m actually seeing people rising up more and more and more,” he said. “Give this a couple of years and we’ll be able to put such a shockwave through any Parliament in the country they won’t even know what hit them. And we’re almost at that point.”

George Pell also contributed his two cents’ worth (adjusted for his inflated self-opinion), proclaiming that “Christianity is self-evidently the best paradigm for public policy in human history,” and urging the audience “not to co-operate” with attempts to change “Christian language patterns” about gender, motherhood and fatherhood.

“Politely, stubbornly, persistently refuse to be silenced and refuse to give ground,” he instructed.

These men see an “existential” threat to the practice of Christianity. They are also agreed that climate change is leftist crap.

In 2018, The Age reported that “at least 10 of the 78 people elected to the Liberals’ administrative bodies at the party’s April state council are Mormons. Combined with conservative Catholics, evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders, the religious right-wing now has unprecedented sway in Liberal Party politics.”

After Scott Morrison had ‘absolutely nothing to do with the knifing of Malcom Turnbull’ and assumed his ‘divinely inspired elevation to power’, the Pentacostals stepped up their campaign warning that, if Morrison wasn’t elected in 2019, “The laws are going to change where darkness is going to come and there will be persecution on the church.” (Cue lightning and thunder)

Persecuting transgender people will, however, be a key campaign strategy.

Not that they are advocating violence … yet.

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Wednesday was a weird day

Angus Campbell isn’t a bad man. The vast majority of Australian men aren’t ‘bad’ men. But they still seem to think it is a woman’s fault if she gets raped.

Don’t be out after midnight. Don’t drink. Don’t be alone. Don’t look attractive. Or you risk becoming ‘prey’?

Do men feel that way? If a man goes out with his mates and gets pissed, does that make him a likely target for anal rape?

When Fraser Anning introduced a bill for governments to legalise and promote the carrying of pepper spray, mace and tasers by women for “political protection”, Sarah Hanson-Young made the point that the onus should not be on women to protect themselves but rather on men to change their behaviour. David Leyjonhelm, bless his cotton socks, told her if that was the way she felt, she should stop shagging men because we all know the rumours about her promiscuity. The High Court threw out his appeal against the ruling that said he had defamed SHY.

Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, addressed the National Press Club asking for us all to listen, learn, and change.

In a lesson to Scott Morrison on getting it real, she said you don’t need to be a father to have a conscience and being a father doesn’t mean you have one.

When asked if Morrison’s rhetoric about listening to sexual assault survivors matched his actions, she replied “Clearly not”.

And then Christian Porter gave his press conference.

It could have gone like this…

‘It is not fair that my Cabinet colleagues are subject to speculation. It is me that has been named in an allegation of a serious crime.

I can confirm that I knew the complainant when we were teenagers, and I can understand the anguish felt by her family and friends at her premature death, but I know what I have been accused of didn’t happen.

I do not want to add to their pain and I will co-operate fully with any investigation that others feel appropriate.’

But it didn’t.

Christian spent 45 minutes speaking about himself being the victim and the mental toll it was taking on him.

When Linda Reynolds cancelled her planned National Press Club address as she had booked herself into hospital due to the stress of reporting of how she handled a rape that happened in her office, well wishes poured in. Get well, Linda. It’s been tough for you.

The alleged rapist has also booked himself into hospital.

Will we listen to our Australian of the Year, and the many other women who are crying out trying to help men to understand how things are and how they must change?

It was 1975 when I won a public speaking award where the headline in the local paper said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias.”

We make haste slowly.

But we cannot give up.

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Fight Club, Wolverines and Swinging Dicks – is this what we call “grown-up government”?

When Young Liberals in Chris Hartcher’s Terrigal electorate were inspired by Brad Pitt’s Fight Club to head out late at night on what they called “Black Ops” to tear down opposition election posters, one could perhaps, despite the illegality, dismiss this as kids going a bit too far. The fact that Liberal hopeful Aaron Henry signed his email call-to-action as ”Tyler Durden” (Brad Pitt’s character) shows just how juvenile this crowd were.

But when one of them then tried to destroy the career of Sydney Water chief Dr Kerry Schott via an anonymous email detailing a false complaint to the NSW ICAC, they moved from silly kids to dangerous.

Carrying on in the same vein, there is a parliamentary group who call themselves the “Wolverines”, a nod to the 1984 Hollywood film Red Dawn, about a team of high school football jocks thwarting a Soviet invasion of the United States.

The group, who boast about their preparedness to ‘speak out against China’s expanding power’, includes Andrew Hastie, backbench MPs Tim Wilson and Phillip Thompson, along with Senators James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching, and they are identified by stickers featuring wolf claw marks on the entrances of their parliamentary suites.

The AFR’s James Curran put it well when he said “It is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at this kind of juvenilia from some of the nation’s elected representatives. But we are where we are.”

Once again, we could dismiss this as silly kid stuff except Andrew Hastie has recently been promoted to Assistant Minister for Defence and, replacing him as chair of Federal Parliament’s powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security, is James Paterson.

As background, Hastie was the commander of an SAS troop in Afghanistan who cut off the hands of dead people. When he saw what was going on, he asked another SAS member to find out if the practice was permitted under Defence rules and regulations. In the subsequent inquiry, Cpt Hastie is quoted as saying, “My gut instinct was okay, that’s a strange practice.” Another SAS member said, “There’s no uncertainty. I wouldn’t cut f***ing people’s hands off, sir.

Paterson’s pre-parliament experience was as an unpaid political intern followed by a stint at the IPA where, at the ripe old age of 24, he co-authored the infamous 75 radical ideas to transform Australia, a document that was all about profit, privatisation and deregulation at the expense of society.

These two self-titled Wolverines were both denied visas to enter Beijing for a planned study tour in 2019 because of their ham-fisted outspoken attempts to bully China.

In a climate that requires nuanced diplomacy, who better to head our security committee than these two Liberal backbenchers who have already pissed China off, thinks Scott Morrison. Apparently.

Then we hear from former Liberal MP Sharman Stone that a group of men in parliament who called themselves the “swinging dicks” blocked Liberal MP Julie Bishop’s leadership aspirations.

Seriously. Dick-swingers is a disparaging term that women I know use to describe men who try to cover their inadequacy by bullying. The fact that this group called themselves that shows how entitled the Liberal boys club in Canberra believes themselves to be.

Fight Club, Wolverines, and Swinging Dicks? So this is their idea of “grown-up government“?

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The only jobs the Nats are concerned about are their own

When you have a leader whose most memorable contribution has been a rather tragic Elvis impersonation, I guess it’s understandable that the natives might get restless. But in the last few weeks, the Nats have gone so far off reservation they seem to be occupying a totally different universe.

It took a workplace rape in a Minister’s office to get Parliament to sit up and take notice of the many women who have been complaining about the culture of sexism, intimidation, bullying and harassment that exists in the boys’ club in Canberra.

At the same time as numerous investigations and reviews are being undertaken, there is open conjecture about the return of Barnaby Joyce to the leadership of the Nationals.

This is the man who opposed marriage equality because of the “sanctity of the marriage vows between a man and a woman” yet he was having regular unprotected sex with a junior staff member resulting in an extramarital pregnancy.

But that’s not why he resigned.

He resigned because of a formal sexual harassment complaint against him, and rumours of several more women with similar allegations.

To get the numbers to stage yet another go at getting a payrise, Barnaby is wooing Craig Kelly to join the Nats. One of the reasons Kelly quit the Liberal Party was his refusal to sack an adviser that has numerous sexual harassment complaints against him from young women in Kelly’s office.

Is this the team to put together when their workplace is under investigation for the treatment of the women who work there?

Barnaby decided to move his own amendment in parliament to allow the CEFC’s grid reliability fund to invest in new coal-fired power plants. I’m not sure why Barnaby thinks they have party room meetings if you aren’t even going to run it by your own side first. Most likely it was designed to try to attract attention from someone other than Mike Bowers.

Not to be outdone, Sports-rorter Bridget McKenzie and Matt King Coal gathered their three newbie fellow backbenchers in the Senate to front the cameras and tell us that we must support nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.

Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Canavan said “I don’t think we should be heading down this – giving any credence to this net-zero emissions path, that would shut down large sections of rural Australia. It costs thousands of people their jobs in the agricultural and mining and manufacturing industries. They’re the lifeblood of our towns.”

Mirroring the Whyalla being wiped off the map line that Barnaby loved, Canavan added “You know, you won’t have towns like Moranbah if you don’t have a mining industry.”

Perhaps Matt is unaware of what the locals feel about the 100% FIFO workforce who have made housing unaffordable and filled the town with men. You also don’t have a mining industry if there is no demand for your product and it would probably be a good idea to prepare for that time.

A report by Beyond Zero Emissions, an energy and climate change thinktank, says practical projects to decarbonise the economy could create 1.78m “job years” over the next five years – on average, 355,000 people in work each year – while modernising Australian industry.

Maybe Matt doesn’t know that the members of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) voted in favour of “an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero by 2050,” suggesting there is “huge potential for Australia to be a global leader in low-emissions agriculture.”

It seems farmers don’t want agriculture to be “carved out”, as the (at time of writing) Nationals leader had insisted. In fact, the red meat sector has a target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and is already making great headway on research and new technologies that will enable that transformation.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator and the CSIRO, if the Nationals want cheap reliable power, they should be championing solar and wind with pumped hydro and batteries for storage, new transmission lines from renewable energy zones, and better links between states.

“At 90% renewable energy, the total cost [of generation, storage and transmission] is A$63/MWh. But that’s still cheaper than the cost of new coal and gas-fired electricity generation, which is in the range of A$70 to A$90/MWh (under ideal assumptions of low fuel pricing and no climate policy risk).”

Nuclear was the most expensive option examined. It also is not renewable (needing uranium fuel), produces radioactive waste, uses an enormous amount of water, and would take at least 15 years to come on line.

Carbon capture and storage is just a way to keep the fossil fuel industry going. Aside from the fact that it doesn’t really work and isn’t commercially viable (yet), it misses the point that we have to, as far as possible, stop adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Reducing how much we add isn’t good enough.

When Angus Taylor announced a parliamentary inquiry into establishing a nuclear industry, he may not have just been appeasing the Nats. As reported in the Guardian:

“At least in part, the minister seems to have been informed by the work of SMR Nuclear Technology, a company hoping to bring [small modular reactors] to Australia. Its directors include coal power plant owner and Coalition donor Trevor St Baker, who the company says has met Taylor on the issue.”

That’s the guy that Gladys Berejiklian sold Vales Point power station to for $1 million.

I will leave the final words to anti-corruption campaigner Tony Fitzgerald:

“Politics today is a clash of interests, not ideas. The established parties, which receive large sums of public money to finance their campaigns, are controlled by professional, “whatever it takes” politicians driven by self-interest and ideology and addicted to vested interest funding.

To them, political ethics is merely an amusing oxymoron. Power provides a rich opportunity for personal and political advantage: cronyism, the sale of access and influence and the misuse of public money are now scandalous.

The “winning is all that matters” conduct from politicians affects community attitudes. Australian society is gradually becoming less egalitarian and more cynical and self-centered as economic policies redistribute wealth upwards, widening the gap between “haves” and “have-nots” and producing a largely powerless underclass.

Our boasted commitment to a “fair go” for all sits uneasily with social realities: multibillion-dollar fortunes and mega-mansions while there are homeless children on the streets, Indigenous children living in broken communities and children who’ve been detained and traumatised because they asked for refuge; meagre pensions and generous middle-class welfare; a paltry minimum wage, low wages even for essential services workers and executives who are paid a lifetime’s income in a year; tax deductions to enable investors to purchase multiple properties to rent to families who can’t afford to buy homes because of the investors’ tax advantages; economic trickle-down mumbo-jumbo justifying tax cuts for imaginary rich altruists who seek more wealth only to create jobs for the poor; the rejection of environmental realities so that plutomaniacs can increase their pointless, unspendable fortunes and disturbingly little concern for the interests of future generations.

In the circumstances, community unrest and political instability are inevitable, as is the eruption of disruptive ultra-nationalist groups which promote sham nostalgia, foster prejudice, rebrand ignorance as common sense, encourage resentment toward an educated, progressive “elite” and mislead the gullible with crazy theories and empty promises.”

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Dob on us and see what happens

When Peter van Onselen revealed that the prime minister’s office was deliberately backgrounding journalists to smear Brittany Higgins’ now partner, I thought here we go again – dob on us and see what happens.

Whenever this government is threatened with negative publicity, they respond with character assassination, threats, and vindictive retribution.

Bernard Collaery, a barrister and former ACT attorney-general, is facing jail for allegedly helping his client, intelligence officer Witness K, reveal information about Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste government offices to gain the upper hand during oil and gas negotiations in 2004. The trial is being conducted in secret.

When Adelaide-based public servant Richard Boyle revealed disturbing debt-collection practices by the ATO, he was hit with charges which could see him spend the rest of his life in jail.

A few weeks before the 2016 election, the AFP raided the parliamentary office of shadow communications minister Stephen Conroy and the home of one of his staffers looking for leaked documents detailing the massive cost blowouts and delays at NBN Co, contrary to what the government had been telling the public. A Senate committee later ruled that the raids constituted ‘improper interference’ on the functions of parliament.

Likewise, in October 2018 the AFP raided a home affairs employee’s home and the Canberra office of the department over leaks concerning Peter Dutton’s ministerial intervention in the case of two foreign au pairs. When it was revealed that Dutton’s chief of staff, Craig Maclachlan, was alerted to the fact the raids were going to take place the day before by the deputy commissioner, Neil Gaughan, it led to a complaint by the targeted public servant that there were “reasonable grounds to suspect the AFP is neither operationally independent or without political bias”.

When the Australian Human Rights Commission produced a report about the abuse of children in immigration detention and their declining physical and mental health, the government attacked Gillian Triggs mercilessly. It got very personal.

Scott Morrison also dismissed Save the Children staff, incorrectly claiming they had been “coaching” asylum seekers to self-harm. Despite commissioning a report which verified what the AHRC had said and exonerated the Save the Children staff (who consequently received a large settlement), no apology was forthcoming from Morrison and Triggs’ contract was not renewed.

The ABC’s revelation of allegations of potential war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan led to raids on the national broadcaster and the AFP referring journalist Dan Oakes for prosecution – charges that the CDPP subsequently decided not to pursue.

When Emma Alberici wrote an article analysing the government’s proposed company tax cuts and questioning whether they would deliver the claimed outcomes of greater business investment and higher wages, the politicians and Murdoch media went into such a frenzy that the ABC removed the article. After Alberici engaged lawyers, a slightly changed version of the article was reposted. However, with the axing of Lateline, Ms Alberici has now largely disappeared from our screens.

The ABC has been in the firing line ever since the Coalition came to power. Whether it be intelligence officers paying people smugglers, the shocking mismanagement of water resources, or the licentious behaviour of men in parliament – the government does not want their dirty linen aired in public and have made that very clear with constant complaints, attempts at editorial influence, and most destructive of all, savage funding cuts.

The same has happened to the Australian National Auditors Office with information withheld and reports gagged under spurious grounds like commercial-in-confidence and national security, followed by significant funding cuts.

None of what has been reported has been disputed – it has all proven to be factual. Nevertheless, the message is clear.

To quote Peter Dutton, if you dob, you’re ‘dead to me’.

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The daggy dad’s empathy vacuum

Scott Morrison has worked very hard on selling himself as an ordinary bloke who wears baseball caps and board shorts and thongs, a daggy dad who loves his footy and cooking curries, a good Christian family man.

At least, that’s the marketing.

But time and again, the veneer cracks and we see the real Scott Morrison – a power-hungry, political animal, devoid of empathy.

It began with his preselection and the man who beat him 82 to 8 votes, Michael Towke. Two senior Liberals who wanted Morrison instead, abetted by Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph, then embarked on a crusade of defamatory character assassination which saw Mr Towke’s political career destroyed and his mother end up in hospital from the stress caused by baseless headlines suggesting Towke was a liar who was facing jail time.

None of it was true. The Telegraph settled out of court and apologised but the damage was done. Scotty was on the way.

In December 2010, as opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

That same month, forty-eight asylum seekers died in the Christmas Island boat disaster. Morrison criticised the Gillard government for “wasting taxpayers’ money” on paying for relatives to attend the funerals of their family members.

Immediately after winning the 2013 election, Morrison stepped up the dehumanisation strategy, instructing departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘‘illegal’’ arrivals and as ‘‘detainees’’, rather than as clients. This language suggests criminality. People held on Manus and Nauru were to be called “transferees”, like they were some sort of package in transit.

When Morrison moved on to Minister for Social Services, he remodelled himself with a fluffier image. This was a deliberate move, a stepping stone along the road.

Whatever the image he was trying to portray, it was during Morrison’s tenure that Robodebt was conceived.

In his 2019 campaign launch, Morrison derided Labor for their “incompetent administration” of programs like “School halls. Pink batts. Cash-for clunkers.”

The scale of devastation from robodebt dwarfs any and all such failures.

On the eve of the May 2015 budget, Morrison embarked on a media blitz, doing six interviews in the morning to sell his $3.5 billion radical overhaul of the childcare subsidies system – a move that was seen as calculated to steal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s thunder.

Morrison, when asked the obvious question, insisted he did not want Mr Hockey’s job, and he wasn’t angling to be prime minister.

“I’ll be the prop forward taking it up and he can be the one who will score the try and that’s what he’ll be doing on Budget day.’’

Kind of like when he put his arm around Malcolm Turnbull and smirked, “I am ambitious for this guy.”

Treasurer was the next stepping stone, doling out the public coffers to garner support for his ultimate goal – Smirker-in-chief. Then hugely underspending on the NDIS so he could brag about a surplus.

Morrison had no regard for his colleagues as he stepped all over them to get to the top.

He didn’t care about migrants trying to settle in a new country, or asylum seekers fleeing war and oppression.

He didn’t care about welfare recipients pushed to the brink when confronted with debts they didn’t owe and couldn’t pay.

He didn’t care about the many women who said they had been bullied and intimidated during the leadership coup.

He didn’t care about the bushfires ravaging Australia while he was sitting poolside in Hawaii sipping a coldie.

He doesn’t care about Indigenous Australians’ fight for a Voice.

He doesn’t care about the people waiting for NDIS or home care packages.

And he had to imagine his own daughters being assaulted to “clarify” for him what he should feel about a staffer being raped in his workplace.

It was no surprise to hear that Morrison’s government paid $190,000 of taxpayer money to an empathy consultant on how best to show drought-stricken farmers they care about them.

Scotty doesn’t do empathy unless the focus groups suggest he should pretend to care and someone else explains to him what that looks like.

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If there is one thing you can rely on from our government, it’s inconsistency

A few weeks ago, Peter Dutton decided to release dozens of refugees who had been held in Melbourne hotel rooms for more than a year because it was “cheaper for people to be in the community than it is to be at a hotel or for us to be paying for them to be in detention.”

What a revelation.

Dutton told 2GB radio the released men had been assessed as not being a threat.

Which is a turnaround from his fearmongering 2 years ago that the medevac bill, allowing these refugees to receive medical treatment on mainland Australia, would lead to “Alleged murderers, rapists and paedophiles” coming to Australia.

Speaking of not being a threat, another court decision will be made today about the ongoing detention of the Biloela family.

Priya, Nades, and their Australian-born daughters, Kopika, five, and Tharunicaa, three, were taken from their home in Queensland and moved to Melbourne in March 2018 and have been detained on Christmas Island since August 2019.

Department figures provided to the Senate estimates process last month show keeping the family detained has cost $1.4m in the past year.

The case today is the government appealing a previous ruling against them in which they were ordered to pay costs. The legal bill to keep this family detained must be astronomical.

As we await the decision about the Tamil family, Foreign Minister Marise Payne is, once again, admonishing China.

Speaking at a video conference organised by the Canadian government this morning, Payne said Australia would “hold countries to account for their international commitments and their obligation to comply with international laws and practices”.

“The practice of arbitrary detention is against international law. States must uphold all of their international human rights obligations, and that includes those owed to foreign and dual nationals within their jurisdictions …”

I think you may be leaving yourself wide open there Marise.

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Claiming credit when it’s not due

When Scottyfrommarketing launched his campaign for the 2019 election, he focused on the economy.

“Our Government has restored our nation’s finances. We have handed down – well done Josh and the entire ERC team – the first Budget surplus in more than a decade, back in the black.”

As it turns out, they “handed down” a deficit of $690 million followed by increasing the debt and deficit to record levels.

Scotty boasted that “We have kept our Triple A credit rating.”

The first time Australia achieved a Triple A credit rating from all three major ratings agencies was in November 2011 thanks to Labor’s handling of the GFC.

He talked about how our strong economy supports our health system, mentioning the PBS, Medicare, and the NDIS – all of which conservatives fought tooth and nail against.

Seventy years ago, the Curtin wartime Labor government introduced legislation for a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). It was a response to the need to provide access to a wave of antibiotic drugs — sulfonamides, streptomycin, penicillin — to the whole population, not only to the minority able to afford them.

The scheme was immediately and successfully opposed by doctors and the conservative opposition, which saw in universal health care an underhand plan to nationalise medicine.

There were two High Court challenges, two referendums and a constitutional amendment; but it was not until 1960 that Australians had the comprehensive PBS envisaged by Curtin in 1944.

Likewise, the first iteration of Medicare, called Medibank, was introduced by the Whitlam Labor government in 1975, early in its second term.

The federal opposition under Malcolm Fraser had rejected Bills relating to its financing, which is why it took the government so long to get it established. It had only a short period of operation before the Whitlam government was dismissed.

The incoming Fraser government modified Medibank, establishing a levy of 2.5% on income to fund it (but providing the option to take out private health insurance instead). Interestingly, the levy was higher than that proposed by the Whitlam government and which the Coalition had blocked while in opposition.

Other changes followed, such as changes to agreements with the states over how much money hospitals would receive, restrictions in benefits and bulk billing, and rebates for those with private insurance.

Most of these changes were revoked by the incoming Hawke Labor government in 1984.

The NDIS is thanks to Julia Gillard’s Labor government who introduced the bill in November 2012 and saw it passed in March 2013.

And then along came Scott Morrison.

In 2016, the government scrapped an ad campaign letting people know about the NDIS. The budget committed to reduce the number of permanent employees in the NDIA to 3,000 when the Productivity Commission had estimated 10,000 were needed.

In 2018, it was reported that the NDIA were spending about $10 million a year for legal services employed to attempt to prevent people appealing for more money under the scheme or to prevent them from accessing the scheme. They lost about 40% of their cases.

The Morrison Government set up a Drought Future Fund for farmers using $3.9 billion “repurposed” from the NDIS.

Josh Frydenberg’s not-quite-a-surplus in 2019 was built on a $4.6 billion underspend on the NDIS because of ‘delays getting people into the program’.

The Future Fund’s September 2020 Portfolio update showed they have $16.1 billion sitting in the DisabilityCare Australia Fund invested in long-term deposits and cash delivering a 1.1% return over the previous 12 months. Imagine how much greater a return it could bring if it was actually invested in supporting the disabled and their carers to lead productive lives.

It gets particularly galling when Morrison, in his speech, claims credit for female participation in the workforce – “as in particular, the seven women in my Cabinet know, female participation is at record highs under a Liberal and National Government.”

Absolutely no concept of the fight women still have with his party to have control over their own reproductive health, allowing them to plan and choose. No understanding of how Whitlam changed so many lives by offering free tertiary education. No recognition of how Labor’s paid parental leave and subsidised childcare are the contributing factors which allow women to return to work. And how Labor’s compulsory superannuation guarantee is an incentive towards giving women some independence in their retirement.

A lot can be explained about conservatives’ view by Scotty’s belief that “the economy is what people live in. It’s real.”

Actually, we live in a society.

Rather than Morrison’s view that “it all begins with keeping our economy strong”, it begins with supporting our people to be strong – facilitating them to be their best. Economic and social benefits flow from this rather than the other way around.

Coalition governments measure their success by corporate profits and private wealth. Labor governments invest in the people.

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Who’s running this show?

There is a disturbing trend emerging of government ministers seemingly having no idea what their staff are doing.

Bridget McKenzie apparently doesn’t know which staffer in her office made changes to the sports grants after she had signed off on them. But she is certain it had nothing to do with the 136 emails with Morrison’s office.

Angus Taylor doesn’t know where he got a forged document from that he used to attack Clover Moore.

Michaelia Cash categorically denied that anyone in her office had contacted the media about the upcoming raid in her botched witch hunt after Bill Shorten. Until someone whispered in her ear during a break.

When Marise Payne admitted that she, along with other Cabinet ministers, had received a pirated e-copy of Malcolm Turnbull’s new book before publication, she insisted it had “absolutely not” come from the Prime Minister’s Office. Except it did come from an address from within the PMO and a staffer subsequently “apologised”.

Paul Fletcher told us that the decision to purchase the Leppington triangle land for 10 times its value was approved by a deputy secretary and that he knew nothing about it.

When proof of Peter Dutton personally interceding to grant visas to au pairs for his mates’was leaked, AFP Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan admitted that he alerted Mr Dutton’s chief of staff Craig Maclachlan to a raid on the whistleblower’s office and home ahead of time. Gaughan texted “that warrant activity will now be first thing tomorrow morning”. Maclachlan replied “thanks mate – this arvo also fine”, to which Mr Gaughan responded with a “thumbs up” emoji. Despite the text messages, Dutton said he “knew nothing” of the pending raid.

When Barnaby Joyce misled parliament about access to the Farm Household Allowance, his words were later mysteriously changed in Hansard. Joyce blamed a rogue staffer.

Endless examples of politicians rorting expense claims and failing to declare assets are put down to “administrative error”.

Perhaps if politicians paid a little more attention to their job and less to their photo shoots and “announcables” they might have a better handle on what is happening in their offices and departments.

But that might mean they had to take some responsibility when it’s so much easier to blame someone else and, if necessary, find them a new lucrative position elsewhere.

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Remember when Tony Abbott made himself Minister for Women?

Remember when Tony Abbott was elected on a promise of 6 months’ worth of replacement wages for maternity leave to encourage “women of calibre” to have more children?

It was about the first thing they dumped after being elected. But not only that, they then accused women who combined workplace and government entitlements to have a few more months at home with their newborn of double-dipping and promptly removed that option, sending women’s maternity leave entitlements backwards.

This is the man who, when asked about the attributes of a Liberal Party candidate in the 2013 campaign, said she had “sex appeal”.

This Prime Ministerial candidate said we should vote for him because he was the guy with the good-looking daughters whose virginity he described as “a gift”.

He opposed the Gardasil vaccination because he thought it would promote promiscuity. What? A bunch of 12 year olds suddenly think hey, I won’t get cervical cancer, let’s go bonk?

This is the man who dismissed contraception as part of the “me now” mentality, and abortion because it “violated instinctive respect for life”. That didn’t stop him from having unprotected sex with his girlfriend at university and then dumping her when she got pregnant.

And when he did get the top job, he made himself Minister for Women. I have no words.

True, Tony is yesterday’s man, but his attitudes towards women are alive and well in Coalition ranks.

Men in parliament still want to dictate to women about their reproductive health. A few of the women agree with them but you will find they are all religious and religions are founded and controlled by men.

When Queensland voted on a bill to finally decriminalise abortion, the LNP allowed a conscience vote — but when three of their MPs voted in favour of Labor’s bill, they were threatened with the loss of preselection by the party’s organisational wing. The bill passed but Deb Frecklington had promised to review it if the LNP won the election.

And then there’s Barnaby Joyce, the man who described Bridget McKenzie as a “flash bit of kit” when she joined the Senate.

When Joyce’s long-standing quite public affair with an employee resulted in her falling pregnant, he went on national tv to say his paternity was “a grey area” but he would magnanimously raise the child as his own.

Joyce’s explanation for this bizarre, and very tacky, statement was that he had been on an overseas work trip with his wife Natalie for 10 days from June 23, around the time the child was conceived.

Gee, I bet that made Nat feel good to know that Barnaby was having unprotected sex with at least one other woman who was having unprotected sex with at least one other man – and that he wanted to share that with the nation.

It was lurve, says Barnaby.

As did George Christensen when his predilection for Asian girly bars was outed. George spent nearly 300 days over a four-year period visiting “adult entertainment bars” during his 28 trips to the Philippines. It was so bad that ASIO warned the PM that Christensen could be vulnerable to being compromised.

Outrageous slurs cries George, never denying visiting these places that exploit women and, in many cases, much worse.

Jamie Briggs was forced to step down from the Turnbull Ministry after he “behaved inappropriately” towards a public servant on a boozy night out and then publicly outed her when she made a complaint. (Same approach Barnaby used when facing sexual harassment allegations – put the public spotlight on the woman)

Another Prime Ministerial aspirational, Peter Dutton, quickly texted his support for Briggs, describing a female journalist who reported on the incident as a “mad fucking witch” – somewhat reminiscent of the signs describing Julia Gillard as a witch and Bob Browne’s bitch, which several Liberal politicians, including future PM Abbott, were happy to be photographed with.

Assistant Minister Andrew Broad was also forced to resign after he was outed hooking up with a young woman on a sugar daddy dating site. Humiliatingly, he sent texts comparing himself to James Bond and telling her he knew “how to ride a horse, fly a plane and f— my woman”. Another read “I pull you close, run my strong hands down your back, softly kiss your neck and whisper ‘G’day mate’.”

More recently, we have been told about Christian Porter and Alan Tudge and their shenanigans with female staffers and their subsequent treatment.

These defenders of the bastions of morality had to have a rule written down to tell them they shouldn’t be bonking the hired help.

Perhaps even more troubling was the treatment of their female colleagues during Morrison’s coup.

Julia Banks moved to the crossbench citing bullying and intimidation from “within my own party”.

Lucy Gichuhi spoke of being bullied and intimidated and seeing female colleagues in tears.

Kelly O’Dwyer told the ABC that she had spoken to both male and female MPs in the wake of the leadership spill and “it is clear to me that people were subject to threats and intimidation and bullying”.

Linda Reynolds stood up in the Senate and said “I hope…whatever happens tomorrow that the behaviours that we have seen and the bullying and intimidation that I do not recognise as Liberal in any shape, way or form be brought to account.”

No-one was ever held to account. The women who had the temerity to complain were silenced by being discarded or promoted.

Back in 2015, Malcolm Turnbull, when announcing $100 million in federal funding to help stop violence against women, said that “disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women.”

If you think the Coalition men respect women as equals, just ask Julie Bishop.

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The world knows Scott Morrison is a liar. Now Australians need to wake up

Australia isn’t known as the Colossal Fossil for no reason – we win the award on a regular basis due to our determined efforts to stymie any global action on climate change.

If we go back to the beginning of this journey, unlike other countries, we negotiated Kyoto Protocol concessions that allowed Australia to increase emissions and count reductions due to stopping land clearing, and then refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol for 13 years.

Despite increasing international awareness of the danger we are facing, between 2000 and 2007, our GHG emissions increased by 16.3%.

When we finally got rid of the “lying rodent”, the ensuing seven years until the repeal of the carbon price in 2014 saw a decline in emissions of 15%.

We were hailed as world leaders for introducing carbon pricing and policies to promote the transition to a carbon neutral economy.

Then along came the Mad Monk.

UN Climate Change Conference, Warsaw, November 2013

This year’s Colossal Fossil goes to Australia. The new Australian Government has won its first major international award – the Colossal Fossil. The delegation came here with legislation in its back pocket to repeal the carbon price, failed to take independent advice to increase its carbon pollution reduction target and has been blocking progress in the loss and damage negotiations. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!

UN Climate Change Conference, Lima, December 2014

As Lima talks splutter to an end, Australia has gathered 5 Fossil of the Day Awards and been dishonoured with the Colossal Fossil of the year award, just as it was in Warsaw in 2013. Way to go Australia!

In the annual update to the Climate Change Performance Index released at Lima, Australia slipped to 60th in a list of 61 countries. Our ranking on the policy component of the index dropped a startling 21 places since the previous edition released in 2013.

The five years from 2014 to 2019 saw us decrease our emissions by a paltry 1.6%.

We did a little better in 2020. It only took a crippling drought, a global pandemic closing down the economy and international travel, and ignoring the emissions from the catastrophic bushfires. Even so, Australia’s annual emissions for the year to June 2020 were only 5.7% below emissions in the year to June 2000. Very little improvement to show for 20 years.

In December last year, the Climate Action Network did a five-year review of the Paris Agreement and we, once again, earned dishonourable mention.

Australia: Fossil for Not Honoring the 1.5°C Commitment

Before Scott Morrison became Australian Prime Minister, he once brandished a lump of coal in parliament. That was in 2017, when he accused his opponents of having a “pathological fear of coal”. A few short years later, the only pathological behaviour remains his government’s ongoing infatuation with fossil fuels when the rest of the world has moved on. As the largest exporter of coal and gas, Australia’s federal government has done virtually nothing over the past five years to tackle the climate emergency. The government’s woefully inadequate 2030 Paris Agreement target is in line with a catastrophic 3°C rise. And it has tried to cheat by using carryover credits from the Kyoto Protocol to meet around half of it. The Australian government has refused to set a national long term target (net zero by 2050) despite every State and Territory of Australia having now set a long term net zero climate target. Australia’s current emission reduction trend will reach net-zero in 300 years! And to top it all, Australia has withdrawn funding entirely from the Green Climate Fund.

The world watched swathes of Australia’s bush burn last summer contributing to significant biodiversity loss and impacting the most vulnerable people. Besides stinking up the planet, Australia appears to be reneging on a commitment to net zero emissions made to Pacific Island Neighbours in October 2019. How does Australia face its Pacific Island neighbours, many of whom will be displaced in the next two-to-three decades unless we scale up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C? Australia must get sensible fast otherwise the Morrison government is staring at a dark legacy of climate inaction. Will future generations have to view plastic replicas of the Great Barrier Reef in a museum of climate horrors alongside stuffed mounts of the critically endangered Mountain Pygmy Possum?

In the context of all this, we have a government refusing to stop fossil fuel subsidies, insisting on a gas-led recovery, subsidising oil production, and persistently toying with the idea of building new coal-fired power stations. They are pinning their hopes on carbon capture and storage in order to prolong fossil fuel burning despite its lack of success and commercial unviability. They won’t even do anything to promote or facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles.

And the excuse for this inaction? We won’t commit to any target until we know how we will get there and how much it will cost.

Seriously.

If anyone can tell me what technology will be available in 2050 and how much anything will cost in 30 years’ time, I’d be interested to hear it.

We listen to health experts about the pandemic. It’s similarly crucial that we listen to the warnings and advice from experts about the health of the planet.

And Scotty – Matt Canavan, Keith Pitt, George Christensen, Craig Kelly and Jim Molan do not qualify as experts.

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If anyone should go, it should be Joel Fitzgibbon

As Labor goes through yet another bout of self-destructive leadership undermining and internal dissent, and a shadow cabinet reshuffle is leaked to the press ahead of time, this morning’s news should be enough to show them the way.

Joe Biden’s new climate envoy, John Kerry, said this in Washington:

I think that unfortunately workers have been fed a false narrative … they have been fed the notion that somehow dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it’s not. What’s happening to them is happening because of other market forces that are already taking place.

Meanwhile, on Radio National, Joel Fitzgibbon has welcomed the yet-to-be officially announced removal of Mark Butler from the shadow climate portfolio, describing him as “somewhat over-enthusiastic in his response to climate change policy.”

I have great respect for Mark Butler but yes I believe this to be a good thing, I believe this to be a good start, it will send the right message to our traditional base, but it won’t be enough alone. We also have to both recalibrate our policy and our messaging to send the right message to the base that whilst we are serious about tackling climate change we won’t do so at the expense of their jobs.

Hmmm… it seems Joel has either swallowed, or is knowingly feeding the electorate, that false narrative Kerry spoke about.

Joel is one of those whatever-it-takes kinda guys.

He used that old line that Australia was only a small emitter on a global scale, adding that Australia should advocate for the big emitters to do more without, it seems, doing more itself. Someone should have texted him to wait up, he might want to listen to what Biden is doing.

And if we are such small fry, why are we spending hundreds of billions on weapons of war?

When Fran Kelly asked Fitzgibbon what he meant by remessaging, he said that Labor’s climate response should be about policy not politics. He then said that parties cannot implement policies from opposition, so the policies have to be something which help you get elected.

Ummmm… Joel… that sounds a lot like putting politics first and, dare I say, your personal re-election paramount in your thinking.

That would be fair enough if you weren’t throwing away the one area where Labor can really take the lead. Oh, and showing utter disdain for the health of the planet and our responsibility as global citizens to join the international effort to save it.

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To everyone…

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Tin pot dictators, timid sycophants, and corporate schills – is that the best we can do?

“There is,” said an Italian philosopher, “nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

When the world needs inspiration, courage, integrity and resolve, we are dished up leaders like Trump, Boris and ScoMo – a bunch of buffoons completely unworthy of the title ‘leader’.

I recently read a speech from a leader that I consider truly inspirational, parts of which I would like to share with you, where he outlined in general terms the dangers we face.

“First is the danger of futility; the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery, against ignorance, or injustice and violence.

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

The second danger is that of expediency; of those who say that hopes and beliefs must bend before immediate necessities.

…. idealism, high aspiration and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs – there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibilities – no separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems.

A third danger is timidity. Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change.

For the fortunate amongst us, the fourth danger is comfort; the temptation to follow the easy and familiar path of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of an education.”

These words resonated with me, eloquently articulating my despair and frustration with our current leadership. They were spoken by Robert Kennedy at the University of Capetown, South Africa, in 1966.

This is the same man who reminded us a couple of years later at the University of Kansas:

“the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Less than three months later, he was assassinated.

Did courage and inspiration die with him?

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