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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.”

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

I feel sorry for George Christensen.  Having so many people to hate can be really wearing.

He really hates environmentalists who he describes as “gutless green grubs“, declaring in parliament that “the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I’m sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement.”

George really hates groups like Greenpeace and GetUp!

“The eco-terrorists butchered the international tourism market for our greatest tourism attraction, not for the reef but for political ideology,” he said.

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to ignore coral bleaching and blame a campaign to stop coal mining for a drop in tourism.

As soon as Tony Abbott’s government was sworn in, they announced their intention to make conservation groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices liable for prosecution under consumer law.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.

“We’ll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets,” Senator Colbeck said. “They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.”

Section 45D of the act prohibits “Secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage” but exempts people if their actions are “substantially related to environmental or consumer protection”.

George was very vocal about stopping any boycott campaigns so imagine my surprise (on more than one level) to find him calling for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Their crime?

The company is supporting a series of events next week in capital cities across the country called ‘Scoop Ice Cream Not Coal’. The company is getting behind a ‘Stop Adani roadshow’ in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, giving out free ice cream as opponents of the mine hold public rallies.

This wasn’t the first time – the Newman government called for a boycott and referred the ice cream company to the ACCC over their “Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour” in 2014.

In response to this ecoterrorism, George posted on his facebook page

“The US-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company are continuing their fight against local jobs by opposing the Carmichael mine and Abbot Point coal terminal expansion.
If you want local jobs and prosperity, boycott Ben & Jerry’s. Get a good Aussie-owned and made ice cream like Bulla instead.”

This brings us to George’s next dilemma.

One thing George really hates is halal certified food.  Bulla ice cream is halal certified and that would definitely not please his special friend, Kirralie Smith, champion of the boycott halal campaign, for whom George donated his time (or is that our time) to speak at an event raising funds to fund her defence in a defamation case brought by an halal certifier whom she accused of funding terrorism.

Ben & Jerry’s are also vocal advocates and active supporters of marriage equality and we all know how much George hates that.

Free speech, boycotts yes/no/sometimes, socialists, ecoterrorists, Muslims, gays….and now ice cream?  It’s a hard life hating all the time George.

Perhaps you should take a fresh look at the world through the eyes of Ben & Jerry.

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

Instead of moving mountains, just build us a real NBN

I am having trouble understanding this energy debate.

For starters, we own the resources and we make the rules.  Remembering that would be a good first step.

Secondly, it is glaringly obvious that privatisation has not worked to keep retail prices down.  The bastards won’t even turn the generators on unless they get paid enough.

As Ray Goodlass wrote in the Daily Advertiser

“evidence shows that privatisation leads to price gouging and deterioration of service levels, as so clearly demonstrated by what has happened to vocational education, child care, job centres, Sydney airport, and many other services.”

The third thing that troubles me is everyone is focusing on how we can increase supply but there is little to no discussion about how we reduce demand.  With the existential threat of climate change hanging over our heads, surely this should also be receiving as much attention.

But I guess the capitalists don’t want to make it easier for us to reuse and recycle, and try asking them to stop designed obsolescence.  Remember when appliances lasted a tad longer than just after the warranty ran out?

Perhaps if we made manufacturers responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, they might think a bit harder about waste.

Speaking of climate change, how wise is it to pin our future power hopes on water – particularly on a river that is fed by snowfall.

As experts point out, “Energy Security will be more uncertain by upgrading the Snowy Hydro scheme as water availability in the Murray-Darling basin dries up. With competing uses for water and the increasing likelihood of drought brought on by climate change, increasing our reliance on water to provide electricity is ill-advised.”

Writing for The Australian Financial Review, Frontier Economics’ Danny Price said the largest beneficiary of Snowy 2.0 would be base-load coal-fired generation because it would be many years before surplus renewable energy could be used to pump water up the hill.

On the other hand, ARENA has been partnering in two proposals that would not require coal but they get little attention.

The reason that has all of a sudden become a political football is because of the Coalition jumping on the blackout caused by a storm in South Australia.

But Snowy Hydro 2.0 will do nothing to help SA which is a very long way from the Snowy Mountains.

ARENA announced last November that they would be providing   $449,000 of funding for the Australian National University (ANU) to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites around Australia.

As distinct from large-scale, on-river hydro, pumped hydro uses two reservoirs, separated by an altitude difference of between 300 – 900 metres and joined by pipe. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

According to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, there are “potentially hundreds of smaller, environmentally suitable, off-river STORES scale sites” waiting to be developed around the country.

A possible STORES site has already been identified in South Australia, with an altitude difference of up to 600 metres in the hills to the east of Spencers Gulf using sea water.

The proposed 100 to 200-megawatt power station, which could store power for up to 8 hours, would be close to Port Augusta and Whyalla, reducing the need for as much new transmission infrastructure, and the pumping could be powered by wind and/or solar rather than coal.

An off-river pumped hydro system can vary in size from 50 to 500MW, with the Australian National University estimating it would cost around $1 million per megawatt to construct — or about the same as duplicating an interconnector.

There is another ARENA-supported project being investigated in Queensland at the site of a disused open pit gold mine that would be used to store the power from a 200MW solar farm.

In his haste to outdo Jay Weatherill, it seems Malcolm failed to consult Infrastructure Australia, the independent statutory body with a mandate to prioritise and progress nationally significant infrastructure.

Their response was not enthusiastic.

“While the project would help manage electricity supply security during times in which traditional power generators would be too slow to respond, recent news that Tesla can supply 100MWh of battery storage to South Australia in 100 days shows that the lead time for a project like this may well be its downfall.

With the ability to locate storage batteries across a distributed network rather than having to move mountains a virtual storage plant can be built across a whole city connected not only to the grid but also networked to the internet where they can send and receive information to each other.”

Whilst Malcolm wants to move mountains, others are getting on with the job of providing electricity, where it is needed, as soon as possible, and with a focus on low to zero emissions.

If Malcolm wants a nation-building exercise, he should “get back to his knitting” and give us an NBN that works because I am over this FttN crap which drops out several times a day, taking my landline with it.

We, as a human species, have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us

2010 Sydney Launch: Zero Carbon Australia: Stationary Energy Plan 

Malcolm Turnbull: (eight days before the 2010 federal election)

Transcript

You know, it’s an interesting thing, Quentin made the point that this issue, this issue of clean energy and climate change has not been at the forefront of this election. And Bob Carr just said to me a moment ago that he didn’t think there were any media covering this meeting tonight, I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But it is remarkable that on a cold winters night this issue has managed to fill the town hall. And that tells you something *Audience Claps* that tells you something about the extent of the concern that Australians have about climate change and the interest in and hunger for information and knowledge about the way we can deal with it and the way we can move, as we must move, if we are to effectively combat climate change to a situation where all or almost all of our energy comes from zero or very near zero emissions sources.

Now our response to climate change must be guided by science. The science tells us that we have already exceeded the safe upper limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide. We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got. We are dealing in scientific terms with enormous uncertainty. There is a tendency for people to point to the forecasts for the future, sea levels, temperatures, other impacts of climate change and say oh well you know they’ve over egged the pudding a little bit, it’s probably going to be less dramatic than that. But we are dealing with uncertainty and it may well be and indeed there is considerable evidence, that it may well be that many of these forecasts that we’ve become so used to, in fact err on the conservative side.

We are told that 2010 will be the warmest year on record since records began in the late eighteen hundreds. We know that the consequences of unchecked global warming would be catastrophic. We know that extreme weather events are occurring with greater and greater frequency and while it is never possible to point to one drought or one storm or one flood and say that particular incident is caused by global warming, we know that these trends are entirely consistent with the climate change forecasts with the climate models that the scientists are relying on. Just in the last month floods and landslides have killed thousands in Kashmir, Poland, Pakistan, Korea and China. Russia has lost at least 30% of its grain crop due to the worst fires in that country’s history.

Now sometimes the task of responding to the challenge of climate change may seem too great, too daunting. It is a profound moral challenge, because it is a cross generational challenge. We are asking our own generation to make decisions; to make sacrifices, to make expenditures today so as to safeguard our children, their children and the generations that come after them. It truly requires us to think as a species, not just to think as individuals. We are not, as Edmund Burke reminded us so many years ago, like flies of the summer that just come and go without any knowledge of what went before and what will come after. We as a human species have a deep and abiding obligation to this planet and to the generations that will come after us **Audience Applause**

Now in order to do that, in order to discharge that obligation, we must make a dramatic reduction in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Now you can look at the targets, 50% the common sort of rubric rule of thumb is to cut emissions by 2050 to a level equal to 50% or even lower than they were in 1990 or 2000. I promise you, you cannot achieve that cut, you cannot achieve it without getting to a point by mid-century where all or almost all of our stationary energy, that is to say energy from power stations and big factories and so forth comes from zero emission sources. The mathematics simply will not get you there, the arithmetic, not as complex as mathematics. The arithmetic will not get you there unless you can do it. And so technology is of absolutely vital importance.

Now I want to congratulate Matthew and all the authors and collaborators on this report. This is a fantastic piece of work. Many people will look at it and they’ll say it’s too good to be true. And we all know that often when things are too good to be true, they probably are. But let me give you one piece of data, one fact, one insight which should give you encouragement as you read this report.

You’ll see that the key technology that this project relies upon is concentrated solar thermal power. As you know the great challenge with renewable sources of energy; solar and wind in particular, is that they are intermittent. So what do we do when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. How do we store that power. There’s a very detailed discussion that the authors will go through with you tonight, and I won’t even begin to canvas it. But there is the ability with concentrated solar thermal power stations to use the suns energy to superheat a substance, in this case molten salt, that will hold its heat for long enough to be able to continue to generate steam and hence energy after the sun has stopped shining or during or day after day of rain. So there is a real opportunity there, with that technology, to generate baseload power from solar energy something of a holy grail.

Now there are some small plants in operation that are doing just that now and there are a number of much larger plants that are about to be commissioned. But you might still say, not unreasonably, look this has not really been proven at a big industrial scale and you’d probably be right. But let me say this to you, concentrated solar thermal is a more proven technology than clean coal is. *Audience applause*

Now when I was your environment minister, I spent a lot of your taxes on technologies designed to reduce our emissions including clean coal, including solar energy, including technologies to economically store electricity so that renewable sources of energy could provide baseload power, but one of the things and it’s a sobering thing to bear in mind and those of us who follow the literature on clean coal would be aware of this, that despite all of the money and all of the hope that has been put into carbon capture and storage there is still, as of today, not one industrial scale coal fired power station using carbon capture and storage, not one.

Now this is a frightening prospect because if you look at the work that is done by the International Energy Agency or any number of bodies or think tanks that study how we can model our way to a low emissions future, clean coal is a very big part of the assumption and while I believe as a matter of prudence we should continue to invest and pursue that technology, you do start to get something of a sinking feeling as you contemplate the fact that the hope of the side has not yet stepped onto the field to play his first game, it’s a real challenge.

So all of that underlines, firstly, don’t be too skeptical about this, this is a good piece of work and the most radical technology in it is far from unproved. Secondly let’s remember governments should not be picking technologies. It’s tough enough for the private sector to pick technologies. It’s almost invariably the case that governments will get it wrong, that is why in the long term and really sooner rather than later, we must have a price on carbon.
**Audience applause**

We need to send that price signal to the market that encourages the step changes in technology that will transform our economy and it may be that concentrated solar thermal wins the day, it may be that super-efficient photovoltaics sprint ahead, it may be, despite my rather gloomy prognosis, it may be that carbon capture and storage suddenly leaps into the fore or it may be that they all have a role to play but without that carbon price you will not and cannot unleash the ingenuity, the infinite ingenuity of millions of people around the world who once they know what the rules are, once they know what the price is, will then start to work to ensure that they have presented to us and to the world the technologies that enable us to move to that low emission future.

Government support for innovation and investment in clean stationary energy is important, particularly at the early stages. It is much more important to focus on cutting edge technologies as to provide support for research into the basic science than with appallingly designed policies such as the recent cash for clunkers policy which delivers carbon abatement at a price almost $400 a tonne. I mean it is really a mockery of a climate change policy.

Now we must give the planet the benefit of the doubt, we must act now. Now the coalition as you know, no longer supports a market based mechanism to put a price on carbon and I regret that, none the less it has pledged if elected to introduce policies which by purchasing carbon offsets has the potential to meet the 2020 target of a 5% reduction from 2000 levels. On the other hand, and this is I guess the depressing prospect, the Labor party which was elected in 2007 on a platform of meeting the greatest moral challenge of our times now has no policy and sadly nothing more than what appears to be a notice for a meeting.  No leadership and no conviction.

I want to congratulate Matthew again and all his team for this extraordinary piece of work. It is very important work. It provides the most comprehensive technical blueprint yet for what our engineers, our scientists can begin to do for us tomorrow. I commend them for their work, we’re deeply indebted to you all for this work and I encourage them and others to take note of this and to build on it as we work together, I trust, to a zero-emission future, we know, is absolutely essential if we are to leave a safe planet to our children and the generations that come after them.  Thank-you very much.

**Audience Applause**

Mr Turnbull was correct in predicting 2010 would be the hottest year on record, until it was overtaken by 2014, then 2015, then 2016.  The threat has not decreased Malcolm, just the quality of the debate.

I’m a politician and you’re not so shut up – the weirdness of Peter Dutton

It takes a pretty screwed up world for there to even be rumours of Peter Dutton being touted as a future leader.

We could talk about his dismal failure as a Health Minister, rated by the industry as the worst ever, or his failure as Immigration Minister to find any solution for the poor souls stuck on Manus and Nauru.

We could talk about his many gaffes, joking about islands being inundated or misdirecting a profane text supporting a disgraced minister to the journalist he was abusing.

We could talk about him sending a pregnant rape victim back to Nauru without counselling.

We could talk about his abuse of Sarah Hansen-Young about her claim that she was spied on, which turned out to be true, or his vilification of Gillian Triggs for doing her job.

We could talk about his statement that “Illiterate and innumerate” refugees would take Australian jobs at the same time as saying they would “languish” on the dole and use free health services provided by Medicare.

Or how he told parliament that Fraser made a mistake allowing Lebanese people to come here in the 70s as most terrorist-related offences are committed by their kids and grandkids.

We could talk about how he walked out of the chamber during the Stolen Generations Apology.

But today, I want to discuss his views on political correctness.

Dutton, like so many others of his ilk, talks repeatedly about “political correctness gone mad”.  He seems to feel that people’s right to be critical is being curtailed, but only if they agree with him.  People who disagree should hush.

As part of his annual pre-Christmas rant about carols being banned in schools – they haven’t been – he lambasted the political correctness of “left wing teachers.”

When teachers in NSW and Victoria wore t-shirts protesting Australia’s offshore detention camps for asylum seekers, Dutton said “If they want to conduct these sort of campaigns, do it online or do it in your spare time. Don’t bring these sort of views into the minds of young kids.”

A teacher’s job is to foster critical thinking.  It is crucial that the next generation be encouraged to consider the issues that they will soon be facing both as voters and as our future leaders.  To suggest that political issues should never be discussed is ridiculous.  I am certain Dutton would be more than happy for us to spend months talking about Menzies.

Teachers see first-hand the damage done by the divisive rhetoric of politicians like Dutton, Hanson and Christensen.  They understand the importance of inclusion and a feeling of self-worth, of safety, of hope for the future.  If Dutton thinks his words and actions, and the hatred they have unleashed, aren’t already in “the minds of young kids”, he is badly mistaken.

The same applies to the marriage equality debate and the Safe Schools program.

The message being sent to young people is that homosexuality is perverted.

The hysteria about the Safe Schools anti-bullying program sent a clear message that gender and sexuality are not issues that should ever be discussed in schools and anyone who did not conform with the “traditional” norms was indulging in deviant thoughts and behaviour which must be ignored.

This ostrich approach completely ignores the bullying and terrible suicide rate of young people which led teachers to ask for resources to be developed to help them deal with the tragedy they were witnessing.

The debate about marriage equality has hit the farcical position where Peter Dutton, that warrior against political correctness, is now telling us that, if we want to express a view about marriage equality, we should go into politics.

When more than 30 high-profile company executives joined together to sign a letter publicly urging the government to legislate for same-sex marriage, Dutton responded by saying publicly listed companies shouldn’t take political stances and business leaders should not prioritise debating moral issues over running their companies.

He said if chief executives want to debate moral issues they should quit business and seek election.

“If you want to become a politician, resign your job at $5 million a year, come on to $250,000, if they can tolerate that, and enter the political debate.”

“Become a politician.”

“This is a big problem for our country because if you have people who are afraid to speak out or afraid to remain neutral and I suspect some of these business leaders… are in that category,” Mr Dutton said.

The executives who signed the letter included Business Council of Australia chair Jennifer Westacott, Qantas boss Alan Joyce, Deloitte’s Cindy Hook, Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev, Australian Super chair Heather Ridout and KPMG’s Peter Nash.  Somehow I doubt these people have been intimidated into expressing their view.

“Some of these businesses are concerned that if they don’t sign up that they will be subject to a campaign which will be run online by GetUp! and others… and that is going to impact on their business.  I don’t know how we can tolerate that position.”

Or perhaps they think that this discrimination is detrimental to their employees and business.  Or maybe they are using their public profile to right a wrong.  Did that ever occur to you Peter?

According to Dutton, anyone who disagrees with his opinion must have been coerced, or, at the very least, they should just keep their opinions to themselves because they aren’t politicians.

See you Jay and raise you a fluoro vest

It was with great gusto and fanfare that our previously ineffectual Prime Minister announced his game-changing solution for energy security in Australia.

We will have, in a year or two…..drum roll please….a feasibility study!

Don’t get me wrong – when you are messing with river flows and drilling into mountains, a feasibility study is a good idea.

The thing I don’t understand is how you can announce the cost, the employment it will provide, the power it will generate, and a completion date, before you have even started the study.

The Victorian government, who are part owners of the Snowy Hydro scheme, only heard about the idea in the media – the Telegraph knew about it before they did.  And the NSW government, who are the majority shareholders, got a phone call the day before the announcement.

Frontier Economics managing director Danny Price said “At this stage I would regard the Snowy proposal as a ‘thought bubble’.  It’s not a quick fix. The problem we face now is immediate.”

Turnbull and Frydenberg would have us believe the project will be finished in four years.

Dr Mark Diesendorf of the University of NSW said he thought the project would take at least 10 years because they would have to tunnel through the Great Dividing Range and also build new transmission lines to handle the higher electricity capacity, which actually takes longer than building a new power station.

Dr Roger Dargaville of the Melbourne Energy Institute said pumped hydro needed the right mix of water and geography to make it work.

“It’s not cheap to do … and by most accounts the potential of the Snowy Hydro has already been tapped,” he said.

ARENA have been asked to do the feasibility study.  That’s the same ARENA that Tony Abbott tried to abolish and that Morrison’s Omnibus Bill proposed cutting $1.3 billion in funding from.  They succeeded in cutting $500 million, leaving them with $800 million over the next five years to fund renewable research, development and innovation.

Call me overly cautious, but I wouldn’t be making announcements and promises before the study is even begun.  Batteries could be a whole lot cheaper and definitely quicker option.

Call me overly cynical, but I wonder if this announcement would have been made if Jay Weatherill hadn’t gotten the ball rolling by taking control and action in SA.

The pointy end of governing

As Donald Trump gets down to the pointy end of governing, the White House will today reveal his “skinny budget”, described as more a policy direction than a fiscal statement.

Reportedly, he intends to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent from $8.2 billion to $5.7 billion, its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation.

The blueprint will cut State Department spending by a similar amount, 28-31%.  The cuts include drastic reductions in the 60-year-old State Department Food for Peace Program, which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters, and the elimination of the Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes flights to rural airports, although the White House instructed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to leave untouched the $3 billion annual foreign aid payment to Israel.

In addition to the cuts at the E.P.A. and the State Department, Mr. Trump’s team is expected to propose a wide array of cuts to public education, to transportation programs like Amtrak and to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the complete elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.

Federally funded arts programs are on the chopping block.  Trump’s budget is also expected to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports PBS, NPR, and other public TV and radio outlets. Its annual budget stands at less than $500 million.

Meanwhile, in his first month in office, Trump wasted $15 million of tax payers’ money playing golf at his resort in Mar-a-lago.

The president would funnel $54 billion in additional funding into defense programs, beef up immigration enforcement and significantly reduce the nondefense federal work force to further the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” in the words of Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

A broader budget will be released later in the spring that will include Mr. Trump’s proposals for taxation as well as the bulk of government spending — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

One can only imagine the joys that will confront Trump’s ‘common man’ supporters then.  Trump’s own words, “Who knew healthcare was so complicated,” don’t instil a great deal of confidence

As with here, there is no money for health, education, community support programs, the environment and action on climate change, or the arts, but we have endless funds for ‘national security’.

With promised tax cuts in the mix, it will be very interesting to see how Trump’s band of amateurs make the figures stack up presuming they ever do produce a real budget.  It ain’t gonna be pretty.

Free in name only

The “free market” has nothing to do with keeping prices down through competition as our Liberal politicians would have us believe.  It has nothing to do with Friedman’s idealistic vision of benefit for all.

It is about maximising profit for businesses.  Maximise income, minimise costs, and avoid taxation.

If there was limitless supply then perhaps competition would keep prices lower for consumers – but in this world of finite resources, things go to those who are willing to pay the most.

Richard Denniss wrote an excellent article about the gas industry in Australia and its deliberate strategy to drive up domestic prices.  There is plenty of gas for the highest bidder.

We have also been locked into contracts which see the bizarre position of our gas being sold cheaper overseas than here while we endure a shortage.  We sign contracts guaranteeing profit for private energy providers who make incorrect assumptions about demand. We deliberately sabotage new investment to prop up old industries.

If the record profits of businesses were shared with their employees, and with the wider community through taxation, then perhaps we could see benefit in the free market.  But they aren’t.

Wages have flat-lined as profits have soared.  Instead of better working conditions, those we already fought for are being stripped away – penalty rates, paid parental leave, superannuation guarantee increases, permanency and hence holiday and sick leave.

Unions have been undermined and the skilled migration visa exploited.  Contract and casual work strips employees of leave entitlements and a sense of security.  Entry level jobs have been automated or outsourced to countries where the cost of living, and therefore wages, are much lower than here.

Private debt has reached dangerously high levels in Australia.  When combined with a precarious employment situation, the workforce becomes compliant, too scared to demand a fair share of the profits their skills and labour provide for the owners of the capital.

Conservative governments seek to strip away regulations that curtail predatory business practices.  Time and again we have seen the big players collude to manipulate the market, driving out smaller competitors, dampening or inflating prices as suits them, creating artificial shortages or gluts, all with the aim of market control.

The idea that a free market is self-regulating, that it will reach a fair equilibrium, is ludicrous.

Instead, the free market has made corporations the most powerful organisations on the planet. Free markets have handed control to entities who have no morals, no ethics, no responsibility other than to make money. Free markets have delivered great wealth and power to a miniscule few as the divide between them and the rest of the world becomes a gaping chasm that cannot be bridged.

They have infiltrated the governments of democratic nations to such a degree that politicians have become their paid-for mouthpieces and woe betide anyone who seeks to put the best interests of the people first.

Privatisation has been, for the most part, an expensive failure that has seen services deteriorate, jobs lost, and prices increase.

I applaud Jay Weatherill for taking back some control but, until we recognise that it is us that own the resources and make rules that ensure we benefit from our wealth and our labour, we will still be held to ransom by a market that is free in name only.

 

They only got the job because they wear headscarves – Bolt’s bombastic bullshit

To Andrew Bolt

What a condescending twat you are.  You, who have no qualifications and no experience outside being a media whore, dare to criticise two admirable women, who are far more educated, credible and informative than you, just because they are speaking out.

For the vast majority of you who will not be aware of the Dolt’s latest offering, he wrote an article in the Telegraph titled “Fledgling Pundit is in over her headscarf.”

It begins…

“Why does the ABC hire and promote Muslim women in headscarfs, but not ones with hair free?  And why is it exploiting Yasmin Abdel-Magied, who is surely too young for this?”

He suggests that Susan Carland and Yasmin Abdel-Magied are “vocal apologists for Islam and dress as identifiably Muslim, covering their hair in elaborate scarfs and turbans.”

“It seems to me like the ABC is using Carland and Abdel-Magied to proselytise for Islam – and for a conservative version.  After all, in my view neither is particularly good as a presenter, yet is has showered both with opportunities.

But is the ABC unfairly exploiting Abdel-Magied to push its agenda?  She is only 26.  At that age, I’d just worked on a Labor election campaign and was about to start another.  I was passionately for legal euthanasia.

Since then, with time, thought, and sometimes hard experience, I’ve changed those sympathies.  I’ve grown.

I expect Abdel-Magied will too.

Will she even keep believing in Islam, with its apparent Jew hatred, rants against unbelievers and tales of Mohammed riding a horse to heaven from the top of Temple Mount?

Maybe yes, maybe no.  But a woman of only 26 should be free to change.

Abdel-Magied must know that all of this – the money, applause – might go if she renounced her faith or the symbol of her submission.”

Where to begin with that patronising, jealousy-laden, bunch of crap.

How do you know there are no Muslim women with hair free at the ABC?

Perhaps Muslim women have felt it necessary to seek a platform in the media to counter the irrational hatred that is being spread by people like you, Hanson and Lambie – to show that not all Muslims are machete-wielding terrorists and that not all Muslim women are subservient victims of patriarchal abuse.

To trivialise these women, to suggest they have only been employed because of their headgear, is exactly the same as when you suggested that people were given jobs because they were Aboriginal.  I hope they are consulting their lawyers.

Susan Carland completed a Bachelor of Arts and Science at Monash University. Her Honours thesis looked at women’s access to the mosque.

Susan teaches gender studies, politics, and sociology at Monash University, with a special focus on Muslim women and Muslims in Australia.  She received a scholarship to do her PhD in politics and sociology, looking at the way Western Muslim women fight sexism within their own traditions and communities.

In 2004, she was named Australian Muslim of the Year. Susan is also listed as one of the international ‘Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow’ by the UN Alliance of Civilisations.  She is the co-creator of the Victorian Convert Support Service, and has managed the Islamic Council of Victoria’s youth wing, Grassroots.

In 2003, she gave the International Women’s Day address at Parliament House in Victoria. She has also spoken at Chatham House in London, the Muslim Professionals Forum in Malaysia, and has been a panelist for Issues Deliberation Australia, a public policy think-tank.

Yasmin Abdel-Magied attained a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from the University of Queensland in 2011, receiving First Class Honours.  She was a member of the board of Queensland Museum from 2008 – 2012 and is currently an ambassador for the museum. In August 2011, she was appointed to the Council for Multicultural Australia. She was part of the organising committee for the 2014 G20 Summit in Brisbane. In November 2014, she became a board member of ChildFund Australia.

In November 2015, she was appointed to the board of directors of OurWatch, an organisation for the prevention of domestic violence. In October 2016 the ABC program Australia Wide was recommissioned and is now presented by Abdel-Magied. In 2016, she was named an academic fellow of Trinity College in the University of Melbourne. She is currently a member of the board of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations. and a director of Youth Without Borders.

In 2016 the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), sent Abdel-Magied to the Middle East to promote Australia. She visited Riyadh Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi UAE, Dubai UAE, Doha Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Ramallah Palestine, Israel, Cairo Egypt and Sudan.

Abdel-Magied was named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence 2012. She was awarded Young Australian of the Year for Queensland in 2015. She was named in the top 100 most influential engineers in Australia by Engineers Australia in 2015.

But maybe she’ll grow up to be a pretentious puppet of the IPA just like you Andrew, a champion of ignorance and bigotry, a conservative pretender and paid mouthpiece for corporate greed and pious hypocrisy.

Somehow I doubt it though,  These women have already contributed a great deal more to our country than you ever have or ever will.

Rules are for poor people

In 2012, the OECD Anti-Bribery working group released a report saying they had “serious concerns that overall enforcement of the foreign bribery offence to date has been extremely low” in Australia.

“Out of 28 foreign bribery referrals that have been received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), 21 have been concluded without charges.  The Working Group thus recommends that the AFP take sufficient steps to ensure that foreign bribery allegations are not prematurely closed, and be more proactive in gathering information from diverse sources at the pre-investigative stage.”

One of the terminated cases involved James Packer.

Casino Foreign Bribery Case

In 2009, authorities in a foreign country brought charges against one of their officials for domestic bribery and listed two projects by an Australian casino company as suspect projects in the indictment. According to media reports, indications of bribery included the fact that the casinos were granted land that was originally planned for the construction of a university, and construction began before formal rezoning procedures were completed and recorded. Australia reported to the Working Group that the AFP supported investigations by the foreign authorities, but did not start a domestic investigation.

Despite Macau prosecutors listing James Packer’s Crown Macau and the City of Dreams among at least 10 “suspect projects” involving bribe-taking and money laundering in an indictment against former Macau public works minister Ao Man-long, Packer escaped any investigation or penalty.

In the tendering process for the first Sydney casino in the early 1990s, James Packer was tasked with intimidating John Fahey’s Liberal government into ensuring the licence ended up in Packer hands.

“The old man told me to ring … this is the message. If we don’t win the casino, you guys are f*cked.”

Packer didn’t win the bid and the Fahey government folded not long afterwards.

Fast forward to August 2012, and James Packer goes to see the then premier, Barry O’Farrell, to forcefully make his case for a second casino for Sydney.  Just a week after the O’Farrell meeting, the need for independent reviews over the process was done away with, and the bid was secured in record time of seven weeks.  It was given a favourable tax rate and green-lit without anything as embarrassing as a public meeting.

On the 22nd of November 2012, Packer’s mother Ros makes a donation of $570,000 to the Liberal Party.

According to Michael Brodie of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, the probity check of Crown took just three months. He described it as “one of the fastest assessments of a casino applicant in history”. The development applications were similarly expedited, and Crown and the developer Lendlease made numerous changes to the applications after they were already approved, cannibalising public parkland and significantly increasing the floor space. A community-based legal challenge failed.

The project tried to damp down controversy by targeting overseas high rollers only, especially those from Asia, with VIP-only membership rules.  Crown also lobbied the Productivity Commission to introduce express visas from China, and the Turnbull government obliged. Like the Star, the Barangaroo casino won’t be subject to alcohol restrictions or smoking bans.  Apparently it is only poor people’s smoke that is harmful.

But back to the business plan of luring high-rollers from China – it’s illegal and 17 Crown employees were arrested and incarcerated in China last November for “gambling crimes”.

Crown’s ploy was to present Barangaroo as a “resort” but the Chinese authorities weren’t taken in by this flimsy cover.  Macau-based Ben Lee, who has worked for Star and Crown in Australia, and now consults to international companies on Asian gambling strategies, said “this is one company, Crown, that believed they had insulated themselves with the myth they are marketing a resort. This was the height of folly.”

But that’s the way James Packer works – splash money around, buy influence and forget the rules – and it has put him in hot water again.

Mr Packer is reported to be seeking Israeli citizenship, which would exempt him from paying tax on assets he owns outside the country for 10 years. Company documents filed in Hong Kong reveal that, for at least the past 18 months, Mr Packer has been telling authorities in the former British colony his residential address­ is an apartment in the Royal Beach Hotel, overlooking the Tel Aviv seaside.

Rather than pursuing the ordinary channels, God forbid, Packer has been accused of giving lavish gifts to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, who are under criminal investigation for possible corruption.

Mr Packer purchased a million-dollar beachfront mansion in Israel right next door to the private home of Mr Netanyahu, and began making substantial investments in Israel’s booming tech market.

In March 2015, Mr Packer was a surprise special guest in the audience when Mr Netanyahu addressed the US Congress in Washington.  He then appeared at another speech Mr Netanyahu gave to the UN General Assembly in New York later that year, standing with senior Israeli officials and the Netanyahu family.

The Israeli media report alleged Mr Packer showered lavish treatment on the Prime Minister’s family, particularly on his 25-year-old son, Yair, giving him numerous free luxurious holidays at properties he owns and rents around the world.

Mr Packer reportedly gave 10 tickets to a Mariah Carey concert held near Tel Aviv to the Prime Minister’s wife, Sara, whom Israeli police have recommended should be indicted over separate allegations of misuse of public funds, and seven tickets to Yossi Cohen, the head of intelligence agency Mossad.

Under foreign bribery laws, the AFP is responsible for invest­igating allegations of payments or gifts by Australian businesses to foreign leaders and their families­. It is an offence, punishable by up to 10 years’ jail and a fine of up to $1.7 million, to bribe a foreign public official but, according to the ABC, there is no active investigation by the AFP into Mr Packer.

A few years ago, Donald Trump was quoted saying that if American companies refused to give bribes, “you’ll do business nowhere”.

One wonders why the Coalition is trying to get rid of regulations – and Trump likewise.  It seems obvious they are no impediment provided you have enough money.

Stuart Robert, Paul Marks and buying influence

No doubt emboldened by the resurgence of Arthur “I don’t recall” Sinodinis, Stuart Robert is apparently lobbying Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to return him to the frontbench at the next significant reshuffle, likely by the end of the year.

This has come about because the Queensland corruption watchdog has apparently found no evidence of wrongdoing by Robert when he allegedly funnelled $70,000 from his LNP fundraising arm, the Fadden Forum, to three candidates in last year’s Gold Coast City Council election — two of whom were his electoral office staff — who stood as Independents.

The inquiry is centred on whether candidates who received Fadden Forum funds failed to inform the Electoral Commission of Queensland that they would be campaigning as a group. Failing to inform a returning officer is an offence.

Robert is insisting he has been cleared and should be reinstated to the Ministry.  After all, he backed Turnbull in the leadership spill.  But this is not the only question mark over Stuart Robert.

Of far greater concern than meddling in council elections is Robert’s relationship with co-investor and Liberal Party donor Paul Marks, and the extent to which Chinese business interests are buying influence in Canberra.

The following timeline lists the close links between Robert and Marks and how Robert has used his position and party to promote Mr Marks’ business dealings with China.

In April 2013, Stuart Robert billed taxpayers $1600 to attend the opening of a gold mine owned by Evolution Mining, a company in which he owned shares.  He was later forced to repay the money.  Paul Marks was a Non-Executive Director of the company.

In June 2013, Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng presented Robert and other Coalition figures with Rolexes during a dinner attended by Tony Abbott and Paul Marks in Stuart Robert’s parliamentary office.

In early 2014, a staffer in the former Queensland government introduced noodle king Mr Li to agents looking to lease premium top-floor office space at 50 Cavill Avenue, Surfers Paradise.  Subsequentlty, Li Ruipeng, who owes creditors in China up to $30 million, was evicted from the Gold Coast office space for being $200,000 behind in rent.

In mid 2014, Paul Marks started making huge donations to the Liberal Party under several different names – $250,000 to the federal Liberal Party and $181,361 to the Free Enterprise Foundation from P. Marks Investment Pty Ltd, another $250,000 to the federal Liberal Party from Paul Marks, and $500,000 from his mining company Nimrod Resources Limited.

In August 2014, Stuart Robert flew to China with Paul Marks, lending what was perceived as official support for a mining deal that Marks was negotiating with the Chinese government despite Robert insisting he was there in a private capacity and had paid for the trip himself.

There are several problems with this.

Firstly is the Statement of Ministerial Standards which states, under section 2.1 (entitled “Integrity”):

Although their public lives encroach upon their private lives, it is critical that Ministers do not use public office for private purposes.

And in section 2.20 (“other forms of employment”), the Standards mandate that:

A Minister shall not act as a consultant or adviser to any company, business, or other interests, whether paid or unpaid, or provide assistance to any such body, except as may be appropriate in their official capacity as Minister.

Secondly, it was revealed that both Robert and Marks had shares in a company called Metallum Holdings Pty Ltd and the company had an interest in Nimrod Resources.

Thirdly, whilst Mr Robert paid for some of his trip, he charged taxpayers $881.92 for accommodation and the flight from Coolangatta to Sydney the day before he flew out claiming “official business”, and then he flew back to Australia via an Asian stop, at which point his “private travel” again became “official business” for which he claimed $10,449.83.

Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson revealed Mr Robert only officially informed the department of his private visit to China after he returned to Australia which seems odd because the “official business” in Singapore was “To attend the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial meeting and the Defence Ministers’ Dialogue.” Did he just front up without telling anyone?  Did he say I’ll make my own way there?  Or did he drop in so he could charge us for his trip?

After an internal investigation by Martin Parkinson, Robert was later forced by Turnbull to stand down from the Ministry with Barnaby Joyce saying “once all the details become apparent you’ve got to say sorry, ‘Goodnight Irene’.”

In November 2014, Tony Abbott hosted a red carpet event with the President of China, Xi Jinping, where 14 deals were signed between Australian and Chinese businesses and organisations.

The most senior business figures in Australia lined up to sign the papers with their Chinese counterparts, under the watchful gaze — and the implied endorsement — of President Xi and Mr Abbott.

Bank chiefs were there — Mike Smith from ANZ, Gail Kelly from Westpac; the head of Australia Post, Ahmed Fahour; the boss of the stock exchange, Elmer Funke Kupper; the head of Qantas, Alan Joyce; and the mining giants — Sam Walsh, head of Rio Tinto, and billionaire Andrew “Twiggy’’ Forrest.

And then there was the unknown Mr Marks, signing up to a deal with the Chinese government-owned Minmetals to develop a greenfields site in Bourke through his mining company, Nimrod.

In March 2015, Tony Abbott infamously was late for a caucus meeting after he had taken a taxpayer-funded RAAF jet to Melbourne the night before, also claiming $788.03 for comcars and accommodation, to attend Paul Marks’ birthday party (ignoring the fact that his birthday is in December).  Stuart Robert also attended the party at Huntingdale Golf Club.

The donations ramped up.

April 2015           Liberal Party Australia    $150,000

May 2015            Liberal Party Australia    $175,000

June 2015            LNP Qld                         $15,000

July 2015             Liberal Party Australia    $1,300,000

Liberal Party Vic             $30,000

LNP Qld                          $15,000

May 2016             Liberal Party Tas               $30,000

Country Liberals NT         $30,000

Liberal Party ACT              $30,000

Liberal Party NSW            $30,000

Liberal Party SA                 $30,000

This list only goes to June 2016 and may not be complete as Mr Marks donates under various different names to different branches of the Liberal Party whose returns don’t always correlate with Mr Marks’ declarations.

Last September, Paul Marks was in Brisbane reportedly to explore a potential gold deal, quite possibly in Bob Katter’s electorate. Interestingly, he was accompanied by a Katter Party fundraiser.

Marks sure seems to have a great deal of money to splash around.

The dirty truth behind Turnbull’s ‘clean coal’ con

You have to hand it to Clive Palmer.  Whatever money he invested to get himself elected to parliament with sufficient power to abolish the carbon and mining taxes was well worth it for him personally.

And now it seems that Clive is trying to take advantage of the government’s direction to the CEFC to fund clean coal.

Waratah Coal, the company owned by Palmer’s Mineralogy, confirmed to the ABC on Tuesday that it had made an application to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation last Friday to finance a proposed 900MW coal generator that proposes to use an unproven technology, carbon capture and storage.

No plant in the world has come close to making this a commercially viable proposition and the owners of the most advanced project, Kemper in Georgia, now admit it would be impossible to make money from coal generation and CCS.

Resources minister Matt Canavan has been particularly vocal in support of a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland. This proposal, from Palmer, is the only proposal in the pipeline. Most other energy investors in the area are instead looking to solar and wind farms.

Even the Energy Supply Council, which represents the country’s fossil fuel generators, admits that new coal power is now “un-investable”.

The Coalition wants such coal plants to be funded by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, but this has been dismissed on several occasions by CEO Oliver Yates, who points out that co-financiers would be impossible to find, and any such investment would require billions of dollars in government guarantees and indemnities against a future carbon price.

Palmer’s proposal relies heavily on the anticipated “500-600 MW” growth in electricity demand over coming years “as production from surrounding mines increases to meet future ore exports.”  These clearly relate to the proposed Adani and Rinehart mines.

In order to spin this load of crap, Sid Marris, a former analyst with the Minerals Council of Australia, and a 16-year veteran of News Ltd,  has joined Turnbull’s staff as an advisor.

Then, last week, the chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia, the most vocal coal lobby group, Vanessa Guthrie, was appointed to the ABC board despite not making the shortlist prepared by an independent panel.

Also last week, it was revealed that the Queensland Government appointed an Adani company director to chair the state-owned authority overseeing the Abbot Point coal port, despite being warned of “potential conflicts of interest”.

Mr Fish’s appointment as NQBP chair was made in September 2015 by Treasurer Curtis Pitt.  He did not resign the directorship of the Adani-owned Abbot Point Operations until November 11, 2015.

Last November, Ian Macfarlane, who was until recently a Coalition Minister, was named as the new chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).

While Gina Rinehart cultivates and bankrolls certain politicians, Clive scams the system for all its worth, and the Minerals Council infiltrates the highest levels of government and the media, emissions keep rising – over 7% since the repeal of the carbon price, the growth coming mainly from the electricity sector, due to increased coal-fired generation, and from the new LNG export facilities in Queensland, where more coal and gas is being burned to power the liquefaction of coal seam gas, so it can be shipped overseas.

On Friday, the Australian Conservation Foundation appeared before the Federal Court in Brisbane to appeal a decision last year that gave the huge Carmichael coalmine the green light.

The government lawyers argued that if the mine didn’t go ahead, the same amount of coal could still be produced somewhere else in the world.

ACF slammed this approach.

“Basically, the Government is using the drug dealer’s defence – the argument that if we don’t dig up this coal and burn it, somebody else will,” ACF chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said. “This drug dealer’s defence is unethical and mocks the efforts of countries that are working to reduce global climate pollution.

“The Great Barrier Reef is already under enormous stress, with scientists warning the Reef could be hit by coral bleaching for the second year in a row – the last thing it needs is a huge new coal mine.”

The full bench of the Federal Court will hand down its decision at a later date.

Research indicates that this year the reef is under even greater heat stress than last year when we saw devastating bleaching.

Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said “It’s alarming that the reef is bleaching so soon again, giving no time for recovery from the huge losses of corals in the northern third of the Reef in 2016.  The scary part is that 2017 is not an El Nino year – and the period between these bleaching events is getting shorter, too short for recovery.”

Tourism connected to the Great Barrier Reef alone employs 70,000 people and generates $5 billion in revenue annually.

We don’t have time for this deliberate disinformation campaign funded by wealthy vested interests and facilitated by lying politicians who are purely thinking of their donations and political support now and employment after politics.

The sooner we give up this coal con, the sooner we can actually address the challenges we face.

Ian Macdonald wears personally monogrammed “australiansforcoal.com.au” shirt provided by the Minerals Council

The pompous triviality of George Christensen

Over my working lifetime I have seen enormous changes in requirements regarding behaviour, record-keeping, governance and oversight at every organisation with which I have been involved.

Times change.  We learn from our mistakes and grow better as a society.

At least that’s how it is supposed to work.

We have seen unions under scrutiny, with miscreants exposed, expelled and a few even prosecuted.

New governance requirements have been legislated and another oversight body with extensive powers established.

Whilst the messaging has been politically designed to imply that unions are bad, hopefully this shake-up will restore confidence in this crucial sector who are the collective voice of those who are not heard.

Far beyond the betrayal of a few union bosses on the take has been the horrific revelations from the Royal Commission into child sex abuse.

The Catholic Church has admitted to a failure of leadership and governance with catastrophic results.  Their sins have been exposed and action demanded.

Yet when we come to our politicians, lying is expected as is rorting of expenses.  Jobs for the boys and girls are a given.  Freedom of information is at their discretion.  They make their own rules and having a majority makes them answerable to no-one.  They are completely devoid of responsibility for their actions.

There are so many examples of their dereliction of duty, climate change being one, but the only way they are held accountable is by an election so that is the only thing they focus on.

It is all about the advertising, the presentation, the wrapping.

It doesn’t matter that when we unwrap the present after the election that we’ve been given a steaming pile of shit.  It’s too late.

And the bullshit continues because it isn’t about the truth or finding solutions – it’s all about the votes.

Which brings me to George Christensen.

George has decided to flex his tattoo of Our Lady (which some would consider blasphemous) and go on a crusade against political correctness – because no doubt that is what the sugar farmers and unemployed youth and families in his electorate want him to concentrate on.

George is scared of One Nation so he wants to call back the people who want to be offensive with impunity.

I am just wondering what more it is that people want to say.

After all, George has been getting away with being offensive his whole adult life.

Pauline Hanson is a Senator and she has said the most outrageous things about pretty much everyone.

How much more offensive can you be than Larry Pickering?

Is stopping sexual harassment political correctness gone mad too, or do we just want the right to offend people because of their ethnicity?

Donald Trump’s wife does a naked photo shoot handcuffed to a briefcase on his plane.  He passes off saying that he can molest women and they love it as locker room talk. And he still gets elected President of the United States – with George and Pauline’s fawning approval I might add.

These Neanderthals want to take us backwards.  They want us to forget all the lessons we have learned about equality, respect, self-worth, inclusion, opportunity and cohesion, so they can have the right to be offensive.

Great job George, Pauline and the doo wop chorus from the IPA in identifying the big issues.  You concentrate on that and protecting us from marriage equality while the big kids tackle things like health, education, unemployment, domestic violence, climate change, infrastructure, foreign policy – that everyday humdrum stuff that has nothing to do with your campaign to be offensive while you impose your idea of ‘normal’ on the world.

We have seen what a lack of leadership, regulation and oversight allowed in unions and the church.

George and Pauline let off the leash any further, and unconstrained by any sort of national leadership, might be more than the nation could endure.

Pretending we give a shit

Nine years ago, Scott Morrison gave his maiden speech to Parliament expressing many noble ideals, none of which have been displayed by Mr Morrison in the ensuing years.

His remarks on foreign aid belie his government’s actions.

“The Howard government increased annual spending on foreign aid to $3.2 billion. The new government has committed to continue to increase this investment and I commend it for doing so. However, we still must go further. If we doubt the need, let us note that in 2007 the total world budget for global aid accounted for only one-third of basic global needs in areas such as education, general health, HIV-AIDS, water treatment and sanitation. This leaves a sizeable gap. The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do.”

Mr Morrison’s predecessor, Joe Hockey, slashed $11 billion from the aid budget during his tenure with Morrison cutting another $224 million in his first budget. That will reduce Australia’s foreign aid, as a proportion of gross national income, to a record low of just 0.22 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund estimated that, on national income per citizen, Australia ranked seventh among OECD donor countries in 2015 in US dollar terms, and eighth in terms of purchasing power.  These cuts will take us to 17th in terms of aid as a share of national income.  Australia’s prosperity ranking now far outstrips its ranking as an aid donor.

When Donald Trump announced that he would strip foreign aid funding from any health organisation that even mentioned the word abortion, Julie Bishop responded by pledging $9.5 million over three years for a partnership with Planned Parenthood.

What she didn’t mention was the many women’s programs which had been defunded in their previous budgets.

One example of a cut program was training midwives under an $83 million project to cut the high rate of death for mothers in childbirth and improve infant welfare in Indonesian village health clinics and hospitals.  A similar program to improve maternal and child health in Burma was also axed.

This morning Fairfax reported that our new Ambassador for Women and Girls, the latest ex-politician to join the double-dipping gravy train, Sharman Stone attended a conference in Brussels which was convened to address the estimated shortfall in funding caused by Trump’s ‘global gag rule’ on abortion.

It is estimated it will leave aid organisations short of $US600 million (or around $790 million), which campaigners say will put millions of women’s lives at risk.

Ministers from Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark organised today’s pledging conference.  Canada pledged $26 million, as did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One anonymous donor contributed $66 million. It raised €181 million or around $251 million.  Australia gave nothing.

Ms Stone reannounced the same $9.5 million that was announced over 6 weeks ago by Julie Bishop as she told the crowd that “Empowering women and girls is a central objective of our foreign policy focus.”

Strange then that they would axe funding for the Empowering Indonesian Women for Poverty Reduction Program.  They also axed funding for training Bangladeshi primary school teachers and providing textbooks.

Why send someone, with staff no doubt, all the way from Australia to contribute nothing?  Then again, that’s what we did at all the climate change conferences too.

Nice trip on the taxpayer’s purse I spose.

But please, we are not in any position to be pretending we give a shit.

Scott’s trickle-down fairy dust blown away

The recently released GDP figures for the December quarter put another nail in the coffin of Scott Morrison’s economic plan.

Despite a 16.5% rise in private non-financial corporations gross operating surplus (GOS), compensation of employees (COE) fell by 0.5% this quarter reflecting a decrease of 0.9% in average earnings per employee. This is the first fall in COE since September quarter 2012.

During 2016, full-time employment fell by 40,100 persons while the total Civilian Population aged 15 years and over increased by 290,300 persons.  Trend employment to population ratio, which is a measure of how employed the population over 15 years is, decreased by 0.4 percentage points to 60.9 per cent.

So while businesses continue to make large profits, this has not resulted in more people being employed or any growth in real wages.  And that is without the proposed cuts to penalty rates.

Time and again we have seen that cutting taxes does not result in jobs.

Getting rid of the proposed changes to the FBT on business vehicles did nothing to save the car industry.

Getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes did nothing to save manufacturing or attract greater investment.

As profits have risen, so has the number of people who are unemployed and underemployed.

Scott’s answer?

  • Cut taxes to businesses – again.
  • Cut regulations for businesses.
  • Cut wages and freeze the superannuation guarantee.
  • Cut government services.
  • Borrow hundreds of billions to spend on war toys which increases GDP whilst contributing nothing to our standard of living.

The inevitable result of this approach is to accelerate the ever-widening inequality gap.

Will they ever be prepared to concede the blindingly obvious fact that demand is what fuels job growth and that lifting people out of poverty boosts productivity?

Not with this lot in charge.

We already live in Trump’s vision

Donald Trump is so behind the times I am surprised that Pauline Hanson hasn’t called him a piss-poor copycat.

The Donald pretends his immigration laws aren’t targeting Muslims.  Our politicians have no such hesitation with many of them openly calling for a total ban on Muslim immigration.

Due to amendments to the Migration Act in 2014 conferring special executive powers on the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton could ban Muslims tomorrow. He already has Trump powers.  Parliament is considering a Bill to give him even greater power to cancel any visa he chooses without having to justify himself.

Donald wants to build a wall and use the National Guard to keep illegal immigrants out.  We have a constantly patrolling ‘ring of steel’ manned by our military, and customs and immigration have morphed into a black-uniformed armed quasi-military force.

The Donald has declared he thinks torture works and is reportedly preparing to bring back “black site prisons”.

Our government quite openly advertises that any asylum seeker caught on a boat anywhere within cooee of our country will be indefinitely locked up on an island hell-hole and subjected to never-ending torture, so don’t even try it.

Our juvenile justice system employs the same tactics here with troubled youth.  Subject them to violence and humiliation and strip them of any sense of identity – that’ll learn ‘em to be better citizens.

Trump is having a hissy fit about his inability to control the press.  Here we just change the media ownership laws to give Murdoch a monopoly and neuter the ABC by slashing its funding, appointing conservatives to the board and former Murdoch employees to the executive, cutting fact checking and demoting to spokesmodel any interviewer with more gumption than jelly, and having representatives of the IPA on every panel and current affairs program.

The courts are frustrating some of Trump’s agenda.  Not so here.  Any state that has the temerity to introduce marriage equality or voluntary euthanasia or trained counsellors instead of school chaplains will very quickly find themselves instructed by the courts to stop that silliness.

Trump wants to overturn the marriage equality laws.  We have never given in to such degeneracy.

Trump is trying to pretend climate change doesn’t exist be removing all reference to it from government web sites and replacing it with his energy policy.  Here they don’t even bother denying it, they just tell us all that coal is good for humanity and that they will be giving our money to foreign companies so they can keep mining it.  They talk about energy security while allowing nearly all of our gas to be exported, hugely driving up domestic prices.

Trump wants to reduce regulations particularly those pertaining to the environment.  Here we just combine the Ministries of Energy and the Environment and make it illegal to challenge development.  We didn’t pussy foot around tinkering with the previous administration’s clean energy efforts.  We abolished the carbon tax, replacing it with subsidies for polluters, and destroyed the renewable energy industry by slashing targets and subsidies, though fossil fuel subsidies remain alive and well.

Edward Snowden revealed to the world the extent to which the American government spies on its own people.  Here such an invasion of privacy was passed into law with the support of both major parties using the justification that it was necessary to protect us from terrorism.

Aside from the fact that insects and furniture pose a far greater threat, let alone violence from a family member, it has not been metadata collection keeping us safe.  Our law enforcement agencies learn far more from Facebook and the Muslim community than any communication intercepts.  There was ample evidence that Man Haron Monis was becoming increasingly unhinged, including a letter to George Brandis asking if it was legal to contact IS, but the justice system did nothing to stop him.

Trump wants to increase military spending by a paltry $50 billion.  We are spending $400 billion on our new war toys and have increased the defence budget above and beyond projections every year including in the 2014 budget from hell.

Trump wants to cut foreign aid.  Been there, done that

Trump has vowed to spare middle-class social programs such as Social Security and Medicare from any cuts.  What a wuss.  Scott Morrison could show him a thing or two about defunding the ‘lifestyle’ of the poor and vulnerable.

Trump wants to reduce company taxes.  Well hell – we said that ages ago and ours are heaps lower than his right now anyway so there!  He has state taxes as well.  There’ll be none of that.

Republicans see labour organising as a major impediment to their electoral prospects. So they have done everything in their power to dismantle the ability of unions to organise workers and bargain collectively on their behalf.  We just have royal commissions that brand all unionists as thugs and criminals, establish a body with draconian powers beyond that of the police, and stack ‘independent’ bodies with people who will cut pay to the lowest paid workers while recommending pay increases for politicians, judges and senior public servants.

So the next time you gasp at Trump’s reckless audacity, have a look around you.  We already live in Trump’s vision.