Reasons not to

Oh for a government who didn’t spend all their time finding reasons…

Convenient Demonologies: Stopping Migrant Caravans

President Donald J. Trump has been engaged with berating human caravans, a…

Hell hath no fury: The makings of a…

By Dr Strobe DriverNormally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues…

Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations…

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead…

Morrison's latest prop

So the Liberal Party has hired a bus as a new toy…

Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power

Soft power was always a term best suited for eunuchs. It relies…

What does a minute's silence mean?

It means, "shut the f*ck up!"It means, make no noise!It means let…

According to the WEF, the planet is 'on…

The Global Risks Report 2018 produced by the World Economic Forum lays…

«
»
Facebook

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.”

Is there a glimmer of a coming Enlightenment in Australia?

European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment.

After living through the Dark Ages of the ATM government, is it possible that Australia is edging towards its own Enlightenment?

People are starting to wake up to the climate change deniers.  Much as they may want cheaper power, they also want to leave their children a viable planet to live on.  The Coalition can cuddle coal all they want but the people want renewable energy.

Queensland has conceded that women who choose to terminate a pregnancy are not criminals.  Have we finally been elevated beyond vessel/vassal status and given the right to have control over our own bodies?

Next Monday, the Prime Minister will deliver a National Apology to victims and survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.  The churches have been made to confess their sins.

There is genuine movement on saving the children on Nauru from the torture we have imposed on them.  Let’s hope it happens before a child dies at our hands.

The government was also led kicking and screaming to acknowledging the right of all adults to marry without the state telling them who they may or may not love.  True tolerance and acceptance of people regardless of their sexuality still has some way to go but progress has been made.

While women remain woefully under-represented in positions of power, big business and the Labor Party have taken concrete steps to address this imbalance.

Politicians who seek to promote fear about Muslims, African ‘gangs’, and non-white immigration are finally being told to sit down and shut up.

The government peremptorily rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart but their voices are being heard around the country and others are joining their trek to provide a future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

Perhaps we needed the horror of Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce and now the hapless hopeless Melissa Price, to make us say whoa, wrong way go back.

We need transparent, accountable government.  We need respectful relationships built on the trust that honesty and reliability deliver.  We need all Australians to keep the momentum going.

What we don’t need is more marketing.

The ridiculous state of politics in Australia

Scrolling through Scott Morrison’s twitter feed shows just how ridiculous politics in Australia has become.

Do we really need ProMo to tweet about, and attend, every single sporting event going on in the country?  Do we need to see photos of him having a meal with his family?  Or perched in a truck going broom broom?  Or sitting on a jet ski on the sand?  Do we really need four tweets showing him at the Bathurst 500?

How many times must Scott interrupt football training at the Clontarf Academies for photo shoots?  He visited on July 18, and then again on August 29 where, whilst cooking snorkers, he told us that he had helped set up the Academy at Endeavour High School many years ago.  Since it only began in 2015, ‘many’ is a stretch and Scott played no part other than to attend an announcement by then NSW Premier Mike Baird.

(Perhaps someone should mention to Scott that when you join in with training, you really should wear shorts rather than long trousers, and take off your baseball cap and glasses.)

The choreographed videos of Scott speaking while walking through the parliament courtyard, folders under arm, are excruciatingly staged to make it look like he is busily rushing off to work.  Compare the performance on August 15 to the repeat performance on September 18.

Hard hats and high-vis vests are in abundance as Scott tours the country visiting small businesses in marginal electorates, though one might wonder why they are necessary when you are standing out in a paddock.

On September 20, Scott tweeted “Sorry that I can’t be there tonight, boys. But as you can see, you’re always on my mind” and linked to a video showing his non-stop “go the sharks” in every interview he gave.  But, as pointed out in Junkee, Scott’s love of the Sharks seems to be more a recent politically motivated move than historical loyal attachment.

Whilst a great deal of time, thought, energy and money go into the marketing of the man, policy development languishes.  Scott flies all over the country for photo shoots but cannot find the time to come up with strategies to address the real problems facing this country.

They don’t have time to read reports or expert advice – we’ll just do whatever Donald Trump does.  Cut taxes?  Sure.  Pull out of Paris?  No need because we aren’t bound to honour our word.  Move our embassy to Jerusalem?  Great way to create a problem.  Pull out of Iran nuclear deal?  Well if Donald did then it must be the best course of action.  Much easier to follow than to have principled well-thought out ideas based on evidence and goals.

Back in 2007, Julie Bishop criticised Julia Gillard for doing a photo shoot for The Australian Weekend Magazine.

You’re not a celebrity, you’re an elected representative, you’re a member of parliament. You’re not Hollywood and I think that when people overstep that line they miss the whole point of that public role.”

(As it turns out, when Julie got her chance to saunter down the red carpet and grace the covers of magazines, she changed her mind about it “not being my style”.)

They tell us that politicians work very hard with long hours yet they seem to have a great deal of time to attend social functions and write books.

Some dignity and respect for the office would be appreciated far more than the reality show of ProMo’s personal life.

Instead of accepting free tickets to attend sporting and cultural events, instead of posing for photographs, instead of marketing your family, instead of calling yourself by a nickname and putting your arm around anyone you are standing next to, how about you get back to the office and do the job you are being paid to do.

Australian society is under threat from the rise of Christianism

We are told over and over again that Christianity has shaped our history and our values.  Retired high court judge and chair of the Royal Commission into trade union governance and corruption, Dyson Heydon, had this to say on the matter:

“The public voices of modern elites are not humble. They conceive themselves to have entitlements and rights, not blessings. And they do not feel any gratitude to Almighty God for their entitlements and rights.

Now the modern elites – the tyrants of tolerance – in seeking to marginalise or silence Christianity are not only rejecting the cultural tradition of Christianity.

Not only are they rejecting a large part of the entire life and history of the nation – because Christianity is so integrated with the national life and history that to annihilate it is to destroy that national life, which can live only in memory.

They are also rejecting that fundamental part of the Christian tradition which is the source of the modern world and of their own favoured position within it.”

Pardon me?  Did this arbiter of the law just say that Christianity confers privilege?  Is he asking me to thank God for the workplace entitlements and social advances won by unions and collective action?  Is he saying that if I choose not to be a Christian I am destroying our national life?

When Scott Morrison gave his first speech in parliament, he opined that “Australia is not a secular country” quoting a US Senator who said “the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not from religion.”

Okay, but does that mean religion should play a role in our politics?

In an interview in 2013, Pope Francis expressed his firm opinion that it should not.

“I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.”

The Catholic hierarchy has been knocked sideways by the emergence of Pope Francis and his eschewal of their fixation on homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

We have been told by ignorant bigots and politicians who wish to exploit fear for political gain that we are under threat from Islamism but it is actually Christianism that is far more prevalent and detrimental to Australian society.

Christianism means particular doctrines of Christianity made into a political system for the pursuit of worldly power, to be distinguished from Christianity.

In 2003, blogger Andrew Sullivan wrote “I have a new term for those on the fringes of the religious right who have used the Gospels to perpetuate their own aspirations for power, control and oppression: Christianists. They are as anathema to true Christians as the Islamists are to true Islam.”

Pentacostal leaders, who believe the ascension of Scott Morrison to the top job was divinely inspired, are mobilising to make sure he stays there.

Adam F Thompson from Voice of Fire Ministries said last month, “I really see that the body of Christ is going to have influence in the arena of – the political arena of this nation.  [But] if the prime minister right now doesn’t get elected in this next election there’s going to be darkness coming.”

Thompson exhorted the congregation that, if they truly wanted a Pentecostal revival and reformation in Australia, they must mobilise now.

Adrian Beale from Everrest Ministries said “Lord, we pray that the whole of the body of Christ in Australia would grasp the value of what you’ve done, Lord, and get behind our new leader … and that the next election would be won so that godly principles would be put into place, rather than the enemy having his way.”

Warwick Marsh from the Australian Christian Values Institute claimed three days of prayer and fasting had been answered with two miracles – the voting down of the euthanasia in the territories proposal and the rise of Morrison to PM.

“It would seem that this is a direct answer to our prayers, as we prayed against the erosion of our Christian freedoms under the forthcoming Ruddock report.”

No doubt the recent rain will be seen as another miracle in response to Scott’s prayer, though those who were devastated by fierce hailstorms may wish he would tackle climate change instead.

So emboldened are the Christianists that they feel they can dictate to government about the supposed fallacy of global warming.

In October 2010, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.

In Victoria, 28-year-old Marcus Bastiaan, who has flooded the Victorian Liberal Party with Christian and Mormon recruits, was reportedly planning to seek the party presidency when Michael Kroger steps down next year but announced last month that, due to family illness, he and his wife “have decided to step aside from our key roles in the Liberal Party for the time being”.

According to the Age, “Mr Bastiaan’s faction is confident it holds the numbers to anoint a replacement at the coming assembly meeting.”

While successive governments have endorsed placing religious chaplains in our public schools, Pope Francis condemns proselytism.

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.”

Australia is still secular, but it has a form of secularism where religion is allowed in the public sphere. As long as religion remains one voice among many and one option among many Australia will remain a secular country.

But should the Christianists continue the expansion of their political power, human rights in Australia will come under serious threat.

The ‘economy’ is killing us

Scott Morrison et al keep telling us that we need a strong economy to make our lives better but this fixation on growth and profit at all costs is doing a great deal of harm to the vast majority who do not occupy the airy heights of the 1 per centers.

Last year 3128 people killed themselves in this country. Three quarters of them were men.

Much as we talk about the need for greater investment in mental health, and rightly so, around 80 per cent of male suicides are not linked to any mental health diagnosis.

Glen Poole, Development Officer at the Australian Men’s Health Forum and founder of the Stop Male Suicide project, said “Most men who end up taking their lives are dealing with life crises, not necessarily dealing with mental health issues that require a conversation about their feelings.”

“Relationship breakdown, work issues — whether that’s stress at work or the stress of not having work — financial stress, for older men physical health issues, and other things such as bereavement, alcohol abuse, trouble with the law.”

Tim Costello, as spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said that gambling stress pushes more than 400 Australians to suicide each year, a figure that has been given credence by Australia’s Productivity Commission.

Australia has a staggering 20% of the world’s poker machines.  According to figures released by the Queensland government in December last year, punters frittered away almost $24bn in a year.  More than half was lost on poker machines at pubs and clubs.

Australians spend on average about A$1,300 per capita a year on gambling making us by far the world’s most profligate gamblers. The next highest is around A$600 in Singapore.

Yet one of the Coalition’s first acts on gaining power in 2013 was to repeal the meagre gains the Gillard government had made on gambling reform in response to pressure from Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenephon.

“The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 proposes that a raft of provisions from the Act be repealed. These include all provisions relating to precommitment systems, including abolishing requirements on manufacturers and venues to ensure EGMs are precommitment enabled; repealing provisions limiting ATM withdrawals; repealing provisions requiring dynamic warning messages to players be displayed; abolishing the proposed gambling Regulator, and the levies which were to support its functions; and removing references to a proposed trial of precommitment in the ACT and its proposed evaluation and related amendments.”

In March last year, the Senate Select Committee on Red Tape produced an interim report on the effect of red tape on the sale, supply and taxation of alcohol.

They recommended

“that the Australian Government and COAG support the sale and supply of alcohol through consideration and implementation of evidence-based policies that aim to reduce red tape and promote job creation, and business growth and investment, including:

  • streamlining and simplification of liquor licencing systems to reduce the number and types of licences/permits to a minimum viable level;
  • allowing packaged alcohol to be sold in convenience stores, petrol stations and supermarkets;
  • abolishing restrictions on trading hours for liquor stores;
  • shifting resources toward targeted enforcement of existing regulation, rather than a blanket approach of increased regulation for all licensees;
  • developing liquor licensing fees based on empirical assessments of risk, rather than social perceptions of risk.”

We are continually told that increasing profits for business will make the economy stronger and we will all benefit from that.  The reality is starkly different.

Despite steady economic growth in Australia, homelessness increased by 14% between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with 116,427 people now thought to have no permanent home.  More than 43,500 homeless people are under 25.  People aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased to 27 people per 10,000 people in 2016, up from 25 per 10,000 people in 2011.  While 2.8% of Australians are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the latest data shows they comprise 20% of the homeless.

Guy Johnson, a professor of urban housing and homelessness at RMIT University, said rising housing costs combined with a decline in public and community housing were exacerbating homelessness among the chronically disadvantaged.

But we mustn’t do anything to upset the property developers and investors.

Despite the government’s laser-like focus on reducing power bills, we insist on increasing our gas exports to such a degree that we have a domestic shortage.  We happily subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of billions each year and pretend that our coal exports are helping the starving masses rather than the coal barons.  The exploitation of our resources has made a few people wealthy beyond measure as the planet continues to warm.

While some farmers desperately try to manage climate change through adaptation, others are clearing land, stealing water, and using environmentally damaging fertilisers and pesticides to try to remain viable.

Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef is dying.

To pander to employer lobby groups, we have reduced penalty rates and moved many people into the insecure employment of casual and contract work, winding back hard-won workplace entitlements.  We have increased university fees so our young people start life with a large debt.  Welfare payments have not seen a real increase in decades despite our continued growth.  Aged care is in crisis. Fees for it and child care are prohibitive.

It’s great the economy is strong.  But society is suffering from a cancer fed by those who put profit before people and the environment.

Businesses need customers, not a feel-good few bucks a week

In order to give some substance to his claim that the Coalition are for lower taxes, Scott Morrison has chosen to bring forward by five years tax cuts already legislated for small and medium businesses.  To use his oft-repeated phrase, these are nothing new, they are ‘existing’ legislation, just fast-tracked for an election sweetener as Coalition governments always do.

According to ProMo, this will allow tradies and hairdressers and family businesses to hire more people and give wage rises to their staff and invest more in their businesses.

Sounds good…until you actually examine the real implications of this announcement and which businesses it will affect.

For starters, the vast majority of businesses (61.2%) don’t employ anyone.  Of the 38.8% of businesses who do employ someone, 70.1% of them employ between 1 and 4 people.

If they are sole traders, their tax is determined by income tax rates rather than company tax rates.  Under Scott’s proposal, they will bring forward a discount of 16% for unincorporated businesses, capped at $1,000 per individual.

Of the 2,238,299 actively trading businesses operating at the end of 2016-17, 98% had annual turnover of less than $2m.  About one-third (34.7%) had turnover of $50k to less than $200k.

For those that are companies, Scott’s proposal is to reduce their company tax by 2.5%.  That means if you made a profit – not turnover, profit – of $100,000 you would have an extra $2,500 annually to give wage rises, employ more staff, and expand your business – or take a holiday?  Or, more likely, pay a tiny bit off your debt.

Of course, shareholders in any company would have their dividend imputations reduced if company tax was reduced, which means they would have to pay more in personal income tax without that tax credit.

We are told “this will cost $3.6 billion over four years and that the beneficiaries will be about 3 million businesses employing about 7 million people.”

Big numbers that do not tell the real picture.  The idea that this will make any difference to wages or jobs or business investment is a total con.  The most a sole trader will get is $1,000 and a small business would have to make a profit of $250,000 to be able to afford Kelly O’Dwyer’s toaster with their tax cut.

This is another blatant and ham-fisted attempt to wedge Labor by a government who prefers announcables to evidence-based policy.

Everybody except the major political parties have spoken of the imperative of raising Newstart and the many benefits that stimulus would bring to individuals and to the economy. (Labor has said they will have a “review” – rolls eyes).

A Deloitte Access Economics report says lifting allowances by $75 a week could help boost the economy.

“It’s $75 a week — $10.71 a day, per year across the economy as a whole, direct cost is about a bit over $3 billion,” explained Deloitte Access economist Chris Richardson, who oversaw the report.

“What our modelling shows is … if you give a bit over $3 billion to people who spend it, that flows through the economy, you get a bigger economy as a result.  The direct cost might be a bit over $3 billion a year, but the net cost once you allow for that is actually only $1 billion a year — you go to one third of the total cost.”

For about the same cost, we can give a paltry amount of money to businesses which will make no difference whatsoever, or we can invest in lifting people out of crippling poverty so they can be in a position to care for their families, to look for employment, and to concentrate on their studies.

Businesses need customers, not a feel-good few bucks a week.

I haven’t read it but I’m sure it’s wrong

I wonder if Coalition politicians understand how ridiculous they sound when they disagree with, or cite, things they admit to not having read.  It’s a recurring theme.

The latest is our new Environment sock puppet, Melissa Price, who, despite not having read the latest IPCC report, was quick to tell us how wrong they were about coal and how they had ignored technology that doesn’t exist in their recommendations/warnings.

Just like Christopher Pyne, who was able to give us his opinion that the original Gonski report was rubbish immediately after it was released and before he had seen it.

Or Tony Abbott who assured us that BHP’s Olympic Dam project was not going ahead because of the carbon and mining taxes despite the fact that it would not have attracted any mining tax because it wasn’t a coal or iron ore mine and despite the stated reasons from BHP chief executive Marius Kloppers, none of which were tax.  Tony admitted he had not read the report.

Then there was Ian MacDonald who chaired a Senate inquiry into children held in offshore detention.  He slammed the report from the Australian Human Rights Commission — but then admitted he hadn’t read it.

“I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I think it is partisan,” Senator MacDonald told the hearing.

Back to Tony Abbott, who loves to quote Ian Plimer to back up his claim that climate change is crap, the climate has always changed, yet he hasn’t actually read his book.  He has read what ‘others’ have said about Plimer’s book.

Scott Morrison’s response to the IPCC report was that it did not “provide recommendations to Australia” and that his government’s focus would be “to ensure that electricity prices are lower” for households and businesses, alike.

Kinda like, we will decide how high our emissions can go and the manner in which we will increase them.  Or fuck off, you can’t tell us what to do.

The ultimate example of how this government couldn’t give a shit about informed advice from experts was the appointment of Tony Abbott to fix Indigenous education.

They tell us they are pragmatists, not ideologues.  What crap.  Their idea of being pragmatic is to tell whatever lies are necessary to allow themselves and their mates to stay in control of the gravy train.

Cantering towards destruction

Whoever wins the next election is going to face a monumental task to reduce our emissions in order to tackle the existential threat posed by climate change.

In one way, it would serve Scott Morrison right to have to face the consequences of his lies.  But the country cannot afford someone who thinks prayer is the answer to the drought.

Our Prime Minister, the man charged with making the decisions on how to keep us safe, is a bald-faced liar.

When Barrie Cassidy asked ProMo on what he had based his claim that we would meet our Paris emissions target “in a canter”, we were subjected to the greatest load of waffle.

“..one swallow doesn’t make a summer, and I know that plenty of people will leap on that and say that you need to do X and Y and use those numbers for that purpose, but it means that we’re going to meet Kyoto 2 and we’ll smash that number. We smashed Kyoto 1.”

Aside from the fact that Kyoto 1 allowed us to actually increase our emissions by 8%, and that the only way we might meet Kyoto 2 is by fancy accounting practices, ProMo is deliberately and knowingly falsifying the information his own departments are giving him.

According to the report on Australia’s emissions projections produced by the Department of the Environment and Energy in December last year, “Total emissions in 2030 are projected to be 570 Mt CO2-e, which is 5 per cent below 2005 levels.”

Hang on.  Weren’t we supposed to be cantering past a 26% reduction?

Far from increasing our modest 2030 target, as most of the rest of the developed world is doing, the report further states that “emissions in 2030 are projected to grow by 3.5 per cent above 2020 levels.”

Huh?  How is a projected growth in emissions being sold as us meeting our commitments to reduce them?

Every five years, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) produces a national report on the status of Australia’s forests.  This is extremely important as the vast majority of our claimed reductions are coming from the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector (an emissions reduction of 114.9% since 1990 supposedly).

According to the 2013 State of the Forests report, “The best available source of such data is currently satellite imagery interpreted for Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” yet the latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory report says “Processed satellite images are not yet available to support the calculation of emissions estimates for 2017 and 2018.”

But that hasn’t stopped them from claiming even more reductions.

In 2016, a group of leading ecologists voiced their alarm at new data which showed the clearing of 296,000 hectares of forest in 2013-14. This was three times higher than in 2008-09, kicking Australia up the list as one of the world’s forest-clearing pariahs.  Then Queensland’s Department of Science report on land cover change, published in September 2017 showed a staggering 395,000ha of clearing for 2015-16: a 133 per cent increase on 2014-15.

Alarmingly, land clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchment in the year to June 2017 was at its second highest level in 10 years.  152,000 hectares were cleared in the catchment last year, marginally less than the amount cleared in 2015/16.

That takes the total land cleared in the catchment in the last five years to 770,000 hectares — an area about three times as large as the ACT

When asked about these figures, Environment Minister Melissa Price said it was mainly a state issue and that net land sector emissions had declined since 2004/05, ignoring the fact that, in May, the Federal government approved the bulldozing of nearly 2,000 hectares of forest on Cape York’s Kingvale Station despite warnings that the clearing would add to the sediment load running onto the Great Barrier Reef.

“This declining trend reflects lower emissions from forest clearing and native forest harvesting, and more sequestration in regrowing forests,” Ms Price said in a statement.  “We know climate change is a big issue for the Reef and this is why we have invested more than $400 million to help protect the reef through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.”

Except the GBRF have specifically stated that they will have nothing to say, let alone do, about climate change.

When asked whether the foundation would be willing to lobby governments for policies to reduce emissions, land clearing and stopping coalmines, head of the GBRF Ms Marsden said: “It’s absolutely not in our strategic view at the moment.”  Their goal is “boosting the Reef’s resilience so it can bounce back from and survive challenges like a changing climate and water quality issues.”

Ms Price has also heralded a return to Direct Action, once again ignoring the fact that just one year of clearing has removed more trees than the bulk of 20 million trees painstakingly planted, at a cost of A$50 million.

As Greg Jericho points out, including LULUCF figures in our emissions reduction targets is “disgraceful” because we used years when there was very high land-clearing as our base years and are allowed to “bank improvements merely due to us being less bad now than we were, not because we have actually improved our emissions.”

What is even more disgraceful is the lies being told.

Different strokes for different folks – our non-egalitarian society

In his interim report into the banking Royal Commission, Commissioner Hayne pointed out that “Over the 10 years to 1 June 2018, ASIC’s infringement notices to the major banks have amounted to less than $1.3 million.”

Meanwhile, the other “tough cop on the beat”, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), has imposed fines totalling over $15 million against the CFMEU since 2005, with around 80 officials still facing courts on some 44 matters.

In one case alone in September last year, the CFMEU were fined a record $2.4 million over an “unlawful blockade” at Lendlease’s Barangaroo site.  This ruling is currently under appeal.

In June, the CFMEU and an official were fined $51,300 for abusing and threatening construction workers on the Gorgon LNG project in Western Australia.  The ABCC took legal action against the union and official Brad Upton after a 2015 incident during which he abused workers for not being members of the union, calling them “f—–g dog c—s”.

“This is a f—–g union site, we have other union sites starting up next year and if you’re not in the union, you can f–k off too, you are not welcome.”

Federal Court of Australia Justice Michael Barker said the official’s behaviour and conduct at the meeting of employees on December 2015 was “appalling”.

“The language used was intended to intimidate employees into accepting that they must be
union members if they wanted work,” he said.  “It is common, it seems, for some members of unions to believe that any manner of foul language or intimidatory conduct is par for the course at a union meeting.”

Yet the intimidation used by some Liberal Party bovver boys during the recent leadership spill, threatening pre-selections and refusing to leave colleagues’ offices unless they signed a petition calling for a spill, is apparently just the nature of politics.

When the mayor of Katherine went to see Greg Hunt regarding contamination from fire-fighting foam in her region, he launched an expletive-ridden attack on her.

“He relocated his chair, pointing towards me and said ‘you need to fucking get over it, you need to fucking make Senator Scullion your best friend’,” Ms Miller said.

Ms Miller told ABC radio the next two sentences also contained the F-word.  “And then he sat back a little in his chair and said, ‘I’ve heard you’re feisty’,” she said.

When questioned by Labor, Hunt admitted he also had a “strong discussion” with the former secretary of his department, that had triggered a complaint to the secretary of the prime minister’s department.

Even the urbane Malcolm Turnbull is reported to have launched into then PM Tony Abbott on a flight home from The Australian newspaper’s 50th birthday party in 2014, calling Abbott a “disloyal c***”.

“It was Malcolm in full flight. Angry, bitter, (saying) you’re fucking hopeless, you’re a fucking cunt, you should resign. He got quite close to his face,” said one source who witnessed the tirade.

Then there was the time when the hapless Peter Dutton mistakenly sent a text to Samantha Maiden describing her as “a mad fucking witch” for having written about the sexual harassment allegations against Jamie Briggs who had then circulated photographs of his accuser.

Bad language from politicians is “strong discussion”. But if a construction union official swears, they will find themselves in court facing hefty fines.

Bullying and intimidation are a normal part of the “robust” rough and tumble of politics, a profession not suited to “snowflakes”.  But any insistence that construction workers show solidarity with union members is illegal thuggery.

Banks are forgiven for appalling behaviour which has destroyed people’s lives just by promising they won’t do it again.  But a union official who entered a construction site with an out-of-date right of entry permit was dragged before the courts and fined $74,000.

In response to Scott Morrison’s threat to de-register the CFMEU because of a tweet by one individual (which was quickly taken down and apologised for), Dave Noonan pointed out the inconsistencies.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising that a broken and divided Government is resurrecting the CFMEU bogeyman in an attempt to frighten voters.  It is in stark contrast to the green light Scott Morrison has given the banks, who we now know have criminally ripped off their own customers to the tune of $1 billion and counting.

Scott Morrison has nothing to say about the criminal behaviour of the banks. He has nothing to say about real problems like stagnant wages, sham contracting, or the death toll in the construction industry.  And now he wants to leave construction workers with no representation.”

And they pretend we have an egalitarian society.

 

 

The incestuous relationship between government, the financial sector, the regulators, and the legal firms they use

When our new Environment Minister, Melissa Price, gave her first speech in parliament in December 2013, she mentioned that she was one of three members of the Clayton Utz Perth alumni in Canberra, the other two being Julie Bishop and our new Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Matthias Cormann’s wife Hayley is also a Senior Associate at Clayton Utz in Perth and Julie Bishop’s brother Douglas is a Partner based in Sydney.

In April this year, the New Daily reported that Clayton Utz had won 95 government contract tenders worth a total of $10.96 million to provide legal services to various departments and agencies since January.

report in The Australian Financial Review listed Clayton Utz among dozens of law firms recruited by the government in a trial to outsource the drafting of legislation.

Even ASIC employs them.  In 2015, the corporate regulator paid $55,000 to Clayton Utz for “personnel recruitment” services.

AMP hired Clayton Utz to provide an “independent” report into breaches by its financial planning division to ASIC.  They did 25 drafts until AMP were happy with the result, prompting Commissioner Hayne to comment at the banking RC that there were “questions” about “the extent to which senior management or others associated with AMP, sought to influence or did influence, the content of the report by Clatyon Utz apparently submitted to ASIC as an independent report.”

The senior AMP legal executive accused of interfering with the supposedly independent report , Brian Salter, also held a position on the Financial Services and Credit Panel which was set up by ASIC late last year. Members of the panel sit on ASIC’s administrative hearings, where banning orders for misconduct by rogue financial planners might be considered.

ASIC’s external advisory panel, a high-powered group used by the regulator to provide deeper understanding of “developments and systemic risks within the financial services industry”, also has close links with AMP with three members associated with the troubled company including two former chief executives.

In May, with heads rolling at AMP, they appointed former Commonwealth Bank chief executive David Murray as their new chairman.  Murray chaired the Financial System Inquiry, which reported to the Australian Government in December 2014.

Murray was the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank between 1992 and 2005. In his 13 years as Chief Executive, the Commonwealth Bank transformed from a partly privatised bank with a market capitalisation of $6 billion in 1992 to a $49 billion integrated financial services company, generating in the process total shareholder returns at a compound annual growth rate of over 24 per cent, one of the highest total returns of any major bank in Australia.

He was also the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Government Future Fund Board of Guardians, serving between 2006 and 2012, a position now held by former Treasurer Peter Costello.

No doubt all these people are highly credentialed and well-qualified for the roles they fill, but the incestuous relationship between government, the financial sector, the regulators, and the legal firms they use, must raise some questions.

Rewarding corruption and incompetence

It seems corruption and incompetence are no impediment to the Coalition when handing out lucrative gigs to their mates.  The examples of them not only ignoring wrongdoing but rewarding it are endless.

Ex-chairman of the ABC board, Justin Milne, became a Non Executive Director of betting firm Tabcorp in August 2011.  He is a member of the Tabcorp Risk and Compliance Committee.

In March last year, the Federal Court found Tabcorp failed to alert regulators to reports of suspicious behaviour on 108 occasions over more than five years and fined them $45 million for breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.  The civil penalty awarded against Tabcorp is believed to be the highest in Australian corporate history.

“Its money laundering and terrorism financing function was at times under-resourced and Tabcorp senior management didn’t regularly receive reports in relation to the money laundering and terrorism finance compliance,” AUSTRAC chief executive Paul Jevtovic said

“This was a serious failure in the corporate governance and the size of the penalty reflects a significant and extensive noncompliance.  In my view, the noncompliance arises from a corporate culture that is indifferent to money laundering and terrorism financing requirements.”

Tabcorp is also facing possible foreign bribery charges for a payment of $200,000 in 2010 (before Mr Milne’s appointment) to the family of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Likewise, the new acting chair of the ABC, Kirstin Ferguson, was the head of the ethics committee at Leighton Holdings when a whistleblower disclosed to her serious allegations of foreign bribery.  She buried the report and the whistleblower was sacked.  This case will return to court on October 22 when former senior executive Peter Gregg faces criminal charges of falsifying books and records.

Then there is the ongoing Securency/Note Printing Australia case, where a whistleblower reported his concerns to management about ongoing corrupt practices on numerous occasions and as a result was subject to various forms of harassment, intimidation and eventually forced from his job.

In October 2011, Securency and NPA pleaded guilty to three charges each of conspiring to bribe foreign public officials and were ordered to pay penalties of $19.8 million and $1.8 million respectively under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.  On 20 August 2012, Mr David Ellery, former Chief Financial Officer of Securency was sentenced by the Supreme Court of Victoria to imprisonment for six months, wholly suspended for two years.

The OECD reports that, in addition to Securency and NPA, nine former executives and sales agents of the two subsidiaries were charged with foreign bribery, conspiracy to commit foreign bribery, and/or false accounting.

The trials have been shrouded in secrecy, with the court orders and identities of certain individuals unknown due to suppression orders. These prosecutions are ongoing and are reported to be the longest committal proceeding in Victorian history.

Former deputy RBA governor Graeme Thompson and former Reserve Bank board member Dick Warburton were NPA directors at the time.

Mr Thompson is now a director of AMP Superannuation and Warburton is chairman of the Westfield Retail Trust. A fellow NPA director, Mark Bethwaite, is on the board of the Sydney Catchment Authority and was treasurer of the federal Liberal Party between 2006 and 2008.

Dick Warburton was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to review Australia’s renewable energy target even though he was under internal investigation into his role in Australia’s worst foreign bribery scandal.

Then there is our new Assistant Treasurer, Stuart Robert, who has many clouds hanging over him.

He accompanied Liberal donor Paul Marks to China to sign a mining deal from which he would profit.  He accepted a Rolex watch from Chinese billionaire Li Ruipeng.  He was called before the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission regarding dodgy council elections.

Then, in 2017, it was revealed that Robert had direct financial links with a company, the GMT Group, which was awarded millions of dollars worth of government contracts. This may have meant that he was in breach of the eligibility requirements of Section 44 of the Constitution of Australia at past elections, however, as Robert had been re-elected to Parliament since breaking ties with the company, there was no possibility of his in-doubt past elections being challenged in the High Court.  Stuart Robert’s parents were listed as the directors of his company for six years without their knowledge.

While the government rails on at length about welfare cheats and union corruption,  political and corporate malfeasance is ignored and miscreants can look forward to their next lucrative seat on the gravy train.

 

You don’t build trust by telling lies

In an address to the National Press Club in November 2015, the ever-cocky Greg Hunt informed us that Australia had already met its 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent from 2000 levels.

“Critics have claimed time and time again that we would not achieve our 2020 target … Today, I can advise formally that the critics are wrong.”

Yet the Greenhouse Gas Inventory released on Friday paints a very different picture.

It shows that “Australia’s emissions for the year to March 2018 were 1.9 per cent below emissions in 2000.” That is a long way from the 5% reduction we committed to.

It also shows that “Emissions for the year to March 2018 increased 1.3 per cent” continuing the rising trend ever since they dumped carbon pricing.

Scott Morrison has recently assured us that Australia would meet its 26-percent emissions reduction target by 2030 “in a canter“.  He is offering absolutely no proof of how and no policy to achieve it.  Apparently, it will just happen of its own accord due to “improved technology.”

The only area where emissions are falling is the energy sector due to the influx of renewables prompted by the Renewable Energy Target.  But, as with carbon pricing, the government will abandon this policy even though it has been shown to promote investment and actually achieve reduction.

The measure of our current emissions is extremely dubious as we are claiming significant reductions from a decrease in land-clearing, or should I say, we are claiming reductions for not clearing land that we maybe might have perhaps kinda could have cleared.

It is unconscionable that our politicians continue to lie about the real state of our emissions and our blatant failure to achieve even the paltry commitments we made to reduce them.

You say you are on our side Scott, but your misrepresentations show you have scant regard for our well-being or our intelligence.

If you want to rebuild trust, start by telling the truth.

Passing the buck

On the release of the interim report from the banking Royal Commission, Josh Frydenberg has hit the airwaves to slam ASIC.  He must think we have very short memories.

When Tony Abbott cut $120 million from the ASIC budget in 2014, ASIC Chairman, Mr Greg Medcraft, issued a statement saying staffing levels would have to be cut by over 200 and that “our proactive surveillance will substantially reduce across the sectors we regulate, and in some cases stop.”

In 2016, Scott Morrison announced reforms to shift the regulator to a “user-pays” funding model – in which the institutions it regulates are forced to pay for the ongoing cost of their regulation – so taxpayers no longer have to fund its operations.

The user-pays model was slated to begin operation at the start of the 2017-18 financial year, but little detail has been provided by the government to explain how it will work.

Morrison said if the regulator required any extra money in the future, it could claim more money from Australia’s banks.

Then, in May this year, Morrison cut another $26 million from ASIC.

Thomas Clarke, Professor of Corporate Governance at University of Technology Sydney said “At best it’s penny pinching, at worst it is undermining the possibility of regulating the banks and exposing the behaviour we’ve seen at the Royal Commission and prosecuting it.”

“ASIC can only carry out enforcement within its means. If you reduce their resources they may choose to not take any enforcement in some cases, or they take the action and the defendant knows that if they can make it expensive enough ASIC might be more receptive to the soft options,” said UNSW Professor of Law Michael Legg.

“If you have a party in power that does not want a lot of white collar enforcement, it doesn’t have to say it, it can just not fund the enforcer.”

In 2014, the Coalition also sought to wind back Labor’s financial advice (FoFA) laws by scrapping a legal obligation requiring financial advisers to take “any reasonable steps” in their clients’ interests.

Senator Cormann said it was unnecessary as there are other safeguards in place, including six steps prescribed in the Corporations Act.

“That is adequate in order to ensure that financial advisers act in the best interests of their client,” he said at the time.  I wonder if he still thinks so.

Alan Kirkland from consumer group Choice said “The big banks, the heads of the major investment houses, the financial planning industry, will be doing cartwheels in the street because of this deal.  Because this deal delivers for industry, it delivers for the big end of town and that is at the expense of consumer protection.”

In October last year, the Coalition appointed former Goldman Sachs banker James Shipton to replace Greg Medcraft as chairman of ASIC.  Apparently he was considered a better choice than the other applicant, Credit Suisse Australia chairman John O’Sullivan, after Labor argued O’Sullivan’s friendship and fundraising links to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would have conflicted his appointment.  Sound familiar?

Shipton said “Financial markets are ultimately built on trust — trust in the integrity of the market and trust in market participants.  I see ASIC as a guardian of that trust.”

It seems the best way to guard trust has been to cover up wrong-doing.

Frydenberg is grasping the report and trying to throw all the blame at ASIC, but it was his government who set them up for failure by slashing their funding, and it was our current PM who called the banking RC a “populist whinge.”

Nice try Josh but the blame ultimately lies with the political protection racket offered by the Coalition government to their big business mates.

 

Oh what a surprise – the Coalition picks for the ABC board don’t know what they are doing

It was inevitable that there would be problems at the ABC when the Coalition chose to ignore advice from the independent nominations panel about board appointments based on merit to, instead, give jobs to people for all the wrong reasons.

The following is an unedited article I wrote in April last year titled Informed citizens or contented consumers.

There is great value in maintaining a national broadcaster that is publicly owned and funded, politically independent and fully accountable. Public ownership brings a distinct difference to the broadcasting system, with national broadcasters required and able to provide comprehensive, innovative programs not influenced by commercial imperatives.

But it seems the government’s appointees to the board of the ABC have a ‘new direction’.  As Richard Ackland put it, they want to turn what was once “a bright shining jewel in an ocean of mediocrity” into “mainstream sludge.”

In October 2014, the government appointed Peter Lewis to the board of the ABC.  This was a highly inappropriate appointment as Mr Lewis, who has a background in commercial media finance with Channel 7, was the author of a controversial, and secret, review of the ABC that was still under consideration by the board.

“Mr Lewis’s appointment appears to be a reward for him having devised a blueprint for how the ABC should be cut. It also looks to be an attempt by the Government to impose an agenda of commercialisation on the ABC.

Peter Lewis should never have been appointed to conduct a review of the ABC due to his recent employment in senior roles with media companies that are competitors of the ABC. It is even worse that someone with such a clear potential for conflict of interest has been appointed to the broadcaster’s governing board.”

A month later, Matt Peacock, 7:30 reporter and ABC staff-elected director, was told he faced redundancy after management placed him in pool of candidates to assess on ‘skills matrix’.  At the time, he was one of the board members who had to decide where to make the $254m cuts from the broadcaster.  One can only wonder how a threat like that would affect his ability to represent the staff on the board.

In November 2015, the government completely ignored the independent nominations panel who makes recommendations about ABC board appointments to appoint Donny Walford whose only qualification appears to be being a South Australian woman who owns a private company that helps women get on boards.

They also appointed Kirstin Ferguson, a Queensland woman whose background is mostly in the resources industry.  Neither woman has experience in the media.  They appear to have been chosen specifically for their gender and location to even things up.

In December 2015, it was announced that Michelle Guthrie, a former executive at Google and News Corp, would take over as Managing Director.

Under her watch, the ABC has announced a series of controversial changes starting with the abolition of the ABC Fact Check Unit. Then the closure of The Drum opinion and analysis website. In November the ABC announced it would make cuts to TV science program Catalyst that included redundancies for up to 9 staff, a decision that infuriated the scientific community. It then revealed significant programming changes to Radio National, including the removal of almost all music programs from the station.

Guthrie told the ace reporters, researchers and producers who put together Australia’s premier investigative current affairs TV show Four Corners that she would like to see in the lineup more stories about successful business people.

When it came to the program about children on Nauru speaking about their dire existence as captives of Australia’s offshore refugee policy, the managing director thought Four Corners should have found some happy children to interview.

Phillip Adams, who has presented Late Night Live on Radio National since 1991, says: “On the Richter scale of dread this is the most intense I’ve ever seen – and I lived through the Jonathan Shier years.”

Of Guthrie, Adams says: “She seems to talk to fellow bureaucrats, not program makers.”

In February this year, the government appointed Georgie Somerset to the board.  She is a beef cattle farmer and member of lobby group AgForce Queensland which is “a peak organisation representing Queensland’s rural producers.”

AgForce lists as a policy success its continued “fight to ensure that the significant international scrutiny that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is attracting is informed by credible science and practical targets rather than emotion and politics.”  They want “voluntary methods” rather than “mindless regulation.”

“I believe that agriculture is a cornerstone for the Australian economy and ensuring that the agricultural community has a voice in important decision making and policy setting forums is essential,” she said.

The government once again ignored the nominations panel to also appoint Vanessa Guthrie, chair of the Minerals Council, one of the most powerful lobby groups in the land.   She has more than 30 years of experience in the mining and resources industries, holding a variety of senior executive roles at Alcoa, Woodside Energy and Goldfields Limited.  Until last year, Guthrie was the managing director and chief executive officer of Toro Energy.

Simon Mordant*, who was hired using the Gillard government’s merit-based appointment process and whose tenure runs out in November, said he was a “passionate believer in arts and current affairs, and a strong believer in the role of an independent public broadcaster. I was interested in the role in the context of public service. I also feel I can not only contribute to, but also learn a great deal from, an industry going through dramatic change.”

He will also probably become a victim of the Coalition’s reckless need to purge all things Gillard.

Last month, the Prime Minister appointed his long-time friend Justin Milne to be the chair of the ABC board.

Milne and Turnbull worked together at internet service provider Ozemail in the 1990s and Turnbull appointed Milne to the NBN board in 2013.  He also sits on the board of Tabcorp Holdings.

Outgoing Chairman James Spigelman was disappointed to not have his term extended but his parting words show he was fighting a losing battle against the ‘new direction’.

“The ABC has a great future. I tried when I was first appointed to give a framework to what I thought was important to the role of the ABC, that the ABC has to treat its audiences as citizens not as consumers.

It’s a big difference. Treating them as citizens means not only treating them with respect but treating them as people with rights and duties, not as people with wants and needs.”

Unfortunately, it is doubtful this current board even understood what he meant.

*UPDATE:  Simon Mordant was replaced by Joseph Gersh in May 2018 who is a Director at Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute.  He is currently the founder and Executive Chairman of Gersh Investment Partners Ltd, a specialist real estate investment bank.

For a man who says he wants a united Australia, Morrison has a funny way of showing it

In response to calls to change the date of Australia Day, the man who purports to want to bring us all together has suggested we should instead have a different “special day” set aside to recognise indigenous people.

He further added that those who recognise the pain caused for many by using January 26th are engaging in “indulgent self-loathing.”

According to Scott, we must celebrate on January 26th because that is the day we “moved into the most recent, modern form of our history.”

Others would argue that the birth of modern Australia was on New Year’s Day 1901, when the British colonies of Australia formed a federation.

The PM stripped Byron Shire Council of its authority to conduct citizenship ceremonies earlier this week after the northern NSW council announced plans to shift the date to January 25.

In response, the mayor said “I thought we were actually celebrating Australia Day, not ‘modern’ Australia Day.”

“Is it true mateship to willingly, wilfully and continually celebrate what rightfully is great to be an Australian on a day that some Australians are pained by?”

One would think this is some great tradition under attack when, in actual fact, prior to 1994, the public holiday was always on a Monday regardless of the actual date.  Granted, it was the Monday closest to January 26th, but it’s not like we cared about that actual date – we just wanted a long weekend.  And I am fairly certain if you phrased the question that way – would you rather a long weekend or just some random day of the week off – most Aussies would be happier to have Monday (or Friday) off.

Australia Day should not be a day for drunken white yobbos with Southern Cross tattoos and flag capes to terrorise anyone who doesn’t look like them, as happened in Scott’s own electorate in 2005.

Why should we celebrate a foreign state invading and claiming this country to use as a penal colony?  I am fairly certain my ancestors who were transported here as convicts would not have been celebrating either.

Let’s get real here.  The date is nothing to celebrate.  Being Australian is.  Surely, as a civilised society, we can consider others’ feelings and avoid deliberate hurt.

Can we cast off the shackles of a colonial past and move forward together in respect and understanding?  Or are we to bow to the Anglophiles and sink into the hatred and division fostered by the ugly Hansonites?

Women have never had it so good according to ProMo

Emulating his hero, Donald Trump, Scott Morrison has taken to twitter to tell we women we have never had it so good.

“Under Labor, the gender pay gap increased from 15.5% to 17.2%. Under our Government it has fallen to 14.5% and heading in right direction” tweeted ProMo, signing off with the very Trumpian “#Moretodo.”

One would hope that the gender pay gap would have decreased over the last five years – Scott’s cherry-picked figures are basically correct – but, as is his wont, he is not telling the whole truth.

According to a report published in August by the government’s own Workplace Gender Equality Agency, over the last 20 years, the gender pay gap was at its highest under the Abbott government in November 2014, at 18.5%.

As of May 2018, Australia’s full-time gender pay gap, based on ABS data of Average Weekly Earnings, was 14.6%, but there is a large disparity between different sectors, states and industries and an even greater gap when all payments are considered.

The gender pay gap was 18.4% in the private sector and 10.5% in the public sector.

Western Australia has the widest gender pay gap at 22.4% while South Australia and Tasmania have the smallest gender pay gaps at 9.8% and 9.7% respectively.

And we’re not all heading in the right direction as Morrison would have us believe.  Over the last twelve months, the gender pay gap in the ACT and Queensland actually increased.

WGEA collects pay data annually from non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, covering more than 4 million employees in Australia. This data includes superannuation, bonuses and other additional payments, and reveals a far bleaker picture for women.

The full-time total remuneration gender pay gap based on WGEA data is 22.4%, meaning men working full-time earn nearly $26,527 a year more than women working full-time.

The gap is highest in Financial and Insurance Services with 26.6%, followed by Health Care and Social Assistance with 25.0% and Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services with 24.1%.

It seems like women who ‘have a go’ are unlikely to ‘get a go’ under a PM who can’t see any problems with how they are treated.

#Moretodo indeed!  Acknowledging the facts would be a good start.

Scroll Up