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Letitia McQuade is a writer, business person, and an award winning screenwriter and film maker. As a post grad, she studied creative writing at Melbourne University, and has a BA in Film and TV from VCA. Letitia has owned and run numerous small businesses in retail, manufacturing and real estate.

BREXIT: The Billionaires Coup

If you listen to Boris Johnson, he and his Tory hard Brexiters are enacting the will of UK voters (even though not all British citizens got to vote). But are they really?  It is worth asking yourself, who do the Torys usually go out to bat for?

Could it be their billionaire donors and the new EU tax avoidance laws that the Tories have foremost in their minds?

Yes, some people voted for an extra £350 million pounds for the health service.

But no one voted for chlorinated chicken, massive job losses, shortages of food and vital medicines (which will unquestionably lead to deaths) and decreased relevance on the world stage.

No one voted for a recession, complete with increased prices, a significant drop in the value of the pound, reduced study and career options for the young, and long painful cues whenever they hop across the channel.

I get it. No one likes to admit they have been conned, but this is now getting very, very real, and there are going to be real world consequences. So for those still waving the Brexit flag, here’s a few points to consider.

  • A shortage of vital medicines. Exactly, how many Brexit deaths are acceptable to you? How many deaths would you personally be prepared to sign off on? How many people’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters are you prepared to put in their graves for the sake of Brexit? Bear in mind those deaths will not come from the ruling classes. They will continue to have their medicines. The death toll will come from the towns and counties that the Torys have ignored since time immemorial. The likes of Aaron banks, Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson will not be going without medicines, I can assure you.
  • How big a dip in household income are you prepared to endure for the sake of Brexit? It is now clear we’re not talking hundreds, but thousands of pounds annually. So name your price. How much would you be prepared to slice off your income, and the incomes of all your family, friends and neighbours?
  • How many ordinary working people are you prepared to see lose their jobs and pushed onto the benefit queues? 10,000? 100,000 maybe 1,000,000? Name your figure. But while you work it out, just know that each one of those jobs is the lifeblood of someone’s family.
  • How many British pensioners living in the EU are you prepared to leave stranded, potentially without health care or pensions and unable to afford to return? Elderly people who worked all their lives, reduced to penury and homelessness, through no fault of their own. (And they didn’t even get a vote).
  • Exactly how many workplace health and safety standards are you happy to abandon in your workplace?
  • How many environmental and food standards are you prepared to scrap? Another chlorinated chicken sandwich on GMO bread, anyone?
  • How many more terrorists/criminals are you prepared to let slip through the net with the loss of EU wide co-operative security, intelligence and policing arrangements?
  • Exactly how much more are you prepared to pay for basics like, food and energy. Put a pound figure on it?

And when you are done answering those questions, please take a moment to make a list of things that will actually improve in your life when Brexit is enacted.

If you find that list alarmingly short, you might want to ask yourself, just who owns all those newspapers, spewing out all the anti-EU sentiment?  Yes, that’s right… It’s the billionaires.

Do you really think these fat cat billionaires have your interests at heart? Or would they rather continue diverting their profits to off shore tax havens? Profits that if taxed properly could provide ordinary people with better schools, hospitals, and pensions?

Forget the Irish backstop. The tax evasion laws are the real sticking point. And the only way for the Billionaires to avoid them is to get a HARD NO DEAL BREXIT.

Seems the only big winners from the no-deal scenario are the billionaires. It’s little wonder they don’t want a THIRD referendum. (The first one was in 1975). They have what they want in their sights, and they don’t want the will of the people, or parliament getting in their way. They have their man on the job, and he is determined to see it through.

Brexit was never about taking back control or the sovereignty of Parliament. (The fact Johnson has said he will shut down parliament and ignore legislation to avoid a NO DEAL BREXIT should pretty well snuff out any doubt about that).

This is a Billionaire’s coup. This is the French revolution in reverse. This is all about the tax arrangements of the ultra-wealthy, and thanks to their media savvy cohorts enough British voters bought it hook line and sinker to get them over the line, once!

But would they be so lucky today? Is it still “the will of the people”?

Britain NEEDS another vote on Brexit. This time with all the facts on the table.


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Dutton: The Lone Voice of Cruelty…

I am going to make this short. Australia wants the Biloela Family to stay!

While Peter Dutton clearly believes that white au pairs for his rich mates deserve special consideration, white South African farmers “deserve special attention” and fast-tracked visas, young brown children born here, to good parents fleeing conflict and looking for a better life? Well, not so much.

At Dutton’s express orders, they should be locked up for months without proper medical care, early childhood education and amenities; left to self-harm while their teeth blacken and fall out, only to be disappeared/deported in the middle of the night.

In the case of the Biloela family, DUTTON’s behaviour is nothing short of disgraceful. EVERYONE wants these people to stay. BUT Dutton, with his power grubbing overreach, is the lone voice of cruelty. He has cordoned off the power to rest solely in his hands, and he is behaving shamefully.

His claim, that he is simply upholding the law, is nothing but a cloak of moral cowardice. Not only does it fail to acknowledge his own part in creating the cruellest aspects of those laws, it fails to give due deference to human decency.

If a law fails to account for the natural human instinct, to refrain from treating innocent children with a cruel and contemptuous disregard, then that law is immoral and needs to be changed. No ifs, buts or maybes.

Whether or not the parents are genuine refugees (as determined by the courts), these are good people, hard-working people, and their children were born here. They have never even set foot in another nation. Deportation of these AUSTRALIAN children may be legally permissible but it is, nonetheless wrong.

Dutton’s racism is so blatant, his preferential application of power so beset with bigotry and prejudice, he is simply not fit for public office.

This is not the Country I want us to be. I, like so many others these days, am sadly ashamed of the cruel and heartless nation we have become. From our policies on refugees, climate and welfare, to the inequity of corporate tax evasion and misconduct, we have lost our moral compass.

Under the auspices of our current government we have become an immoral, corrupt, cruel and selfish nation that is indifferent to human decency.

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An LNP Refugee Backflip, is it even possible?

In light of the so-called “Nauru files” questions are naturally being asked. However the questions being asked by decent minded people of conscious are decidedly different from the ones being asked by the government and our immigration minister Peter Dutton.

While those of us who would prefer our nation didn’t behave like a sub-branch of the Third Reich are asking questions like, “why are we spending billions of tax payer dollars torturing and imprisoning people who have committed no crime?”

And “How can we ignore blatant human rights abuses on our watch?” the government is asking questions like “Who told, who leaked the reports?”

Under the government’s carefully managed messaging the innocent victims of our concentration camps have, until now, been successfully branded as criminals in the broader public’s eye. But the cat is well and truly out of the bag. Everybody knows that we have not only been locking up innocent people, we have been systematically subjecting them to all manner of abuse, rape and torture on our watch.

So where to now for the government? At this point you would have thought someone in the LNP party room might have suggested they put down the shovel and step away from the hole, but no. They are sticking to their guns. In his Orwellian attempts to manage the message Dutton has chimed in with a range of assertions so patently absurd they would be laughable if they weren’t so agonisingly tragic.

From his accusing refugee advocates of encouraging suicide attempts, (an allegation that has subsequently been proven to be false), to claiming that allegations of sexual assaults in the camps are simply a misguided attempt to penetrate our boarders, Dutton is a man so deep in denial that he seems unable to contemplate the notion that any of the 2000 plus incidents listed in the Nauru files might actually be the awful truth. He has become little more than the unfortunate mouthpiece of a government so driven by distorted ideology and political opportunism that it has fully embraced the Seinfeildian logic of “it’s not a lie if you believe it”.


But if we are to figure out how to move forward we must first look back and understand where we have been and how we got here.

Howard started it all with the children overboard scandal. A false claim made to demonise innocent people and gain political advantage. Down in the polls and facing electoral defeat, 9/11 landed on Howard’s doorstep like a political godsend. Suddenly he had a new Muslim bogey man to with which to terrify the public. Throw a compliant media and boatload of middle eastern refugees into the mix and he sailed back into office on the back of his successful scare campaign. So successful was his little man hate campaign that from that day forward everything changed. Where we once recognised refugees as hard working, often highly educated and entrepreneurial additions to our society, we were now encouraged to view them as self serving illegal interlopers bent on milking our benefits system and destroying our way of life. The torture and vilification of refugees was etched in stone into the LNP party platform, and the Murdoch rags gleefully cheered them on from the sideline.

Some of you will be too young to remember, but before Howard cynically exploited the Tampa crisis and invented the lie that was children overboard, refugees attempting to come here where greeted with a broad smile and hand up.

So here we are several years later, one of the richest countries on the planet, with the biggest houses and the largest per capita carbon footprint in the world, thumbing our nose at international law. With absolutely no sense of irony we seem able to torture and persecute innocent people for the outrageous act of fleeing torture and persecution. And for what? Why are we doing it? It costs us far more to persecute these people than it would to resettle them.

If you analyse it, the reason is clear. It is not about the money. It’s not about these people being a threat to the community. (As if 400 refugees are going to bring down the nation? It’s utter garbage, we have taken in thousands of refugees in over the decades and they have been overwhelmingly good for the nation).

What it is really about is political opportunism and advantage. Just like the Nazi’s did in the 30’s, the LNP get a lot of political capital out of fear of the other. Fear has proven such an effective wedge against labor and the greens, or any other party that can be packaged up by Murdoch and sold to the public as “soft of boarder protection” that the LNP are totally unwilling to give it up.

But it is not just a matter of the political advantage the LNP garner from prosecuting the case for fear, they have made the lie so big, and told it to us so often they simply can’t back away from it, even as it is crumbling around them. Even though the truth has well and truly escaped their control they are clearly willing to push back hard.  I’m sure they think that if they mount a good enough fight, with Murdoch on their side, they still might be able to save their precious rhetoric from being shown up for the lie that it is. After all if they back down now, not only will they lose one of their most valuable political cards, they are going to lose one hell of a lot of face.

In the wake of the Nauru files one thing has become abundantly clear. As human beings the LNP clearly lack the moral backbone and courage required to say, “we got it wrong”. Given the choice between owning their error and rethinking their policy or continuing on with the human rights abuses, clearly they prefer to keep torturing people.

So what now for us as a nation? More of the same I suspect.

We really need to talk about ‘Jobs and Growth’!

Capitalism (as we know it) is in Crisis, and it is going to fail!

We live in an increasingly brutal economy. Almost everything is granted or denied on the basis of your ability to pay. If you have the cash you get the service, if not you get nothing. The economy just doesn’t care if you are homeless, hungry, sick, war wounded, traumatised or retrenched. It only cares whether or not you can pay.

The system pits us against each other in an endless quest for money, and it encourages us to view our fellow humans as either a means to increase our personal wealth, or as a potential drain on it. This is the stark reality of living in an economy rather than a society.

But given that this is the system we live in, and we all need money to survive, how exactly does one make ends meet?

The easiest way is to be born into a family that has enough resources to feed, house and pay for a good education for you. However if you fail to secure such a birth then I’m afraid your chances of wallowing in poverty are astonishingly high, no matter what country you were born into.

You could enter the “labor market” and sell your time to the highest bidder. While this works reasonably well for some highly educated folk, unfortunately education has become extremely expensive of late, and often only results in a massive personal debt with no prospect of a job at the end of it.

student loan

You could of course forgo education and seek out unskilled work, but the drive to ever-decreasing levels of service and ever-increasing mechanisation has created a large reserve of unemployed, which keeps the price of human labor cripplingly low. (This fact is vividly on display in places like Bangladesh or downtown USA, where a person can easily work a gruelling 60 hour week and still fail to make enough money to eat well and rent somewhere semi decent to live).

There are of course the much-touted inspirational tales of those who start out with nothing and work their way to the top. But what are the odds of such a meteoric rise in status, especially if you had the misfortune of being low born in a 3rd world country? Suffice to say we are talking odds that would make a lottery ticket look promising. Even if you were blessed with the brains of Einstein and worked like a proverbial dog, without the right start in life you’re pretty well screwed.

For most people the system as it stands is precarious enough, but when you factor in the disruptive force of mass mechanisation that is hurtling towards us at break neck speed, it’s pretty clear that without major structural reform things could get much worse very rapidly.

robot car maker

There is credible research out there suggesting that up to 40% of Australian Jobs could disappear by 2025. That is LESS THAN 10 YEARS PEOPLE!

For the first time in our history we look set to run head long into the ultimate capitalist paradox. You know, the one where the .01% has everything and no one else can afford to buy anything, which rapidly brings the whole thing to a grinding halt. It’s the classic end to every game of Monopoly ever played. One person is filthy rich and smilingly self-satisfied, and everyone else is broke, resentful and threatening to up end the board.

robot waiter

Like it or not robotics and automation are on the rise right across the globe, & HUMAN EMPLOYMENT IS STRUCTURAL DECLINE. Just last week Adidas announced it was going to open new fully automated ‘robot’ factories to make shoes. The driverless cars and trucks are coming people, and no matter how much the LNP might wish it, the attendant tsunami of unemployment is not going to be halted simply by tinkering with the company tax rate.

We are talking about four out of ten Australians potentially losing their jobs within a decade.


And even if our job is safe, we need to understand that every new face on the unemployment line, every 457 visa granted to an underpaid Chinese worker puts Australian wages and conditions under increasing pressure. And as wages contract people’s disposable incomes shrink, and as people’s incomes shrink demand falls away, and as demand falls away profits start to fall, and before we know it we are in a full blown recession, or worse.

One thing is for sure; this slashing of labor costs due to mass mechanisation is NOT going to result in GROWTH for anyone but the 1%, (and even that growth could be very short lived if no one can afford to buy what they are selling).

We also have to take into account the massively increased cost of welfare, policing, and health care as record unemployment, increased crime, depression, addiction and ‘unforeseen’ climate events starts to ripple throughout the land.

This crisis is real, it’s on the horizon, and left to run its course it could get pretty damn ugly.

We are fast entering uncharted waters. Never before in human history have we had the capacity to produce so much, while having so many people that are just not needed to do the work. And the frightening truth is, no one really knows exactly how this is all going to play out.

How do we address a situation where a large percentage of the population is not able to earn enough to feed and house themselves? We can’t continue to blame and demonise them. After all it isn’t their fault the robots took their jobs.

jobless protestSo what the hell do we do? Do we kill the unemployed; do we turn them into thieves and criminals? Do will build gated communities so we don’t have to watch them quietly starve? Do we all start carrying guns to shoot them if they try to take our stuff? Seriously, what do we do?

There is only one humane answer. We have to reconfigure the model of distribution. We need to start a conversation about introducing some kind of UBI (Universal Basic Income). A UBI is, in short, a no questions asked basic livable stipend given to all citizens regardless of any other income.

basic income

I know this is a big leap, and it goes against the grain for many, but what other choice is there; war, famine, mass homelessness?

We have to accept the fact that 40 hours well paid employment is not going to be  a viable or achievable expectation for many people in the very near future. We also need to understand that for big and small business to survive people need to be able to afford to buy their goods and services.

The first question most people ask is “but how can we afford it?” While the answer is not yet clear, here is what we do know; if we are to afford it then we will probably need to be taxing companies MORE in the near future, not less. (or at the very least get them to actually pay tax at the headline rate rather than allow them to continue using convoluted off shore structures and tax havens to avoid it).

Sure, in the short term tax cuts might fuel investment, but is Coles investing in automated checkouts, or McDonalds installing a touch screen automated ordering system, or banks adding more automation to their systems, or taxi companies going driverless really going to employ more people? Or is it simply going to strengthen their company bottom line and thus reduce what they cycle back into the community?

Change is coming and we need to start discussing what the hell we are going to do to avoid complete social collapse in the face of massive, unprecedented underemployment.

bi reasons

And I am sorry to say it Mr Turnbull, but your long debunked, trickle down ‘jobs and growth’ tax cut for companies is a lame duck policy that simply fails to grasp or address the structural changes that are upon us.

You will be hearing a lot more about UBI’s over the next few months and years, (they are already being discussed and trialled in parts of Europe). And if we are to avoid a social/humanitarian disaster we need to start reframing the conversation.

The wave is coming, and we either learn to surf it or we are going to drown.


Trump! The death of political correctness and the rise of the bigots.

Being “PC” was once considered the calling card of civilised social commentary and educated debate. But over the last few years (in fact ever since Pauline Hanson let the racist genie out of the bottle with her maiden speech to parliament in 1996), the act of being “Politically Correct” (or PC) has been systematically assaulted by battlers, shock jocks and right wing pundits as a repressive constraint on free speech.

The mainstream media have effectively rebranded the once lauded virtue as an act of excessive pandering to vocal minorities, and managed to disingenuously package it up as an assault on the mainstream.


But what does actually it mean to be “politically correct”? According to the active component of the term means, avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental” (particularly on matters pertaining to race, gender or sexual orientation).

X3nsbCI realise this may sound somewhat old fashioned but to my understanding this would mean that being “politically correct” is simply the act of exercising GOOD MANNERS by not publicly espousing derogatory racist or sexist sentiments, or abusing those that are of an alternate race, gender, orientation or circumstance to ones own.

I admit good manners are somewhat of an old fashioned concept, but for the uninitiated the idea is basically this, you don’t say or do things that are HIGHLY LIKELY to lead to offence, vilification or active discrimination against others.

As a caveat to that, exceptions can be granted for those engaging in activities and speech (that might offend some) if their actions are designed to dismantle blatantly unfair and discriminatory practices, such as slavery, or securing women’s right to vote or drive cars. However exceptions cannot and should not be granted when the aim of the speaker is to vilify, arbitrarily exclude and incite hatred and violence.

Contrary to what some in the government may think, dismantling 18c (our laws against hate speech) and legally enshrining the right to abuse and vilify would not serve our political freedom; it would simply be inviting more ignorance, bigotry and hostility to run rampant in our society. (And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that may lead to some pretty ugly consequences).

Censorship has always been a thorny issue. A persuasive case can be mounted that the ability (under law) to say whatever we please ought to be one of our fundamental rights and freedoms, but in reality extremes very rarely produce good outcomes. While we clearly do not want the overtly repressive censorship that is exercised by some nations, we don’t want to allow an unchecked stream of hateful, violent,antisocial rhetoric to gain popular traction either.

politcally incorrectAs a society we must walk the tightrope between and the extremes of the overly repressive and the overly permissive, and it is a difficult balance to strike.

This is where “political correctness” once used to serve us so well. Being PC was the unspoken pact we had with each other that we would refrain from behaving like utterly hateful bigots, (at least in public); and anyone who crossed the line would be met with anything from the shaming disapproval of a sharply raised eyebrow to unemployment or outright social shunning.

It was a good, self-regulating system. We all agreed not to be hateful in public, and those that harboured hateful, antagonistic feelings towards others knew that they needed to keep those thoughts and feelings to themselves, lest they become a social pariah.

Abandoning that pact comes at no small cost. While the likes of Hanson and Abbott have cleared Australia’s way to socially permissible bigotry, one only needs to look to the USA and the phenomena that is Trump to gain an understanding of what it may ultimately cost us if we progress any further down that road.trump politcally correct

Watching Trump abandon all sense verbal restraint is an agonising spectre. The ease with which he spews his loathsome bile all over the mainstream news cycle, (who happily devour it like rabid dogs), is horrific.

The unapologetic swagger with which he peels off racist and misogynistic epithets is simply staggering. He does nothing for social cohesion; instead he sets the stage for the hateful to come out loud and proud; and emboldened by the vicious unrestrained political rhetoric the haters are rising to his call. Whether it is advocating the brutal torture of refugees, discriminating against the LGBT community, punishing the disabled and unemployed, assaulting Muslim women on the train, or spraying racist epithclosed-mind2-233x300ets on my local Indian restaurant (or worse), they are out there and they are getting increasingly brazen. (So much so that even some right wingers realise it has gone too far, and are now clamouring for the restraint that “political correctness” once afforded them).

But how do we contain the hate? How can we reinstate the PC pact?  Can we actually make back the ground that has been lost? Having thrown off the “PC” shackles of societal shame, the bigots and haters are on the march, and they will not be silenced easily.

The New Ugly Australia … Is the right dead wrong?

Australia has changed. I cannot say when exactly it happened but sometime in the last 15 years, while we were all stood around the BBQ indulging in the government sanctioned, media driven hysteria about dole bludgers, single mothers, welfare cheats, refugees and terrorists, an air of brutal, self-aggrandising elitism has gently wafted over us.

Masked by our nation’s perennial feel good olfactory cocktail of jasmine, Aerogard and BBQ smoke we barely noticed it at first, but over that last few years it has become far more pervasive. Many of the well to do among us have inhaled the right’s harsh new rhetoric as if it where the only oxygen in a gas chamber. Even so-called “Aussie battlers” can be heard publicly mouthing the right’s battle cry.

bbqSo what happened to us? How did we, the land of plenty, the nation with the 2nd highest standard of living in the world, the nation of the fair go for all, the nation of the good sport, come to this? How did we come to feel so besieged, so hard done by, so threatened?

Throughout history humans have toiled under countless social orders. Whether it be tribalism, feudal fiefdoms, the divine right of kings, communism, capitalism, religious caliphates, socialism, collectivism, fascism or rampant corporatocracies, power and politics have always been about the allocation of resources.

While there are limitless arguments over the virtues and shortcomings of various political systems, the long-standing schism between the left and right is basically about whether power and resources aught to serve the interests of the few (as favoured by the right) or the many (as advocated by the left).

Historically speaking the vast majority of social orders have leaned heavily to the right, which has resulted in a dynastic concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few so called “elites”. Admittedly there have been a few bold attempts at dismantling entrenched power and organising distribution in a more equitable way. However for the most part these revolutions where born of a desperate scarcity rather than a utopian vision that was crafted through careful planning; and as such most attempts to revamp the social order have been relatively short lived and achieved little more than the supplanting of one set of avaricious oligarchs by another.

But in this media savvy age, where the west pays significant lip service to the concept of democracy, the hoarding of resources and the institutional abuse of power in the name of unchecked greed must be presented in a more nuanced fashion. The stark reality must be massaged into a more palatable form.

While it is clear we do not start out on a level playing field, with issues such as educational opportunity, poverty, ill health, violence and addiction clearly plaguing some sections of society more than others. Study after study shows that children that are subject to such stressors have markedly reduced educational outcomes and subsequently lower incomes.

equality and solidarity equal rights and opportunities no discrimination

equality and solidarity equal rights and opportunities no discrimination

When pressed most Aussies agree that denying people equal opportunity is intrinsically wrong. However by glossing over the inherent inequities in the system and branding the poor and marginalised as stupid, lazy or undeserving, the right has curbed our natural concern for those less fortunate, and positioned itself as the champion of the increasingly paranoid and rapidly shrinking middle and aspirational classes.

The right’s rhetoric is an endless conversation about reducing government support in favour of self-reliance, rewarding success and not fostering dependence. It is pro capitalism, pro business, pro individual; it is the self-declared advocate of the so-called self-made man. As Hockey famously said “if you want to buy a house in Sydney, then get a job that pays good money”

On the face of it, it sounds quite reasonable that we should focus on fostering individual reward for individual effort. But as with many things that can seem intuitively correct at first glance, the issue is considerably more complex.

For a start, at what point can someone accurately be described as “self made”, rather than the beneficiary of some privilege inherent to their wealth, education, class, race, gender or sexual orientation? (This is not to say that those who actually benefit from such systemic biases don’t work extremely hard, but it does raise questions as to whether their endeavours would be quite so fruitful where they subjected to the same hurdles that say an aboriginal woman might have to contend with).

Then we need to consider the question of who is actually responsible for making a success? Whether we acknowledge it or not entrepreneurs and corporations require the efforts of an extraordinary array of people to bring their vision to life.

For example, Apple wouldn’t be able to sell many iPhones were it not for the miners and chemical engineers that deliver the raw materials, or the workers that assemble, ship and market them. So is it really accurate to describe Jobs and Wozniack as “self made”, or would it be more accurate to describe them as great innovators and organisers, who successfully utilised the talents and resources of others to rise to prominence?

in-their-last-conversation-steve-jobs-talked-about-having-steve-wozniak-come-back-to-appleConsider this, is the so-called “self made man” responsible for the fact that his workforce can read and do basic math? Of course not, yet he is benefiting from the public education for his own private profit. Did he pay for the roads and airports over which his goods travel? No. Yet he benefits and profits from the public infrastructure.

The fact is the self made man is a myth. Success is always a collaboration, and a large share of the resources brought to bear in any enterprise are funded by the public purse; a fact that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by the right.

Sure, there are plenty of industrialists who have proven themselves masterful in utilising the abilities and efforts of others, but they are simply one cog in much larger machine, and common sense aught to tell us that if we only service that one cog the machine is heading for a catastrophic failure.

In spite of the threat of global warming, rampant environmental degradation, spiralling rates of homelessness and mortgage stress, skyrocketing health and education costs and our ever-diminishing access to fresh healthy food and water the right continue to tell us that their lop sided hegemony is a good thing; and in spite of the fact that they primarily serve the interests of huge multi-national corporations and wealthy elites, we remain surprisingly willing to believe them.

The right has branded their beloved “captains of industry” as successful. They are the “winners”, and one of the right’s great tricks is to sell us on the notion that if we work hard enough, and are smart enough, we will get our turn. But there is little to no real evidence to support this idea. There is no escaping the fact that society needs many levels of operatives to function; we can’t all be CEO’s. Someone still has to clean the toilets!

And what about those of us that cannot adequately function or contribute? Are we so full of reverence for the tax evading elites that we believe they should be able to utilise the benefits of public education and infrastructure without contributing, while the poor, disabled, mentally ill, and single parents etc., are denied a dignified existence?

The fundamental difference between the left and the right is the prescribed value that is attached to human existence and input.

I put it to you that in overvaluing and prioritising the interests of those at the top and undervaluing everyone else the right has got it very very wrong.

The right is at war with us; they are fighting to reduce our wages in support of corporate profits. They are looking to tax us more and the tax 1% less, and we are willingly falling in as foot soldiers in the war against our broader interests.

It seems to me that as we sit around our BBQ’s inhaling the heady scent of our own entitlement, demonising the weak and disenfranchised, chugging back a few beers and cheering on our nation’s reinvigorated racist zeal and self righteous cruelty to refugees, the coalition is slowly cutting our legs out from under us, while disingenuously urging us all to step up and climb the ladder.

Ever tried to climb a ladder with no legs? It just doesn’t work.


Abbott going Batty just doesn’t cut it – the media and the minister for women are failing miserably

I admire Rosie Batty. She has suffered immeasurable grief and tragedy with grace, courage and fortitude. She has moved forward, from the depths of despair with a resolute determination to highlight the issue of domestic violence and to try and change things for the better. Her obvious character and strength make her admirable choice for Australian of the year.

That said, the sight of the media scrum snapping happily while Abbott cozies up to her at every possible photo opportunity is scraping new depths, even for our minister for women.

The casual misogyny with which Abbott selected his cabinet, named himself minister for women and then went on to support to the proposed funding cuts for women’s refuges; the glee with which he poses in front of fighter jets and spends billions sending our troops off to war (apparently for our safety and security), and yet continues to ignore the plethora of women killed as a result of domestic violence is absolutely breathtaking.

There has been no dialogue about this at all coming from our minister for women, no billions to fund a war on domestic violence, no proposed judicial reform and no education campaigns, just a lame promise to put a national “restraining order” on the books. A move that will do nothing to change the attitudes of the general public or the behavior of offenders. Quite frankly Abbott’s lack of rigor on the issue is an insult to all Australians, men and women alike.


But it’s not just the minister for women that is letting the side down; the media are also missing in action. For the most part we hear absolutely nothing of the people living in our communities that lose their lives to the scourge of domestic violence. Right now there are thousands of men, women and children suffering silently in their homes, with little hope of escape or assistance.

While there are quite clearly perpetrators of both genders, the overwhelming majority of victims are women; and it is a sad indictment of our society that on average one woman is killed by her intimate partner every single week and we rarely, if ever, hear anything about it, save for the odd statistic. We get no names, no faces, no interviews with grieving relatives, no court reporting on the sentence; nothing that makes it real or tangible for us.

So why is it that neither Abbott, nor the main stream media, has any tangible appetite for the issue of domestic violence? Unless of course it is the children that are killed; that’s another thing altogether.

Who could forget the media frenzy that ensued when Robert Farquharson murdered his three sons by strapping them into his car and driving them into a dam, or when four year old Darcy Freeman was thrown off the Westgate bridge, and most recently when Rosie Batty’s eleven year old son was brutally beaten to death. These “stories” hit the news cycle like pop songs on high rotation, where every intricate detail, every arrest, every court date, every psychologist’s report and judge’s statement is ghoulishly devoured and endlessly regurgitated by the mainstream media. 

But when it’s the wife or the girlfriend that’s the victim all there is is a deafeningly hollow silence. No media scrums outside the court house, no politicians banging their fists and declaring something will be done. There is nothing…. zip, zilch, nada.

domestic violence

Why is it that? Could it be that we, as a society, just don’t care about women? Surely that can’t be the case? What about Jill Meagher? The media were out in force for her. Thousands of protesters marched through the streets carrying placards. And what about Ms Vukotic who was tragically slain in a Doncaster park? Her murder was deemed worthy of a media scrum.

But why is the untimely demise of these women deserving of so much media outrage, while the murders of so many other women are completely overlooked and ignored? The only discernible difference I can see is that Ms Meagher and Ms Vukotic were a.) murdered by a totally random stranger, not a sexual partner. b.) they were not sex workers, and c.) Ms Meagher worked in the media. While these facts may have made these cases more media noteworthy, they do not make them any more heartbreakingly tragic.

I admit I am no psychologist, but to me it looks like we have two classes of victims. The first being children, (who are clearly innocent by virtue of their age) and women who are unknown to their attackers; and the second being sex workers or women who are beaten and or killed by their intimate partners.

If you fall into the first category the violence visited on you is an outrage, worthy of the harshest punishment and endless sensationalized regurgitation in the 24 hour news cycle. If you fall into the second category your fate is greeted by the media, the government and the judiciary (who are the only ones who have the power to actually do something tangible about Australia’s domestic violence problem) with a collective yawn. It’s a curious divide.

I remember how shocked I was when several years back a friend of my mother’s was nearly beaten to death by the man she was dating. In an alcohol fueled rage he repeatedly rammed her head into the wooden arm rest of a Jacobean couch until he had smashed her skull in several places. She sustained permanent brain damage; and he, in spite of being charged with attempted murder and found guilty, was given an 18 months sentence, wholly suspended. He didn’t serve a single day in jail over the attack.

There was some kind of glib summing up by the judge about volatile relationships, too much alcohol and things getting “a bit out of hand”, and how as they were no longer together she was highly unlikely to suffer a repeat attack. Sending him to jail would apparently cause him to lose his job and his stymie his ability to pay child support so there was “nothing to be gained by a custodial sentence”.

We were all totally gob smacked; this man had almost beaten her to death and left her with permanent brain damage and he barely got a slap on the wrist!


Admittedly this was several years ago, but from what I understand this kind of thing is still quite common. Intimate partner violence is systematically trivialized by the police, the courts, and the government; and it is largely ignored by both the minister for women and the media.

Curious. If women are beaten or murdered by strangers it is an outrage, but if the the attack is perpetrated by their sexual partners it seems we really don’t give a damn.

The burning question is why? Any thoughts anyone?


Abbott’s Jack Boot Diplomacy Threatens 11th Hour Clemency Efforts.

If Australia has learnt anything from Abbott’s history, it is that Abbott has learned nothing from Abbot’s history.

DFAT have been working tirelessly behind the scenes with every ounce of their diplomatic persuasion to move Indonesia from it’s seemingly intractable position. They have carefully nuanced their presentation of Australia’s heartfelt desire for mercy. They have acknowledged the political difficulties Indonesia’s president would face if he were to acquiesce to our wishes, and let it be known that we, as Australians, understand the incredible act of political courage it would be for Joko Widodo to grant clemency at this late stage.

The fact that Indonesia delayed the transfer of Chan and Sukamaran was evidence of some slight progress. Glimmers of light were starting to appear in the darkness; and then Abbott steps in, like the street brawler he is, shirt fronting the Indonesians with a mouthful of toxic threatening rhetoric.

The lack of emotional intelligence displayed by Abbott is utterly staggering. One can not help but wonder if he actually wants to see the executions go ahead? Because if he wants to save Chan and Sukamaran he has got know that bullying Indonesia is not helping.

Does Abbott understand anything about human nature at all? If the Indonesians were considering clemency before Abbott started going off like a loose canon, it could only have been cast as an act of supreme generosity of spirit and political bravery; the benevolent act of a fair minded and courageous leader. After Abbott’s little stunt it could just as easily be cast as Indonesia buckling under the fist of the local colonial bullyboy. Honestly does Abbott understand nothing?

Abbott’s meddling in this situation is tragic, embarrassing and may well have cost Chan and Sukamaran their lives. Australia simply can not afford to have Abbott rolling around like a loose canon on the world stage.

Our one hope is that the Indonesians will take Abbott’s lack of domestic popularity into account when accessing his rather inappropriate contribution to the situation. Hopefully the Indonesians are aware that Abbott doesn’t speak for us as a nation. Hopefully they know and understand that we Australians find Abbott’s commentary as offensive and inappropriate as they do. Hopefully Indonesia will understand the profound respect, gratitude, warmth and friendship Australians would hold eternally in our hearts should Indonesia see fit to spare our fellow countrymen.


#Murdoch’s Machiavellian Manoeuvres . . .

After a string of ghoulishly inappropriate tweets it seems the irrepressible Rupert it is at it again. With very own his media empire poised and ready to dedicate swathes of precious air time to his every hashtag, it’s no surprise that the man cant keep his hands off his twitter account.

But given his latest round of tweets one has to wonder what on earth is Murdoch up to?

tweet murdoch

First he blasts Abbott for knighting that shining beacon of misogyny and casual racism that is Prince Phillip, and now he is saying Abbott needs to sack Peta Credlin?

I’m no great fan of Peta Credlin but blaming her for Abbott’s woes is like blaming a creme cake for Boko Haram. Admittedly she could have kept him on a tighter leash, but the reality is that Abbott is her boss, not the other way around, and if he is determined to go off like a loose cannon there isn’t really a lot Ms. Credlin can do about it.

While Murdoch’s call for Credlin’s scalp is understandable on one level, after all there is a well set precedent in Australian politics that powerful women are expected to clean up the messes made by the boys, and then thrown under a bus for their efforts, (Just think Joan Kirner, Julia Gillard, and more recently Sussan Ley, who – after Dutton’s abject failure- has been handed the delightful task of destroying Medicare… I guarantee you, give it 18 months and Ms Ley will be road kill), it is still a somewhat curious manoeuvre.

murdoch tweets










We all know that Abbott is Murdoch’s boy, bought and paid for, and no one would be surprised if Murdoch was suffering a touch of buyer’s remorse where Abbott is concerned. I for one would not be shocked if Murdoch, much like anyone else that buys a lemon, is desperately searching for an exit strategy that won’t leave too much egg on his face. But why would he slap Abbott down one day, and blame Credlin the next? Are we simply witnessing the random #’s of man who is getting on a bit and losing the plot, or does Murdoch have some kind of cunning plan?

Riding on the back of his media empire Murdoch currently enjoys great sway with the Australian voting public, but even he knows that in this social media age you can not take anything for granted. With the disgrace that was the phone hacking scandal in the UK, and the utter derision with which most of the USA views fox news (when Fox news can’t even raise enough votes in a racially polarised America to keep Obama out of office, you have know it’s a spent force), Australia is possibly the last place on earth where Rupert wields the kind of political influence he so clearly craves, and he certainly doesn’t want to blow it.

AbbochMurdoch has now quite rightly assessed the public sentiment, and realised that sticking up for his man Tony is only going to erode his social and political capital. So what to do? Abbott is now so toxic, standing by him is clearly not an option, but who can Rupert turn to to be his new man in Canberra?

Trouble is, in setting a such a hideous policy agenda Abbott has managed to turn each and every portfolio into a poison chalice that is guaranteed to cruel the chances of any potential successor.

It is unlikely Scott Morrison will ever recover from his stint in immigration, George Brandis has been eternally lumbered with the racist tag (courtesy of the ill advised attempt at 18c amendments), Joe Hockey is forever blighted with his budget opus, Julie Bishop is a woman so forget that, and let’s face it Christopher Pyne was never going to be a saleable option.

What about Andrew Robb or Peter Dutton? Really? I don’t think so! And then of course there is the ever popular Malcom Turnbull, the only one who could probably save them, but Turnbull is way too much of centrist for Murdoch’s purposes, and he isn’t supported in the party room anyway.

So what is poor Rupert to do about toxic Tony, he can’t side with him, and he can’t find a suitable successor?

This is where the attack on Credlin starts to make sense. From Rupert’s point of view, (as the undisputed emperor of his very own personal 24 hour news cycle), it’s not hard to see how Credlin could make a credible scape goat for all Abbott’s stuff ups. She is powerful, she is a woman, she is unelected (which means no messy bi-election swings to have to explain away), and as she is largely attributed with Abbott’s successes surely it wouldn’t be too hard to spin her into the cause of his failures as well.

CredlineWill Murdoch be able to successfully to transfer Abbott’s stench onto Credlin, (because if his tabloids are anything to go by, he is certainly having a red hot go at it)?

To me it looks like Murdoch is throwing Credlin to the wolves in one desperate last ditch attempt remediate Abbott’s image.  The question is will the electorate buy it?

I’m thinking probably not.

Hate Speech Is Not Free Speech!

After proposing then abandoning a raft of manifestly unpopular changes to section 18C of Australia’s racial vilification laws last year, certain members of the LNP have recently relaunched their attack on 18C, under the rather disingenuous pretext of championing free speech.

In the wake of the Charlie Hedbo attacks Cory Bernardi has been out there again, calling for the LNP’s precious 18C amendments to be put back on the table.

Like pit bulls with lock jaw, a gang of radical right wing MP’s including Cory Bernardi, George Brandis, Dean Smith, liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, and Family First’s Bob Day have been lobbying hard to ensure we Aussies have the right to engage in hate speech.


Just for clarity, lets take a closer look at what it is they want to change. Specifically they want to have the words “offend, insult and humiliate” removed from the act.


Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

(b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.


So in effect what they are proposing is that it would just fine to PUBLICLY “offend, insult and humiliate” someone based on their race, colour or national or ethnic origin, so long as you don’t “intimidate” them.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that most people would find public insult and humiliation somewhat intimidating; so we can assume that the interpretation to be given to the word “intimidate” under the proposed amendments would be “to directly physically threaten”, rather than “to emotionally threaten”.

If these changes were ushered in then theoretically it would be OK if I were to call Tony Abbott filthy, unwashed, lazy, whinging, snaggle toothed, imperialist, stuck up, limey British scum? And that would be totally OK, because I am all I am doing is using racial stereotypes to abuse him, but I am not actually threatening to do him any harm. Of course the truth is that most British people work hard, wash regularly, visit dentists, aren’t seeking to expand their empire, and complain in relatively appropriate measure..:-), but hey why let the truth get in the way of good story.


Unfortunately what these right wing warriors are failing to understand is that the Racial Discrimination Act is not really about protecting the feelings of “white people”. It was drafted in the knowledge that there are ethnic groups in this country that really suffer as a result of constant racial abuse and the negative stereo types that such abuse fosters.

no racist

To our shame there are many Australians, (most notedly our indigenous brothers and sisters, followed closely by those of African or “middle eastern appearance”) that regularly suffer systemic discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of their race. They are the same Australians that regularly suffer physical abuse in public spaces, and higher rates of detention and incarceration on account of their race. So please let’s not minimise this, these are real consequences, for real people!

Free speech is a noble ideal, but in order for something to be truly free it must come without a cost. Just because hate mongers like Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the oh so white fleet of right wing MP’s don’t personally pay the price for their racist tirades doesn’t mean someone isn’t picking up the tab. And too frequently those picking up the tab are the among the poorest and most marginalised members of our Australian family.


If you happen to belong to one of those oft targeted minorities the Racial Discrimination Act may not offer a lot of protection, but it is the thin end of a very important wedge. It is a line in the sand that says NO, we as Australians do NOT want a society where racial vilification and negative racial stereotypes are permitted to fester and stew in the public sphere. We want an Australia that says racists need to be ashamed, knowing that they are on the wrong side of what is morally decent, and on the wrong side of the law. We want an Australia where vile hate speech does land Andrew Bolt in court and up on charges. Mostly we want an Australia that is for the fair go for everyone regardless of race, colour or creed.

AFL call out

So Mr Bernadi, I say this to you on behalf of all decent, fair minded Australians….. GET BACK IN YOUR BOX!!!, we don’t want the hate you are peddling!!!


Religion… What is it good for?

On the latest available research approximately 84% of the world’s population identify themselves as believing in, (or at least being affiliated with) one religion or another. Yet as the world reels in shock at the latest brutal fundamentalist attacks I find myself drawn to question whether or not the religions of the world, as self described moral arbiters, are now (or have ever been) truly fit for purpose?

From the crusades to the inquisition, from the burning of witches to the ritual sacrifice of children, from the institutional pedophilia of the catholic church to the slaughter of young girls for the “crime” of learning to read, there can be little argument that human history is replete with a litany of barbarous acts carried out in the name of religion.

jesus to jail

But what is it about religious faith that drives some people to embark on murderous repressive rampages against their fellow human beings? Is it their faith that actually drives them, or are they simply consumed by homicidal fantasies and religion conveniently allows them to cloak their dark desires in a veil of piety?


Jonestown massacre – suicide

If religions are, as they claim, providing the moral structure and framework under which human societies can and should live, then how exactly are we supposed to interpret, understand and deal with the actions of those who repress, brutalise and kill predicated on the belief that it will please their God, (and/or secure them some lavish reward in the afterlife)?

Seriously, what traits and characteristics can we reasonably attribute to an entity (divine or otherwise) that would engage in, or be delighted by such atrocities? Because to my mind merciful, benevolent, loving, and kind are not topping the list.



Admittedly these are not new questions, the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was posing such questions as far back as 300BC:

“Is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able, and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither willing nor able? Then why call him a god?” Epicurus

But with 84% of the human family still adhering to the idea of a sentient, all knowing, personality based deity these questions remain just as relevant today as they were two to three thousand years ago.

As there has never been any definitive earthy proof as to the existence or form of God, it could be argued that each of us is free, within the bounds of our chosen faith, to define God in accordance with our own preferences. Even within the confines of a particular faith’s scriptures there is a smorgasbord of choices from which we can construct our own personal versions of God.

As a Christian you are free to choose the angry, vengeful, jealous God of Deuteronomy or the loving God of John 4:16 or Galatians 5:22-23.

As a Muslim you could go with the God of Quran 2:191, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing… or you could align your heart with the more moderate God of Quran 25:63: The worshipers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”


I have never met two people who have the exact same idea of who or what God is, and thus it appears to me that regardless of brand affiliations, God is pretty much what ever we want God to be. Kind of like the Subway sandwich of spirituality, we can put whatever we want into our God, and leave out or ignore any bits that aren’t to our taste.

But surely, if we are to assign responsibility for determining our ethical structures and moral conduct to a God, (or a set of scriptures, or a particular religion), then we need to be very wary of being seduced by our own subjective desires and interpretations.

twin tower pencils

If we accept the premise that any God we hold is actually a mirror reflection of our own preferences and tendencies, then how can we possibly use such a God or religion to accurately determine what is right or wrong without being swayed by our own predilections?

The fact is we can’t. With or without God, when it comes to determining what we hold to be right or wrong we are fundamentally on our own! What Gods and religions do seem to do for us however, (if we chose to interpret things that way), is grant us a free license to perform actions that are clearly harmful to others, blame our victims, and envelop ourselves in a shroud of moral righteousness and respectability while we are about it. It’s like the ultimate get out of jail free card.

That said, the search for absolute truth has always been difficult, and there are very few things that can be readily accepted by all peoples as unquestionably true, but I have managed to find a few. For example:

1.Human beings can not live in an atmosphere of liquid methane.

2.Human beings are not fish.

3. If you stop breathing you will eventually die.

4. If you do not eat you will eventually die.

5. You will eventually die.

Admittedly these “truths” are not really all that helpful when one is seeking to define indisputable parameters for righteous moral conduct, but then again on all evidence neither is God or religion!

No matter what we believe we all must take responsibility for our actions. If we go forth into the world with the will to harm others, then we need to understand that we are ultimately acting out the violence, hatred and defilements of our own hearts and minds. God and religion have nothing to do with it!

religion war

Travelling backwards… Abbott’s year of “achievement”

It’s been a punishingly busy year for the coalition. With so many pressing items on their to do list, like:

Dismantling medicare, cutting foreign aid, reducing real wages, slashing funding to the ABC and SBS, destroying the NBN, raising the retirement age, gutting the CSIRO, cutting child care staff subsidies, axing secular social workers in public schools in favor of chaplains, trashing the renewable energy sector, spending billions breaching international law with our treatment of refugees, stripping away our right to privacy, granting immunity from prosecution to ASIO officers, unwinding the same sex marriage laws in the ACT, ushering in ISDR clauses in the South Korean, Chinese and Japanese free trade agreements, blowing holes in the budget with the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, investing in a shiny new war and handing an unsolicited multi-billion dollar gift to the reserve bank… it’s just been go go go for the Abbott government.

Given the cracking pace of their legislative achievements it’s quite amazing they have had the time to (among other things):

Axe the Climate Commission, cull the sharks, fast track the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, open up the Galilee Basin, scrap the Australian Animals Welfare Advisory Committee, scrap the Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council, scrap the International Legal Services Advisory Council, scrap the High Speed Rail Advisory Group, scrap the Maritime Workforce Development Forum, scrap the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, scrap the Insurance Reform Advisory Group, scrap the National Housing Supply Council, and as a special last minute present for Christmas, scrap the funding to homeless and housing groups!

Admittedly the government will need a bit more time to “sell” the obvious merits of some of their policies to the ignorant cross-benchers and whiny leaners in the broader electorate, but never fear, with a few more tax payer funded “public education” campaigns we will all no doubt be clamoring for Hobbitt (yes, that is a Hockey Abbott couple contraction) to dish out their lavish Paid Parental Leave to high earning mums to be, ensure our universities are properly reserved for those with a fiscal pedigree, and to finally pull the trigger on those pesky unemployed youth who are currently cowering in their cross-hairs.

But it hasn’t all gone Abbott’s way! And while we may lament that some of the government’s noblest ambitions, (such as their push to de-list Tasmania’s world heritage forests or secure our right to engage in hate speech), have been thwarted by forces beyond their control, at least the coalition government have had the guts to stand up to those lefty green nutters and try!

None the less I think we can feel relieved that the government hasn’t made any significant move to stem corporate tax evasion, (in fact they have pro-actively stood in the way of international co-operation on that issue).  Nor has Abbot been swayed by all that hysterical feminist white noise, managing to keep the number of women in cabinet down below 10% in his Christmas reshuffle. (Golly gee, if I had known it would be this fabulous under the Coalition I would have voted for them!)

comedy tragedy

As the first full year of the Abbott government draws to a close, comedy and tragedy stroll hand in hand through our political landscape into 2015, a future as yet unknown. If all goes according to the play book Abbott and his team have two more years to weave their special magic over the nation, but who knows? Maybe we can look forward to some PLEASANT surprises in the New Year!

Happy Holidays 🙂

A tree is for life, not just for Christmas!

There is something quite magical about trees. From the food we eat to the air we breath trees sustain us. They provide us with medicines, enrich our soils, cleanse our water tables, build and furnish our homes, provide shade and coalesce the clouds that bring us fresh rain water. Trees soothe us emotionally, for no matter how down we may feel, we always feel a little better when we can get ourselves to a park or forest and commune with a tree.

What could be a better symbol of hope and renewal than a tree?

You may be surprised to learn that the humble Christmas tree actually pre-dates “Christmas” by many thousands of years. The winter solstice celebration currently known as Christmas has in fact gone by many names, and has had many religious rituals attached to it throughout the ages.

The Pagans used to use evergreen branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as a reminder that the renewal of spring would soon be with them. The ancient Romans even used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia, so there is nothing new, or exclusively christian about lopping down a tree and dragging it inside for the mid winter festival.

While the global figures are difficult to calculate the USA chops down and sells around 40 million live christmas trees every year, but this is not an entirely bad thing. It means there is somewhere in the vicinity of 400 million trees in the USA, (sorry don’t have Australian figures), now growing that wouldn’t be there but for the Christmas market, (and 400 million trees is a lot of carbon abatement).

With roughly 40% of live Christmas trees subsequently being recycled, and the fact that fir trees don’t need as high a quality soil as other crops, (so they can utilise otherwise degraded land), using a real tree is, on the face of it, a far better option than using a fake one.

“The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal”. NY times

Even so, the arbitrary chopping down trees is not something we should be taking lightly. The fact is we are in big environmental trouble, and deforestation is a large part of our problem.


Forests currently cover about 30 % of the world’s land mass but according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest – roughly the size of Panama – are lost each year and about half of the world’s tropical forests have already been cleared; with forest loss contributing between 12 and 17 % of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the reckless felling of the world’s forests doesn’t just pose a threat to our global climate, it also endangers global food security. Soil erosion, soil salinity, drought, and desertification are just some of the devastating consequences of industrial forestry and farming practices.

burkina_faso_black_hand_955x415_0While there are a plethora of ideas and arguments on how to manage the climate crisis, many suggestions, like geo-engineering, could expose the planet to utterly terrifying unforeseen consequences. There is however one rather unassuming solution being proposed that is, (as far as anyone has been able to ascertain), totally free from any negative consequences…


worth of a tree

It’s hardly a radical proposition, as pretty much everyone agrees that if we are to avoid a catastrophic environmental collapse we need to preserve the trees and forests we already have, and we desperately need to plant more!

There is plenty of good science behind this too. Trees release chemicals that form clouds, and clouds not only bring rain, but they also reflect sunlight and act like a heat shield. Trees can literally cool the planet if we plant enough of them. But the good news doesn’t stop there, planting trees can repair degraded landscapes and provide food, employment and business opportunities where there is currently nothing but despair.

This inspiring video, narrated by Stephen Fry is an insight into what we can achieve if we all pull together.

At this point I would like to introduce you to “WE FOREST”, a non profit TREE PLANTING NGO that in spite of being very well known in Europe, (and having been founded by noted Melbourne expat Bill Liao), has thus far remained fairly low profile here in Australia.   

With the modest aim of planting two trillion trees, rehabilitating degraded land and cooling the planet, (all while providing food, business opportunities and employment for locals), WE FOREST has planted more than 6 million trees so far, and is currently doubling it’s total plant every year.


Giving trees for Christmas is something that I am doing this year, and it’s something I am inviting you to do with me. In just a few clicks, you can offset your entire carbon footprint for the year, or buy trees as a gift for your loved ones. (You will get a nice certificate via email stating how many trees you have bought on their behalf, and you can add a personal message too). The trees you donate, (and their associated permaculture forests) are monitored to ensure they remain in place, so you can rest assured that your gift will be one that will keep on giving for generations to come.

When you add up all the benefits of strategic tree planting the upside is absolutely astounding, and at approximately $1 a tree, the cost is surprisingly small. What better gift to give your children than to match the cost of this year’s Christmas tree with the gift purchase of REAL LIVING GROWING TREES that will help secure a better future for the planet and our entire human family?

tree huggers

Best of the season to you all.


An Open Letter to the corporations and people of the 1%

Dear Winners,

Congratulations on all your achievements. You have all played the game of capitalism like absolute champions, and you are, without doubt, superlative operatives of the capitalist system. Kudos to you.

Obviously it has taken a huge amount of vision, hard work, guts and determination to get you to where you are now, and I think every one agrees you should be duly compensated for all your (and your employees) efforts; and I am personally relieved to know that you have all been sufficiently remunerated so as to never want for anything ever again. Once again, kudos to you.

While I am absolutely dazzled by your stellar successes, there are a few things about the way you conduct your lives and businesses that I find quite baffling, and I was hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion.

Firstly, I want to share a little something with you that we in the 99% have known for quite some time . . .


With the richest 85 people in the world now owning the same amount of wealth as the 3.5 billion who make up the poorer half of the world’s population, there can be no question, in the game of acquisition you are the undisputed winners. NO CONTEST!

So here’s what puzzles me . . . Do you not realise the game is over and that you have won? Because quite honestly the way you are carrying on, it’s like a boxer relentlessly pummelling an opponent that is passed out on the ropes, it’s just not sportsmanlike, and really, it’s not making you look good.


In spite of all your wealth and unmitigated successes you continue to slash real wages, cut costs, off shore, out source, trim benefits, buy off politicians, lobby for favourable legislation, dodge taxes, and exploit loopholes with a staggering rapacity. In your relentless drive for profit you mercilessly exploit sub living wages, control the public discourse through your media domination, and poison and pollute our world with utter impunity.

poverty 2

So my question is this . . . why are you continuing to play hard ball when you have so clearly already won? Surely at a certain point the figures displayed on your profit statements must start to seem fairly abstract? What on earth are you hoping to achieve? Do you really need a better quarterly result? What for? You already have everything that money could possibly buy you. And quite frankly if being stupefyingly wealthy hasn’t made you happy yet, it’s bordering on disillusion to think that a few more zeros on your balance sheet are going to do the trick.

And if you are truly happy with all you have achieved, then don’t you think it might be just the teensiest bit psychopathic to keep on punching when the fight is so clearly over?

While I personally find your unabated appetite for capital acquisition somewhat unfathomable, it obviously makes perfect sense to you, (either that or you have never actually sat down to analyse the broader costs and benefits of your chosen course).  Given the utter pain, despair and deprivation suffered by the world’s poor, (such as the average Bangladeshi garment worker who works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in dangerous, overcrowded conditions for a paltry $38 a month), I am sure you must have some very good reasons for your steadfast persistence in squeezing those at the bottom even harder. Although I struggle to understand what those reasons may be I have, in my speculations, come up with a few possibilities.

1. You are competing amongst and against yourselves.

I suspect there is a fair bit of this going on among you 1% ers’. It’s not enough that you have well and truly surpassed the 99%, (it would appear that that victory has long since lost it’s taste); now it’s just a competition between you 1% er’s to see who’s got the biggest bank account/company/summer house/yacht.

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I find it difficult to attach any other motive to the recent attempt by Rupert Murdoch (one of your most famous poster boys) to acquire Time Warner. At 85 years of age, the builder and controller of the largest News Empire on the planet is still playing for more? Doesn’t he realise that to most people this just looks like the chest beating, ego pumping manoeuvre of a recently cuckolded old man trying desperately to prove that he’s still top dog? Kind of tragic really, and a little undignified.

The sad fact is this is not a game that can be won, no matter how much you’ve got you will always want more, it’s a bottomless bucket of desire.

So let me say it once again ; if you in the 1% can not be content with what you have already achieved, then trust me, one more victory is not going to help.

2. You are simply acting out of blind habit and you have never bothered to stop and question what you are actually doing?

I am willing to bet that this is bottom line for quite a number of you. You learnt the rules, and you’ve played the game so hard and so long that it’s the only game you now know. You live for the sport of it, the hunt, the chase, the endless craving for that next conquest; the ruthless reduction of wages, the corporate take over, the quarterly profit statement, the pumping up of your share price, the tucking of another politician snuggly into your pocket, this is your heroin.


You are, for want of a better word, addicted to the game. If this indeed is the case then let me remind you of something I am sure you already know; addiction is not a road to happiness! It is an itch you can never scratch in an endless cycle of craving and pain, and it effects every one around you (and not in good way).

3. You are completely ignorant about the suffering you are causing others?

This is a bit of a stretch, but I am prepared to concede that SOME OF YOU may have spent so little time out in the big, wide, underprivileged world, have spent your lives so steeped in privilege as to have no idea of the havoc you are wreaking, the pain you are causing, and the abject poverty you are creating.

mansionhomeless 1

That said it’s worth remembering that ignorance is no excuse, neither in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of those whose necks you are so gleefully standing on.

4. You still feel genuinely insecure?

I realise that most people wouldn’t suspect it, but there is some research that suggests the richer you are the more insecure you feel, if this is true then you 1% er’s must be living in an absolute paranoid lather; worried that people don’t really care about you and are just drawn to your money, or maybe just fearful that you might loose your money. Clearly your answer to this is to get more money (so you will still have some left if and when you loose a wad) and surround yourselves with other hyper rich people, (who have enough money not to be eyeing off yours).

fear of poverty

At the risk of repeating myself; if you in the 1% can not feel secure with what you have already have, then trust me, a bit more money is not going to help.

5. You simply don’t care about others?

I admit I find this highly unlikely. I am sure you love your family and friends, and would go to great lengths to protect them. What maybe the case however is that you do not experience yourselves as part of the broader human family; and thus those that are not known to you personally are too abstract to you to evoke your natural caring human instincts.

homeless americaplease help

This disconnect is broadly supported by a media narrative that casts the “have nots” as either lacking in the smarts to get ahead, or as shiftless lazy leaners trying to gouge a free ride, which makes it much easier to see them as deserving of their wretched fate, (after all, they are not hard working, self made actualisers like you and your cohorts).

While I understand you may find this narrative very comforting, and a perfectly adequate justification for your modus operandi, that doesn’t make it true. Even here in the west there are plenty of people working 2-3 jobs, 80 hours or more just to subsist, so you could not call them lazy. And does a person possessed of an average or lower intelligence really deserve to be denied a decent life just because they were born sub-brilliant?

6. You have never read the history of the French Revolution?

Perhaps you are not aware that history is awash with stories where the peasants decide that quietly starving is not a viable option and have taken up arms against their wealthy oppressors. And as a general rule when they get their hands on them, they kill them!

Now I’m not agitating for that, I don’t want to see you, or anyone else killed; but it’s worth noting that when legislation is passed making it illegal to feed the homeless, when you cut off the water to supply to poorest 1/3 of a city, when you squeeze wages and benefits to the point where employees need to work 3 jobs, never get to see their children and can barely make rent. When you smash unions, or fail to pay your taxes so their is no money for social support…. you need to understand you are creating an environment you may not be able to control. Keep playing hard ball and eventually THE PITCH FORKS WILL COME!

french revolution

7. You are genuinely unaware of your power to effect change?

With the stroke of a pen the Walton family could raise tens of millions out of abject poverty, and it wouldn’t make a whip of difference to them personally; they wouldn’t have to go without anything. NIKE could raise the wages of it’s manufacturing staff to a living standard, and all it would cost them would be one or two less basketball players in an ad.

How is it that you guys are not doing this? Don’t you get it? YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD for millions and millions of people.

Bill Gates gets it, Oprah gets it, Bob Geldof gets it, Nick Hanauer gets it, Bill Liao gets it, and whether or not you like their choices, they are all out there pitching for a better world.

I realise the system has it’s own momentum, and you are just going with the flow, but the system is causing insane amounts of grief and suffering for billions of people.

We have more than enough food to feed the planet, but people are starving; we have cities full of empty houses and streets full of homeless people; we have amazing medicines and people dying for lack of access; there are cities with water supplies denying clean water to citizens. Does this seem right to you?

What kind of life should a person working full time be able to afford? Should they be able to afford a house, food and water, healthcare and an education for their children? I really want to know your thoughts on this, because it looks to me like you think a living wage is way too high?

But seriously, would it kill you to pay living wages?

So I am asking you, the 1% er’s, what exactly is your end game? Pushing billions of people into crushing poverty so you can die with a bigger bank balance? Is that really what you want for your legacy? Does that make you happy? Because if not, then maybe it’s time you guys stirred things up a bit; raised some wages, paid some taxes perhaps, who knows, maybe working towards a better world for ALL of our human family will be the trick! It might seem like a crazy idea, but it’s worth a try.

Tyranny or Terror? Selling the Politics of Fear.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last week you will no doubt be aware that ASIO is raising Australia’s terror level from medium to high. Apparently we are about to be inundated with Aussie ISIS combatants, and we all need to keep on our toes as the threat is very, very real!
But really, what are we actually afraid of ? The vast majority of Australians do not live in a hyped up state of paranoia over the esoteric and ill defined threat of “domestic terrorism”, (That’s not to say that such an attack could never happen, but the fact that it hasn’t happened thus far does render the prospect somewhat abstract). The expectation that we will be massacred by a suicide bomber on the train is not something that we tend to think of as we head off to work of a morning, nor do we wonder if some mentally unstable drug addict will open up with a semi automatic at the local school.
Our fears tend to be far more mundane in nature; “Will I be retrenched?”, “Will I be able to afford to go to uni?”, “Have I saved enough for retirement?”, “Will interests rates go up?”, “Will my wages be cut?”, “Will I be able to save a house deposit?”, “Can I afford to go back to work with the price of child care?”; these are the things that most of us really sweat.
As much as the government would like to shift our axis of fear away from it’s cruelling budget and toward a shadowy underworld of fanatical extremists who are feverishly plotting to kill us all, the fact remains that for most us “Does my bum look big in this”, or “will my transmission seize up before my next pay cheque” is a greater source of palpable anxiety than the prospect of some unhinged Jihadi’s returning from Syria or Iraq.
But are we living in a fools paradise? Should we be scared? Would our day-to-day lives actually be safer (or better) if we all adopted the hyper-vigilant cortisol arousal of a combat soldier? Because surely that is exactly what “raising the threat level” is suggesting we do?
I don’t ask this merely as some form of glib commentary, this is a serious question. How exactly does the government want us to respond to this apparent heightening of the threat level, and how would such an undertaking affect the quality of our lives; and more importantly what effect, if any, would it have on the material outcome of an actual terror attack?
If our remaining on hyper alert could actually save people from a bomb blast then maybe, just maybe, it might be worth doing. But the sad fact is there simply is no evidence that our living in a perpetual state of exaggerated paranoia would help avert any such tragedy. It wouldn’t have helped a single person in the world trade centre, or the sari club, or the train passengers in Madrid. In fact if you look at those parts of the world were terrorist attacks occur fairly frequently, and consider how many suicide bombers have been able to walk right up to highly trained vigilant security professionals and blow themselves up, it’s fairly obvious that being constantly on guard just isn’t an effective defence.
There are of course the occasional examples of terrorist plots thwarted by bystanders, like the aeroplane passenger who wrestled the underpants bomber into submission, (after he noticed smoke billowing from the would be assailant’s crotch). But these examples are not generally attributed to super citizens, who, after years of being strung out on adrenal fatigue, finally found their relentless zeal vindicated. No, they were generally thwarted by normal people who just happened to notice something odd, and responded appropriately. Now correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this something that the vast majority of us would do automatically, regardless of the government rated “threat level”?
So what is the point of all this talk of “real and imminent danger” and “raising the threat level”? Apart from seeding a general air of apprehension the only effect such rhetoric seems to have is increasing the level of racism directed toward people of middle eastern descent. Statistically speaking we are far more likely to die from cancer, heart disease, car crashes, bush fires, domestic violence, suicide, sharks, crocodiles, snake bites… hell, even a sugar induced diabetic coma is more likely turn up your toes than a local terrorist. Honestly, it would make more sense for us to be paralysed with fear at the prospect of hopping in the car and driving to McDonald’s.
So why is the Abbott government so intent on ramping up our levels of ambient anxiety? Why is Tony out there, day after day banging on about the “real and present danger” these terrorists pose, when it has been proven so many times, from the IRA to the Boston marathon, that ramping up the threat levels will not prevent anything? Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder?
While all this chest beating clearly won’t thwart an attack, it does however seem to effect the governments standing in the polls. Now I don’t want to appear too cynical but when Tony bangs on about terrorist threats his poll ratings go up, and when when we turn our attention back to the budget and the broader economy his poll ratings go down. Now I accept that this observation is mere correlation, and there is no empirical evidence to prove causation, but I am fairly certain that the correlation is not lost on Mr. Abbott. As Howard proved back in 2001, (when he rode the post 9/11 wave of panicked disbelief to steal a seemingly unwinnable election), there is no greater gift you can give an unpopular government than a terrorist attack.
Noting Howard’s success in parleying terrorism into political capital, Abbott has made valiant efforts to emulate his Liberal predecessor. MH17, while an undeniable tragedy for the families and friends of the victims, seemed like a welcome boost in the polls for Abbott. Like a pit bull with lock jaw Abbott was determined to milk it for all it was worth. With an unprecedented lack of sensitivity or decorum Abbott bombarded the news cycle, endlessly recounting reports of “remains strewn around the wreckage”, and when that wore thin he moved on to the militarily jingoistic “operation bring them home”, and his ill-advised sabre rattling at Putin.
Like all good things his poll upswing off the back of MH17 had to come to an end… but Abbott is an undeniably political animal, and he knows that in the absence of a real attack, fear of an impending threat is almost as good. Thank god for ISIS, middle eastern dual nationals, airport security upgrades, ASIO terror alerts, and Murdoch’s unwavering commitment to keeping them in the forefront of the news!
While Abbott and Murdoch seem to revel in their ability to keep us anxious, the fact remains Australia is an extraordinarily safe country, and hopefully it will continue to be so. We have security agencies that work hard to keep us safe from terrorist threats, and so far they have done a pretty good job. I am not saying we wont ever have an attack on domestic soil, but I am saying it is a fools errand to be working ourselves into a permanent paranoid lather, or mentally aligning ourselves with some mythical, quasi racist “team Australia” in order to prevent such an attack from happening. That said FEAR WILL STOP US ENJOYING OUR LIVES. So it is worth asking ourselves, is living in a constant state of trepidation really worth it? Especially if the only perceptible upside is Tony’s position in the polls?
Me?, I’d rather just enjoy my day 🙂

More articles by Letitia McQuade:

The Highway to Hell, Hockey’s Trickle Down Delusion

Refugee Insanity; the crippling cost of Australia’s cruelty

Feminist Bitches, who needs them?

Abbott’s war on the environment is facing some tough opposition.

Introducing the new “ABC free” AUSTRALIA… now with extra ignorance, selfishness and cruelty

THE CLIMATE OF DENIAL: Why real climate action will NEVER come from big business or government.

BEWARE of Abbott’s Free Trade Trojan Horse

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