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Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN theses days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.

Website: http://theaimn.com

“Elections are decided by those who turn up”

We’re going to the polls on July 2 in what the pundits are predicting will be a close call. Let’s hope that the disappointments of 2013 are not repeated.

After the 2013 election I read somewhere that an extra 30,000 votes for Labor – if those votes were distributed in the right place – would have seen them retain government. I don’t know if that is true or not, but what is true is that an estimated 1.22 million Australians who were eligible to vote, simply didn’t see the need to. Of these, 400,000 were young Australians who hadn’t bothered to enrol.

I find this disappointing, as we rest our hopes on the youth of Australia.

It is the youth of Australia who will face the horrid effects of climate change and a ravaged environment. It is the youth of Australia – more than any other cohort – who are demanding a world class internet. It is the youth of Australia who face an uncertain future because of rising unemployment and ever increasing house prices. And it is the youth of Australia who may have better luck than we did in closing the off-shore detention centres.

If we can encourage the youth to vote, it is fair to say that the people who didn’t vote in the 2013 election might very well determine the result in this year’s election.

This email from Labor (below) was sent to me yesterday. They urge young Australians to enrol and to have their say when it matters most: election day. It is worth sharing and worth spreading.

Elections are decided by those who turn up.

While we may have compulsory voting in Australia, there are over 1.06 million Australians who are aren’t enrolled to vote. This includes nearly half of all eighteen and nineteen year olds.

Last election, marginal seats like Capricornia were decided by just a few hundred votes. If all of these people enrolled, things could have been very different.

Can you make sure you and your family and friends are enrolled to vote today? www.aec.gov.au/enrol

Making sure everyone is enrolled could mean the difference between another three years of these out of touch Liberals or a Shorten Labor Government that puts people first.

That’s why we’re asking every single Labor supporter to make sure they’re enrolled to vote and, if you are, to make sure your friends are enrolled too. The rolls may close as soon as next weekend. Can you enrol to vote and share this link with your friends today? www.aec.gov.au/enrol

Voting is one of the most important things you’ll do this election — and enrolling yourself or enrolling a friend means you get to have your say. This could be the difference whether we elect a Labor Government that invests in our schools, or a Coalition Government that cuts Medicare.

Let’s ensure that everyone has their say on July 2.

Thanks for your support,

Paul Erickson
Director of Target Seats


Turnbull will always govern for the big end of town

Once upon a time, long before Malcolm was Prime Minister, he could do or say anything he liked and nobody gave a damn. There was a time when, unlike now, he wasn’t dazzled by the spotlight of scrutiny.

But now he is Prime Minister and all his little pearls of wisdom from yesteryear are coming back to haunt him.

And so they should. With an election around the corner the electorate needs to know what their current prime minister stands for.

Once considered a moderate who many thought would tug his party back from the extreme right, Malcolm’s ascension was greeted with optimism and hope from an electorate relieved that the mayhem of the Abbott reign was over.

They were soon disappointed as it became patently clear that all the progressive values they thought Malcolm stood for – that he once said he stood for – have taken the back seat to the ultra-conservative madness and ultra-conservative values that were the trademarks of the Abbott years.

In a nutshell, Malcolm’s also in it for the top end of town.

But don’t be surprised. Malcolm always has been. We cast our spotlight to the days when nobody cared what he did or said, when as Environment Minister in the Howard government he approved a $10,000,000 grant to investigate untried Russian technology for ‘rainmaking’ to the Australian Rain Corporation. The Australian Rain Corporation was co-founded by Mr Matt Hanbury. Hanbury, incidentally, is the nephew of the News Corporation chief, Rupert Murdoch, and contributed to Mr Turnbull’s electorate fund-raising machine. (What an amazing set coincidences).

It was also revealed that Turnbull approved the grant even though the grant amount was five times bigger than his departmental experts recommended.

So even then he was in it for the big end of town. We were warned.

Telling fibs about negative gearing

From the moment a Labor policy is announced, the mainstream media is filled with the dire words from Coalition politicians warning that this policy will be the ruination of free Australia as we know it. From opposition or in government, the warnings flow freely. From opposition we heard ad nauseum from Tony Abbott the destruction to every fabric of our society that Julia Gillard’s ‘carbon tax’ would wreak. And now in government we hear that we can expect the same outcome – economic devastation (in particular for Mums and Dads) – if Labor’s much-needed plan to ‘fiddle with’ negative gearing is implemented.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been quick to stride up to the nearest microphone to deliver ludicrous assertions that Labor’s planned changes to negative gearing would deliver a “reckless trifecta of lower home values, higher rents and less investment”. I use the word ‘ludicrous’ because that is exactly what these claims are: ludicrous. They are unfounded. This is nothing but a baseless scare campaign.

On Malcolm Turnbull’s Facebook page – where he is of course predicting horrific outcomes under Labor’s plan – buried among the 800 or so comments was a link to an article by Ross Gittins in The Sydney Morning Herald way back in 2003; ‘Pollies tell fibs about negative gearing‘. Gittins points out that the arguments (used in 2003) about the horrors of removing the capital gains luxury – which are the same being used now by Turnbull – are, to use his mild term, ‘fibs’. Gittins reported:

We all know that when Paul Keating got rid of negative gearing in 1985 this proved disastrous for the rental market and he was forced to restore it.

We all know this because the politicians – from John Howard to Simon Crean – keep reminding us of it.

There’s just one small problem: it’s not true. It’s remarkable how bad we are at remembering events – and how easily history can be rewritten by people with an axe to grind.

A negatively geared property investment is one where you borrow such a high proportion of the cost of the property that your interest payments and other expenses exceed the rent you earn. You then deduct this operating loss against taxable income from other sources.

In July 1985 – and as part of a much bigger tax reform package – Treasurer Keating moved to “quarantine” losses from negative gearing by stopping them from being deducted against other income. The US Congress had already done something similar.

But, so we’re asked to believe, this caused investment in rental accommodation to dry up. Vacancy rates fell very low and rents shot up. By September 1987 – just over two years later – Mr Keating was forced to admit his error and restore the old rules.

However, Saul Eslake, ANZ’s chief economist, has gone back to check this story and can’t find it.

His examination of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) figures for the capital cities shows that rents rose sharply only in Sydney and Perth (and the Bureau of Statistics’ figures for dwelling rent don’t show a marked increase for any capital).

If the tax change was causing trouble, you’d expect it to be showing up in all cities, not just one or two.

Mr Eslake’s conclusion is that rents in Sydney and Perth surged because their rental markets were unusually tight for reasons that had little to do with the tax change.

And this conclusion is supported by an earlier study by Blair Badcock and Marian Browett, geographers at the University of Adelaide.

They say Sydney was the only case that provides support for the claim that the tax change caused problems. “And even here the flow-on effects of the tax changes have to be weighed against the contribution of the general turndown in housing activity in Sydney to the deterioration of the vacancy rate and a real rise in rents,” they say.

But the academics remind us of a factor the pollies gloss over: the central role that politics played in the whole affair.

I wonder how long that link to a big bag of truth will stay on Malcolm Turnbull’s Facebook page.

The future starts now, and it starts with your vote

I’ve been reading a lot around the social media about the concerns that the youth of today showing no interested in politics. With an election looming it’s a bit of a stumbling block as we attempt to encourage those who haven’t enrolled to vote, to do so.

OK, maybe they’re not interested in politics, but surely they must have some interest in their future. Maybe they need a gentle push, a whisper in the ear that the two are unavoidably intertwined.

In the United States Bernie Sanders attracts an enormous following with the under 25s. Bernie Sanders, from what I know of him, agitates for social and economic programs that put people ahead of profits. The average American youth doesn’t want a future that was engineered by governments who ignored ‘the 99%’ in favour of the corporate elite. The consequences of such will of course be devastating.

I can’t see it being much different in Australia.

We are witnessing a widening gap between rich and poor. We are doing nothing to mitigate the devastation of climate change. We are handing billions of tax payer’s dollars to the elite at the expense of the middle and lower classes. We are technologically barren and insist on remaining so. We have snubbed science and the opportunities of the future. We are placing a decent education out of reach of most young Australians. In a nutshell, we are robbing the youth of Australia of their future. And I say ‘we’ as we as a country have voted in a government that in only one term has dismantled the social, economic and environmental initiatives of recent governments. Imagine the destruction of just one more term. That’s all they’ll need.

So to the youth of Australia, if you want the life that many Australians have enjoyed for the last few generations, then you can have it by simply voting for it. Please enrol to vote. Now.

The Prime Minister will most likely be calling an election shortly after the Budget is handed down in a couple of weeks. Once the election is called you will have only seven days to enrol. If you miss out . . . we will all miss out.

Cathy McGowan, the Independent member for Indi says it a lot better than myself. In a plea urging young people to vote she urges:

“To the young people … now more than any other time, we need you, the country absolutely needs you … We need young people to say here is how the world can be made better for us, here is how we can create jobs, here is the infrastructure and education we need and I’m prepared to put my hand up and be involved”.

The future is in your hands!

young voters


We could all do what Labor asks

If you don’t vote Labor or advocate for change in Labor, then don’t bother reading any further. A large number of our readers have indicated they are for one or the other, so it’s worth publishing this for them.

From Labor came this email today:

“I’m writing to you from Canberra where – if the next two days in the parliament play out as we suspect – we are about to have confirmed that Australia is headed to a double dissolution election on July 2.

If that’s the case, then over the next ten weeks, we need to get Labor’s message to voters about our plans to put people first – things like our commitment to fund our schools so that every child in every school gets the education they deserve. And the fact we will fight tooth and nail against Mr Turnbull’s plan to privatise Medicare.

But if we want to make sure people understand what’s at stake this election, we need to tell real stories from everyday Australians about why these issues matter. That’s where we need your help.

We want to know what the most important issue will be for you this election and why. Can you tell us what issue matters to you and why you’ll be supporting Labor in just a few sentences?

During an election, it’s easy for politicians and journalists to get caught up on ‘gotcha’ moments and endless debate about the nitty gritty. Sometimes we miss what really matters – the real stories about how policies affect real people.

If you tell us your story in just a few words, you could help us show voters all around the country that electing a Labor government is the best way forward for a fairer and more prosperous Australia.”

I’ve been one of the first (among many) of being critical of a few of Labor’s policies – or lack thereof. They are now asking for our input so instead of complaining I’m instead going to click on the link provided and tell them what I will be advocating for and voting for. Perhaps if we could all do this – and get as many people to do so – we might actually have a powerful voice. I hope they will listen. I’m counting on them to.


There’s still something missing from our media

Something went missing from our mainstream media after September 2013: the opinion of the opposition leader. Until then it was the most sought after voice in politics, then suddenly it stopped and has since has become blatantly irrelevant.

In November of 2013 I wrote:

‘Do you remember how most political stories used to begin between the 2010 and 2013 elections? They began with “The Leader of the Opposition says . . . ” and we were bombarded daily with whatever opinion Tony Abbott held. Even articles about the Government or a policy release began with the mandatory “The Leader of the Opposition says . . . “.

Have you seen any article begin with that since Bill Shorten was elected Leader of the new Opposition?

When Tony Abbott held that position the media used to beat a path to his door. Now anyone would be right in thinking that Bill Shorten has gone in hiding: yes, he’s been rather silent, but why aren’t the media making an effort to talk to him? Why are they no longer interested in what the Leader of the Opposition might have to say?

Well we all know the answer to that. The Government has made a mess of just about everything they’ve laid their hands on so the Leader of the Opposition is the last person they’d want to speak to these days. The Opposition could have a field day thanks to the stuff-ups from [then Prime Minister] Abbott and his team of incompetents; it’ll be a real turkey shoot.

But they can’t do it without the media giving them a voice.

Oh how I miss the good old days of “The Leader of the Opposition says . . . “.’

Well, two and a half years later things haven’t changed.

I and others have often been critical of Labor, believing they have a product to sell which they aren’t, and believing they have a government to condemn, which they aren’t. But in all honesty, how can they? The mainstream media was able to help Tony Abbott sell his message prior to the 2013 election and half the population was sucked into believing that the ‘carbon tax’ would destroy the human race and that stopping the boats could be the only thing that would save it.

And now, with the country facing even a greater crisis than the one manufactured in 2013 and one that Labor has a better chance of steering us through than the current government . . . they are muted.

There is an Opposition leader and I would like to hear what he has to say.

(But if he’s sprung texting while driving . . . then the media is all over him).


The deciding vote in the US presidential election

Nobody has ever lost a Super Tuesday and gone on to win the nomination, and after big wins to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on that special Tuesday in March it looked like history was safe.

In the last week, however, Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Bernie Sanders have gained enough ground to challenge not only Trump and Clinton respectively, but history too.

So from here on it gets ‘super serious’. Will Ted Cruz gain enough ground to topple the once seemingly unstoppable Donald Trump, and will the last minute Bernie Sanders surge be strong enough to claw back the comfortable lead recently enjoyed by Hillary Clinton?

Either way, we’ll know soon enough who the final two candidates will be.

But that’s in the future and the race is still on. Trump versus Cruz. Clinton versus Sanders.

Readers of The AIMN have enough savvy to know a bit about these four candidates so I’d like to do a bit of a hypothetical with you. Imagine for one moment that you are an American citizen and are eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Although we don’t know who the last two standing will be – this isn’t necessary in a hypothetical – you will be voting for one of the four. Who will it be? Think carefully because yours is the deciding vote! The fate of the world hinges on you! Cast your vote below and give us your reasons in the comments section (or, as is allowed in a democracy, remain silent).

Who will you vote for?

View Results

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What the unions won’t do

Malcolm Turnbull is in campaign mode, which in ‘Liberal speak’ means that the scare campaigns begin. As expected, this election would see a scare campaign against the unions. On script, yesterday the headline boomed ‘Unions threaten the nation’s economic future, says Malcolm Turnbull‘ who himself goes on to say that:

“We can not allow Shorten, Labor and their union backers to stand in the way of advancing this nation’s long-term and economic future”.

Yes, damn horrible things those nasty unions. Trying to ruin all those great social, moral and economic initiatives the government has implemented. But try as they may, the unions cannot destroy everything. For (a brief) example, the unions cannot or will not:

  • provide you with one of the worst broadband plans in the world
  • axe the Safe Schools program
  • spend billions of dollars locking up children in detention centres
  • spend a half a billion dollars on a same-sex marriage plebiscite
  • spend hundreds of billions of dollars on jet fighters whose efficiency is under question
  • bring in $100,000 university degrees
  • cause the temperatures to rise by 2 degrees by the end of the century
  • peddle around the country promoting a book at the taxpayer’s expense
  • take helicopter rides at the taxpayer’s expense to attend a picnic
  • slash billions of dollars from hospital funding
  • slash billions of dollars from education
  • increase the gap between the rich and the poor
  • do away with penalty rates
  • destroy Medicare
  • sack scientists
  • attempt to destroy the ABC
  • implement economic policies that could lead us into a recession should the next expected GFC hit
  • allow the richest people or largest companies to pay zero tax
  • will not abuse 457 visa holders
  • will not give billions of dollars to the mining industry in ridiculous rebates

And unions will not axe:

  • the Social Inclusion Board
  • the National Housing Supply Council
  • the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness
  • the National Policy Commission on Indigenous Housing
  • the National Children and Family Roundtable
  • the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing
  • the Immigration Health Advisory Group

Why? Because they’ve already been axed. Who axed them? The current government.

And neither will unions defund:

  • the Refugee Council of Australia
  • the Australian Youth Affairs Council
  • the Alcohol and Drug Council of Australia
  • the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  • the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

Why? Because they’ve already been defunded. Who defunded them? The current government.

Here is Turnbull’s quote again:

“We can not allow Shorten, Labor and their union backers to stand in the way of advancing this nation’s long-term and economic future”.

Now ask yourself “who is really standing in the way of advancing this nation’s long-term and economic future?”


A reminder of why our broadband is lousy

Led by the latest warrior of justice Waleed Ali, Malcolm Turnbull’s ridiculously inferior NBN has come under heavy criticism over the past few days.

Turnbull, of course, has been shrugging off the attacks and continues to stand his ground. For as long as he or the Liberal Party remain in power, Australians will not be getting an adequate NBN.

You must often wonder why Turnbull, his predecessor, and his party were determined to deliver a substandard NBN. You must also wonder why the needs of (at least) Australian businesses are completely ignored. Australia now belongs in a global economy and a global market. To compete, we need to have at our disposal the communication systems that are of world standards. We clearly don’t have that, and this government is adamant that we never will.

Why are they so adamant?

Perhaps the answer can be found in an AIMN article from 2013. Given that the attacks on Turnbull’s NBN have been dominating social media, it is pertinent to reproduce the guts of it here.

To me it answers the question of why the government is so adamant that we will be getting an inferior NBN.

I believe it is for the benefit of Rupert Murdoch. Our article explains why.

. . . in the months leading up to the (2013) election The Age noted Murdoch’s vicious attacks on Rudd echoing that:

News Corp hates the government’s National Broadband Network (NBN). The company has formed a view that it poses a threat to the business model of by far its most important asset in Australia, the Foxtel cable TV monopoly it jointly owns with Telstra.

The claim found its way to the top office in the land, with even Kevin Rudd recognising that:

Murdoch’s views on the election campaign largely mirrored those of conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, who has promised to downsize the planned broadband network.

“Does he sense it represents a commercial challenge to Foxtel, to the major cash-cow for his company, or not?” asked Rudd, referring to the planned broadband network.

The British press had picked up that it was evident that the destructive attacks by the Murdoch media against the Labor Government:

The reason for Murdoch’s dramatic intervention in the current election has caused some debate. One interpretation of Murdoch is that he acts only for commercial advantage. Reflecting this, Paul Sheehan in the Sun-Herald argued that Murdoch wants to destroy Rudd and Labor because they are building the National Broadband Network (NBN). The NBN’s capacity to allow the quick downloading of movies and other content would be a threat to Murdoch’s Foxtel TV operation, so the argument goes.

This of course was scoffed at by Tony Abbott.

Mr Murdoch has immense financial interests in this country. Naturally he wants to protect them. Even nurture them. Murdoch could only have supported the Coalition for no other reason than they offered the best deal in protecting those interests. They simply have no other policy that could have possibly attracted his fanatical support. It had to be the NBN. Or the destruction of it, more’s the point.

Respected citizen journalist and IT expert Kieran Cummings writing on the No Fibs blog site took a deeper look at how the NBN would have been detrimental to Murdoch’s business interests in Australia. He revealed all in his telling article, Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN and begins with:

It seems a day doesn’t go by where articles are being posted to News Limited (Murdoch) websites with nothing but negative spin for the NBN. Most, if not all, are founded on poorly constructed arguments that ignore technology & the reality. They all seem to point to one solution: anything the Coalition are saying they’ll deploy.

While this does reek of patent bias amongst Murdoch’s Australian arm, I feel this goes a little deeper than just wanting a Coalition government, but a fear of becoming obsolete in the age of IPTV (Internet Protocol Television).

While FTTN (Fibre to the Node) can offer basic IPTV, it cannot offer multi-set full HD broadcasting as FTTH/P (Fibre to the Home/Premises) can. With this in mind, it doesn’t take long before it’s apparent the likes of Comcast & Time-Warner in the US, are bleeding subscribers or seeing a slowdown in subscriber uptake due to internet streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon’s Prime service.

While we haven’t seen a drop in subscribers here in Australia, there has been a slowdown in subscriber uptake that is sending a message direct to News Limited/Fox: kill off any advancements in broadband speeds before it kills off your business model.

It’s clear that content producers aren’t fazed by IPTV service providers, with Netflix in the US signing up many studios/channels to their service, & FetchTV offering a number of non-Fox channels for a fraction of the cost of Foxtel on Xbox/Smart TV (Foxtels pure IPTV service).

So where does that leave the likes of Foxtel in such an open market? Well, on the pointy end of a large stick. Murdoch & his ilk aren’t prepared for digital TV distribution, much like they weren’t prepared for digital news distribution & digital music distribution. Instead of being agile enough to deal with new technologies, pay TV providers have gone for the “entrench the customer” model that has not only failed for other mediums in the past, but turned customers away from their offerings.

Abbott won the election and anybody who followed Rupert Murdoch on Twitter couldn’t have helped but notice his elation. And with his business interests secure he hadn’t waited long to confirm the suspicions of those labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’ when The Australian reported that:

Foxtel has muscled up in the battle with the free-to-air television sector over Netflix-style “video on demand” subscription services, the pay-TV operator unveiling a new platform offering extensive movie content over the internet.

The new streaming service – to be called Presto – is seen as a pre-emptive strike against likely moves in coming months by Seven West Media and Nine Entertainment Co to offer their own versions of subscription movie platforms. It will also further build the pay-TV operator’s muscle against players such as Quickflix and Fetch TV.

How convenient. And how insightful was Kieran Cummings? And how intuitive were the British press in recognising how ‘the NBN’s capacity to allow the quick downloading of movies and other content would be a threat to Murdoch’s Foxtel TV operation.

Murdoch can now make a “massive” $24.99 off of each Australian who signed up for Presto. That certainly was worth backing Abbott for.

The links in the above articles are now a few years old. But not this one: in 2015 Murdoch’s Foxtel launched a pre-emptive strike against Netflix with Presto TV.

The pieces are coming together. That’s the best reason I can find why Australians are left with a broken, inferior, soon-to-be- obsolete NBN.

Thank you, Mr Murdoch. Thank you, Mr Abbott. Thank you, Mr Turnbull.

Abbott to advise Donald Trump on border protection

Conservative policy gurus in America are concerned that Donald Trump’s planned wall to keep out the Mexicans might see a flood of boat people descending onto America’s east and west coasts.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s reputation for tough border protection, aka stopping the boats, is highly admired by Mr Trump so who better to turn to for advice?

“I have received a call from Donald Trump” revealed Abbott. “He didn’t beat around the bush. He wants to make America great again and let’s be frank, the only way he can make America great again is by stopping the boats. By stopping the boats”.

When asked for further details Mr Abbott was quick to reiterate that by stopping the boats Mr Trump would make America great again. “Donald Trump likes boats, but he wants to make America great again and to do so he must stop the boats. Donald Trump likes boats and he likes Mexicans, and Mexicans like Donald Trump”.

When it was pointed out to Mr Abbott that America does not even have a ‘boat people’ problem with Mexican refugees he disclosed that “Australia’s Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has received reports that a fleet of Indonesian people-smugglers recently arrived in Mexico and are setting up operations in the likelihood of a Trump victory in the presidential election”.

A spokesperson for Mr Trump confirmed that the Republican had spoken to Tony Abbott last week.

“Based on Mr Abbott’s advice we are now drawing up Mr Trump’s ‘boat people’ policy. I can confirm that boat people will not be returned to Mexico. Australia has refugee detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island which are no longer in use as Mr Abbott had advised that as he was so successful in not only stopping the boats but deterring the boats, these centres are laying waste. We will negotiate with the Australian Government about leasing these centres”.

It was also confirmed that if these negotiations were unsuccessful, America would look at building detention centres in islands north of Alaska. “Another option” continued the spokesperson, “is to relocate these refugees to Cambodia. Mr Abbott has advised that a highly successful arrangement had been negotiated with the Cambodian Government to resettle boat people in the Asian country. Mr Abbott told Mr Trump that Australia has relocated thousands of refugees in Cambodia at minimal cost, and that these refugees have integrated well into the community and most have found permanent employment. This is good, as Mr Trump likes Cambodia. Cambodia can help make America great again”.

Mr Abbott will be flying to America to hold talks with Donald Trump next week. He will be accompanied by his former Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin. Ms Credlin told reporters that she and Mr Abbott will also be discussing her other successful border protection policy with Mr Trump, that is, the issuing of visas to potential boat people so they can come to Australia by plane, effectively putting people-smugglers out of business and, significantly, stopping the boats. “I believe Mr Trump would also favour this as an alternate policy as everyone knows he likes visas. Visas can make America great again”, said Ms Credlin.

“No” interrupted Mr Abbott. “Only stopping the boats can make America great again”.

Please note that this is a satirical piece. Possibly.


Donald Trump must have been in a hurry

The terrorist attacks in Belgium were appalling and we have all been touched as stories of heartbreak, loss and despair emerge.

Politicians from across the world have been quick to condemn the attacks, and rightly so. I join with them.

But you often wonder if many of these politicians – though obviously themselves appalled – don’t seize such events as moments to grasp some political traction.

We saw this from Tony Abbott during the Lindt Cafe seige. I don’t doubt his genuine disgust at the event. It may be just me, but I doubted his heartfelt sorrow.

I feel the same about Donald Trump.

I don’t think he could get to a microphone quick enough so he could use the Belgium attacks as a weapon in his political arsenal. In fact, he was in so much of a hurry that he didn’t bother to ask what Belgium was. Speaking on NBC’s TODAY, Trump said:

“Belgium is no longer Belgium. Belgium is not the Belgium you and I knew from 20 years ago, which was one of the most beautiful and safest cities in the world”.

So there you go, Belgium is a city.

He was in so much of a hurry to tell Americans that he would close their borders et al that he forgot to even wonder what Belgium was!

It just doesn’t sound genuine to me.

It was as though he was ready to pounce within seconds of a terrorist attack.

My, he would have had a real problem if the attacks were in Yackandandah, Timbuktu, Humpty Doo, Bringthekegalong or Whyrootamoocow . . . same speech, but wouldn’t know where it was.

By the way, where is Whyrootamoocow?


This could get messy

Just in:

Malcolm Turnbull has announced both houses of parliament will be recalled on April 18 to discuss the Australia Building and Construction Commission legislation.

Mr Turnbull announced the move in a press conference in Canberra on Monday morning.

He said if the senate fails to pass the legislation in the three sitting weeks he has called there will be a double dissolution election.

Three days ago the Senate passed the new voting laws (which gave us a signal that Turnbull might go to the polls early). In the meantime, Family First senator Bob Day will be taking the Government’s new Senate voting laws to the High Court.

This is where it could get messy.

If, after the election, the High Court challenge is upheld, this could mean that the results of the entire election could be in dispute. And this could drag on.

Are there any constitutional lawyers out there who would like to offer an opinion? Anybody else?

Shorten’s great ‘election risk’ is worth taking

The headline in The Age today, ‘Battle lines: Shorten’s great election risk’ linked to the article ‘I can win’: Bill Shorten draws election battle lines.

‘Great election risk’ is good click bait. I’m glad it was, otherwise I might not have bothered to read the article. The mainstream media has a habit of giving us blazing, enticing headlines that, when read, reveal stories far removed from what the headline suggested.

After reading this particular article I would have been more satisfied if the headline was ‘Shorten is addressing the issues that Turnbull ignores: issues vital to the future of Australia’. Because that was the crux of the article.

It is unlikely that the Murdoch media will pay any attention to Shorten’s important statements (nope, just checked, they are nowhere on news.com) so it is up to social and independent media to help spread the message. Perhaps the reason the Murdoch media will ignore his statements is because they might win Labor some votes.

Many, many readers of the social and independent media sites don’t read anything published in the mainstream media. For good reason, of course. However, this is one article worth reading. Here are the main points:

Bill Shorten says he will put climate change at the centre of his campaign to become prime minister despite the political risks as he seeks to draw the election battle lines against the “underwhelming” Malcolm Turnbull.

As Mr Turnbull prepares to mark six months in power on Monday – and with early-budget and double-dissolution election speculation now at fever pitch – Mr Shorten says the Prime Minister has been a huge letdown for many Australians.

As Mr Shorten prepares to give a major set-piece speech outlining his election priorities to the National Press Club on Tuesday, he has declared he will not run a “small target” election campaign by avoiding tough issues.

Rather, Labor will continue to put out detailed and potentially contentious policy proposals, as it did on negative gearing.

And he won’t be shying away from the issue that did so much damage to Labor under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

“We’re going to fight the election with climate change as one of our big issues,” he said. “Climate change is both a challenge and an opportunity for Australia if we respond to it correctly.”

Labor has already proposed ambitious emissions reduction and renewable energy targets and has promised to take a new emissions trading scheme to the election.

Asked about the political risk of taking an ETS to the people so soon after the bruising carbon tax debate, Mr Shorten said: “We’re risking the future if we don’t show leadership.”

“I’m not going to go down Mr Turnbull’s low road of just wanting the job for the sake of having the job. There’s no point being in politics – or seeking to form a government – if you’re not going to do anything to improve this country,” he said.

While the election is still considered Mr Turnbull’s to lose, there is a growing sense that Mr Shorten and his team cannot be written off.

He believes the election will ultimately be less about personalities and more about ideas – and he doesn’t believe the government has many ideas.

“My prediction is they’re going to have a couple of positive announcements and then they’re going to go negative,” he said.

The election will also be about unity, conviction and authenticity.

“I run my party, Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t run his,” Mr Shorten said.

“My party’s united, Malcolm Turnbull’s party is divided. I don’t have to pretend to be what I’m not – Malcolm Turnbull does.”

Bingo! Bill Shorten wants to do something about climate change and Malcolm Turnbull is a leader of a divided party.

But this article began with the suggestion that Bill Shorten is taking a risk in making climate change mitigation an election issue. I disagree with this suggestion. I believe we are taking a risk if we don’t address climate change. This is, and should be, one of the major issues this country faces. Bill Shorten wants to talk about it, but meanwhile elsewhere we’ll be reading we should be having discussions whether or not climate change is real, or they’ll keep promoting the opinion of deniers, or this suggestion from Lenore Taylor that much about this election is unknown.

Well this is known: Bill Shorten and Labor want to do something about climate change. One of the reasons they lost the 2013 election was because of their climate change strategies. I commend Bill Shorten for having the guts not to be deterred, and for putting issues and policy at the centre of the table.

If that’s a risk, then it’s one worth taking. The electorate deserve to know that he’s prepared to take it.


Spreading hate, the Murdoch way

The second most important story on news.com this morning was ‘IS teen girl stabs police officer in Germany‘. You can see the link to it from the screenshot (below) of the front page of news.com. I apologise for the small image, but you should still be able to see the link: its at the very top.

The article begins with:

A teenage Moroccan girl who cops now say was furious at having to move away from the Islamic State has been arrested following a shocking stabbing attack on a German officer.

Breitbart reports that the 15-year-old was wearing a headscarf when she was approached by the officer at a Hanover train station in November.

It was in November! But:

Now, months later, authorities have confirmed the motive behind the attack.

The girl had reportedly spent time living on the Turkish-Syrian border and was reportedly angry that she could not rejoin her IS compatriots.

‘Reportedly spent time’. ‘Reportedly angry’. Is that another way of saying ‘unconfirmed’?

I see that they have taken the article from ‘Breitbart‘. I clicked on the link to Breitbart and the article to read that:

The event garnered no media attention at the time but it has now been proven the attack was inspired by Islamist ideology, with the young girl attacking a target in Europe because she was unable to travel to the Islamic State itself to join her co-religionists.

Oh, so it was her Islamic beliefs that have made this a story. (Not an important one, it seems, as if you click on to the front page of Breitbart you’ll be hard pressed to find a link to the article anywhere. And by the way, Breitbart took this article from the German paper ‘Bild‘. You won’t find it on their front page either).

My point is, why is this a story? And why is such an obscure story a headliner in the Murdoch media?

IMG_0204If you spend some time on Google – as I just did – you’ll find that in America alone there was probably 45 murders committed yesterday. Hundreds would have been murdered worldwide. There may have even been some in Australia. But unless they were committed by a Muslim then they’ll more than likely go unreported.

IS is an evil organisation. True. Most IS members are Muslims. True. IS murders people. True. But it must be very hard to promote hate about Muslims or IS when there are no murders to report. I guess the best thing to do – if it is hate you want to spread – is dig up some obscure article about a November (non-fatal) stabbing and jump for joy in the knowledge that it is suspected there is an IS link.

How many people will use this Murdoch media headliner to feed their hate or spread their hate even further? What other purpose would it possibly serve? Absolutely none.

It does nothing but promote fear and hate. This seems to be the Murdoch media’s game.


Consensus Reality

The publication of John Lord’s article on Facebook today – because it mentioned the word ‘race’ – seemed to be the trigger for ‘Abo haters’ to vent their spleen. What struck me, aside from their demonstrated outrage, was that their ‘knowledge’ of Aborigines was gained from ‘experts’ in the field such as Andrew Bolt, or anybody else whose world view is based on their own version of subjectivity.

While debating them I recalled a statement I heard recently: ‘Don’t bother me with the facts when my mind is already made up’.

And so it was in today’s exchange.

Nonetheless, it always pays to put the facts ‘out there’.

A number of years ago I wrote this article – ‘Consensus Reality’ – following similar arguments with similar fools. I feel compelled to drag it out of the archives . . .

I heard the phrase consensus reality while listening to a discussion the other day. I liked it.  It stuck with me. I also liked what it defined, when explained, that it is a shared, social construction of reality that we believe to be true. It doesn’t have to be true; we just need to nod our heads in agreement that we believe it to be true. A bit like herd mentality, really.

Can you think of any examples? I can. Many, in fact. The pages of history are filled with them. The earth is flat! The earth is the centre of the universe! God created the earth in seven days! Or some more contemporary ones: The dingo didn’t do it!  All politicians lie! All dole-bludgers are lazy! All gay people die of AIDS! All Muslims are terrorists!

One I used to hear a lot in my former line of work – and still do – always put me on the front foot: All Aborigines are drunks!

This is the horrible perception shared by the majority of non-Indigenous people in this country. It’s the consensus reality.

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen Aboriginal people drinking or drunk in parks, yelling at each other or intimidating passersby. These may be the only Aborigines that many city dwellers see on a regular basis and hence they fall victim to consensus reality. Every Aborigine I have seen has been drunk, so it must be true; they’re all drunkards.

I’m quite happy to tell you that it isn’t true. More the truth is that Aboriginal people drink in open areas, whereas non-Aboriginal people tend to confine their drinking (and unsocial behaviour) to enclosed areas such as hotels, restaurants, clubs or their or someone else’s home. For every one drunk Aborigine I’ve seen in a public park I’ve seen 100 drunk white people in a public bar. Further, for every Aborigine I’ve seen drunk in a public park I’ve seen hundreds of sober Aborigines in country towns or remote lands. I for one don’t share the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards, yet this is the stereotype often reinforced by the media and the wider community.

There is an element that are, but this is not the purpose of this article. Nor is the important reason why some drink (which is notably due to loss of culture and identity).

Now let’s look at some facts on Aboriginal alcohol consumption:

Contrary to public perception surveys have in fact found that proportionally fewer Aboriginal people drink alcohol than whites do.

29%  of Aboriginal Australians did not drink alcohol in the previous 12 months, almost double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal people are 1.4 times more likely to abstain from alcohol than non-Aboriginal people.

Further statistics I have found, which are similar to those that were produced while I was working at ATSIC show that:

By comparison with non-Aboriginal people, a large proportion of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all and, in some Aboriginal communities, alcohol consumption has been banned by the residents.

Up to 35% of Aboriginal men do not drink alcohol compared with 12% of non-Aboriginal men.

40% to 80% of Aboriginal women do not drink alcohol compared with 19% to 25% of non-Aboriginal women.

In the Northern Territory, it has been estimated that 75% of Aboriginal people do not drink alcohol at all.

So why do we perpetuate the myth, the consensus reality that all Aborigines are drunkards? I am certain that events such as the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention helped perpetuate the myth. But it is about as far from the truth that the earth is flat.

Our Indigenous brothers and sisters deserved better than of the image society has created of them. Let’s not stereotype all Aborigines because of the visible ones. The invisible ones are a proud people. Perhaps that’s the consensus reality we should be promoting.


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