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Carol is a former teacher (ed psych) and a disability advocate. Carol also studied law at SCU. Although Carol has written a number of articles for The AIMN, she is mainly involved in admin and promotion. She maintains a strong interest in politics, social justice, history, and the arts.


Christmas comes but once a year …

… And here it is! Christmas Day, 2019.

We wish all our readers, authors, and their families a wonderful Christmas Day. You all deserve it!

The days leading up to Christmas have been one of sadness for so many of our brothers and sisters. On this day we think of them.

We have all felt anger, too. With the government, at times with each other, and indeed with the troubles that are brewing the world over. But on this day we trust that it is not anger, but hope that our efforts in making this country – and world – a better place.

We are the people who can do our part: our authors and our readers.

May this also be one of love and peace to you all.

And after what has been a chaotic month Michael and I would like to give a special thank you to our admin group of Kathy, Roswell, and our Facebook team who have all risen above the call of duty.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Carol and Michael.

PS: Don’t forget that The AIMN is donating our reader donations received today or tomorrow to the Australian Bushfire Appeal.

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Turnbull Government ignores those most in need

On International Women’s Day comes this disturbing news from Canberra:

Domestic violence leave has been stripped out of workplace agreements across the Commonwealth public service on the orders of the federal workplace authority, which answers directly to Minister for Women Michaelia Cash.

Up to 30 public service employers – including Malcolm Turnbull’s own department, the giant Human Services Department and the Australian Taxation Office – are insisting on removing the right of their workers to take time off if they are victims of family violence.

It was only last year that Malcolm Turnbull vowed that he “will make Australia’s disturbingly high rates of violence against women his first order of business“.

Mr Turnbull has become well known as a Prime Minister who says one thing and does another, yet this display of hypocrisy on one of the most socially crippling issues in our country is appalling. The victims of domestic violence cannot be ignored, and one would think that those suffering from domestic violence, and their families, would need every level of support that is available.

But if you’re a public servant you will be asked to suffer in silence.




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Joe Hockey; wealthy complacency

If there was any stand-out from Joe Hockey’s performance on Q&A it would have been his ability to permeate the studio with an overwhelming odor of wealthy complacency, with weasel words thrown in for good measure.

It was with considerable smugness that Joe Hockey admitted that the GP co-payment, “. . .is a new tax – or a rabbit.”

We didn’t say we wouldn’t raise any taxes. That’s absurd because we went to the last election promising to introduce a levy for the paid parental leave scheme“, Mr Hockey said.

Tony Abbott’s original argument was that this addition to upper class welfare, and ‘signature policy’, was the insistence that the PPL was not a tax; it was a levy. However, and currently in vogue and up until Hockey’s appearance on Q&A, all was but a mere levy and not a tax. The consequences of Hockey’s statement, is that according to himself, both he and Prime Minister Abbott made deliberately misleading statements, and on numerous occasions.

That is, “We did say we wouldn’t raise any taxes…”, (because) the PPL levy is in fact a tax.

It seems that the words ‘tax’ and ‘levy’ are bandied about by the Liberal Party, changed at whim and to which ever circumstances suit. Those who voted Liberal on the premise that Abbott would get rid of Labor’s “great big new tax” must be bitterly disappointed as we now have an even bigger, great big new tax … or series of them.

However, should we care to address the practicalities of this issue, there is a world of difference between a PPL with a proposal that this be paid by “a 1.5% levy on the biggest companies” and a $7 GP co-payment taxed on GP visits, pathology and X-rays, and which would further distort access to medical treatment for those on the lowest incomes. This is akin to stating that the economic impact of the cost of two beers to an old age pensioner has an equivalent impact as on a business entity, and an extraordinarily wealthy one at that. Abbott and Hockey’s insistence that they be ‘right’ – and all of the time, often leaves logic in its wake.

In Abbott and Hockey-world, business being business and poor people being poor people, it will of course be business who will be compensated for the PPL tax/levy by receiving an equivalent tax cut of 1.5%. Might there be any equivalent breaks for those having to fork out for Hockey’s other tax – the GP co-payment? No of course not. Hockey’s proposition that the PPL tax/levy is therefore equivalent to the GP co-payment therefore falls so flat as to not only be just an illusion, but could be counted as a blatant attempt at deception.

On the debt levy, will the the richest 3%’s contribution/levy likewise put unreasonable pressure on anyone’s ability to feed, clothe and house themselves? Doubtful, unto too ridiculous to contemplate. The Liberals have gone to great lengths to ensure the wealthiest that this is a very temporary tax hike. And what would it matter anyway? . . . this cigar and Moët et Chandon tax will be easily be absorbed through multifarious untaxed lurks – “superannuation concessions, dividend imputation, negative gearing and family trusts.” Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have now successfully reinforced the image that to themselves and most of the front bench, that the obscenely wealthy remain as they always have been, The Untouchables.

You can be assured that these changes (with the exception of the debt tax) are not just for a couple of years, but forever. Along with this decimation lurks in the background cuts to science, Aboriginal health and education, with extreme pressure on the states to privatise almost everything. And all the while the reaction from both Abbott and Hockey is smirking disregard. Abbott “Dismisses concerns”, the headlines read and this is apart from the lewd wink aimed at a pensioner forced into working on a sex-line as the only thing available to her. Any empathy? Any sympathy?

However, most perplexing was the ‘carrot’ offered by Hockey in the form of medical research. That is, suffer now and one day if we splash enough cash at the problem so that ‘we’, and where all other countries have failed, will by some act of divine providence cure the world of all of it’s ailments.

Today (17th December, 2013), Treasurer Joe Hockey cut:

• $100 million in funding for Westmead Hospital
• $10 million from the Children’s Medical Research Institute and $12 million from the Millennium Institute – one of the largest medical research institutes in Australia working on cancer and leukaemia research, heart disease, eye and brain disease and heart and respiratory disorders.
• $15.1 million from the life-saving Cancer Care Coordinators program. Despite knowing that Australians in regional areas have a lower life expectancy and find it more difficult to access life-saving treatment the Government has decided to cut this funding.
• $6 million for Medical Resonance Imaging service at Mt Druitt, the cutting of the $10 million life-saving Queensland Cancer Package, $15 million from the Flinders Neo-Natal Unit, the $10 million Western Australia cancer team, and the $50 million stroke package.
• $3.5 million from the Biala Health Service, the only free sexual-health clinic in Brisbane.
• The Coalition will scrap the $100 million committed for the redevelopment of the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

It seems that the Abbott Government taketh with one hand to return ‘who knows what’ at some unspecified time in the future. Why would anyone cut funding from medical research into things such as cancer and childhood leukaemia, only to siphon it off to be paid to ‘who knows who’ at some non-specific time in the future? The cynic in me asks the question, who is set to gain from this? Which multi-national benefactor might it be? I believe that there are certain hints and clues provided by certain photos of Tony Abbott and his ‘sponsor’.

The Liberal Party’s own website provides that the projected $20 billion will not be achieved until around 2024-2025. “To establish the Fund, approximately $1 billion in uncommitted funds from the existing Health and Hospitals Fund will be transferred into the Fund at its inception”, which is supposed to be 2015-2016. But wait a moment; hasn’t the Abbott Government already cut an (estimated) half billion dollars from existing medical research and services? Hockey’s gushing at the government’s beneficence and commitment to human-kind suddenly loses it’s rosy bloom.

But don’t worry, there is some good news contained in Joe Hockey’s attempt at a budget: there will be more roads – well, in the cities at least.

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Hockey’s Gold

Hasn’t Hockey come a long way from Jovial Joe? Once upon a time, Joe was the friend of ‘everyman’ trekking with Rudd on the Kokoda Track, and gaining substantial publicity for himself via promotion of this persona on Sunrise and other publicity stunts, and with the gall to wear Shrek ears:

I’ll protect ya, Fiona. I’ll protect ya. It’s unlawful, Fiona. The good government is gonna rescue you, Fiona.”

Somehow that persona, and much to the bewilderment of many, mysteriously evaporated; and I would date it from around the time that Hockey decided that he had the need to divest himself of, what shall we call it… ‘friendliness’, and to endow himself with some modicum of ‘seriousness’. Therefore, Jovial Joe seemingly overnight morphed into an attack dog, vicious and nasty.

Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has told a Liberal party rally in Melbourne that he “should have drowned” the newly appointed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd when he walked the Kokoda Track with him in 2006.

One should ask: Why? Clearly Hockey had spent considerable effort being the jockey on the Rudd horse, but once his ‘you beaut mate’ Rudd became PM, Rudd was clearly of no further use.

Rudd in his naiveté clearly believed that it was a genuine friendship, inviting Hockey to his daughter’s wedding. An invitation which Hockey refused, supposedly at the instructions of John Howard. Hockey, however, clearly believed that the ‘time was ripe’ for the old switcheroo; bye, bye Jovial Joe and hello to the new Joe.

However for those somewhat closer to the coalface, of the real Joe Hockey; none of this and which was to follow, would have come as a surprise. In December 2012, Michael Taylor wrote: ‘Joe Hockey, Welfare to Work, and a pack of damn lies’.

It is hard to keep a lie hidden forever, especially if you don’t dust over its tracks.

Things then became decidedly nastier …

The Courier Mail today ran a story revealing that would-be Treasurer Joe Hockey failed to declare a family interest for most of the duration of his Parliamentary life.

Mr Hockey declared the directorship of Steel Harbour Pty Ltd held by his wife, Melissa Babbage, in May last year among a series of “new positions” under spouse declaration rules. But business records show Ms Babbage was appointed to the role in 1998. Pecuniary interest register declarations are supposed to be made within a month.

It seems that we now have bingo, and from the Sydney Morning Herald, and it should be noted that this comes from the ICAC investigations:

Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering privileged access to a select group including business people and industry lobbyists in return for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to the Liberal Party via a secretive fund-raising body whose activities are not fully disclosed to election funding authorities.

And the influence includes:

The FSC’s members, including financial advice and funds management firms, stand to benefit from the changes to the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) laws being considered by the federal government, which would involve a winding back of consumer protections introduced by Labor.

Basically, what Joe Hockey is offering is access to one of the country’s highest political offices in return for annual payments. It is clear that Hockey must now stand down. Hockey is about to deliver a budget which from all accounts will hit hard those least able to pay, pensioners, the disabled and add a tax (a supposed ‘levy’), plus sell off Australia Post, Defence Housing, Snowy Hydro and Australian Hearing; and as recommended by the hand-picked Commission of Audit, while at the same time demanding $22,000 for individuals to enter his inner sanctum. Come on, Joe, who do you have already lined up as buyers? And do mates’ rates apply?

I encourage all to read the above quoted article by the Sydney Morning Herald’s Sean Nicolls, and draw your own conclusions.


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Abbott, “skills beyond his years”

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Mark Kenny has been effusive in his praise of Tony Abbott, writing: Abbott in China shows skills beyond his years

My first response was a quizzical one; skills beyond his years? Kenny is writing about a person who is 56 years old and who has been in politics for just over two decades. Surely some sort of “skills” should have already emerged during that length of time. . .or at least one would have thought so.

Kenny, who clearly is or rather was, aiming for some boost in Abbott’s popularity arising from Tony’s overseas sojourn, then added:

But Abbott has spent a political career surprising those who underestimate the power of HIS intelligence, HIS people skills (funnily enough), and perhaps most importantly, HIS directness.

Is this all about the person and not the country?

Abbott clearly has been hiding these of his particular lights under a bushel, with the above going mostly unnoticed by a public who sit and watch. . . and learn, as Abbott does such things such as break his word on a regular basis, runs when in tight corner and offers nothing for an increasingly cynical and somewhat saddened electorate. Directness without empathy is a poor skill indeed.

We then learn. . .

A record high vote of support for the Greens and a slump in support for the Coalition in regional Australia has left Tony Abbott’s seven-month old government trailing Labor by four points after preferences, for the second time since being elected.

The Coalition now trails Labor by 4 percentage points on a two-party-preferred basis on 48 to 52 per cent, with the Greens primary vote rising sharply to a highest-ever share of 17 per cent.

It was therefore with some deal of obvious confusion that Mark Kenny wrote: Tony Abbott slumps in polls despite best week yet.

OMG, how could this be when Tony has shown “skills beyond his years”?

Best week yet? I am not sure how the week might have been Abbott’s ‘best’, perhaps because he failed to make noticeable forced and unforced errors. Abbott’s ‘best week yet’ must be by Mark Kenny’s own criteria, as it certainly doesn’t seem to be shared by an ever-increasing number of Australians.

Does Kenny believe that photo ops of Abbott swanning around ‘abroad’ wins the accolades, and that Australians believe that this will take people’s attention away from the threats contained in the forthcoming budget? Does Kenny think that photos of Abbott shaking hand with World Leaders might somehow give credence to his broken promises?

Kenny however does add a few ‘possible reasons’: “the surprise restoration of the royal titles of knight and dame; the furore surrounding the suspended Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos and his links with the disgraced Obeid family and the government’s divisive efforts to weaken racial anti-discrimination laws at the urging of a tiny but powerful group of shock-jocks and libertarian fundamentalists“.

Here is some assistance, some other items as to why ‘intelligent’, ‘people skills’, ‘direct’ Tony Abbott and the Liberals have once again faced a slump in the polls. Below is certainly incomplete.

  • “Long-term youth jobless rate triples”. A headline such as this, plus multiple headlines of ‘job losses’ and public service sackings do not add one iota to instilling any confidence.
  • Nationals MPs warn against ABC budget cuts – “. . .breaking a key election promise“. “. . .no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”
  • Thousands rally for refugees – “church-goers, activists come together for Walk for Justice for Refugees rally“.
  • Public servants will be urged to ­dob in colleagues posting political criticism of the Abbott government (Australians do not like ‘dobbers’ much less being threatened into having to do so).
  • . . .by abandoning the NBN and replacing it with a patched-together mish-mash of multiple technologies, Turnbull has settled for second or third best”. (As reported in The Australian; that one was a surprise criticism..nay, call it ‘a shock’).
  • Mr Downer joined the board (of a Victorian oil and gas company) 14 months ago as a representative of Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting. (It all becomes very incestuous doesn’t it). This might not be *Abbott’s fault*, but it is certainly indicative of who is pulling the strings of this government.
  • “I also want to stress that the government’s approach will be roads first, airport second. . .”. . .and ‘people’ the also-rans. Abbott also added a comment which would have perplexed most; he has promised a new airport with “no noise“. Abbott has now been accused of misleading the people of Western Sydney, ‘duped’ being the description.

Barely a day goes when there are not issues which will impact us for the rest of our lives. The media has not time to play this game of the Abbott government’s. But perhaps that’s the ploy, hit ’em so hard and so early, and with so much data that it’s impossible to keep track of what this government is deleting- cancelling – re-strateg-ising.

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Tony Abbott stuffs it up . . . again

Fairfax’s Friday offering is from Chief Political Correspondent, Mark Kenny and comes accompanied by this impressive headline:

Tony Abbott’s pre-budget fortnight of blunders and stuff-ups

My first impression was, what only a fortnight? Where has Mark Kenny been during the rest of Tony Abbott’s term in parliament? Quote:

Friday is a red-letter day for the Abbott government.

It marks 100 days since any successful people-smuggling venture has made it to Australia.

But wait a moment, isn’t the article meant to be about “blunders and stuff-ups”, but suddenly and in the leading sentence Kenny introduces his article with today being “a red letter day” for Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott’s people-smuggling “venture” a success? Does Mark Kenny not count the previous stuff-ups? Is the last fortnight where there apparently have been no boat arrivals, this serves as the only marker on what counts as success or otherwise? A strange way in which to talk about international incidents, people’s lives put in danger; as “a venture”.

  • The countries’ existing co-operation has been extended, with Australia giving Sri Lanka two patrol boats, so that asylum seekers might be intercepted before they leave Sri Lankan waters. (The inconvenient truth that navy sailors have been arrested and charged with running the biggest people-smuggling ring in the country is being, publicly at least, downplayed.)
  • Tony Abbott and the Papua New Guinea government plan to shut down a human rights inquiry into human rights abuses in the Manus Island asylum seeker detention centre.
  • Cost of Abbott government’s orange lifeboats to tow back asylum seeker trebles to $7.5 million.
  • The Senate has voted to strike out the government’s latest attempt to place refugees on temporary visas.

The government has not been shy about its Operation Sovereign Borders milestone nor for that matter the 30 or 40 daily increments leading up to it.

Not shy? Perhaps a better description is still pumping 3-word slogans out to the public, while denying any accuracy of information, thereby making an informed decision almost impossible.

  • The absence of public information on exactly what resources are being deployed makes estimating the exact financial cost difficult …
  • Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has indicated he will no longer hold a weekly press conference to update journalists about the Government’s border protection operations.
  • The (Senate) inquiry will look into Mr Morrison’s claim of “public interest immunity” from requests to tell the public what the navy is doing with asylum seeker boats on the high seas. Senators will also examine the Abbott government’s turn back policy, the recent violations of Indonesian sovereignty and the government’s perceived lack of transparency.

It comes ironically enough, at the fag-end of the most mistake-laden fortnight for the government since the travel entitlements debacle marred its first weeks in office.

Therefore according to Mark Kenny, the debacle of this government’s asylum seeker policy which is costing the Australian public unknown millions of dollars for an impossible-to-ascertain result, is somehow “a success”. No boat arrivals, but what’s the price Mr. Morrison and Mr. Abbott … care to enlighten us?

Back then Tony Abbott had been strangely absent, his minimalist approach erroneously designed to position him as the opposite of the news cycle-obsessed Rudd-Gillard outfits.

I find that extremely difficult to believe, and I would challenge Mark Kenny to compare how many times Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard fronted the cameras in lycra or budgie smugglers proudly holding aloft a dead fish. Poor old Con the Fruiterer could barely leave the front door of his shop without media tart Tony Abbott trying to grab one of his melons.

What it actually conveyed was a government without a message and a prime minister without a firm hand on the wheel.

Perhaps it’s because Abbott doesn’t have a firm hand on the wheel . . .

  • Prime Minister Tony Abbott refers to her as ”the boss” and Peta Credlin is proving why, stamping her authority on the make up of the government. Fairfax Media has learned Ms Credlin, who steered Mr Abbott’s path to The Lodge as his chief-of-staff, is deciding every government appointment from top ministerial aides right down to the electorate staff of new MPs.
  • Senator Ian Macdonald’s public accusation that Mr Abbott’s office, led by senior aide Peta Credlin, has instilled a culture of “obsessive centralised control” in the government has struck a chord among sections of the Coalition.
  • OK, hands up all those that voted for Peta Credlin?

Opinion polls reflected this vacuum and by the close of 2013, press gallery journalists were being backgrounded to the effect that things would change in 2014.

Another opinion is that the actions of this government since the election has lead the public to realise that they were fooled, tricked, deceived, conned and duped by the mainstream media in the lead up to the election via their complete and utter failure to report on, much less analyse the implications of the ideas which Tony Abbott took to the election. If anyone in the msm cares to peruse the list by Sally McManus, her excellent research provides a summary (with links). Ms McManus is currently up to #123 of broken promises, lies and deceptions.

Abbott’s performance since has been more positive and the government had looked to be settling in.

See above for broken promises, lies and deceptions. Mark Kenny blames the Abbott government’s unpopularity on Tony Abbott’s “minimalistic approach” which is now “more positive” and “settling in”. Kenny might care to take a small glance at what precisely the Abbott government has been doing, and among the many are:

Cuts welfare payments to orphans of soldiers – Cuts hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO – Reopens 457 visa loophole to allow employers to hire an unlimited number of workers without scrutiny – Pays hundreds of indigenous workers in his Department up to $19 000 less than non-indigenous workers doing the same job and cuts the budget for the representative body the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples causing two-thirds of the staff to lose their jobs – Scraps food grants program for small farmers – Unemployment rate jumps to highest in more than 10 years – Cuts the wages of Australian troops deployed overseas by almost $20 000 per solider – Withdraws funding for an early intervention program to help vulnerable young people –Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system …

But the sitting fortnight just concluded, the last before the May budget session, has been anything but impressive, starting out badly and getting steadily worse.

And deservedly so …

And with each day, the prime minister’s normally confident body language in parliament has chronicled that slide.

That would be a noticed and much commented upon pattern of behaviour, and has in the past been the precedent to “doing a runner”. This pattern will obviously be difficult for Abbott to maintain now that he’s PM, therefore it is expected that he will “go to ground” following mistakes, errors, blunders and confusing plus contradictory statements made by himself.

Mark Kenny then goes on at some length about the Sinodinos issue.

First came the storm over the past business dealings of his assistant treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos.

… but it wasn’t Abbott’s doing. He continued to enthusiastically spruik the imminent return of Sinodinos to the ministry.

In any event, the voluntary suspension has failed to defuse the issue amid new testimony at ICAC that Sinodinos was expressly warned of governance problems including the possible insolvency of AWH, when he was chairman in 2010.

This has become a running sore for Abbott. Colleagues worry that Abbott’s support will make it harder to cut the minister loose if needed, but it might actually make it easier, allowing the Prime Minister to explain the dismissal as anything but a personal preference.

Clever politics eh from the PM … wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

On top of these problems came Attorney-General George Brandis’ ham-fisted sales job for his changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. His legally correct yet politically insane observation, that people have a right to be bigots, was an horrendous own-goal.

Under the proposed legislation, “intimidate” is defined as meaning to “cause fear of physical harm” and “vilify” is to “incite hatred”. “This is an extremely narrowly defined protection, an extremely narrowly defined prohibition of racist speech,” Mr Dreyfus said.

He has also pointed to a clause in the Government amendments that appears to allow vilification or intimidation if it is “in the course of participating in the public discussion”.

“One could drive a truck through that provision,” Mr Dreyfus said.

I agree with Mark Kenny, yes Brandis’ draft legislation was “legally correct” but with the proviso that it was deemed unworkable (A third minister present at the meeting said the original bill had been ”terrible”); a very poor and amateurish effort from Australia’s Attorney-General.

Simon Rice, professor of law at Australian National University, said that Mr Tobin’s comments (concerning holocaust denial and ordered to be taken from Tobin’s website in 2008) would not be banned in Australia if his situation were to be tested by the government’s new exposure draft.

Then came the Prime Minister’s stunning return to old empire via the restoration of knights and dames in the Australian awards system.

While Abbott’s decision might easily be categorised alongside that which are known in the venacular as Abbott Brain-f*rts, and as per other ill-considered offerings from Tony Abbott have given journalists and the Australian public much cause for mirth … and puns, it does also represent as Bill Shorten expressed it, an example of Abbott’s “cruel and twisted priorities … awarding knighthoods but cutting the wages of cleaners”.

One Liberal observed that not even John Howard had wanted to turn the clock that far back and right on cue, Howard himself confirmed it, telling Fairfax Media, that even conservatives would view the move as ‘‘somewhat anachronistic”.

Howard used to rail against Labor’s tendency to govern for section interests.

Well that’s a surprise given Howard’s introduction of WorkChoices, and who can forget that which came to be known as “Howard’s Hand-outs”. Yes, John Howard used to rail against Labor’s “tendency”, but wasn’t that slightly hypocritical? From 2004:

  • The money is a clear attempt to placate what are currently some of the more vocal sectional interests in the community. On Sunday, we also saw the Government pledge another bag of money to Catholic schools.
  • Just months before the election, the Government’s populism had eaten up the expected budget surplus, leaving the Beazley opposition in a corner with either no money to spend or having to cut government programs to find money for their own agenda.
  • Howard’s extraordinarily blatant targeted hand-outs to particular groups to shore up votes is a further indication of how far he is prepared to go in appealing to self-interest rather than national interest.

Mark Kenny however, is spot on with his conclusion:

But this week, it was the Abbott government which turned its back on mainstream opinion to pander to a couple of mouthy conservative commentators wanting to legalise hate speech, a cloister of protected banks wanting to reintroduce skimming, and a tiny cluster of 19th century monarchists.

Little wonder the Prime Minister has been ashen-faced in parliament this week.


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Tony Abbott has that rare ability to be incredibly stupid

Tony Abbott keeps raising the bar of stupidity.

His speech last night at a timber industry dinner lauding timber workers as “the ultimate conservationists” brings home the gold medal.

Corinne Grant provides a wonderful take on this superb performance:

It’s pretty much standard for politicians to suck up to their audiences.

If they’re talking to mining magnates, they tell them they’re the backbone of Australia. If they’re talking to farmers, they tell them they’re the backbone of Australia.

If they’re talking to factory workers they tell them they’re the backbone of Australia (and then they tell them they earn too much).

But when Tony Abbott told a room full of loggers that they were the ‘ultimate conservationists’, even that audience must have been reaching for its sick bag.

Seriously, people who cut down trees are saving them? As what? IKEA furniture?

Just brilliant, Corinne.

But while this latest example (of what are affectionately called “Abbott’s brain f*rts”) has anyone with an IQ over 25 picking their jaws up off the floor, this medal-winning performance of stupidity has been matched with an equally brilliant display of hypocrisy.

In last night’s speech Abbott also announced that:

“We don’t support, as a government and as a Coalition, further lockouts of our forests,” Mr Abbott said. “We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.”

Mr Abbott said his government was pushing ahead to delist a world heritage listing of 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania. “Mr Abbott said the area – which was protected under Tasmania’s forest peace deal – was not pristine forest and was too degraded to be considered a sanctuary“. (I guess they aren’t trees of calibre. Their ‘breeding’ shouldn’t be encouraged).

Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy is breathtaking. Do you remember this?

Tony Abbott believes he can fight climate change with a $3.2 billion plan to plant 20 million trees . . .

Mr Abbott said planting 20 million trees by 2020 at a cost of $5 a tree would create “urban forests” and green zones in regions and along highways.

To lull the Australian electorate into believing he had genuine concerns and a genuine plan for climate change he conjured up some fabulous idea of planting a tree on just about every square inch of spare piece of dirt. Cities, suburbs and sidewalks would no longer be concrete jungles. He would have promised urban forests in Alice Springs, Adelaide, Bendigo, Brisbane … everywhere. Everywhere, now, but Tasmania. This year they head to the polls so he declares to the axe-happy loggers that he would prefer to see Tasmanian trees chopped from the landscape.

Tony Abbott has that knack of being able to mix a classical brain fart in amongst some blatant political opportunism. He really has that rare ability to be incredibly stupid. In the same week we saw the Minister for the Environment promoting the green army Abbott talks about clearing heritage-listed forests. How does he do it? If I were the Minister for the Environment I’d be locking myself in a sound-proof room and screaming.

But hey, don’t we all feel like screaming?

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The boats have ‘apparently’ stopped, but are any of us actually better off?

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What issues are important to Australians?

I don’t speak for all people but I’d suggest that if I said the issues included rising unemployment/job security, education, health, income inequality, aged care, climate change, the cost of living, adequate infrastructure, essential services, 21st century information technology or housing affordability it would be safe to say that I’ve covered one issue that would be important to (collectively) more than 95 per cent of us.

Now I would ask, “What has the government done to address any of these?” The answer to that is all too obvious.

All they’ve harped on about is that they’ve stopped the boats. Whether they have or not . . . is another matter. Oh, and they did mention education reforms, briefly, but stopping boats is their only claim for bragging rights.

And so what if they have stopped? Shane of Café Whispers asked:

How has this effected you personally? How has this effected the Aussie citizen? How has this effected jobs? How has this effected any of our personal lives? It hasn’t!

So true.

Shane has only just scratched the surface. I’ll continue to scratch away with more questions.

Is it going to bring relief to the workers at Qantas, SPC or anybody worried about their job security knowing that some wretched asylum seekers have been forced into a big orange life boat and sent back to Indonesia? Will that make their lives any better? Will it bring back Ford or Toyota? Does saving our borders save our jobs?

Will a better life await struggling pensioners because another boat has been stopped? Is the shopping dollar easier to stretch every time a boat is towed away? Has it done anything for the homeless Australians because a lifeboat has been set adrift?

And when the orange boat slips across the white sands of some Indonesian beach will it give us higher Internet speeds? Will it make housing, health care or education more affordable?

Each time Tony Abbott or Scott Morrison front up to the nearest microphone to proudly bleat that their government has lived up to its core promise of protecting our borders (from starving women and children) do you think it’ll mean more hospitals will be built? Or will it save another school from closing?

The boats have ‘apparently’ stopped, but are any of us actually better off?

Are houses more affordable because billions of dollars are being spent on ‘border security’?

No, no, no and no.

I return to Shane for my closing comment:

Honestly, if the only success this current government can come up with is stopping the boats then they will be a one-term government, because it has done nothing for the voters and their lives at all.


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What really killed vehicle manufacturing in Australia

Image from

Image from

The death knell for Australia’s vehicle manufacturing industry was not because of high labour costs, writes Andreas Bimba in this guest article, but the free-trade agreements that acted to the detriment of the local industry. And who signed them? You won’t be too surprised to learn who.

Toyota, Holden and Ford did not decide to cease local automotive manufacturing because of high labour costs (this is nothing new), nor from a lack of direct financial support (this has been fairly constant but small), although both of these factors added to the pressure. Primarily, it was because of inadequate trade protection of the Australian new car market, the historically high Australian dollar, and finally, extreme hostility shown by the current Federal Government and the Productivity Commission in regard to dealing effectively with the urgent concerns of the industry.

It is quite obvious really, but as we have come to expect, the truth of the matter has largely been ignored by our superficial national media. The main headwind of the many facing Toyota Australia’s local manufacturing operations, and also those of Holden and Ford, is the one-sided Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed by our Federal Governments and the almost complete lack of tariff protection.

These FTAs conform to the neo-liberal philosophy of global free trade that is currently in favour with the Coalition Government, the Federal Government’s advisory bodies such as the incompetent Productivity Commission, and also the Australian Labor party.

The Australia Thailand Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) came into force on the 1st January 2005 and was implemented by Prime Minister John Howard.

This agreement has allowed Thailand’s subsidised vehicles into Australia without restriction but has not prevented Thailand imposing secondary restrictions that have totally prevented Australian vehicles from being sold into the Thai market. Australia’s three top selling vehicles in 2013; the Toyota Corolla (43,498 units), the Mazda 3 (42,082 units) and the Toyota HiLux (39,931 units) all came from Thailand. By comparison, for 2013 the Australian made Holden Commodore sold 27,766 units locally and the Toyota Camry sold 24,860 units locally. I have not included Australian exports in these figures.

Over the preceding eight years not one Australian government has addressed the inequities of this vehicle trade imbalance and have stood back and ignored the inevitable consequences. Perhaps the Australian automotive manufacturers have also not tried diligently enough to address this trade imbalance as most of the vehicles being imported were made by subsidiaries of the parent companies.

This chart from GoAuto clearly shows what has been happening from 2005 to 2013. For the Australian new vehicle market it shows total Australian made vehicle sales (exports excluded) and total Thailand made vehicle sales.

GoAuto The Australia Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) came into force on the 5th December 2013 and was implemented by the Abbott Government. Korea has an almost totally protected car market and provides substantial subsidies to its manufacturers. It is also a much larger and more advanced automotive manufacturer than Thailand.

On the 11th December 2013 General Motors Holden announced the planned closure of its Australian manufacturing operations from the end of 2017.

On the 10th February 2014 Toyota Australia also announced the planned closure of its Australian manufacturing operations from the end of 2017.

It looks fairly clear to me that Holden and Toyota Australia concluded that the Australia Korea FTA was the last nail in the coffin and that there was no longer any point in baring their trading losses in the hope that the national industrial policy environment would improve.

The fact that Holden and Toyota Australia made no headway in Canberra with either the Government or the Productivity Commission with addressing their major concerns about viability under such extremely trade exposed conditions showed that the situation in their eyes was hopeless.

A bumpy road I believe that if a Labor Government was in power that the views of knowledgeable and reasonable negotiators such as Senator Kim Carr would have prevailed and that realistic strategies to address or counteract all of the concerns of the Australian automotive manufacturers would have been implemented. This would have occurred at the time of Holden’s threatened closure and I believe would have saved the local manufacturing operations of Holden and subsequently also those of Toyota Australia.

Even though during the Rudd and Gillard Governments (as well as the Howard Government) the issues of the vehicle trade imbalance with Thailand, the lack of trade protection in general, the unreasonable barriers placed against exports, the occasional unwillingness to export and the historically high Australian dollar were not adequately addressed, I believe that Labor would have done whatever was needed to retain the Australian automotive manufacturing industry as soon as it became aware of how critical the current situation had become.

Given the above, the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that the current Coalition Government is primarily responsible for the announced cessation of all Australian automotive manufacture.

Can the Coalition bring themselves to adjust the Australian automotive manufacturing national policy environment sufficiently strongly that Toyota, Holden and possibly also Ford can be persuaded to continue local automotive manufacture beyond the announced closure dates? This is not very likely even though it is strongly in the national interest on so many levels, as it would basically entail the partial abandonment of their neo-liberal economic philosophy which they possibly hold as being more important than the national interest. Perhaps it is time for a leadership spill in the Federal Liberal and National Parties?

Can the next Federal Labor Government, which has every opportunity to win in 2016, bring about a policy environment sufficiently realistic and powerful that Toyota, Holden and possibly also Ford can be persuaded to continue local automotive manufacturing? Despite all the gloom I think that is possible. Even if some or all of the original manufacturers choose not to continue with local manufacturing, it is plausible that other players whether local or foreign may take over the current manufacturing facilities, perhaps even with the original manufacturers holding a minority share of the ownership.

We will see.

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The march of neo-liberalism

image What is the Abbott Government doing wrong? Many could argue long and hard over that question, but in this guest article Andreas Bimba points to their strong neo-liberalism as one of their main failings.

In December 2012 Toyota announced the opening of its new engine plant at Toyota Australia’s centralised manufacturing operations in Altona, a western suburb of Melbourne. This was a little more than a year ago. Although times were tough then with a historically high Australian dollar, a fragmented market, almost no trade protection and only moderate government co-investment (to partially compensate for relatively high Australian wages), Toyota must still have seen a future for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry.

These external negative factors have not really changed from one year ago. If anything, the Australian dollar has fallen so conditions should in reality be better.

What is different is the attitude of the current Federal Government, with their hardened attitude of the government’s primary economic advisory body, the Productivity Commission. The Productivity Commission recently recommended that all government support for the Australian automotive industry cease by 2020. This is effectively a decision that declared an Australian automotive manufacturing industry is not welcome past 2020 and that the government’s key advisers want the industry to, simply, close down.

The Abbott Government has politically moved to the right much more than any previous national government. Philosophically they could be described as neo-liberals who promote small government, minimal government intervention in the economy, free trade, globalisation and free flow of capital to the most profitable sectors of the economy. This philosophy currently has wide support in the community, especially from people who work hard, face a high cost of living and resent governments taxing them excessively and wasting that money on unnecessary social services or corporate welfare.

As the inevitable consequences of this ‘dry’ economic philosophy become better known, public support will fall and in fact it is already unlikely the LNP Coalition will win the next federal election in late 2016, even with most of the Australian commercial media being heavily biased towards them.

The neo-liberal philosophy is, however, an overly simplistic and failed economic philosophy. No one, not even China or India follow this philosophy, nor does the United States even though its business leaders often claim to be free traders but the world is well aware of the local, state and national government support US industry receives.

In a country like Australia with a relatively high living standard, the concept of total free trade will inevitable mean a race to the bottom. Firstly, most of the manufacturing industry will disappear, but it will not stop there and eventually much of the service sector will also be transferred to lower cost foreign providers. The internet provides easy trade for information based industries such as accountancy, education, engineering, architecture, IT support and so on. Even work that must be performed in Australia such as construction, food harvesting, plant operators and maintenance services are now often performed by non-resident workers allowed into the country with temporary visas such as the 457 visa.

The only sectors of the Australian economy likely to prosper in such an environment are the bulk minerals/resources industry and the bulk agricultural commodity export industry. Neither of these sectors employ many Australians. The inevitable end result of neo-liberalism is unemployment for most, and fabulous wealth for a few. The classic third world banana republic.

When Toyota closes down its Australian manufacturing operations, this means about 90 per cent of the components and other supporting businesses will go as well. Probably about 40,000 direct jobs, mostly in Victoria and South Australia, as well as some in New South Wales and Queensland. An estimated three times that number will go in the wider economy as the economic demand for goods and services of those auto manufacturing businesses and their employees will subside substantially. Probably as many as 160,000 jobs will go.

As the manufacturing industry will continue to contract under neo-liberalism the service sector of the economy will also shrink and unemployment is going to be much more than it otherwise would have been. If, however, the Abbott Government is frustrated at every step of the way, the level of economic destruction may be lessened.

With China switching to renewable and nuclear power and also transforming its economy across the board to an advanced sustainable economy, it is inevitable that the demand and price for mineral resources will fall substantially. Australia will suffer badly in such a downturn with such a narrowly focused economy.

The global atmospheric CO2 limit that has been set to avoid catastrophic climate change will inevitably lead to a collapse of the coal industry and possibly much of the gas industry in the short to medium term. This is another factor our current government fails to acknowledge. Much of the associated unserviceable loans will fall onto the major Australian banks, the government, and the Australian taxpayer.

The alternative economic approach to neo-liberalism of balanced trade protection which allows a larger and more equitable mixed economy with a healthy manufacturing, service and resource export economy is essential for Australia’s future prosperity. This approach provides a ‘level playing field’ for Australian businesses but does not remove national or international competition.

So with a Labor Government likely to be returned in late 2016 that is most likely to support a balanced trade protection philosophy, why did Toyota announce the closure of its Australian manufacturing operations for late 2017? Will Toyota change its mind about closure of its Australian manufacturing operations after the expected Labor victory in late 2016? I and a few million other Australians certainly hope so.


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Tony Abbott’s problem with the truth

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Image courtesy of

People lie for a number of reasons: sometimes it is accidental that through the person’s own ignorance, statements are made which gives the appearance of being deliberate; the aim being to deceive. However, and of course, all is forgiven because it is abundantly clear to the reader/listener that the “lie” was purely accidental and its consequences unintended.

People also lie as a defence mechanism, that via that person’s emotional and mental immaturity they are incapable of providing an honest answer, but must resort to a simplistic lie. Ego also comes into play with the person incapable of accepting responsibility for the fact that they have made a mistake.

Revenge is also a motivator for lying.

However, with the exception of revenge, such behaviour can fall within the confines of what is considered normal. It is not a pattern of behaviour but something which occurs in response to exceptional circumstances. The abnormal is when lies are told by a person with a personality disorder, and an example is morbid narcissistic complex disorder whose traits include:

A sense of entitlement – an unrealistic, unmerited or inappropriate expectation of favorable treatment or conditions. Good examples in Tony Abbott’s case being; “I was robbed of becoming Prime Minister”. “It’s all the Independents’ fault”. “I want another election, and I want it now!” Ad nauseum.

Blaming – the practice of identifying a person or people responsible for creating a problem, rather than identifying ways of dealing with the problem. I have never known of Tony Abbott to do other than blame the person, using even formal occasions as an opportunity to attack others.

Impulsiveness – the tendency to act or speak based on current feelings rather than logical reasoning. This is known in some circles as Abbott “brain farts”.

Lack of conscience – individuals who suffer from Personality Disorders are often preoccupied with their own agendas, sometimes to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others. This is sometimes interpreted by others as a lack of moral conscience. Turning to Tony Abbott, does he even recognise the hypocrisy of his alleged rorting of the travel allowance scheme, yet all the while expecting low paid child care workers to return money already paid to them?

Pathological Lying – persistent deception by an individual to serve their own interests and needs with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of others. A pathological liar is a person who habitually lies to serve their own needs.

Consider that in 2010 Tony Abbott said, “The statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared, scripted remarks”. This was quite an extraordinary admission from Tony Abbott who was promptly dubbed “Phoney Tony”.

It is not the exaggerations which although not entirely acceptable, come under the general heading of “what else do you expect from a politician”, but rather the instances where Mr Abbott seems completely oblivious to the fact that he is telling an untruth.

Examples of Tony Abbott’s failure to be able to address the truth are numerous and no doubt inspired by any of the motivators provided above. Here are but a few of the much publicised instances which come to mind:

The Indonesian government consistently told both Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop that should the Coalition be elected and if they persisted with their Turn Back The Boats policy, that they, the Indonesian government would find this unacceptable. Abbott went to the election promising the authenticity of his statements and with the blatant lie that he had the full support of the Indonesia government.

In August 2012 Laurie Oakes wrote:

Abbott’s own truthfulness came under the microscope, however, after a blundering performance in an interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 program on Wednesday evening.

Earlier that day he had claimed BHP’s decision to put the Olympic Dam mining project in South Australia on hold was partly due to the Federal Government’s carbon and mining taxes.

That was porkie number one. BHP CEO Marius Kloppers had blamed such factors as the eurozone financial crisis, the slowdown of growth in China and weakness in commodity markets.


When Abbott stuck to his claim despite what Kloppers had said, interviewer Leigh Sales asked: “Have you actually read BHP’s statements?”

Abbott replied: “No.” The next day he claimed he had read the BHP announcement after all – soon after it was made.

He attributed the damaging answer in the 7.30 interview to a misunderstanding of what Sales had asked him. But her meaning could hardly have been clearer.

Just in case there was any doubt, she had gone on to say in her next question: “You haven’t read their statements today but you’re commenting about what they’ve announced.”

The conclusion is inescapable that, in trying to explain away a dreadful gaffe, Abbott resorted to another falsehood.

Tony Abbott lies about the impact of the Carbon Price on a new car:

During a doorstop interview in Geelong on April 11, 2013, Tony Abbott claimed:

First and foremost we are not going to hit the motor industry with a carbon tax and the carbon tax is adding $400 to the cost of every car manufactured in Australia.

Where was the evidence that the carbon tax added $400 to the cost of the car? And if the carbon tax was such a killer, why is he not blaming it as one of the reasons behind Holden’s closure?

Tony Abbott lies on Radio about not doing deals:

On February 20, 2013, Tony Abbott was interviewed by Neil Mitchell in the studio of 3AW.

Neil Mitchell: Will you talk to the Greens about cooperating with you?

Tony Abbott: Look, I think that’s been part of Julia Gillard’s problem. She embraced the Greens. This turned out to be a fatal embrace and I don’t do these sorts of deals with people. I mean, I wasn’t prepared to give the independents, I wasn’t prepared to give the Greens what they wanted. Julia Gillard was and I think her government, from the beginning, has been fatally compromised.

Neil Mitchell: So no deals to get into power?

Tony Abbott: I don’t do deals, Neil.

Neil Mitchell: You tried to.

Wednesday, 11th December 2013:

Holden did not make a bid to replace Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “C1” car and the existing eight-year-old fleet of nine armour-plate caprices for the government, The Daily Telegraph reported. According to the report, it was only Audi and Mercedes and two other car companies with submitted bids.

And today:

Holden angered by media reports it did not submit bid to supply ‘blast-proof’ vehicles for Australian government VIPs.

The revelation appears to contradict reported Abbott government sources as saying Holden had not even submitted a bid in the tender because the car maker simply ”was not interested”.

These extraordinary events give every indication the government pursued a vendetta against Holden

Kim Carr

Holden viewed that claim – which appeared in a News Corporation newspaper on Wednesday, just hours before the car maker announced its withdrawal – as part of a deliberate negative backgrounding campaign by Coalition ministers designed to make the company look uncommitted to Australia.

Tony Abbott will continue to say anything and do anything regardless of whether he believes his statements to be true or not. Why in this instance did Tony Abbott simply not tell the truth, that BMW were given the tender as the Holden model was not up to the standard expected, and for security reasons? As reported by

The only options of a semi-local built car was believed to be a newer version of the retrofitted Holden Caprice offered by British Aerospace at a cost of $800,000 each, or a “ground up” model based on a Holden chassis, which cost $1.2 million for just one vehicle.

However, neither option is believed to have been able to meet international standards for protection against attacks.

The Federal Government is now expected to sign a contract to buy cheaper, off-the shelf BMW High Security 7-series vehicles, at a cost of $525,000 each, which meet higher international standards of protection against ballistic and gas attacks – and which can be serviced in Australia.

When lying becomes a compulsion (and a pointless exercise) one must consider that the person should not be in any position of authority or where they might do harm to others. A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit who will bend the truth about everything large and small. For the compulsive liar, telling the truth feels awkward and uncomfortable while lying sits well, giving the person a sense of empowerment and confidence. Often when confronted with the absolute necessity to tell the truth, the person will enter into a state of panic, perhaps unable to speak, or physically fleeing.

Does this perhaps offer us an insight into Tony Abbott’s problem with the truth?

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Charities are on Abbott’s hit list

Tony Abbott ran a campaign specifically targeting government waste and reckless spending. The mainstream media was quick to applaud, especially when from the sparse amount of detail provided, it amounted to cutting 20,000 jobs. However, as these jobs were only those of government employees, it was high-fives all ’round. Apart from this populist piece where making people unemployed had somehow become a virtue, the rest of the cutting was something unspecified. However, the rhetoric endlessly repeated by the mainstream media, parrot-fashion, was that it was “waste”. “Waste,” the Liberals roared; and they were the ones who had been ordained with the task of cutting it.

The Liberals clearly knew, or rather lead the public to believe that they knew, where “waste and reckless spending” was, or perhaps might be. It was just a matter of being elected, and then they would deal with it.

Tony Abbott did promise, and specifically that there would be “no cuts” to education, health or pensions. It must therefore be concluded that as of the 5th September, that Abbott’s Opposition had found no “waste and reckless spending” in these areas:

The Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has reiterated that if elected he wants to secure the jobs of today and build the jobs of tomorrow. He’s told AM there will be no cuts to education, health or pensions, and that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s talk of a $70 billion black hole will be proved wrong. The Coalition is preparing to outline how it intends to balance the budget should it win on Saturday.

The irony of it all: snouts in the trough, and the much publicised waste and misuse of public funds by Abbott and his claiming of traveling expenses, for hobby and recreational purposes.

It was therefore with added dismay that I read the following in Sunday’s Sydney Morning Herald. The headline read as an overly benign: Hit and run on crime prevention likely.

The Abbott government has backed away from distributing millions of dollars in grants promised to dozens of charities, community groups and local councils under Labor’s National Crime Prevention program. And at what cost? It surely cannot be ‘waste’ when you consider:

  • The biggest loser is the Police Citizens Youth Club, which has been warned the $7 million it was promised is ”on hold and unlikely to be delivered”.
  • Father Chris Riley of Youth Off The Streets hit out at the Coalition’s decision, pointing out that national crime prevention grants were funded through the proceeds of crime rather than general revenue and were not election promises. Father Chris Riley’s NSW-based Youth Off The Streets charity has received the first instalment of the $5 million he was promised because he expedited the signing of contracts before the change of government.
  • Wangaratta and Wodonga’s Junction Support Services, which applied for $305,559 for its youth re-engagement program, has been told by local state MP Bill Tilley that it may not get the money.
  • One group that was warned not to spend on the assumption that agreements were valid is the Women in Prison Advocacy Network. The not-for-profit organisation has been warned that expected grants “may not be delivered”.
  • The National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy had secured a total of $600,000 for programs for indigenous youth in Sydney and Dubbo but was warned the money was under review.

Mission Australia, which had been promised nearly $500,000, said it ”remains optimistic”. As above, the biggest loser is the PCYC, therefore hardly an organisation would could be labelled either as either “bleeding hearts” or “femi-Nazis”.

So this is “the waste” which Tony Abbot has in mind: Charities. Note also how the goals and aims of these charities concern young people, women and Aboriginal youth, and are all aimed towards social inclusion and ultimately at crime prevention. What could be the reasoning? Why take money away from crime prevention? Why specifically target organisations which assist women and Aboriginal youth?

The Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN) as an example, has the aims of addressing:

the many issues facing criminalised women and female youth both systemically, by advocating to improve the criminal justice systems and individually, by mentoring. WIPAN know from experience that by providing women and female youth with gender-responsive social support, recidivism rates will be reduced and the burgeoning prison population will be minimised.

Target groups being:

  • Aboriginal women and young women.
  • Torres Strait Islander women and young women.
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women and young women.
  • Women and young women with Disabilities.
  • Mothers and Expectant Mothers.
  • Victims of Family Domestic and/or Sexual Violence.
  • Lesbian and Transgender women and young women.

Yet on March 3, 2013, Tony Abbott promised to do exactly the opposite; he was making promises to assist with crime prevention.

Abbott’s promise:

AN ABBOTT government would reinstate a Howard government program that funded CCTV cameras in crime hotspots around the country.

Announcing the $50 million policy at Leumeah train station on Saturday, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said the program would give local governments the tools they need to tackle street crime.

”We will restore the $50 million-plus that’s been cut … that was going to crime prevention programs. That money will be available for councils to apply so they can get better lighting and things like CCTV,” he said.

By August 20, Abbott was still making promises that crime prevention was to be tackled, this time with $300,000 pledged to Liverpool Council for CCTV cameras. But that was before the election. The reality now is:

Local councils, which have been pledged millions of dollars – mainly in crime hotspots in Sydney and Melbourne – are concerned that money allocated for CCTV cameras will not materialise. In Victoria, council-run public safety projects are at risk in Ballarat, City of Casey, Greater Dandenong, Frankston, Hume, Mitchell Shire Council and Greater Shepparton.

At first glance it seems that Abbott’s plans are to take money from charities; charities which target crime prevention and instead use that money to purchase CCTV cameras. Father Chris Riley said that, “national crime prevention grants were funded through the proceeds of crime“.

Tony Abbott said:

”We will restore the $50 million-plus that’s been cut … that was going to crime prevention programs. That money will be available for councils to apply so they can get better lighting and things like CCTV…

The program would be funded using money confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act. ”We want to see people understand that crime does not pay.”

Surely this cannot be so. Surely it cannot be that Tony Abbott has taken money from charities and decided to give that same money to councils for “better lighting and things like CCTV”… well, so he said …

While “things like” CCTV cameras are useful in identifying situations after the event, after the crime has been committed, are these more important than programs which are aimed at crime prevention and recidivism? I will stand corrected if this is “different money” and not the same money taken which the government has taken from charities. As stated by Fr. Chris Riley: “national crime prevention grants were funded through the proceeds of crime rather than general revenue …”. If so, this is an appalling situation, and one for which the government should be condemned.

So is this where Tony Abbott is heading, and with much more still to come? From the Financial Review:

The chairman of John Howard and Jeff Kennett’s audit commissions, Bob Officer, has urged the incoming Abbott government to follow Queensland’s example and cut thousands of inefficient jobs from education and health bureaucracies in its first term.

Professor Officer concluded:

“The politicians can then dress is it up how they like, as indeed Howard did with our report,” he said. “They’ll hand-pick through it for the things that justify their prejudices.

Perhaps this is exactly what we are seeing now with the Abbott Government specifically targeted hit list being those charities whose objectives are to assist some of the most vulnerable in our society. Are Abbott’s prejudices showing? Does Tony Abbott believe that his promise to spend one week each year in an Aboriginal community will somehow make up for taking funding away from organisations such as Youth off the Streets when our young Aboriginal people are more at risk than any other demographic? How can you take money away from crime prevention and think that installing a few security cameras is going to solve the problem? Is Abbott not interested in real problems concerning real women, or only interested in his imaginary “women of calibre”?

There has been no suggestion whatsoever that these charities, the PCYC et al are not worthy recipients of government assistance, but rather for some reason Mr. Abbott considers that the money is best spent on “street lighting”.

Well, that will certainly fix everyone’s problem. It will save money being wasted on disadvantaged groups. And perhaps all the street lighting can shine a light on all those roads he wants to build.


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Marriage equality, a matter of conscience

The impetus for marriage equality has been gaining ground for quite some years. Perhaps it’s the pragmatism of most Aussies, or the sense of justice which we place as a primary value which has lead a good majority of Australians to agree that our gay and lesbian citizens should be afforded equal rights under the law – the right to marry if they should choose to do so.

Gay and lesbian couples are currently able to marry in 15 countries which include France, The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, Uruguay, Belgium and Argentina.

They can also wed in 13 states of the United States, and on the 17th of July this year England and Wales legalised gay marriage after Queen Elizabeth II provided the Royal Assent. As of next year, couples in England and Wales will be entitled to both civil and religious ceremonies, the latter at the discretion of individual religious organisations.

At the Federal level in Australia, the debate for and against marriage equality has been disappointing. Although former PM Gillard allowed a conscience vote on the issue, she herself voted against it reasoning that, as she did not believe in the institution of marriage per se then she could not vote in support of it. However, one might argue that although an existing discrimination does not effect oneself, is this reason enough to vote against legislation which would rectify the situation?

Tony Abbott has always treaded lightly when it comes to the issue of marriage equality, perhaps fearing that his own conservative Catholicism might have become an issue.

Some hope was given to the gay community via this interview as reported March 2010 by Crikey:

Abbott admitted to a “very poor choice of words” on 60 Minutes. Though, he told presenter Doug Pollard today: “I think blokes of my generation and upbringing do find these things a bit confronting. Anything that’s a bit different can be confronting.”

Abbott pleaded for time to, “I suppose, come to a more balanced and nuanced understanding of these things”. “Don’t hang me, please Doug, for an ill-chosen word,” he said.

“Yes, I am quite a conservative bloke. I do have a traditional background but it doesn’t mean I’m incapable of understanding the complexity of modern life.”

Gay groups have immediately welcomed Abbott’s apparent support for anti-discrimination legislation. He told Joy he was personally “not against the idea . . . in principle I would support it”.

However, what is said during an interview and Abbott’s deeds are often quite different from each other.

Additionally, what Tony Abbott says to one group of people is quite different when he has a different audience to appeal to, as by 2013 Abbott’s coming to a “more balanced and nuanced understanding” appears to have completely evaporated.

In the space of a few hours Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called marriage equality “the fashion of the moment” to a conservative radio host and “a significant issue” to a group of reporters, leaving the LGBTI community unclear as to his position on the issue.

Tony Abbott has always made it clear that in spite of his attitude towards homosexuality being somewhat ambiguous stating that he “feels threatened by gays” while he himself has a sister who is lesbian, that he will never countenance the likelihood of any government which he leads ever supporting marriage equality.

Populism, thy name is Tony Abbott.

More than Tony Abbott’s attitude of feeling “threatened by gays” has been Abbott’s lack of intestinal fortitude when dealing with rabid homophobic Cory Bernardi. One would have to suspect that Bernardi’s comments are more akin to Abbott’s own opinion due to Abbott’s failure to make any decisive statement concerning Bernardi’s comments. Admittedly, Bernardi did resign from his position as Deputy Manager of Opposition Business 2012, but was only mildly rapped over the knuckles by Abbott. Abbott was to describe Bernardi’s comments as ill-disciplined, nothing more.

By June 18th 2013, nothing had changed with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting:

Senator Bernardi also stood by his controversial comments last year that the “next step” after recognising same-sex marriage was to support “creepy people” who chose to have sex with animals.

“Bestiality, of course it was an extreme example, but once again it’s linked to the radical agenda of the Greens Party,” he said.

The Fairfax media unable to extract an opinion from Tony Abbott concerning Bernardi’s extreme and offensive remarks, instead interviewed Malcolm Turnbull:

Malcolm Turnbull told Sky News none of the countries around the world that had legalised same sex marriage had gone on to legalise polygamy.

‘‘And the remarks about bestiality are obviously very extreme and extremely offensive and I dissociate myself from them completely,’’ he added.

Mr Turnbull thought it ‘‘quite likely’’ that Mr Abbott would allow the Coalition a conscience vote on legalising same sex marriage in the next Parliament.

Malcolm Turnbull was clearly over-optimistic in the belief that Abbott would contemplate even the remotest of likelihoods that same-sex couples be permitted marriage equality.

On September 16th, the ACT government introduced a bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

The ACT government has a long history of advocating laws to recognise same-sex partnerships, dating back to its civil unions legislation in 2006, which was quashed by the Howard government but re-enacted last year.

”This is something that I have consistently, albeit quietly, championed,” Mr. Corbell [ACT Attorney-General] said. ”It would be something I would be very proud of if the territory were to become the first jurisdiction in the country to legislate for same-sex marriage.”

It has now been confirmed that the federal government will challenge the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws in the High Court as soon as they are passed, or as per Corbell’s statement, as soon as they become operational. Brandis has already issued a warning to gay couples against marrying under ACT’s laws.

As per Mr. Corbell’s previous prediction, George Brandis has confirmed that his government will argue against marriage equality laws on the basis of “consistency”: that the territory’s laws are inconsistent with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. However, I suspect that the real impetus comes from Brandis’ statements suggesting that any reform is ”a threat” to the ”well-established position” that marriage laws are a Commonwealth matter. Or judging by Brandis’ previously stated opinion that “marriage is defined by custom”, that the security of this “custom” is perceived by himself as under threat.


Mr Deputy President, it is true that marriage is defined by law but, equally and importantly, marriage is defined by custom. In the whole history of our civilisation there has never been a time at which marriage was understood to be other than a relationship between a man and a woman.

I’m not surprised but I’m disappointed that there is a failure to acknowledge that this fundamental matter of inequality needs to be addressed.

In 1935 the “half-caste women of Broome” petitioned the WA Parliament declaring:

Sometimes we have the chance to marry a man of our own choice … therefore we ask for our Freedom so that when the chance comes along we can rule our lives and make ourselves true and good citizens.

Today, in 2013 we have the chance to allow our gay and lesbian citizens the same rights to marry, and for all Australians to achieve the same rights as did “the half-caste women” in 1935.

As a note: The reasoning given by Attorney-General George Brandis for his government challenging the validity of same-sex marriage rights is “inconsistency” with the Commonwealth Marriage Act. What then happens to Tony Abbott’s promise to shock-journalist Andrew Bolt to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (the section under which Bolt was convicted), thereby making federal legislation inconsistent with States’ and Territories anti-discrimination laws?

We have a battle, it seems, not just with a matter of conscience but also with a matter of consistency. Neither is making any sense. Discrimination (or populism) wins out against both.


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Tony Abbott builds … a road

The Liberals went to the election with a few slogans; they would cut the waste, they would then start to build things with this being achieved by “cutting the waste”. This according to yet more sloganeering, would be Real Solutions.

Sparse indeed were questions from our mainstream media such as which waste? And what are your alternatives? But most especially how are you, the Liberals planning to pay for extreme policies such as $75,000 for millionaire moms? A few dollars saved by sacking a swag load of government employees served as window dressing; populist in the extreme.

A cynic might suggest that if you have few policies to implement, then you don’t need nearly as many people to do the non-existent work.

Goals were to cancel, demolish, defer and ultimately to do very little whatsoever.

However as “waste” seems to be a priority, here is but one example of Abbott’s idea of waste:

The Coalition will also begin unwinding key “nanny state” agencies such as the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use.

Comment from “Livsh”:

“That’s not the half of it … there are a large number of other pretty bloody essential agencies that are up for the chop.

Including the flaming AIHW … this blows my mind, how the HELL are we supposed to improve the health of Australians if we DON’T KNOW WHAT THEIR HEALTH STATUS IS NOW”.

If one discounts Abbott’s Liberals and assorted barrackers in mainstream, once in a rare while there appears a few who are prepared to seriously look at issues – who are prepared to look at policy not politics. As such, Ross Gittins quotes Ian McAuley, an economist at the University of Canberra:

McAuley argues that, after another round of good luck with the resources boom, we need to secure our long-term prosperity by building a more resilient economy.

McAuley suggests:

”Capital in the form of a row of machines or a fleet of trucks is less important than the capital in the form of ideas, skills and education, capacities to communicate and to work with others – human capital, in other words. It is the knowledge worker who is emerging as the capitalist of our day, but we are a long way from recognising this.”

”We pay far too little attention to our human capital. We still see education expenditure as an expense, or even as a welfare entitlement. And we pay even less attention to our environmental, social and institutional capital.”

Ross Gittins adds, “It’s hard to imagine Abbott has any of these in his field of vision”.

To date Tony Abbott’s investment in human capital has consisted of the promised sacking of tens of thousands of public servants, including those who work in close collaboration with enlisted defence personnel, promises of cuts in funding to universities, under the guise of what he perceives to be “futile research”. The latter in spite of Abbott’s previous statement that he “gets it”, that he gets the idea of universities being “an independent community of scholars“.

Tony Abbott: “Well intentioned outsiders should not be trying to micromanage universities …”. Yet hypocritically, it will be he, Tony Abbott who decides that which constitutes “wasteful research”. As reported by University World News,

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott, elected in a landslide victory in Saturday’s election, has promised to reverse many of the policies implemented by the defeated Labor government over the past six years – including those intended to lessen the impact of climate change.

The National Tertiary Education Union condemned the plan, with president Jeannie Rea describing it as “a direct attack on the academic freedom of researchers working in Australian universities”, a far cry from Abbott’s pre-election promise that “he gets it”.

The answer came to Tony in a mere flash, and that answer was … ROADS!

This was in spite of Abbott stating that all projects would be “in close collaboration with Infrastructure Australia”.

We will require all Commonwealth-funded projects worth more than $100 million to undergo a cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia to ensure the best use of available taxpayer monies.

For Tony, trains are bad:

TONY Abbott has slapped down Denis Napthine, insisting the states will have to fund their own commuter rail infrastructure and leave nation building projects to the commonwealth … he rejected Dr Napthine’s claim he had softened his position on funding public transport infrastructure such as the Metro tunnel.

But on the other hand, roads are good:

ROADS are “good for the environment” because cars are able to work efficiently, Tony Abbott has declared while pledging financial support for the Gateway Motorway extension in northern Brisbane.

Roads are not just good, they’re super-splendid:

  • “Better roads means better communities; better roads are good for our economy; they’re good for our society,” he said.
  • “They’re good for our physical and mental health.
  • “They’re even good for the environment because cars that are moving spew out far less pollution than cars that are standing still.”

Roads doubtless also make your whites whiter than white and also act as a preventative for many known causes of tooth decay.

It’s as if Tony Abbott believes that by the Liberals returning to power, this will in itself, solve most of our problems. Build a road, and everything will be fine again. Education, health and indeed our entire human capital are going to rank lowly with this, an Abbott-led government.

At least ‘building a road’ is a policy. Let’s see if he builds it.


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Culture wars, Pyne’s education

Education in Australia, emulating principles established in Mother England has always been class-based, and at times deliberately advanced as a method of social control; to keep the lower classes in their place while providing confirmation of the status of those perceived to be “of better breeding”. The expectation was that young people of culture were to concentrate on refinements to prepare them for their privileged role in society, while the lower classes received preparation for a future in their assumed roles; to provide service and labour.

This was seen to be the proper order of things, and so it remained until the latter decades of the 20th Century. Children were streamed according to expectations, girls from poorer families sent to domestic and commercial courses, boys to practical skills and both sexes of middle and lower classes off to work age 16. All opportunities to do anything different resided with those from a more privileged background.

I am the daughter of a factory worker, Dad worked for Hardie Trading in Footscray as a belt maker. He started his working life with Hardie’s when he was 14 years old, and returned to his old job after serving during the war. My mum earned extra money doing “doctor’s books”. I spent most school holidays and most weekends helping my mother by adding up row after row of numbers and entering the amount at the bottom of the small yellow cards, these were the accounts for the doctors’ patients.

Year 10, I was allowed to go into the Professional/Commercial stream, the expectation being that although I was from a working-class background, that I might have the potential to rise to the position of a clerk/typist.

It was not just an expectation, but an obligation that children who were not from the upper classes should leave school, however, I was allowed to stay another two years.

It was never considered that I should ever attend university, so in spite of passing my Matriculation with honours and receiving entrance into the Melbourne University, I did not go. Achieving Year 12 was the extent that my parents could afford.

This is how it was, there were few expectations that anyone from the working classes, would ever do anything differently. Wars change things. The Vietnam War produced the Youth Culture, Gough Whitlam lowered the voting age to 18yrs. Young people of this time saw that they could achieve just as well as any other; that class, gender and supposed expectations were barriers, but not impossible ones.

I base this push for change on the event of the Vietnam War, but I believe that the ideal of equality and fairness has been a part of the Australian spirit for a long time. We like to see ourselves as a country that promotes tolerance, acceptance and equal opportunity, and also that to get ahead in this country, it means an education.

Given this background, our Minister for Education is now Christopher Pyne and he needs to be quoted (The Australian, paywalled):

“The federal government isn’t responsible for school outcomes, as he [Pyne] attacked Labor’s vow to lift the nation’s schools to a world top five standard.”, so said the then Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne in September last year.

As Christopher Pyne has already decided that he has no responsibility regarding the issue of school outcomes, then it seems that the obvious solution is to cancel the portfolio of Education. Think of all the money that Tony Abbott will save.

Below is worthy of a topic unto itself, the complete and utter neglect of our Aboriginal history. When people challenge me on this opinion, I ask name 5 Native American tribes, now name 3 Australian peoples. Our knowledge of our own people is abysmal, there is no other descriptor – yet with a white supremacy overtone, that the little we do know is “too much”.

History study is also under attack with Christopher Pyne, federal Opposition Education Spokesperson wanting to reopen the history wars. In 2010 Pyne attacked Julia Gillard in her then role as Education Minister, alleging curriculum reform was being skewed to “a black armband view of Australian history”, in reference to the curriculum’s “over emphasis on indigenous culture”.

Once again worthy of a topic unto itself, are we a society based on Western civilisation. I somehow think that the Magna Carta, being a document which failed to achieve peace and ended up rebellion sometime around 1215AD (Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord), although worthy of mentioning is only that; worthy of a mention – from another culture and in another time.

The first draft of the history curriculum had not even included the Magna Carta. “We are a society based on Western civilisation …”

Also, and an attitude which might be considered to be ignoring the rest of the globe;

Pyne claimed that school curriculums gives inadequate attention to Christianity, adding subjects taught on Asia and sustainability to his list.

Pyne also confirms that he prefers a very narrow view of Australia’s culture, one based on one-religion, one belief and in my opinion not valid since we became a nation accepting of others. It is also completely unacceptable that our Minister for Education considers that in a secular country that (any) religion should have any prominence whatsoever, other than in a historical context.

I would now like to quote from the Bradley Report:

A key point of the Bradley Review was to highlight the long-standing under-representation of working-class people at Australia’s universities. Working class people represent 25% of Australia’s general population; however, they represent only 15% of students in higher education.

Indeed, working-class Australians are three times less likely to attend university than other Australians.

In response to these inequities, the Australian Government set up the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program in 2010 and doubled the percentage of equity funding from 2% in 2010 to 4% in 2012.

These initiatives have three aims: (a) to increase the aspirations of working-class Australians to go to university; (b) to increase the percentage of working-class people at Australian universities from 15% to 20% by the year 2020; and (c) to support the academic success and retention of working-class students while they are at university.

This is worth highlighting – that as of last year, people from working-class backgrounds are three times less likely to attend university than those from upper-class backgrounds.

From Christopher Pyne, August 26th, 2012:

The Coalition has no plans to increase university fees or cap places, said the Shadow Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne today.

However now in power:

New Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also opened the door to reintroducing caps on university places, warning any loss of quality would ”poison” the sector’s international reputation.


The former Labor government abolished caps on the number of Commonwealth-supported university places, helping an extra 190,000 students to access higher education. This move to a ”demand-driven system” sparked concerns from some quarters about quality suffering.

Let us think about this: Christopher Pyne’s announcement was that the Abbott government may once again cap university places, a reversal of creating tertiary places, which is essential to tackling unequal access to higher education.

Tony Abbott went to the election tackling the heartland, the core working class areas promoting the definitive that all inequities would be addressed – that boats would be turned around, that money would be saved; but there it ended. Did we sons and daughters of blue-collar workers vote for more chance or less chance?

With apologies to the author, who says it far better than myself but to whom I have no link:

Pyne’s announcement then marks the first real breach of the “Abbott compact”; the explicit and implicit deal he made with the Australian people to get elected. The deal was that they would chuck out Labor, if Abbott promised to leave their core social programs — and the progressive impetus behind them — in place.

Addendum: It seems that according to The Australian, our children don’t need to go to university at all which of course is mere self-justification by this newspaper on behalf of the Coalition.

The previous Labor government’s decision to uncap publicly funded places has undermined that principle and should be reversed. It gave a blank cheque to bloated university administrations whose prestige and remuneration depends far more on the size rather than quality of the student body.

Australia would, in fact, be more productive and prosperous if fewer people went to university.

Did we sons and daughters of blue-collar workers vote for more chance or less chance?


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