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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt !

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt !

The jury of eight women and four men have retired to consider their verdict in the Lehrmann trial : there had been sixteen jurors empanelled (ten women and six men) who attended throughout the trial just in case any were ‘sin-binned’ or otherwise indisposed and unable to participate – as it turned out none were, so four had to be dropped by drawing lots.

The jurors, individually, have to deduce from the evidence a conclusion based on their own life experience as to whether a sexual assault involving actual penetration occurred and if it did that it was without consent. The law can be quite clinical about what must have occurred and consent cannot be considered as given whilst unconscious, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or whilst asleep.

The jury will have to be unanimous (the judge has already ruled out a majority decision) in their finding and it must be to the standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. On the balance of probabilities is not good enough, that is a civil standard and this is a criminal trial. Their determination of what occurred in the early hours in a minister’s office in 2019 and the evidence presented has to convince each of them individually that the alleged crime took place.

The judge will not explain what ‘a reasonable doubt’ means or why they must go ‘beyond’ that standard to reach their conclusion Those twelve citizens need to understand individually what is meant, based on their life experience and their comprehension of the English language. Therein lies a fundamental problem as in this multicultural society we don’t require prospective jurors to demonstrate their proficiency with the English language.

The accused, of course, has remained silent throughout and beyond maintaining that nothing actually happened has relied on the ‘presumption of his innocence’, the right that extends to us all if accused of a crime. His defence counsel and the judge reminded the jury he was within his rights to stay silent, and that they should draw no inferences from the fact that he chose not to give evidence in the trial.

It is for those making the accusations and bringing the charges to provide evidence and prove every element of the alleged crime, to a standard that is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ and, if a doubt reasonably based, exists in the mind of any one of them, then the accused must be acquitted : that’s how the system works.

This is a file note and not a commentary on this trial or the evidence or the culpability of the accused or the veracity of the complainants evidence, that comes later. At the present time the jury are considering their verdict and we must await that outcome.

 

 

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Whither Constitutional Change?

Within a very short space of time, we are going to be embroiled in a national discussion on constitutional change: namely, we are going to be asked if we favour First Nations people having a voice to our national parliament enshrined in our Constitution. The purpose of this article is not to take sides or to push one argument over another. Rather, it is to explore the options and the processes that contribute to a national constitutional referendum and to generate discussion.

Constitutional change in this country is fraught as the Constitution can only be amended by referendum, through the procedure set out in section 128. A successful referendum requires a `double majority’: a national majority of voters plus a federal majority of states (i.e. four of the six states).

The votes of those living in the ACT, the NT and any of Australia’s external territories count towards the national majority only.

Since 1901 there have been 19 referendums but of the forty-four referendum questions posed only eight have passed: The last constitutional referendum was for an Australian Republic held on 6 November 1999 – it failed. Usually, there are multiple questions to be resolved at each referendum – this time it appears there will only be one although it could be argued that there is some serious housekeeping necessary to tidy up our Constitution – perhaps that’s a question for another day.

Timing for a referendum is critical as is political consensus. Labor have already said that they favour a referendum in their first term and Pat Dodson, the special envoy for reconciliation and implementation of the Uluru Statement from the heart, favours a referendum on 27 May, 2023 – that is the 56th anniversary of the successful 1967 referendum allowing the commonwealth to make laws for Indigenous people and count them in the census, and the sixth anniversary of the Uluru statement.

So far the coalition has only said that it is open to supporting a referendum but wants to see more detail and the model to be put to the Australian people. This is a change in the position of the Morrison government. Indeed, Morrison ruled out a referendum quite specifically in the lead-up to the 2022 election; “It’s not our policy to have a referendum on the Voice” he told us. His minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, had favoured legislation for a voice and intimated that this would go before the parliament prior to the 2022 election but clearly, this didn’t occur as there was limited interest from coalition members and the then leadership.

The suggestion by Wyatt that a legislated voice, even as an interim measure, was shouted down by Aboriginal groups who generally considered that legislation was unsatisfactory and could be changed at a political whim and only an entrenchment in our Constitution would give any long-term certainty and continuity.

The road to constitutional change is not an easy one and the enabling legislation for a referendum has first to be passed by both houses of our parliament to set the process in motion. Already there are fears that not all parties are on the same page. Newly elected Country Liberal Party senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price a self-described Warlpiri-Celtic woman is suggesting caution on what she considers to be Labor’s policy on the Voice. She said recently that she was taking a cautious approach :

“We’ve got to understand what Labor proposes through this Voice process, and we’ve got to take a look at that before we take a clearer position on it, but I would certainly urge my colleagues to prioritise [more critical] issues,” she said.

“[The Voice] she said doesn’t clearly outline how in fact we’re going to solve some of our really critical issues, issues that I’ve been very much campaigning on for many years around family and domestic violence, around child sexual abuse, around education.”

The Greens are also taking a wait-and-see attitude and are suggesting that they would prefer to see “a truth-telling and treaty process begin before action on an Indigenous Voice”.

There has been considerable consultation over the past five years since the Uluru statement and this has produced the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process report.

This report recommends that the Voice should comprise 24 elected members, with two drawn from each of the states and territories, two from the Torres Strait Islands, five additional remote representatives drawn from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, and one member representing Torres Strait Islanders on the mainland.

How much power, influence or authority this group would have on our government and parliament is not yet established but it is an advisory body and would not have a veto on our legislative process and would not be an additional chamber to our parliament as suggested by Malcolm Turnbull initially.

The Turnbull and Morrison governments demonstrated their then objection to a constitutional voice in saying :

“Our democracy is built on the foundation of all Australian citizens having equal civic rights … a constitutionally enshrined additional representative assembly for which only Indigenous Australians could vote for or serve in is inconsistent with this fundamental principle.”

If the Dutton opposition were to maintain this fundamental argument then, the referendum would have little chance of passing.

The form of question to be put to the Australian people will obviously be critical to the success of the referendum but it seems probable that the question will be posed in general terms with the detail and structure to follow in the form of legislation enacted through the parliament: ideally, this draft legislation would be available prior to the referendum so, there is a lot of work to be done if the May 2023 date it to be met.

The legislation governing the process for referendums in Australia is laid down in the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1994. Among other provisions, this legislation, by section 8, sets out the procedure for presenting the ‘for’ and ‘against’ arguments which need to be communicated to each elector prior to the referendum

There are, of course, political risks for the Albanese government in the whole process and already some in the opposition are labelling the process as ‘Labor’s referendum’ which, of course, it isn’t. However, if the referendum were to fail or not receive bipartisan support the political fallout for the Albanese government could be damaging in its first term.

We shall see !

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Democracy Tested

The only defence that we, the people, have against an arrogant leader who is thumbing his nose at our democratic arrangements is by shining a light into dark corners and ensuring that our democracy has the ability to assert the power of those democratic fundamentals.

Former High Court Judge The Hon Virginia Bell AC has done a thorough investigation into the behaviour of former prime minister Scott Morrison in appointing himself minister of various government departments and then failing to make his actions public, even to the extent of not informing the ministers that were already appointed to administer those departments.

The Report notes at 217.

‘It is a serious deficiency in governance arrangements that Mr Morrison was able to be appointed to administer five departments of State (in addition to PM&C) without notification of the fact of the appointments to the Parliament or the public and in the case of the Departments of Health, Finance, Home Affairs and the Treasury, without notification to the Department or the other Ministers appointed to administer the Department. There is controversy with respect to the responsibility for this state of affairs.’

It goes on to say :

‘… it is unclear that those within PM&C with knowledge of the appointments gave thought to the fact that they had not been made public. It was apparent by 2021 that the mechanism of appointing Mr Morrison to administer additional departments of State had come to be employed for reasons having little if any connection to the pandemic. It was also apparent that these appointments were not being made public, albeit that it did not occur to anyone in PM&C that Mr Morrison was keeping the appointments secret from his Ministers. While it is troubling that by the time of the 2021 appointments, Mr Gaetjens did not take up the issue of the secrecy surrounding them with Mr Morrison and firmly argue for their public disclosure, the responsibility for that secrecy must reside with Mr Morrison.

Morrison declined the invitation to give evidence at the enquiry.

Our democracy has the safeguard of our Constitution and inherent in that is the separation of powers but it also relies heavily on conventions implicit in which is the goodwill and the veracity of those we elect to govern us. But, as Morrison was able to demonstrate, if those in power and those serving them wish to subvert the democratic safeguards there is little to stop them.

The Report is here in full together with the recommendations and whilst it doesn’t seek to criticise our Governor General, the King’s representative, it may be that there has been a bit too much karaoke going on in Government House and not enough thought of ‘We the people’.

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What’s in a Name ?

Well may we ask what’s in a name and if you put that question to our ABC you will get all sorts of responses but not necessarily in a language with which you are familiar.

If you listen to ABC Radio National in the mornings you will hear ‘Breakfast’ presenter Patricia Karvelas announce that she is coming to you from the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation ; I had to Google that as I am – to my eternal shame – not up on the language of the Wurundjeri people. As it turns out, the Wurundjeri people are an Aboriginal people of the Woiwurrung language group, in the Kulin nation. They are the traditional owners of the Birrarung (Yarra River) Valley, covering much of the present location of Narrm (Melbourne).

So Patricia was broadcasting from Melbourne but, due to a policy on inclusion at the ABC, she was not able to say that she was in Melbourne or Glenelg if you want to be pedantic. Fun fact : The first official name proposed for Melbourne was Glenelg but Governor Sir Richard Bourke overruled this, and on his visit in March 1837 decided on Melbourne – after the then British Prime Minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, who resided in the village of Melbourne in Derbyshire in the English Midlands. Prior to that, albeit briefly, Melbourne was named ‘Batmania’ after John Batman, who claimed to have founded the city in 1835 – but the less said about that, the better.

Melbourne was just a whisker away from being named Glenelg or perhaps Bourke. Incidentally, Bourke, a town in north-central New South Wales, on the Darling River, was named after the very same Governor Sir Richard Bourke – the township of Bourke is located on Gurnu – Baakandji Country and was home to the Ngemba group of the Wongaibon Aboriginal language group prior to the arrival of Europeans.

Meanwhile back at the ABC : on Saturday mornings David Lipson presents a Radio National program titled ‘This week’ and he tells us that he is coming to us from Gadigal Land. Again, my knowledge of Aboriginal regional dialects fails me so it’s back to Google. It seems that the original Aboriginal inhabitants of the City of Sydney local area were the Gadigal people. The territory of the Gadi (gal) people stretched along the southern side of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) from South Head to around what is now known as Petersham. Although, somewhat confusingly the traditional custodians of the land on which modern Sydney stands are the clans of the Darug, Dharawal and Eora peoples. Suffice to say, David is broadcasting from Sydney but inclusion protocols at the ABC won’t allow him to mention that ; does inclusion only work one way ?

The Anglo name for Sydney was nominated by governor Arthur Phillip who established the European settlement on the shores of Port Jackson in 1788 and named the inlet “Sydney Cove” in honour of the British Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Lord Sydney.

Visitors to Australia frequently comment on the names the British gave various places in this wide brown land : fancy, for instance calling a highway Bruce (after former Queensland and federal politician, Harry Bruce) or a city Townsville (‘Town’s town’ after Robert Towns, entrepreneur, businessman and occasional ‘blackbirder’, whose ship the ‘Don Juan’ brought one of the earliest shiploads of South Sea Islanders from present-day Vanuatu to labour on his Queensland estates in 1863 – Queensland had only just been formed when separation from New South wales was granted by Queen Victoria in June 1859.

There has been talk of a name change for Townsville but there are many claims for the area comprising the land of the Gurambilburra Wulgurukaba, Bindal, Nywaigi, and Gugu Badhun Peoples. The ABC are still working on that one.

The whole issue of place names and the changing of names is one fraught with attitude, entitlement and ego, with virtue signalling and political correctness frequently evident. There is also a process that needs to be adhered to : you can’t just change the name of a place and say that’s it, from now on everybody must adopt that name, inevitably somebody will have their nose out of joint.

Some changes are not controversial : in 2020, Western Australia renamed the King Leopold Ranges, named after the brutal colonial Belgium monarch, the Wunaamin Miliwundi Ranges, using both the Ngarinyin and Bunuba names for the area. Nobody objected. In 1993 Ayers Rock was renamed Uluru with little controversy particularly as dual naming policies allow Ayers Rock to be maintained as a secondary point of identification for visitors to ‘the rock’.

Most Australian jurisdictions now have dual naming policies, which allow geographical features to be identified by both their traditional and colonial name, as with ‘the rock’. But it can get a bit messy where there is little no consultation. In 1992, the Victorian government renamed the Grampians national park as the Grampians (Gariwerd) national park, but the decision was reversed after a change of government in 1992 and official use of Gariwerd was not reinstated until after the Geographic Place Names Act 1998 (Vic) was introduced. Suggestions that the Dandenong ranges should be renamed with an Aboriginal place name became confused when it was established that Dandenong was in fact a corruption of the original Aboriginal name, Tanjenong possibly and not unsurprisingly, wrongly interpreted by an early surveyor.

Personally I am comfortable with dual naming as being a reasonable compromise in most cases. Back at the ABC, the morning am program is presented out of Tasmania by the very talented Sabra Lane. Sabra without fail will tell you that she is broadcasting from ‘nipaluna, Hobart’. That strikes a nice balance for me.

What do you think ?

 

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Vote for Newscorp !

I don’t live in Victoria and I don’t vote in Victoria but from a distance it appears to me that the two main contestants in the upcoming state election are the current Premier representing the ALP, Dan Andrews and Newscorp although, in the latter case it is not clear if it is the dirty digger himself standing or the prodigal son who may be living on his yacht in Port Phillip Bay – but is he on the Victorian electoral roll ?

Truth is it’s neither and they don’t seem all that fussed about the Liberal Party but they both dearly want to destroy the ALP.

At the weekend Newscorp’s Herald Sun had an exclusive on the ‘steps’ that the unfortunate Premier slipped on in March 2021 – senior reporters (I can’t use the term journalists as that would imply that they were purveyors of news and this is certainly not news) had hastened to a holiday home on the Mornington Peninsula to photograph the steps and interview surrounding neighbours. Evidently they had been instructed to rekindle the conspiracy theories that something untoward had happened all those months ago. It was, their editor thought, worthy of a front page and they reported exclusively that the holiday home and the offending steps had – wait for it – a new coat of paint. Clearly, there was nothing happening in the state of Victoria warranting attention on the front page of this right-wing tabloid.

What are we to make of this nonsense ? Has Roop lost his marbles or is there something more sinister afoot ? We do know that the Victorian Liberals tried, at the time of the unfortunate accident, to conjure up social media conspiracies suggesting that the Premier was drunk or had been beaten up. Then the appalling Louise Staley, opposition treasury spokeswoman, gave new impetus to the complicated web of conspiracy theories by demanding that Andrews come clean and answer questions about the conspiracy theories that she and her colleagues had been spreading.

With all the misinformation and disinformation swirling Ambulance Victoria, whose crew had taken Andrews to hospital, and the chief commissioner of police both felt it necessary to take the unprecedented action of issuing statements setting out the facts.

In the meantime SKY News seem to have got the same memo about the Andrews onslaught with fake journalist Peta Credlin producing an exclusive exposé on the Cult of Daniel Andrews : I haven’t seen this effort by Credlin and probably won’t go out of my way to watch it. Suffice to say that l anticipate that it will be another hit job on the Premier of Victoria.

Two former prime ministers, Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have called for an enquiry into media diversity in Australia which, if adopted by the new Labor government will obviously take a close look at the dominance of Newscorp in the press and increasingly on television where they now dominate payTV and are demanding exclusivity of many sporting codes. They are also increasingly penetrating free to air television in regional areas where Sky after Dark is becoming a FOX News surrogate peddling extreme far right dissension and climate change denial and misinformation.

I believe an enquiry is overdue, what do you think ?

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The joys of capitalism !

Households will be hit by a 56 per cent surge in energy bills in the coming two years according to our Treasurer – this cost impact does not include the petrol or diesel for our vehicles but relates solely to the energy used in our homes and businesses.

On most of mainland Australia we still rely heavily on coal and gas for our domestic energy production. Coal and gas accounted for around 70% of electricity generation in 2021.

Over the last decade, the share of electricity generated by renewable energy in Australia has increased significantly, rising from around 10.5% in 2010 to 29% in 2021.

Tasmania has become the first Australian state to achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity generation largely coming from hydro and wind resources. The recently announced Tasmanian Renewable Energy Target will double renewable energy production and reach 200 per cent of current Tasmanian electricity demand by 2040 : the surplus being sent to the mainland by an undersea cable known as the Marinus Link.

Sun Cable in the Northern Territory is planning to export Australian solar energy to Singapore as part of a US$22-billion infrastructure project which will send electricity more than 3,100 miles (5,000 km) to Singapore, via high-voltage undersea cables. Opening in 2027, it will be the largest solar farm and battery storage facility on the planet and will combine 17-20 gigawatts of peak solar power generation and some 36-42 GWh of battery storage. To give you a sense of scale, that’s nearly 10 times the size of the world’s current largest solar power installation and more than 30 times the energy storage capacity of the world’s biggest battery project.

When it comes to LNG, as of 2022, we will export around 87.6 million metric tons. Australia and Qatar are currently the major exporting countries of LNG , followed by the United States, which has an annual capacity of 73.9 million metric tons. But there is something wrong !

Whilst we export equivalent volumes of gas to those coming out of Qatar their government will receive around $26.6 billion in royalties from the multinational companies exploiting its offshore gasfields, whereas, according to Treasury estimates, Australia will receive just $800 million for the same volume of gas leaving our shores.

When it comes to coal – the source of most of our electricity – The 5 biggest exporters of coal are Australia, Indonesia, Russia, United States and South Africa. Combined, those 5 countries shipped 84.5% of the total value of coal sold on international markets during 2021.

So clearly, there is no shortage of resources in Australia and we know that Russian energy exports are subject to trade embargoes. But why are Australian consumers anticipating fifty percent increases in costs in the next year or so ?
Sadly it comes back to the fundamental capitalist equation which says that resources go to the highest bidder. So, Australia has to bid against international buyers to secure its own resources and the producers – largely foreign owned – laugh all the way to the bank pausing only briefly to ensure that transfer pricing will minimise their taxation obligations in Australia.
Go figure !

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So this is Democracy at work !

Mark Latham found himself a cushy number after he lost the leadership of the federal Labor Party. He nominated himself for a seat in the NSW Upper House, the Legislative Assembly, representing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party : In March 2019, he was elected for an eight year term.

In the NSW Legislative Assembly you don’t actually have to do much apart from appear on Sky after Dark periodically and give the impression of being a man of the people. But Mark’s ambition has been to get more One Nation representatives into the NSW parliament. Not the lower house as they would actually have to be elected, rather the upper house where they aren’t accountable to an electorate. So Mark has come up with a wheeze to get somebody into parliament without actually being elected.

The idea is that with four years remaining in his appointed term, he’s going to resign and create a casual vacancy. Under the Constitution Act 1902 (NSW) the procedure for filling that vacancy does not require a by-election (it’s the upper house you see) but calls for the state Governor to convene a joint sitting of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly to elect a person to fill the vacant seat.

The person nominated for election to fill a vacant seat – and this is where Mark has been doing his homework – must be a member of the same political party as the member he or she replaces at the time that member was elected.

So, Mark resigns and another One Nation luminary takes his place – they call it parachuting – and Mark goes off into semi-retirement somewhere on the NSW North coast ? Not on your Nelly ! Remember, it is Mr Latham’s intention to get more One Nation people into the NSW parliament and this strategy doesn’t achieve that – one out, one in doesn’t work.

This is where it gets tricky as Mark intends to nominate himself again at the state election in March 2023. He’s relying on his name recognition and the ‘donkey vote’ to achieve this. All going to plan, he will be elected for an eight year term next March and will join the person who took his place following his retirement.

This is all legal but is it ethical ? Is it democracy at work ? You be the judge.

 

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The land of the long weekend : mostly !

If you are anything like me you will be confused as to whether you actually have a public holiday on Monday so I’ve looked into it and can help you out.

First, you have to turn your clock back (or is it forwards?). Or, if you’re in Queensland, leave the bloody clock alone.

On Monday October 3, ACT, NSW and SA have a public holiday for Labour Day – see the irony?

If you live in Victoria you don’t get the holiday but remember, you had AFL Grand Final Friday as a holiday so you don’t get another one.

In WA and the NT, there are no scheduled public holidays in October – sorry about that.

In Tasmania I have no idea what’s going on as there seem to be random public holidays popping up all over the place. Tasmania does not have a holiday tomorrow but has a variety of local show public holidays across the state, as follows:

Thursday October 6: Royal Launceston Show
Friday October 14: Flinders Island Show
Thursday October 20: Royal Hobart Show

In Queensland – wait for it – there will also be a public holiday on October 3, but it will be for the Queen’s Birthday: could somebody in Tweed Heads please pass a note across the border to let them know that the Queen is no more and that we had a public holiday a week ago to mourn her passing.

That’s it! Enjoy your public holiday wherever you are – or not as the case may be.


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Role of the Opposition under Dutton : Just waste Parliament’s Time !

The current parliamentary sitting has been noteworthy for the attempts by the opposition to ‘ping’ Labor ministers for being in breach of the new code of conduct. It seems that the opposition have dedicated the time of their staff to combing through ministerial declarations of interests trying to find instances where a minister may be in breach of the new code.

Albanese has gone to some considerable lengths to present a ministerial code of conduct that leaves little wriggle room for ministers and clears up the loopholes that the former coalition government ministers were able to exploit.

In particular, the use of Blind Trusts has been outlawed : who can forget the use of a blind trust by former Attorney General Christian Porter to pay legal costs for a defamation action he launched against the ABC using funds, the source of which has never been disclosed.

The new code requires that: “Ministers will not have any direct shareholdings. Ministers are required to divest themselves of shareholdings, except in superannuation and other broadly diversified managed funds. There will be no ‘blind trust’ arrangements,” under this code.

“Ministers will be personally responsible for their private interests. Ministers won’t be allowed to delegate that responsibility to anyone else, such as in a ‘blind trust’ arrangement.”

This is the full code for those interested.

Probably the only criticism of this code is that, in trying to be proscriptive it can be confusing as Attorney General Mark Dreyfus found in Question Time on Thursday following a barrage of questions over his self-managed superannuation fund : fortunately the code allows for external scrutiny and advice in circumstances where there is ambiguity which seems to be the case with Dreyfus.

On the positive side, it is good that the Albanese government has moved quickly to update the code of conduct for ministers and to address some of the glaring omissions of the past – for instance as was noted in the parliament on Thursday pretty well all of the former governments’ ministers would have been in breach of this code of conduct and several engaged in multiple breaches.

 

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Inflation! Or is somebody having a lend of us?

I’m no economist but neither am I a fool. When somebody tells me that inflation has taken off in Australia and that the cause is largely due to an escalation in the prices of goods and services driven by wage and salary increases and the costs of production I start to take interest.

For a start it can’t be spiralling wages as they have been stuck in the doldrums for years while corporate profits have surged and executive bonuses have ballooned. So we need to look elsewhere.

The Reserve Bank of Australia says that they have to dampen down spending because you and I (well not so much me, more you) have been borrowing too much money and spending it on buying up residential land and houses like the much maligned drunken sailor – you have been doing this because money was so cheap that you would be a fool not to do so ; also you were cheered on by successive governments who gave you generous negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions to encourage you in your wanton spending.

Well, on Tuesday the Reserve Bank will take a big stick to us (well, more you than me) and probably increase interest rates by at least half of one percent if not seventy five basis points (that’s the clever way of saying .75%). This will quickly be passed on by the banks and will, they hope, quell your lust for borrowing and all will be well.

My response to that economic thesis can be summarized in one word : piffle !

My normal source for economic commentary and advice is my local IGA manager so I put it to him to explain why pretty well every product in his store had gone up in price in recent weeks and months : he gave me three reasons.

First and foremost was the cost of freight, more specifically petrol and diesel which due to embargoes and sanctions on oil production in places ranging from Venezuela, Iran, Iraq and the Russian Federation has meant that the world is reliant on Saudi Arabia and the UAE for our oil supplies and they are quite content to screw us for all we’re worth while they can – they see the coming revolution in electric vehicles and transportation as impacting their business model so they are getting in for a quick quid while they have a captive customer base – hence fuel is costing a lot more money at the pump and goods are landing on the shelves at IGA with an additional premium.

The second reason is climate and floods mainly impacting lettuce, tomatoes and other fresh veggies : this he says will pass as we move towards spring and domestic production gets back online – who eats salads in winter time anyway ? Oddly in my local area growers have been harvesting and dumping large quantities of Avocado in recent times as there is evidently a glut and it’s not worth taking them to market – go figure.

The third reason is a very human attribute summed up as hopping on the bandwagon. A very cynical approach by some suppliers of goods and services who see prices going up all around and decide to bump up their prices just for the sake of it.

 

Image from australianunions.org.au

 

So, the question is will actions taken by the Reserve Bank on Tuesday, by way of increasing interest rates, ease inflation in Australia. My IGA manager, adopting a term favoured by economists, says : pig’s arse they will !

What do you think ?

PS : The captioned photo of Clive Palmer has nothing to do with this article but I couldn’t resist it – this was one of the few occasions, when as a sitting member, he actually made it to the parliament and stayed awake (briefly).

 

 

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Airbus Albo !

The right-wing nutters on Sky-after-Dark are beside themselves with righteous indignation that prime minister Albanese is spending so much time overseas when he should be visiting flood inundated suburbs in Sydney.

They liken Albanese’s overseas trip to that of Scott Morrison’s family holiday in Hawaii during the 2019 bushfires – a holiday that the opposition knew nothing about and even the Deputy Prime Minister seemed unaware that he was leading the country.

Just how a so called news organisation can equate a family holiday in Hawaii with a trip to war torn Ukraine beggars the imagination.

But then, Sky is not really a news organisation in the traditional mould. Their evening offering is all about confected outrage usually aimed at those they see as Lefties and of course the ABC.

Just to be clear the prime minister has been away for little over a week on official trips to a NATO leaders’ summit in Spain, mending fences with President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, rekindling a free trade arrangement with the EU and a high-security trip to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

How dare he screeches Murdoch owned Sky, hasn’t he got a phone? Presumably, according to Sky, if it’s good enough for Rupert to divorce the long-suffering Jerry Hall by email why can’t ‘Airbus Albo’ communicate with world leaders by Twitter

Despite all the trips being official business and in the national interest, Newscorp are not happy that a Labor prime minister is hobnobbing with world leaders when he could be filling sandbags in Parramatta.

On social media some outraged nutters have taken to the hashtags ‘Airbus Albo’ and ‘Where’s Albo’ and others labelled him ‘Anthony Overseasy’.

In my opinion, Albo is a refreshing change and is letting the world know that Australia is back and that we do actually believe in climate change and that we have a contribution to make on global issues and that we will do our bit.

 

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Don’t Mention the NEG!

Remember the NEG, the National Energy Guarantee ?

Introduced by Malcolm Turnbull in 2017. The idea of the NEG was to establish a national energy policy to tackle rising energy prices in Australia and to introduce a bipartisan national policy on power and energy. It was also designed to give confidence and clarity for energy producers to invest in energy infrastructure into the future.

The overriding commitment of the NEG was to combine emissions reductions with stability and continuity of energy supply at stable prices as we transition away from fossil fuels.

Malcolm Turnbull was tossed out of office in August 2018 and his successor, Scott Morrison announced in September 2018 that the government would henceforth focus on cheap electricity prices and Australia would scrap the NEG and all would be well – and some of us fell for it : whatever the case it was off the table.

The important components to the new Morrison plan were not to mention the NEG ever again and certainly not to mention Malcolm Turnbull – in fact, they talked about throwing him out of the Liberal Party.

So, in effect nothing was done beyond burying data on energy shortages and ignoring warnings of price spikes coming.

Interestingly, WA introduced gas reservation as a policy in that state : if you were a gas producer you had to reserve fifteen percent of production for domestic consumption in Western Australia. The ACT introduced renewable energy targets and obligations which have shielded them from the current price fluctuations in domestic gas (and coal) markets.

Beyond that nothing was done other than, in the last few days, when the coalition now in opposition decided that what was happening was all Labor’s fault and if you believe them, the energy market has crashed in the last ten days due to the election of a Labor government.

At the time this bipartisan policy was dumped it is worth noting that Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie urged the Morrison Government to find an agreement with Labor, saying the industry needed a bipartisan policy for investment certainty.

“We are in a paralysing policy vacuum and the dumping by the Government of their own policy [the NEG] was nonsensical. The NEG was a compromise, but we were prepared to support it,” she said.

This fell on deaf ears as the coalition under Morrison by this time had moved on to more important things like, religious discrimination laws.

Labor have said that they will revive the NEG.

 

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All of a sudden energy from the sun and wind is looking very affordable

On 30 April, less than a month before the election I penned this piece, about the foreshadowed spike in energy prices, about to hit Australian consumers: Coalition promises higher electricity costs!

I wrote it because it was quite clear that the Coalition were not going to come clean before the election and it was a known major factor that was going to hit Australian businesses and consumers as winter came on.

The prices for coal, gas and petroleum products are all being hit largely due to the Ukraine war, the sanctions placed on the Russians, profit gouging by OPEC and, in the domestic context, a complete malaise on energy policy over the ten years of Coalition rule.

Clearly, we can’t do much about the supply of petrol and diesel products as we are wholly reliant on offshore producers and refiners and OPEC have told the world that they will not be increasing production to ease the shortages. However, we could start by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles now that we know that the man, who said they wouldn’t tow your boat or get you and your family to your favourite camping spot, was lying.

In the meantime we still need petroleum products to get us through the transition.
Interestingly, Venezuela holds the planet’s largest reserves of untapped oil but that won’t help us as the US have sanctions on the Venezuelan government – evidently they don’t like President Nicolás Maduro. Another fun-fact: Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves but their exports are also under US bans and sanctions for much the same reasons.

As regards coal and gas, we are major producers of both and we have the ability to reserve or hold back a portion of our production for domestic consumption at prices that are not determined by world market fluctuations. Something that is obviously necessary until we can break the grip of fossil fuels and replace them with price-stable renewable resources – Vladimir Putin does not control the supply of sunlight or wind although he may think he does.

In the UK the conservative government has imposed a twenty-five per cent’ windfall profits tax’ on oil and gas companies. A windfall tax being a one-off tax imposed by a government on producers and suppliers who, through no effort on their part, were lucky enough to benefit from something they were not responsible for – in other words, a windfall profit.

Our gas and coal producers are also in the fortunate position of being recipients of these windfall profits due largely to geopolitical happenings in other parts of the world: the question is, should they reap these windfall profits and should we be funding them?

The former Coalition government knew that this supply and demand price crunch was coming, it’s been forecast for over twelve months, but they suppressed the release of information because it didn’t fit with their election narrative and apart from that they love to see ‘can do capitalism’ in action. From comments made by the new leader of the Coalition, they will now be using these price spikes to attack the new Labor government for incompetence in office even though, you will note, the new government were only installed a matter of days ago – that’s Voldemort for you.

You may recall that the Gillard government enacted The Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT), a tax on profits generated from the mining of non-renewable resources in Australia. It was a replacement for the proposed Resource Super Profit Tax (RSPT). The tax, levied on 30% of the “super-profits” from gas production and the mining of iron ore and coal was introduced on 1 July 2012.

The Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, went to the 2010 and 2013 elections promising to repeal the tax. They considered the tax to be the actions of a socialist regime and when they won office at the 2013 election the tax was repealed. I wonder what they now think of Boris Johnson’s actions with his windfall profits tax which, is essentially the same thing?

Surely it is time that we had some coherent taxation laws governing the extraction and sale of our non-renewable resources until such time as we can put in place reliable renewable energy infrastructure, which will not be subject to geopolitical price manipulation. We need to ensure continuity of price-stable energy rather than pandering to the multi-national mining conglomerates.

I have a great deal more confidence that the new Albanese government will do this contrasted with the flashmob we have just cartwheeled out of office – don’t let us down, Albo!

 

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 5,158 total views

Come in Spinner!

Salaries in our federal parliament are always interesting and sometimes amusing, much like a game of monopoly. I have been watching Barnaby Joyce as a case in point. Mainly because in his haphazard political career he has run the gamut of the income fruit salad. When he was a back-bencher (having lost the National’s leadership)…

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Coalition promises higher electricity costs !

We know that the coalition are better economic managers because they told us so. The coalition are also good on one liners. As Josh Frydenberg told us during the budget speech “The government is delivering on its commitment to secure affordable and reliable energy supply and has achieved its goal of wholesale electricity prices under $70/MWh”.

The worrying thing is that they now lie to us without hesitation : Josh Frydenberg at every opportunity tells us how electricity prices have fallen 8 per cent since the last election due to the ‘steady as she goes’ coalition management of the economy. What he doesn’t mention is the 10 per cent lift in car prices, the 8 per cent increase in milk prices, the 11 per cent jump in furniture prices or the 13.5 per cent increase in childcare costs since 2019.

But even on electricity costs they are telling lies. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said in recent days that wholesale electricity costs have soared 141 per cent in the three months to 31 March 2022 compared with the same period last year and these increases will be passed on to consumers (probably after the election).

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that :

‘In the first quarter of the year, NSW’s wholesale price was $87 a megawatt hour, up 129 per cent from $38 a megawatt hour this time last year. In Queensland, the wholesale price hit $150, up 248 per cent from $43.

The wholesale price for the first quarter in Victoria was just $57 a megawatt hour. The state relies on brown coal, which unlike black coal is not influenced by the global market because it’s not exported.

South Australia, which doesn’t burn any coal and has the greatest proportion of renewable power in its energy mix, had a wholesale price of $71 in the first quarter. ‘

In WA electricity prices are regulated by the state government so that consumers are not hit by fluctuating world pricing on energy.

They won’t mention that wind and solar costs are not subject to international price fluctuations but as we are generally locked into global pricing structures on coal and gas, with seventy percent of our electricity coming from fossil fuels, the benefits of a transition to renewable energy have yet to show up in national energy costs across the nation – and if Canavan and the Nationals have their way they never will.

Frydenberg is in denial and has yet to acknowledge this massive increase in electricity costs but when he does he will undoubtedly lay the blame with … wait for it … the Labor party and the best way of avoiding these increases is to re-elect the coalition.

Morrison has said that the reasons for the increases, apart from Labor, are the war in Ukraine which has created shortages of coal and gas and according to Scott the rigid laws of supply & demand require that we pay more for our own coal when it’s in short supply in Europe – go figure !

The solution to this global market disruption according to Morrison – I don’t hold a shovel mate – is not to vote for Labor or the TEAL Independents and all will be well.

You know and I know that the real problem is that we are locked into global markets for the supply of fossil fuels and until we start to take seriously the transition to renewable energy we will continue to be price takers when it comes to coal and gas even though we are one of the world’s major suppliers of both commodities.

Meanwhile, the coalition have dropped the economy as being their strong suit and have moved on to national security and preparations for war. Over to you Captain Mainwaring.

Seriously, how could anybody re-elect this mob ?

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