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JASPER … You Mongrel !

Day One Wednesday – 13 December 2023

Increasing swirling wind with horizontal rain lashing house.

Jasper is not our first cyclone since we moved to Far North Queensland forty years ago. Probably the worst for us was Larry in 2006 as we had structural damage which took many months to have fixed. That was one of the things that I was dreading with Jasper as there are just no tradies around nowadays. But fortunately we seem to have avoided structural damage so far and the main storm is now moving slowly out across Cape York and into the Gulf of Carpentaria ; still lots of rain.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about these cyclones is that the power goes out almost immediately, in this case we lost power shortly after lunch on Wednesday (13 December).

When the power goes, so does our ability to communicate: we have a mobile smart phone and a landline, both failed instantly – I’m still baffled about that as I had believed that we would at minimum have access to emergency services : and of course the internet is down.

We live in a regional area in the Atherton Tablelands, we don’t have reticulated town-water, relying on rainwater tanks and a bore – all of which depend on pumps to generate water flow and that requires electricity. So we fill buckets from a tank with a gravity tap – some of our neighbours fill wheely bins with water for flushing toilets etc. There are no showers while the power is off.

Mobile devices have their place and on the first night I was very pleased that I had a Kindle reader and could read a book before nodding off. But devices run down and can’t be recharged readily. I’m hoping to recharge my Kindle and my radio through the USB on my computer which still has battery power. Interestingly, the portable radios we used to see that took AA batteries have largely been replaced by fixed batteries which need to be recharged, like your phone, if there is power – which there isn’t.

I listen avidly to the regional ABC to get updates on the cyclone’s progress but oddly the announcer keeps directing listeners to the BOM website for updates – hello there is no internet ! She also encourages listeners to phone in details of ‘what things are like at your place’. Obviously only people with a phone signal will call in – you won’t hear from us.

Day Two Thursday – 14 December 2023

Still no power.

A large tree came down on the road opposite our place. A neighbour and I revved up our chainsaws and cut a path through for passing traffic. I now realize that I should have bought a spare chain for my chainsaw.

Rechargeable battery devices are running down – I recharged my Kindle and my portable radio from the Laptop USB port but now the laptop battery has run out.

We have a stove with an electric oven but a bottled gas range so we were able to fix some scrambled eggs for tea. Those who suggest that we should do away with gas appliances in the home need to think about what happens when there is no electricity. At least with a gas top we can heat water for washing, washing-up, making a cup of tea, heating baked beans in a saucepan and even doing a small roast in the cast-iron pot. As we hasten the transition to renewable energy – we need to think about these situations. We have solar panels but are still obliged to rely on the grid – we need to think about what we do when the power goes down.

Early to bed as obviously we have no light and no TV. The announcer on the regional ABC radio is still asking us to text or phone in with our story : mate, we still have no external communications !

Day Three Friday – 15 December 2023

The rain continues, we have a rain gauge with 250mm capacity (ten inches in the old money). It overflowed overnight so I don’t know how much rain we have had but it’s lots.

Our daughter-in-law arrived this morning with a small Honda generator she had borrowed from friends in Malanda who have not lost power. As she was leaving, another large tree came down blocking the road and bringing down the powerlines : we alerted emergency services and told our neighbours not to try to clear the tree as even though we were without power there was still a risk with cables all over the road. The Fire Service arrived and shared our concern but they don’t do trees or powerlines but they alerted Ergon our power supplier who removed the powerlines and they contacted our local council as the council are responsible for trees.

With the generator we have light and can recharge all of the rechargable devices but it won’t operate the coffee maker – two days without a caffeine hit – we tried pounding some coffee beans in the mortar & pestle but there must have been some residual pepper in it – it didn’t taste so good.

On the radio they’re talking about flooding of the Daintree, Mossman, Barron and Mulgrave river systems and cattle finding no safe haven being washed away, out to sea: also concerns about salt water crocodiles on the move as their habitats are destroyed and they sense a feed floating by – very well adapted are the crocodiles, not surprising that they have survived so well over the millenia.

Water is of course plentiful and we continue to carry buckets from our rainwater tank with the gravity feed. Still haven’t had a shower but a squirt of deodorant will suffice again today.

We have moved the major contents of our freezer to a neighbour who has a big chest freezer and a bigger generator. Don’t know how long the power will be off. It was ten days after Larry and as I recall Premier Anna Bligh gave us all a $1000 handout recognising that over ten days much frozen food would have been lost and whilst the ever helpful Home Insurers cover loss of frozen food stuffs it will be subject to an minimum $500 Excess. I wonder if our newly minted Premier, whose name I forget, will give us a handout.

Can’t help thinking of those poor sods in Gaza, herded into an enclave, starved of food, power, water and having bombs rain down on them. We have little cause to complain.

Our emergency services are first rate, this morning we have had fire services out, energy people making the fallen powerlines safe and local council preparing to remove the fallen tree : all in torrential rain – well done you !

Went out to get some fuel for ours and neighbour’s generators. Our local servo has no internet so can only take cash – I have no cash. Drove to next nearest town, Malanda, and was able to buy fuel on credit card. Clearly we are not a cashless society when in extremis. Heard of an EV owner and strident supporter for the elimination of fossil fuels who is only able to charge his Tesla from a neighbours petrol generator – oh the irony !

Heard on the car radio that Telstra has sheepishly advised that their mobile towers rely on electricity from the grid and only have limited battery backup ; that’s why our phones crashed as soon as the power went off.

Day Four Saturday 16 December 2023

Still no power.

Ergon Energy removed the fallen power lines from the road and those tangled in the fallen tree. Council workers then cleared the fallen tree. Had a chat with them but they know nothing about power situation. One of the workers has a broad Glasgow accent. He was chainsawing in torrential rain. I asked him if all this made him want to go back to Scotland. He said ‘not when I’m having so much fun’. They have cut up the logs into manageable lengths and brought in a loader to shift them off the road.

Ergon returned and have restrung the wires and we got power back on at 2 pm today.

Conclusion

Really impressed with the co-ordination, dedication and professionalism of the Ergon workers. We are fortunate in Queensland that the distribution of power and the ‘poles & wires’ are still in public hands although the former LNP government tried to privatise them and will no doubt try again if they to get back into office in Queensland in 2024.

Just a note to the activists who daub orange paint on works of art and disrupt sporting events insisting that we shift away from fossil fuels immediately. It may be an idea for those people to present their plan for the transition to renewables whilst ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of power including during severe weather and fire events. The one thing that this episode has brought home is our complete dependence on continuity of electricity supply.

The resilience of ordinary people and the importance of good neighbours is a comforting constant in our community and the broader society. Cairns and the Daintree are in flood as the massive amounts of water pass through the stressed river systems.

The rain continues !

Good night and Good luck.


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It’s You Lot Again !

Reserve Bank governor Michele Bullock has now told us that the latest iteration of inflation is being driven by demand, reflecting in increased demand for services such as dentistry and haircuts which are driving up prices and interest rates will have to follow.

So, showing my ignorance, which some would say borders on wokeism, I tentatively put my hand up and ask ‘why is it so ?’

Well, as economists roll their eyes at my naivety they patiently explain that interest rates need to increase for a number of reasons :

1. It will put more money in the pockets of bankers and their shareholders and that must be a win win, surely ?

2. Mortgage interest rates will increase – including on existing home loans because the banks don’t like to give fixed interest loans in this country – these increases will immediately flow through to aspiring homeowners and landlords who, in the latter case, will pass it on to renters. So, again it’s win win – it fits into the economist’s mantra articulated by W C Fields that you should ‘never give a sucker an even break’ more commonly, in banking circles, ‘always kick a man when he’s down’.

3. The stated objective of the Reserve Bank is to take money out of the economy to dampen demand ; clearly if people have no money to lavish on haircuts and dentists this is a good thing for the economy.

So my next hesitant question has to be, what about the stage three tax cuts, won’t that pump more money into the economy as the wealthy splurge on their mullets, quiffs and root-canal ?

Again the economists roll their collective eyes and explain that these tax cuts, passed by the Morrison government in mid-2019, begin in July 2024 will cost the economy around $254 billion over the next decade. The Parliamentary Budget Office [The PBO] has found that the tax cuts will cost $20.4bn in their first year, 2024-25, rising every year to $42.9bn in 2033-34. That evidently is a good thing as it directs large amounts of money into the pockets of the generally well-heeled who won’t fritter this windfall on things like dental care and perms but will wisely buy shares in banks because, as bank robber Willie Sutton once noted when asked why he robbed banks : “Because that’s where the money is.”

So the Governor of the Reserve Bank is clearly pointing at you lot for your lavish expectations of living in houses and driving cars and then, to add insult to economic injury, you insist on enriching dentists and barbers – shame on you !

 

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Pass the Parcel is not a solution !

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court in the UK has ruled that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for their refugee status to be assessed, is unlawful.

As my wife frequently observes : ‘well, I could have told them that !’

The British government had made a fatal mistake in managing their asylum seeker challenge : they took their lead from Australia’s offshore processing policy and worse, at various times, they sought advice from former Australian politicians such as Alexander Downer and Tony Abbott. As Bill Hayden may have noted, a ‘drover’s dog ‘ could have told them that wasn’t going to work out too well.

The British government have so far committed one hundred and forty million pounds to the Rwanda solution ; some have suggested that this was just blatant bribery of corrupt Rwandan politicians and a necessary component of offshore processing. Certainly the Rwandan government has never demonstrated any ability or interest in processing refugee applications in the past and as they would assume the responsibility of processing these applicants from Britain there is no certainty that they would lift their game into the future.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has responded to the Supreme Court decision with the typical conservative solution and that is to pass some dodgy legislation in the House of Commons, get the Lord’s to sign off and thus get around the court’s decision – possibly they are still taking advice from Lord Downer (will they never learn).

As far as PM Sunak is concerned any set back can be overcome by a ‘dodge’. He demonstrated this when he considered that former prime minister and misguided lobbyist, his mate David Cameron would be a useful ally in Cabinet.The only problem was that Cameron had not been democratically elected to office by the long suffering British people : no problem, just hustle him through the back door of the House of Lords, a quick sword tap from King Charles, ‘arise Lord Cameron’ and bingo you have a new Foreign Secretary ready to serve .

A bit of advice for PM Sunak : offshore detention is not a solution it is a nightmare for all concerned although some host countries and dodgy politicians will make a nice little earner out of unsuspecting British taxpayers.

‘Pass the parcel’ is not a legitimate nor a viable strategy for processing asylum seekers !

 

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Yes and No and a Bit of Mischief !

The official Yes and No pamphlets are out and a hard copy will hit your mailbox any day. But in the meantime there is already controversy over some of the claims. This AEC website gives both arguments.

The No campaign has been accused by Professor Greg Craven of cynically using his early remarks to portray him as being opposed to the Voice.

Craven has said he was “thoroughly irritated” to be quoted. He said he was critical of the early drafting of the amendment but had supported it since the wording was settled.

“It’s well known to everyone in the No case and the opposition that my fundamental position has been I’m absolutely in favour of the voice and will campaign for the voice with great determination,” Craven said.

In an earlier article in The Australian Craven had said:

“I think it’s fatally flawed because what it does is retain the full range of review of executive action. This means the Voice can comment on everything from submarines to parking tickets… We will have regular judicial interventions.” (Professor Greg Craven AO).

I won’t consider the merits of the respective pamphlets in any detail here beyond noting that the No campaign continue to insist on using the slogan ‘If you don’t know, vote no’ which I find particularly irritating as clearly, if you don’t know, you should go and find out.

These pamphlets, now that they are out, cannot according to the Electoral Commissioner, be changed or amended in any way. As the Commissioner noted today, the AEC publishes what it is given by the Yes and No campaigns. The AEC does not fact-check and doesn’t even have the latitude to correct a spelling mistake or a grammatical error: that’s it folks these are the arguments on which the referendum will succeed or fail.

Let’s have some vigorous and courteous discussion.

 

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Don’t Give Up on Labor or forget the Independents !

A response to Callen Sorensen Karklis’ article titled “Saving DEMOCRACY within the Labour [sic] Movement”.

Callen, I applaud your idealism and hope you find an outlet in the Greens movement ; even so, I would be inclined if I were you to keep up your ALP membership.

In recent times my own positive feelings towards the Greens have been eroded when they have chosen to align themselves with the coalition and One Nation to thwart government (usually Labor) policy. It may well be that the Greens were seeking the perfect in their policies and in their opposition to the ALP but be assured that the coalition and One Nation had no higher ambition than opposing for the sake of opposing.

You will recall that the Greens stood out on Kevin Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009 because the Greens wanted more ambitious targets. By siding with a cynical climate change denying coalition and One Nation the CPRS went down in the Senate effectively blocking climate action for another ten years and in the interim emissions have continued to increase.

The new Labor government recently decided that the best way to tackle the national deficiency in public and social housing was to institute an ongoing fund similar to the Future Fund to be known as the ‘Housing Australia Future Fund’. The idea was that the government on our behalf would invest $10 billion and spend the projected annual earnings of $500 million – a modest earning rate of five percent per annum – to build 30,000 affordable, social housing projects each year. Initially the greens, egged on by their fair-weather friends in the coalition and One Nation, criticised the scheme as being reliant on ‘gambling on the stock market’ with no guarantee of achieving the projected half billion dollars each year. David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie and the Teals not wanting to see this project go down, negotiated with the government to guarantee that any shortfall in the yearly earnings would be made up from other revenue sources and that the half billion dollars would be a floor rather than a ceiling ; Pocock succeeded in having the government index the fund outlays to the CPI.

Still the Greens and their mates in the coalition blocked the passage of the legislation saying that the fund would take too long to start generating funds and that immediate action on public housing was required. The government then announced that an immediate injection of $2 billion would be made available, divided between the states and territories to get housing projects underway ; this was applauded by the HIA and the Master Builders but still the Greens held out and would not allow passage of the Future Fund legislation (fortunately this blocking did not delay the implementation of the $2 billion allocation). The legislation has now been deferred until the Spring session of parliament, in October, further delaying the full implementation of the Housing Australia Future Fund.

It should be noted that the improvements to the scheme, which the Greens are claiming credit for, were in fact achieved by collaborative work between the Teal Independents, the Jacquie Lambie Network and consistently the steady influence of David Pocock (yes, I’m a fan !).

But the Greens continue to hold out and demand that the government impose a rent freeze on all residential housing across the nation.

Naturally the coalition and their hangers on are delighted at this impasse and they know full well as do the Greens, that the federal government have no constitutional power to impose a national rent freeze even if they wanted to. Any rent freeze would have to be implemented by the states and territories who have already said that they would not do so. The ACT already have a rental cap system that limits rent increases to one hundred and ten percent of the CPI each year – so with a CPI at seven percent renters in the ACT expect rents to increase by 7.7% this year – some economists criticise the simplicity of the ACT scheme and are not convinced that it is viable or that it helps renters. Additionally, as some of the state Premiers have noted, rental controls will inevitably slow the flow of private equity into rental housing construction (build to rent) as investors look for other ways to make their money work for them, free of government controls.

For the record it should also be noted that the state and territory governments independently spend money on social housing which, collectively was $4.6 billion in 2021-2022.

The Greens in their current quest for the perfect at the expense of the good need to look at the motives of their bedfellows, the coalition and One Nation, who will avidly support blocking government legislation but not necessarily for honourable or noble reasons.

Callen, my advice, keep your ALP membership in your back pocket, it may prove useful in the future and don’t forget the Independents.

Good Luck !

 

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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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Do We Really Need Twitter ?

Stan Grant has made it known that he is quitting ABC television Program Q&A. In a heartfelt piece published by the ABC he said that “On Monday night I will present my Q+A program, then walk away. For how long? I don’t know.”

His time hosting Q&A has not been without controversy as with the time he took the extraordinary step of expelling a member of the audience from the studio after the young man, named Sasha, expressed support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This decision was greeted by cheers from the studio audience and met largely with approval on Twitter, although some saw this as an attempt to restrict freedom of speech and communication on this serious global conflict – you be the judge.

Grant was also part of a panel discussion prior to the coronation of Charles III and some, again on Twitter, castigated him for trying to direct the conversation towards colonisation and the wrongs inflicted on the Aboriginal people at the instigation of the British monarchy.

Stan also has a problem with the ABC for not being more supportive of his situation even though they have registered a protest with Twitter about the amount of abuse directed towards Grant much of which is in the form of racial hatred. ABC Managing Director has also personally apologised to Grant.

But it’s not just Twitter, data obtained by the Guardian from media monitoring firm Streem has found that there were more than 150 mentions of the ABC’s coronation coverage by the Australian and Sky News in the two weeks since the broadcast.

That included 18 mentions in the Australian online, four on Chris Kenny’s program, three on Sky News’s media show, and two each on Bernadi, Outsiders and Paul Murray Live.

Stan Grant on Q&A.

Q+A host Stan Grant standing down from ABC show after racist abuse

That coverage included the Australian’s media writer Sophie Elsworth on Kenny’s show describing the ABC broadcast as a “pile-on” and “hate-fest”. Outsiders hosts Rita Panahi and James Morrow said the ABC’s broadcast was “over the top”, “race-obsessed” and a “woke bin fire of self-loathing”.

The ABC did not specifically call out Sky News or the Australian but we know that Murdoch outlets will never miss an opportunity to attack the public broadcaster. Indeed SKY has a media show weekly that seems to be fashioned around denigration of the ABC. A spokesperson for the ABC indicated that the ongoing coverage of the coronation broadcast could “clearly generate or contribute to fuelling abuse” that had led to racist attacks on social media.

Grant, has been the sole host of Q+A since August last year. Before that he had been one of three – alongside Virginia Trioli and David Speers – who shared hosting duties from August 2021, following the departure of Hamish MacDonald, who also cited social media vilification as a factor in his decision to quit.

It was only weeks ago that ABC morning television host Lisa Miller received a barrage of personal abuse on social media evidently related to what she had been wearing one morning. She is clearly a strong woman and took the opportunity to make an on-air statement which read, in part :

“I’d like to take a minute to talk about what went on during the last 48 hours. If you’re blessedly oblivious and you’ve just been getting on with your life – great! – I won’t dwell on it,” she said.

“The fact that what I wore on Monday attracted obnoxious commentary on Twitter – foul disgusting personal abuse that I couldn’t and wouldn’t repeat – was upsetting.”

She clearly found the episode personally confronting as Grant has found the racist comments hurtful but they are by no means the only public personalities in Australia or elsewhere to be personally attacked on social media. As far as this commentator can ascertain, the main delivery vehicle for this abuse is essentially Elon Musk’s Twitter. Whilst the Murdoch media takes every opportunity to attack the national broadcaster, clearly the problem is not just Sky and The Australian. The ABC is used to attacks from the Murdoch minions and is more than capable to fight back. Twitter (and it is mainly Twitter of the various social media players) on the other hand seems to have no effective moderation and since Musk took over it seems that it has taken a deep dive into the global sewer.

So, I pose the question : do we really need Twitter ?

 

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You Wouldn’t Read About It !

Well, you wouldn’t read about it if you relied on the offerings of a certain media mogul and his publications because they wouldn’t print it or broadcast it.

The goings on with a certain ninety-two-year-old codger would make for a continuing soap opera not so much in the style of Blue Hills, more the Days of Our Lives. At the present time the artful old media mogul – whose name I won’t mention as he may sue me in defamation and seize my miserable pension – had been planning his fifth marriage (first one this year, however) but after a two-week, whirlwind engagement it all went pear-shaped, as they say.

This may be due to the fact that he is facing an existential defamation action of his own but in this case it is he and his pay TV outlet in the US who are before the courts in Wilmington, Delaware for allegedly telling porkies about Trump’s lost election. Why Delaware you ask? Well you get no points for guessing that he domiciles his empire in this small US state because it is a tax haven for corporations with offshore interests and an aversion to paying tax.

As an aside, the judge overseeing these matters was approached by the legal team representing the defendant mogul to have him excused from giving evidence in person due to his age and general doddering condition.

The very astute judge questioned, ‘was this the same defendant of whom he had been reading was anticipating betrothal and marriage and looking forward to doing much travelling and lounging on beaches with his new squeeze who, he had just presented with a $3.5 million 11-carat diamond solitaire engagement ring?’ The judge sensibly dismissed the application.

But, it doesn’t end there does it? The future Mrs Murdoch V has since done a runner although it’s not clear if this was due to some unacceptable clause in the prenuptial agreement concerning certain ‘wifely duties’ or some other matter. Unconfirmed scuttlebutt suggests that she saw her paramour exiting the shower and that accelerated her decision, so she grabbed the ring and was gone.

What is it about this old coffin-dodger, at an age when most of his contemporaries are pushing up daisies or having trouble locating their slippers, he’s still on the prowl? A disturbing observation by one of his previous wives to the effect that ‘he doesn’t need Viagra’ could be the rather alarming clue to this rogue’s progress. So, ladies, he’s back on the market – watch out!

 

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1788 and all that (or what have the English ever done for us?)

So, we are approaching the anniversary of Arthur Phillip’s epic voyage from England to Australia, arriving in January 1788. He chaperoned eleven ships with fifteen hundred souls onboard, roughly half of whom were manacled, half way around the world. A voyage that, in its dimensions and its impact is up there with those of Columbus and Magellan, even the Mayflower.

“I came upon the prison ship
Bowed down by iron chains
I fought the land, endured the lash
And waited for the rains
I’m a settler, I’m a farmer’s wife
On a dry and barren run
A convict, then a free man
I became Australian”

We know that in August 1770 Lieutenant James Cook had claimed the East Coast of Australia as New South Wales, on behalf of George III : that’s what you did in that era at a time when Britain had very little in the way of ‘possessions’ in the southern hemisphere and there was much competition.

It is rarely recorded that the French, in 1772 planted a flag on the Western portion of this continent in the name of Louis XV. On 28 March 1772, the Breton navigator Louis Aleno de St Aloüarn landed on Dirk Hartog Island and became the first European to claim possession of what is now Western Australia as Australie-Occidentale Française.

In both instances these competing colonial powers realized that you can’t just plant a flag and leave a jar of coins and express a few pompous sentiments to acquire a new possession or colony. You actually had to occupy the land either as the result of invasion or by peaceful settlement with or without the consent of any existing inhabitants.

“I came from the dream-time
From the dusty red-soil plains
I am the ancient heart
The keeper of the flame
I stood upon the rocky shores
I watched the tall ships come
For forty thousand years I’ve been
The first Australian”

The English had adopted the rather dodgy concept of Terra Nullius to justify their acquisition of territories on the basis that the land belonged to no-one – a legal concept used by the British government to justify the settlement of Australia.

As one of Irish heritage I tend to be somewhat ambivalent about being invaded by the English and we probably don’t need to get into whether it was an invasion or a settlement or an uninvited occupation. What is clear is that the colonial powers of the day saw it as their right to seize the land of others, frequently in the name of a monarch and enthusiastically supported by their chosen deity. This happened on every major land mass on this planet, with the Americas and Africa featuring prominently not to overlook the Indian sub-continent and many parts of Asia. At least in Australia, Christian conversion was not the primary driver for Arthur Phillip’s south seas adventure : that came later.

The race for possessions was on and in 1788 it was largely the British and the French who were out to grab their share in the Southern hemisphere : the Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch had already ‘settled’ areas of South and central America, the Philippines and Indonesian archipelagoes and whilst the Dutch were very familiar with New Holland as they called Australia, they saw little commercial value in claiming the continent. Joseph Banks, however had convinced George III that Terra Australis represented an ideal location for a convict settlement particularly so now that the North American settlers had demanded independence and America was no longer a dumping ground for British miscreants.

Shortly after his arrival at Botany Bay Arthur Phillip was joined by Comte La Pérouse’s two ships which had arrived off the coast on 24 January 1788, but were unable to enter Botany Bay until 26 January, the same day that Phillip began to move the entire First Fleet to the more hospitable Sydney Cove in the harbour of Port Jackson. The French must have realized that their ambitions on the East Coast were forfeit to the English and La Peruse soon headed out to sea and was never heard from again.

As we approach Australia Day or Invasion Day 2023 and as we anticipate a referendum on an Aboriginal Voice to our parliament it is, in my view, time that we acknowledge that whatever has occurred in the past we are now one nation and in the words of what should be our national anthem :

“We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We’ll share a dream and sing with one voice
I am, you are, we are Australian”
I am, you are, we are Australian”

Here are The Seekers with the full rendition of that anthem :

 

 

 

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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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The Augean stables in need of a flush !

You may recall how Heracles undertook the task of cleaning the stables of king Augeas in one day. Augeas was king of Elis, and extremely rich in cattle. Heracles, went to Augeas, offering in one day to clean his stables, if he would give him the tenth part of the cattle herd for his efforts. Augeas, believing that Heracles could not possibly accomplish what he promised, agreed, and Heracles took Phyleus, the son of Augeas, as his witness as he commenced his task.

Heracles had thought this through and he diverted the rivers Alpheius and Peneius through the stables, which were thus cleaned in the time fixed upon.

So what has this got to do with the price of eggs you may be saying. Well, nothing but it has a lot to do with the way Newscorp one of the world’s biggest news organisations is run. For some considerable time this media empire has attracted the sort of creatures that swarm on piles of excrement. It was clear that the old ‘coffin-dodger’ who built the empire was not going to clean his own stables so it has been left to the prodigal son (s). It was said a few years ago when James Murdoch was still in the game and after the News of the World phone tapping scandals that the young Murdochs were trying to convince their Dad that they had to get away from the perception that they only employed ‘lecherous old white dudes’ to run their business.

A case in point, Fox News in the US where the two sons combined to flush out the ailing Roger Ailes, a proven serial misogynist (to put it nicely) who exploited young women in his employ and in his thrall.

Fox News a pay TV channel in America was created by Murdoch senior in 1996 to appeal to a conservative audience, hiring former Republican media consultant and CNBC executive Roger Ailes as its founding CEO. Depending on your viewpoint, Ailes was a pioneer in providing a platform for right-wing disaffected Republicans or he was the worst thing ever to happen to impartial and objective journalism in the US. Despite their father’s objections the Murdoch boys conspired to get rid of Ailes and they succeeded but it cost a reputed forty million dollars to get rid of that lecherous old dude.

Then there was Bill O’Reilly a FOX anchor and a thoroughly nasty piece of work. Numerous allegations and an internal investigation at FOX found that multiple women had reported inappropriate behaviour by O’Reilly and he too was flushed but not before advertisers had started to withdraw their support, something that will always get the attention of Rupert : O’Reilly was sent packing after collecting a reported exit fee of some $US 30million.

Back home in Australia, it’s not clear what actually occurred to bring on the hasty exit of Chris Dore, Editor in Chief at The Australian. Reports suggest that senior executives at Newscorp had witnessed highly inappropriate, drunken behaviour by Dore on several occasions, including most recently at a Newscorp function in California which appears to have been the catalyst for him to be shown the door (or as they usually say, the opportunity for him to spend more time with his family).

Meanwhile we had the depressing report of Sky News right-wing presenter and Courier-Mail columnist Peter Gleeson who left News Corp after multiple instances of plagiarism were uncovered. The Courier-Mail announced that after thirty four years with Newscorp he was gone, also it seems with an overwhelming desire to spend more time with his family, although they may not have shared that ambition. Gleeson had his own program on Sky-after-Dark and will not be missed.

His stablemate Chris Smith was next to go. Smith was a broadcaster with 2GB and Sky after dark where he had his own program, Chris Smith Tonight where he conducted predictable right-wing rants and forgettable echo-chamber ‘interviews’ with the usual right-wing suspects.

Smith was sacked by Sky News Australia as well as 2GB after alleged drunken behaviour and “serious misconduct” involving the treatment of women at a Sydney venue after a Sky News Christmas party. Allegedly Smith is a serial offender . In 1998 he was fired from his role as chief of staff at A Current Affair for allegedly exposing himself to four women at a Nine farewell party. Then in 2009 he was suspended by the Macquarie Radio Network (now Nine Entertainment) for allegedly exposing himself to several women at a 2GB function, attempting to kiss a female colleague and allegedly groping a female weather presenter. Both Andrew Bolt at Sky and Ray Hadley at 2GB showed no sympathy for their former colleague as he was flushed away to the reluctant embrace of his family .

Why are so many of these old white dudes getting the DCM (don’t come Monday) in the Murdoch media empire ? Is it something to do with the quality of people Murdoch has attracted and promoted over the years ? Is it only now that Lachlan has taken over that action is finally being taken ? Who knows, suffice to say that young Murdoch still has a way to go until these stables are free of excrement !

Most references to these shenanigans come from sources other than Newscorp and that could be part of the problem, that a news organisation refuses to recognise or record its own failings :

Here are the women who have publicly accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment

Chris Dore’s exit from News Corp lifts lid on behaviour at governor general’s residence

 

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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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