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Don’t mention a Default Price for electricity !

The National Energy Guarantee (NEG) we are told is all about bringing down the electricity prices paid by consumers whilst at the same time paying lip service to reduce our CO2 emissions. This latter objective is a little bit Ho-Hum as our prime minister is currently going to extreme lengths to appease the climate change deniers (and hold on to his job) and is likely to drop emission reduction targets altogether in the next few days, so for the moment let’s focus on bringing down prices.

It is electorally popular to have a policy of reducing household energy prices, the government have come out boldly and told us that with their NEG we can expect that the average household to start saving $550 a year on their electricity bills commencing 2020 and each year thereafter. But that headline-grabbing number won’t appear in any legislation neither will it feature as part of the ‘guarantee’. Indeed, only $140 of that saving is loosely linked to the NEG, the other $400 has got to come from somewhere else but it’s not clear where.

What the government are quite happy to sweep under the rug at the moment is the very sensible recommendation of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (the ACCC) who have said that electricity pricing should be transparent at the point of sale. What the ACCC are proposing is that we strip electricity pricing of the mystique that free market competition has brought to it. Their recommendation is to abolish standard retail contracts from big electricity retailers and replace them with “default market offers” set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). The regulator would be given the power to set the maximum price for the default offer in each state or territory, a form of price regulation imposing a price cap for consumers.  The price set by the AER would represent the efficient cost of supply in a given region, including a “reasonable margin” for retailers from which they could discount should they wish to do so. Designated retailers would be required to supply electricity to consumers at the default price on request, or in circumstances where the consumer has not taken up a market offer. The default offer would contain simple pricing transparency for easy comparison purposes and would include minimum payment periods, optional paper bills (at no extra cost) and access to bill smoothing (spreading your estimated yearly energy costs over regular monthly installments : for example, if you estimate your annual outlays at say $1200 but with the concentration being during the winter [or summer depending on which end of the country you live] you will be able to pay at a pre-agreed rate of say $100 a month.)

This recommendation by the ACCC is simple and straightforward and will we are told bring down household energy costs and bring much-needed transparency to an industry that has thrived on obfuscation and the ability to gouge customers by intentionally making their pricing regimes obscure, unclear and unintelligible.

To quote the ACCC, their recommendation on default pricing would have the effect of :

Moving average residential customers who are still on the range of current ‘standing’ offers to the new ‘default’ offer could result in savings of $500 to $750 per annum (25-35 per cent). Similarly, small and medium businesses could save $1450-$2250 (30-35 per cent) per year by moving to a standard ‘default’ offer. Currently over 20 per cent of small businesses are on high ‘standing’ offers.

Whilst Labor have embraced the ACCC recommendations, the coalition have been less than enthusiastic with some on the far right of the coalition comparing this form of price transparency to rampant socialism.

At a time when our prime minister is poised to be unceremoniously dumped by a rabid right-wing mob led by Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce, like a bunch of extras from the Living Dead, salivating at the prospect of tearing down Turnbull and installing a potato in his stead – it is suggested that he will bypass the recommendations of the ACCC just to appease these knuckle-draggers. For us, the consumers, it is critical that we force the government to focus on and to adopt this eminently sensible recommendation from the ACCC.

The full ACCC report is here and the recommendation in question is under Chapter 12 Recommendation 30.

Off With Her head !

Unless you have been hiding under your doona for the last week and singing la la la, with your fingers in your ears, you could not help but be aware of the odd happenings in the life of Labor parliamentarian Emma Husar.

Our own version of Lois lane [Alice Workman at BuzzFeed] has been on the case for us just so that you don’t miss anything that is likely to titillate you over your cornflakes. But it was these breathless revelations that got me intrigued and I had to have a closer look into this matter [that wasn’t intended to be a pun but, you decide]. One of the allegations against our Emma was that :

“It is alleged that you and [redacted] attended Mr Jason Clare’s office at Parliament. Mr Clare was sitting on the floor playing with his son. [Redacted] alleged that he was sitting opposite you and that on three occasions you spread your legs, revealing that you were not wearing any underwear. [Redacted] felt that your conduct was deliberate, proactive and targeted towards Mr Clare.”

Another allegation possibly from a distressed male staff member was that ‘Husar had her right breast against his left shoulder and arm for about 10–15 seconds. On another occasion in September, he alleged Husar rested her right breast on his arm’.

How on earth are you expected to respond to allegations of that sort beyond perhaps observing that she is clearly not favouring one breast over the other – no workplace discrimination there !!

The media really piled on when video was taken of one of Husar’s staffers walking her dog and horror of horrors picking up after the dog ; can you imagine how they would have reacted had the staffer not picked up ?

These allegations, and others have been leveled against Ms Husar and submitted to her for comment by barrister John Whelan who has been commissioned by the NSW Labor party to look into these matters. Whelan is an experienced professional in dispute resolution. The questions he was asking of her were based on numerous allegations made against Husar by former staffers and other well-wishers.You can read more about them here : Labor MP Emma Husar Is Accused Of Sexual Harassment And Diverting Thousands Of Dollars Into Her Personal Bank Account

According to BuzzFeed Over 200,000 words of evidence have been given by at least 20 witnesses in the Whelan investigation so far ‘and nearly all the witnesses have given evidence anonymously’, evidently out of fear of repercussions from the powerful Right faction of the NSW Labor party.

Wait a minute, anonymous allegations, how can that be ? How can an individual be expected to respond to often salacious allegations of misconduct when the accuser refuses to be identified ? If BuzzFeed is correct  and ‘nearly all ‘ of these allegations of wrongdoing are coming from anonymous sources, the person against whom the allegations are being made (Husar) is surely at an immediate disadvantage by being prevented from adequately examining his or her accusers, and fundamental natural justice is denied.

This confidential questionnaire from investigator Whelan to Husar appears to have been leaked to the media and you have to wonder if some of these anonymous accusers are supplying the media feed. Husar is expected to respond to these allegations within days and we can only hope that her responses will not be leaked by a well-wisher before the investigation is concluded.

Cutting through the salacious aspects of this issue it seems clear that it is factionally fuelled within the NSW Labor party with lots of side-line barracking and encouragement from the Liberal party who seem to be trying to link this to their kill Bill campaign. It appears that no matter what, the future of Husar as an effective member for her electorate on Lindsay has forever been tarnished and yet again we see the risks that people, in particular women, take when they aspire to public office.

Consistency, Votes and Squeaky Wheels !

The increase to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) announced by the prime minister over the weekend is welcomed in rural and regional areas where farm incomes have been smashed by the ongoing drought.

At the present, the FHA allows families to access a payment equivalent to the unemployment benefit, worth about $16,000 a year. This will increase by $12,000 as an additional lump sum available to families (with $7,200 for single households).

Significantly, the government has also lifted the threshold for means testing of family farm assets – land, buildings, machinery, vehicles etc. – from $2.5million to $5million.

The FHA is, as the name implies, a living allowance, to put bread on the table, pay for electricity, school fees, insurance and other living expenses. It is not designed to cover on-farm operating expenses like freight and feed as these are separately covered by other programs as part of the overall government spending on drought measures totalling $576 million.

These measures are applauded as are the mental health and financial counselling services being offered by the government but it is worth raising a couple of points and inconsistencies in government thinking when it comes to entitlements.

Anybody on an age pension is aware of the constant push by some conservative politicians to include the family home in the asset means-test for the aged pension. The argument being that these folk are in some cases asset rich because of the value of their family home and thus they should forfeit their entitlement to an aged pension. If the same rationale were applied to farmers the argument becomes a nonsense as farmers need their assets to perform their business functions and why should they sell assets to obtain a government benefit – just as, it could be argued, why should a pensioner be forced to sell the family home to qualify for an aged-pension.

It’s also interesting to note that the Family Household Allowance has historically been linked to the national unemployment benefit yet, the government appears to be acknowledging that this benefit is insufficient to live on and thus, in rural and regional situations, needs to be supplemented by an additional annual payment of $12,000 ; but not so for those unemployed in the wider community, why is that ?

I don’t begrudge rural families getting access to government funding in times of dire need but I am concerned about those who are struggling to get by on the dole who will not get a leg-up or pensioners who are constantly targeted as rorters because they want to access their entitlement to an aged pension and live out their days in the family home.

It’s about consistency and equality and probably the ability to lobby ; the squeaky-wheel principle, some would say.

Let’s just hope that for some it rains soon and, for others, that the sun continues to shine !

My Health Records Act 2012

I had started to put together an article showing how Greg Hunt, in his insistence that the My Health legislation would not allow the police and others to access our private healthcare records without a court order, was wrong. Fortunately the AMA and other concerned bodies have brought the minister to his senses and he has finally acknowledged that the legislation as it stands does not require a court order for our personal records to be accessed and he has promised to introduce legislation to amend the act.

The worrying thing is that it took so much effort to demonstrate to Hunt that he was wrong and even then, he blamed it on Labor.

Greg Hunt and the Australian Digital Health Agency have repeatedly said that “no documents will be released without a court order” but the claim had been contradicted by the parliamentary library and now then the Queensland Police Union.

To be clear the legislation says that :

Section 70  Disclosure for law enforcement purposes, etc.

(1) The System Operator is authorised to use or disclose health information included in a healthcare recipient’s My Health Record if the System Operator reasonably believes that the use or disclosure is reasonably necessary for one or more of the following things done by, or on behalf of, an enforcement body:

(a) the prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of criminal offences, breaches of a law imposing a penalty or sanction or breaches of a prescribed law;

(b) the enforcement of laws relating to the confiscation of the proceeds of crime;

(c) the protection of the public revenue;

(d) the prevention, detection, investigation or remedying of seriously improper conduct or prescribed conduct;

(e) the preparation for, or conduct of, proceedings before any court or tribunal, or implementation of the orders of a court or tribunal.

The act defines the System Operator as :

(1)  The System Operator is:

                     (a)  the Secretary of the Department; or

                     (b)  if a body established by a law of the Commonwealth is prescribed by the regulations to be the System Operator—that body.

 

So, before I went to print, the minister conceded what was obvious to all bar him : it should not have taken so much effort to get him to read the act that he administers and yes, minister, it was an ALP piece of legislation to which the coalition subscribed. But that’s not the point !

Quō vādis, Malcolm ?

Malcolm Turnbull declared that the by-election in Longman was a test of leadership between himself and Bill Shorten …

He went on to tell ABC Brisbane radio that the contest was not just between candidates Trevor Ruthenberg and Susan Lamb,”It’s a test of the parties, but it’s really about the people of Longman deciding whether they want to vote for Bill Shorten and his higher taxes, fewer jobs, lower wages and less economic growth:

“The contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader,” Mr Turnbull said.

Turnbull now has a very difficult decision to make: whether to resign as leader of the Liberal party or leaves it to a party room challenge from a reinvigorated right-wing who cannot wait to claim his scalp.

The result in Longman (and Braddon, and Perth, and Fremantle and Mayo) is a repudiation of Turnbull and the Liberal party who have thrown everything at Shorten over recent weeks and vastly outspent the Labor party. As prime minister, having put his leadership squarely on the line, his position as leader is now untenable and if he places his future in the hands of his colleagues we can expect him to be dumped and that will give us Peter Dutton and the Abbott rabble followed closely and inevitably by the demise of the Liberal party.

We’re all done with Dual citizenship : especially when it’s the Liberal party

Super Saturday is largely about dual-citizenship and the Labor party. Why do you think that is, why are no Liberal politicians being challenged over their citizenship ? Well, clearly that is a rhetorical question as we all know that Liberal parliamentarians are chosen form on-high : born to rule dont’cha know.

Lucy Gichuhi, the Kenyan senator is however an interesting case study having originally been elected to represent Family First and then been encouraged to jump ship to the Liberals who, through their SA branch pre-selection process have now given her the potentially unwinnable fourth place on their Senate ticket.

Whilst Turnbull came out strongly to support Ann Sudmalis, representing the Division of Gilmore in New South Wales, who was also being challenged for pre-selection, he has been noticeably silent when it comes to Gichuhi which is quite surprising when you consider that she brings to the Liberals two things they lack : ethnic diversity and that she is a woman.

Perhaps the answer lies in the ongoing dual-citizenship debacle. Gichuhi considers that she automatically lost her Kenyan citizenship when she became an Australian citizen in 2001. However, it seems that in this she may have been mistaken following comments recently from the University of Nairobi professor Edwin Abuya, a constitutional expert who says Gichuhi should have formally applied to Kenya’s nationality affairs minister to renounce her Kenyan citizenship when seeking sole Australian citizenship.

Simon Birmingham tried to muddy the waters by saying that the high court had deemed Gichuhi as eligible to replace Bob Day as a South Australian senator in the federal parliament when the Family First senator resigned after a constitutional breach concerning the lease of his Adelaide office. Certainly the high court were satisfied that Gichuhi had been properly chosen to enter the senate but they were not asked to make a determination on her citizenship and the high court only ever answers the questions they are asked and Turnbull doesn’t want this question asked.

When the SA Branch of the Liberal party gave Gichuhi the fourth and potentially unwinnable position on their senate ticket for the next election you could have anticipated that Turnbull would come out strongly to support her but that has not been the case. It now seems that the possibility of another dual citizenship debacle is too great a price to pay for the Liberal party, evidently outweighing the much needed diversity she brings to a party who desperately need representation from people of her gender and ethnicity.

Personally I believe that Lucy Gichuhi has much more to offer our parliament and the Liberal party than the likes of Georgina Downer but it doesn’t seem that the SA branch of the Liberal party see it that way and Turnbull will not discuss dual citizenship anymore : he’s moved on.

The Longman By-Election

Longman is a federal electorate in Brisbane’s north held since the 2016 election by Susan Lamb for Labor. Lamb was born in Mackay, Queensland of a British father and Queensland born mother. Her own legal advice confirmed that she obtained British citizenship by descent at birth. So, she applied to renounce her British citizenship before nominations for the 2016 election closed, but she did not enclose sufficient evidence of her British citizenship so her application to the UK Home Office to renounce British citizenship was rejected.

In a scenario reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party she was told that before she could renounce British citizenship she first had to prove that she was a British citizen, which she couldn’t largely because she had never held a British passport or visited Britain. After the election, she provided some additional documents, but her application was still rejected as she couldn’t provide her parents Marriage Certificate – her mother was born in Queensland (in 1948), her father was born in Edinburgh in the UK (in 1945) so the need to prove that they were in fact married became a critical factor in establishing citizenship by descent : her father had passed and she had not had any contact with her mother since she was a child when her mother had left the marriage. She believed, in the circumstances, that she had taken all ‘reasonable steps’ to renounce a citizenship that she never really considered she had.

But constant haranguing from the government, in particular Christopher Pyne, forced her resignation and the by-election, now part of the Super Saturday by-elections to be held on 28 July ; she will again stand for the Labor party. Pyne was jubilant when she resigned and considers his role in her demise to have been the highlight of his political career and for once he could be right.

So, what makes a by-election in this Brisbane seat so important ? Well this seat together with Mayo (SA), Braddon (Tas), Fremantle (WA) and Perth (WA) were all held by Labor except Mayo which was Centre-Alliance and if they swing to the LNP it could be a trigger for Turnbull to go to an early federal election based on the rather spurious notion that the electorate are recognising the superior economic skills and popularity of this coalition government  (and an endorsement of Turnbull’s tax cuts to all and sundry).

Normally the incumbent government would argue that a by-election is all about local issues and the local candidate but just the other day Turnbull whilst visiting Longman said this :

“The … contest is between me and Bill Shorten as the prime minister and the opposition leader.”

Now, did he say that because he wanted to distance himself form the coalition candidate or was he capitalising on his so called personal charisma with the electorate and Shorten’s lack of popularity ?

Trevor John Ruthenberg is the coalition, LNP candidate having previously been part of the  Queensland state government led by Campbell Newman. When Newman was sent packing by the people of Queensland in 2015, Ruthenberg lost his state seat of Kallungar (again, in Brisbane’s north) to Labor. Newman’s government were about as popular as a dose of herpes and Ruthenberg, some consider, is tainted by that association.

Ruthenberg had been in the Royal Australian Air Force and completed a trade as an airframe fitter. Prior to being elected, he was an Executive Officer to the Lutheran Church of Australia in Queensland. He had already worried Liberal party bosses when he allowed himself to be drawn into a debate on climate change and had refused to clarify whether he believes climate change is happening, after saying that he had a different “understanding of the science” when confronted about the link between burning coal and global warming. His position, of course, is in line with Liberal party policy and the dictates of the IPA but coalition policy is not to discuss the issue : he should have taken his lead from Georgina Downer who is contesting Mayo in South Australia for the Liberal party and who just pulls up the doona whenever climate change is mentioned.

Big Trev as he is evidently known had also caused a ripple when the Courier Mail reported that he had not won an Australian Service Medal as he had claimed on a website but rather an Australian Defence Medal, which is awarded to people who have completed at least four years of service. The Australian Service Medal to those in the know is an entirely different decoration to recognise prescribed service in peacekeeping and non-warlike operations, in such places as Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands, Bougainville etc. Whilst Ruthenberg has apologised for his ‘oversight’ some consider that any former service person would have had a clear understanding of the difference between the two decorations.

So, Longman is going to be interesting and for Turnbull pivotal. How the preference deal between One Nation and the Liberals and the robocall endorsement of Mark Latham for Pauline Hanson and her candidate will work out remains to be seen. In typical One Nation style their candidate, Matthew Stephen, comes with baggage and has had his Queensland Building and Construction Commission wall and floor tiling licence suspended seven times for not paying his fees or his creditors. His most recent suspension was for February and March this year, while Pauline Hanson’s party were in the process of vetting his suitability to run at the election.

Watch this space and see how the good folk in Longman formulate their vote.

 

 

 

Population Policy found in a filing cabinet in secondhand shop in Deakin !

What we do know about Australia’s population is that it will achieve 25million in August of this year, some twenty-four years ahead of government predictions : former Treasurer Peter Costello told us is 2002 that we would achieve this figure sometime in 2042.

What we also know is that the population growth and migrant intake in the past five years has exceeded one million which happily coincides with the one million new jobs the coalition have told us they have created since coming to office : so that’s one job for every new migrant, right ? Not quite, as explained by the Department of Home Affairs “Some migrants also do not participate in the labour force or have limited work rights (for example, long-term visitors, students and working holiday makers) but still consume goods and services and therefore still add to job creation.”

Even so, that increase in population of one million in the last five years is a record but this is where things get confusing. Peter Dutton commented over the weekend that this growth was due to Labor’s tick and flick immigration policy which evidently means that it is a bad thing. But it tends to ignore the fact that the coalition have been in office during the past five years and, surprise, surprise, Mr Dutton may or may not have been responsible for immigration policy during that period – that morsel of information may of course be confidential and even the responsible (I use the term loosely) minister is not always aware of the scope or breadth of his job.

Then you have that pesky filing cabinet in that second-hand shop in Deakin which seems to have contained all of the data on immigration policy of which Mr Dutton was unaware and which fell into the hands of, you guessed it, the ABC. So, you can see the pattern here : Labor policy (bad), missing population policy (unfortunate) and the ABC (bad).

In the meantime, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull have both rejoiced in this new population data and said it’s all good as every new migrant is a consumer which means that they pay taxes, buy stuff – not houses obviously but they rent those from negatively geared mates of the coalition and they buy imported cars because we don’t make them anymore – and the fact that our road and transport infrastructure, our health and our education systems are barely coping is clearly due to Labor having had insufficient policies and foresight when in office.

In the interim, Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton announced, whilst visiting the North Brisbane seat of Longman, that the reduction in immigration numbers  that 162,417 people permanently migrated to Australia in 2017-18 – well under the 190,000 cap and down from 183,608 the year before was a positive thing and fitted in nicely with the preference deal done with Ms Hanson in Longman. Mr Morrison evidently was not in the loop on this one as he warned that lower immigration levels cost the budget.

When asked by a journalist, who was responsible for population policy in Australia Mr Turnbull, Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton pointed at each other : tune into 2GB where Ray Hadley will be allocating portfolios on Thursday.

 

 

Dutton Calls the Shots on Nauru

This unfolding story is worth watching as it appears to have the cold hand of Peter Dutton all over it.

The government of Nauru has blocked the ABC from covering the Pacific Islands Forum, refusing to issue its journalists visas because of allegations of bias and false reporting.

The Nauruan government have, however, said that “at least one Australian TV outlet” would be allowed to cover the forum, to be held in the first week of September ; I may be way off here but I’m seeing Foxtel/SKY as probably getting a guernsey.

Nauru is almost entirely dependent on Australian aid for its ongoing economic survival [and to maintain the lavish lifestyle of its politicians and their hangers on]. So, the continued existence of the detention centre on that island is central to their political and personal interests. In round figures it costs $400,000 a year to maintain each detainee in the offshore detention centres and the last thing that the Nauruan government want to see is the resettlement of the asylum seekers and closure of this camp.

Save the Children and Unicef found that Australian taxpayers had spent as much as $9.6 billion on offshore detention since 2013 – Australian government figures are a bit rubbery on this – while a Parliamentary Library report released in 2016 found Manus Island alone had cost taxpayers about $2 billion since it was reopened. Manus of course is no longer a detention centre following a PNG Supreme Court ruling that such detention of non-citizens who had not committed any crime was constitutionally illegal. Like a scene form Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch, our minister for Home Affairs has decreed that nobody is now detained on Manus (or Nauru for that matter) they’re just not allowed to leave … as I’ve noted elsewhere, Peter Dutton’s version of the Eagles’ Hotel California : ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave’.

What the ABC have done to encourage this visa ban is quite horrendous, they have reported the news factually, impartially and without bias and that infuriates not only the Nauruan officials but also, it seems, the current Australian government. In March the ABC reported what a senior United Nations official had said after inspecting the detention centre : he called for the Australian Government to reconsider its offshore detention policy as concerns about detainees’ mental and physical well being were growing. Indrika Ratwatte, the Asia Pacific director for the UNHCR, described the conditions as “shocking”. “We must make every effort to get refugees out of this situation” the ABC reported him as saying.

What you may say is wrong with reporting what a UN official has to say about a detention centre funded by the Australian taxpayer on a remote Pacific island ? Well, in case you haven’t noticed over the past five years this whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and when you are the only news outlet prepared to report factually, in this brave new world of alternative facts, you leave yourself open to attacks from those who not only oppose public broadcasting, but who also will not tolerate criticism or analysis of government policies.

Don’t for a moment confuse this media ban with stopping the boats ;  one is a policy and one is a wedge, you decide. This is all about petty politics within the coalition and the hatred many of them hold for public broadcasting and in particular the ABC coupled with some vested interests on Nauru who would never bite the hand that feeds them.

With a Nauruan official having come out and said that “ … no representative from the [ABC] will be granted a visa to enter Nauru under any circumstances,” you would expect an immediate reaction from our prime minister defending free speech and the right of Australia to decide on which of its media outlets should be able to report on this important regional forum. Whilst there has been outrage from the Australian parliamentary press gallery, from our prime minister just a wishy-washy statement to the effect that Nauru retains the right to decide who should report on this forum and the manner in which they should report : ‘it’s a question of sovereignty don’tcha know’.

Following our prime minister going to water on this, can we now expect our Foreign Minister or the Minister for Communications or our Minister for Home Affairs to come out strongly and support our ABC and Australia’s right not to be dictated to by a foreign government ? You would have to tune into radio 2GB or SkyNews for the answer to that, but don’t hold your breath.

Tax Cuts and Other Wedges

There has been a disturbing urgency on the part of the Turnbull government to slash personal and corporate taxes prior to the next election, due by May 2019. Disturbing because this frenzy of tax cuts really don’t have their major impacts on our economy until fully implemented six years hence when the flattening of the personal income tax rates take place and the proposed big business corporate tax cuts to 25% take effect, in 2024.

Why the urgency, why can’t we wait a few years and, if future government revenues are as good as predicted and debt repayment is on schedule and the deficit is under control and we are adequately funding healthcare and education and the myriad of other services we rely on, then start looking at these tax cuts ?

Is it solely to wedge Labor into the future ? This certainly seems to be part of the coalition strategy, as an incoming Labor government in 2019 would, if all these cuts go through, be faced with a revenue strait-jacket imposed by their coalition predecessors for the whole of their first and second terms. They could not initiate meaningful social reform measures because a former coalition government had given away and severely impeded ongoing revenue streams.

Labor have the very difficult and potentially election losing alternative of pledging to roll back the tax cuts when in office. But, as we are already seeing, this is fraught with difficulty as part of the wedge is to portray Labor as a high taxing party contrasted with the very competent and generous coalition.

As Michael Pascoe noted in his article for the New daily this style of politics fits the definition of conservatism identified by John Kenneth Galbraith : ‘The modern Conservative is engaged in one of mans oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness’

The choices for Labor are fundamental to their chances of forming government next year and it will take clear enunciation by Shorten and a perceptive and receptive electorate to expose the truth and to understand that the coalition strategy of cutting taxes so far in advance of supporting economic data are politically motivated and are imprudent and potentially reckless.

ANU v The Muppets

I don’t know if you’ve been following the very odd goings on between the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation (aka The Muppets) and the Australian National University (ANU) but it has been quite bizarre and has brought into a clear focus the schism that exists between those who believe that they are born to rule and the rest of us, in this case the academic independence and autonomy of one of our foremost learning institutions is under threat.

The Ramsay Centre [for Western Civilisation] represents a foundation set up by Paul Ramsay, a wealthy entrepreneur who made his fortune building and operating private hospitals around the nation and who benefited substantially from successive coalition policies to subsidise private health insurance companies who inevitably direct patients to these and other private hospitals : Ramsay was also a golfing buddy of former PM John Howard.

The objectives of this foundation are :

to advance education by promoting studies and discussion associated with the establishment and development of western civilisation, including through establishing scholarship funds and educational courses in partnership with universities”.

So far, so good, some worthy aspirations there and nothing is more aspirational than a group of conservative white men who want to tell the rest of us how we should behave and who happen to be in charge of a three billion dollar bequest.

John Howard – well known for the political trifecta of losing his seat, losing the prime ministership and losing government in one hit – heads up the foundation as its chair and Tony Abbott features as one of its directors. Another director, Kim Beazley who was evidently there for balance, noted that :

“This is not a left or right think tank. The values of freedom, human rights and representative government have their origins in Western civilisation. Yet the historical, philosophical and cultural base of that tradition is of diminishing saliency in our academic institutions. It does not need dominance. It needs a systematic voice.”

I’m not sure what Kim was getting at as it clearly is a right-wing tank but whether it thinks or not is another matter and it really doesn’t matter anyhow as soon after he was appointed, the Ramsay Centre announced “the Hon Kim Beazley AC resigned as a Director on 18 May 2018, following his appointment as Governor of Western Australia.”

That just left one token left-winger in the form of Joe De Bruyn who you may recall was a great supporter of John Howard in efforts to stop lesbians from having IVF babies and later strongly advocating the ‘NO’ case in the marriage equality debate. His standing in the Labor Party was always a bit wobbly and despite his union credentials, he infuriated many of his colleagues with his conservative views on social matters. He also provided Gough Whitlam with one of his more memorable one-liners: in a speech to a union gathering a few years ago, Whitlam described the Netherlands-born de Bruyn as “a Dutchman who hates dykes.”

Recently the Ramsay Centre entered into discussions with the ANU to fund by way of a bequest a Bachelor of Western Civilisation degree to commence next year. The course was to be an Australian version of the great-books courses taught at America’s leading liberal arts colleges. More than half the students were to be on scholarships based on the Tuckwell model that has now been operating at the ANU for some years.The Tuckwell Scholarship Program at the ANU is an undergraduate scholarship program whereby every year, twenty-five talented and motivated Year 12 students from across Australia are invited to take up a place at ANU.

Still looking good !

But then Tony Abbott let rip with one of the brain-farts for which he has become infamous and which, in the form of knighthoods for Princes and Dukes, characterised his forgettable tenure as our prime minister. In a nondescript article in the Right-wing journal Quadrant he noted, on the subject of this degree course on Western civilization, that the curriculum would be ‘for’ western civilization, implying that any critical analysis or comparative content would not be welcome.

He went on to say that :

“Teaching will be tutorial-based in the spirit of Oxford and Cambridge. A management committee including the Ramsay CEO and also its academic director will make staffing and curriculum decisions.”

And, didn’t the proverbial hit the fan with that one !

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt — a man who has contributed much to  Western (and global) civilisation – evidently asked Howard to ‘walk back’ Abbott’s comments as they obviously compromised the negotiations taking place between ANU and Ramsay and attacked the very integrity and autonomy of the university : Howard declined to contradict Abbott, indicating that he too saw it as appropriate for the Ramsay Centre to assume the universities cherished role of making its own staffing and curriculum decisions.

There followed an unseemly jihad on Schmidt and the ANU with the Newscorp numpties at The Australian leading the charge. Their focus and the basis of their criticism seemed to be that the university should never look a gift horse in the mouth, just accept the money and abandon your integrity and principles. But the university are digging their heels in and insisting that it is they who will design, teach and deliver their own courses without the interference of external ideological groups : a bequest is after all a gift and it is tarnished and diminished if the giver places on it conditions for its use and application.

So, discussions between the ANU and Ramsay reached a stalemate and even the prime minister was called on to intervene and bring the ANU to heel and right on cue Senator for the IPA, James Paterson, demanded that the ANU be punished by having its funding cut – just like the ABC. He would say that, wouldn’t he, it’s in his IPA implanted DNA

So far the ANU and Vice Chancellor Schmidt have maintained a dignified and calm demeanour saying only that their priority for the university is its integrity as a respected international place of learning and its absolute insistence that it retain  autonomy over its course curriculum and staffing. At no stage has the ANU, as has been suggested elsewhere, shown any reluctance to deliver an under graduate course on Western civilisation, a tradition that itself was founded and thrives on the autonomy of these institutions of higher learning.

Let’s assume that the Ramsay model of course funding is the way of the future and gains acceptance in our universities. Could we then see a bequest from the likes of Pauline Hanson for the teaching of the Foundations of Conversational English  or the Clive Palmer bequest for the Teaching of business principles and ethics with lecturers and curricula provided by these individuals ?

It’s not as silly as it sounds !

Playing Politics with tax doesn’t help anybody!

Why do you think that the coalition always couch their legislative program with wedges for Labor? Is it their way of having fun or can they just not resist the opportunity to play politics, even with something so fundamentally important as tax policy?

This week the coalition want to pass their package of personal income tax cuts which they are presenting as a three stage plan but they insist that it’s all or nothing, even though stage three is not scheduled to take effect until 2024-2025, six years down the track and potentially two election cycles away. What they are doing is seeking to bind future governments to tax cuts which may or may not be affordable when they finally come in but which are in line with coalition ideology :

The three-stage tax plan

  • Step 1: Low and Middle Income Tax Offset
    Taxpayers earning between $20,200 and $125,000 receive a temporary tax offset for 2018-19 to 2021-22, in addition to the Low Income Tax Offset (LITO). Up to $530 as a lump sum at tax time.
  • Step 2: Changes to tax thresholds and LITO
    In 2018-19 the top threshold of the 32.5% tax bracket moves from $87,000 to $90,000, and then to $90,000 to $120,000, in 2022-23. The low and middle-income tax offset also ends. The top threshold of the 19% tax bracket increases from $37,000 to $41,000, and the LITO increases from $445 to $645.
  • Step 3: Cutting a tax bracket
    In 2024-25 the top threshold for the 32.5% tax bracket increases to $200,000, eradicating the 37% bracket. Taxpayers earning more than $200,000 still pay 45%.

Labor are likely to go along with step one and possibly step two but they are resisting step three which they consider should only be legislated at the time it takes effect, not six years in advance.

The coalition know full well that they cannot bind a future government but they want to wedge Labor with the all or nothing ploy. Labor, on the other hand, don’t want to be seen as the party poopers and if the coalition continue to dig in and insist that the package be voted on as one bill the only option Labor have is to cave in and pass the package but make it known that they, when in office, reserve the right to reverse stage three if economic conditions are not conducive to tax cuts in 2024.

The government told journalists during the pre-budget lock-up that the plan would cost $140 billion over the “medium term” – which is 10 years – but the bill does not contain that information. The only costings it contains are for the first four years of the plan. Treasurer Morrison when asked why detailed year-by-year costings of his seven-year plan had not been included in the legislation, said the government couldn’t do so because the numbers wouldn’t be reliable.

“It is not the practice of any government to provide itemised year-by-year costs over the medium term because they’re not reliable,” he said.

So, the coalition bill on personal income tax cuts with all the rubbery figures will probably go through but they are not done with slashing revenue as they still want to cut corporate taxes to the top end of town.

The full corporate tax cuts being proposed by the Coalition are scheduled to come into effect in 2026-27 when all companies, ­regardless of turnover, are due to receive the lower 25 per cent rate. Leading economist Saul Eslake has suggested an updated 10-year costing of the Coalition’s corporate tax cuts would cost the budget in excess of $80 billion by 2029. A measure, which when combined with the personal income tax cuts, will impact government revenues into the future no matter who is in power.

What nobody is discussing in this frenzy of tax cuts is how these reduced revenues will impact on government services into the future. The coalition tell us that they are committed to small government and that means that cash-strapped governments into the future will be forced to privatise and outsource government services as they clearly will not have the revenue flows to continue to fund and grow education, healthcare, welfare, pensions and infrastructure.

So, it’s just as well that Labor’s debt and deficit disaster that the coalition warned us of is now behind us isn’t it? Only problem is that government debt, which stood at $175 billion YTD September 2013 when Labor lost government, now stands at $340 billion YTD April 2018.

You can check the figures yourself.

Reducing taxes is always popular, particularly when we are approaching an election and rarely are the consequences including reductions in government services and the need for belt-tightening discussed until after the election. But, let’s not be in any doubt, we will be told post-election that we just don’t have the money to fund essential services in this country.

ABC Interview Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

ABC: Good morning PM can we start by asking if you will take your corporate tax cuts to the next election so that the Australian people can give you a mandate for what you now call your signature policy ?

PM: No way Jose. We are committed to getting these tax cuts through before the election, I’ve promised the chaps who fund the Liberal Party that we will do this.

ABC: It’s not Jose but anyhow. If you take this signature policy to an election and win, you will have the backing of the Australian people.

PM: You must be a Labor Party stooge, if we took this dog of a policy to an election. we would be thrown out. No, we believe that if we can catch Pauline after a few Chardonnays she’ll come around and we can do this democratically.

ABC: You were incensed when Labor claimed that you were privatising Medicare. How do you respond to claims that your governments’ policies are degrading Medicare services ?

PM: Have you asked Greg Hunt my excellent Health Minister ?

ABC: Well, yes we have : he told us to fuck-off !

PM: Well there you go : my government’s approach to Medicare is to point out to the public that we are subsidising private health insurance companies to the tune of $6.8 Billion a year. So, it’s quite obvious where people should go isn’t it ?
Our approach to Medicare is consistent with our approach to, for instance, the ABC. We starve these socialist collectives of funding and people then go to where they can get better service. Have you got a Foxtel subscription ? I suggest you get one if you want to watch any cricket this summer.

ABC: The Liberal Party conference unanimously voted in favour of privatising the ABC other than in regional areas. Minister Fifield has said that this is not coalition policy, will it become policy ?

PM: You have to understand how policy works in the Liberal Party : we have unanimous support to privatise the ABC from the rank and file other than in regional areas – a very popular policy but it would only proceed with a mandate from the Australian people and if we get back into office at the next election that will be a mandate : that’s how democracy works.

ABC: But how can you privatise one broadcasting platform in the cities and retain free to air services in the bush, isn’t that discriminatory ?

PM: We have already had exploratory talks with Foxtel and we have been given an assurance from a great Australian in New York that we can achieve this highly desirable objective with subsidies, just like we do with health insurance. Eventually everybody will have a Foxtel subscription and then, like Medicare, you won’t need a government funded system : it’s win win !

ABC: You seem committed to holding people in indefinite detention on Manus Island and Nauru purely for political mileage. When will you resettle these people who have now been detained without trial for over five years in many cases ?

PM: Have you asked the the excellent minister for everything, Peter Dutton ?

ABC: No, he won’t speak to the ABC, he has an exclusive contract with SKY.

PM: You see, that’s why you need a Foxtel subscription. But no, you are wrong. these people live on Nauru and Manus, that is their home. Why would we want to uproot them now, after all five years is when you put down roots. How would it be if busybodies from the ABC came around to Lucy and I at Point Piper or at the Lodge and asked us to move to, say, the Cayman Islands : we probably wouldn’t like it would we ?

ABC: Isn’t there a difference to you living in a Point Piper mansion or the Lodge in Canberra and these people living in a tent on Nauru ?

PM: Typical ABC nit-picking as usual.

ABC: The Australian Electoral Commission gave you a range of dates for the upcoming Super-Saturday by-elections together with Pros and cons for each date : you chose 28 July which was the scheduled date of the ALP national conference……

PM: Oh, was it, I didn’t realize that, what a pity, never mind (goes into fit of giggles).

ABC: Michaelia Cash seems to go from one drama to another and tries to lie her way out of every situation or hide behind a whiteboard. When will you call her to account ?

PM: The matter you are talking about is currently under investigation by the Australian Federal Police and has been for seven months and I couldn’t possibly comment on matters that are the subject of this investigation.

ABC: Do you think that we will ever get to the bottom of these raids on the AWU offices and the involvement of Minister Cash and her department in alerting the media in advance ?

PM: I sincerely hope not !

ABC: John Howard has declared his support for the Turnbull government and expects that you will get re-elected. Coming from a man who lost his seat, lost the prime ministership and lost government, do you take heart from this endorsement or do you consider it a kiss of death ?

PM: What was it that Greg Hunt told you to do ? I share his sentiments !

I Have No Qualifications But What the Heck !

I have just been reading about the bizarre goings on in the WA parliament and the barefaced lies told by former Labor MP Barry Urban who was forced to resign before they expelled him and then his replacement, Colleen Yates, who was to stand in the by-election for the state seat of Darling Range, who also sought to deceive the electors and the parliament about her credentials.

First, Barry Urban who had claimed that he held a university degree obtained from the University of Leeds in the UK : that was a lie and Urban not only mislead Parliament and the electorate about his qualifications, he sought to deceive a parliamentary committee by providing a forged degree from the University of Leeds. It appears that Urban had been an English copper in a previous life – he would now be classed as a toe-rag I think is the term. He was then spotted wearing an English police service medal during an ANZAC day parade : he wasn’t entitled to that medal and had bought it online.

As he resigned from parliament before being expelled he is reported to have said : “I am paying a hefty price for my mistakes.”

So, then to his pre-selected replacement, Colleen Yates, who was about to present herself to the WA electorate when an astute journalist decided to run a fairly superficial check on the qualifications she had listed for herself online. They included an MBA from the University of WA on her LinkedIn profile and a Bachelor of Engineering, Master of Architecture from Washington University, among other accomplishments. All turned out to be fake : she had no tertiary qualifications whatsoever. Ms Yates resigned on Friday as Labor’s candidate for Darling Range after admitting to “minor mistakes” on her LinkedIn social media profile.

So many questions arise from these disclosures ranging from the very poor candidate checking procedures within the WA Labor Party to the quality of people putting themselves forward to serve their communities. But, what is quite startling is that when they are caught out they use terms like : “I am paying a hefty price for my mistakes” and reluctant admissions of “minor mistakes”.

In both cases these people use the term ‘mistake’ to explain their propensity to lie and deceive and, turning to the dictionary I find that mistake is defined as an action, decision, or judgment that produces an unwanted or unintentional result. Well, there certainly was an unintended result : they got caught out !

But what I’m not hearing is an apology for misleading and deceiving their political party, and the Australian public. OK this was WA but if two candidates for the same seat both turn out to be lying toads what are the odds spread across all parties, federal and state, nationally : those of you with a mathematical bent may be able to calculate those odds but it can’t be looking good.

Come the next election, I may just become a fake elector and tell everybody that I voted when in fact I had drawn something rude on the ballot paper !

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Show Me Your Papers!

Do you carry ‘papers’? You know the sort of thing we saw in the movie Casablanca where Nazi SS officers would demand to see your papers and if you didn’t have any or they weren’t in order, you would be in big trouble. Generally speaking, we don’t carry ‘papers’ in Australia but Peter Dutton is going to change all that.

You probably heard that the Federal Government wants to give police and the ABF the power to carry out random identity checks without cause at the nation’s airports, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull citing the “dangerous times” facing the nation as justification.

Mr Turnbull and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton will unveil plans to roll out new legislation along with an already announced $294 million package to boost security at domestic airports and introduce new measures in regional centres.

The Prime Minister said anyone travelling through the nation’s airports could be subject to the new powers.

“The justification for changing the law so that police at an airport can ask you to identify yourself, the justification is the safety of the Australian people,” Mr Turnbull told reporters at Melbourne Airport.

Under current laws, police can only ask for proof of identity with reasonable cause if they suspect a person has or will commit a serious offence.

“There’s certain conditions that need to be met at the moment before police can ask for that identification, which is an absurdity, and it is an issue the police have raised with us,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton argued.

So, if you’re off to the airport to pick up Aunt Maud and you just slip on a T-shirt and shorts and head off make sure you take your ‘papers’ with you because Peter Dutton wants to see them and he doesn’t mean your Coffee Club loyalty card. He wants to know why you are at the airport, what your name is and where you come from; if you don’t have photo ID with you, you will be escorted to one of those unmarked rooms at the airport for questioning … and it won’t be the Qantas Club lounge. Mr Dutton would then like to waterboard you – you can never be too careful he says – until you confess to being a foreign agent or even a member of the Labor Party. Aunt Maud will probably also be taken down as she enters the arrivals lounge.

Do you remember back in August 2015 when Peter Dutton wanted Australian Border Force (ABF) officers to check people’s papers on the streets of Melbourne? Officers were to be positioned at various locations around the city and would speak “with any individual we cross paths with”, ABF regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania Don Smith said in a statement.

That little adventure was quickly knocked on the head when there was a massive public outcry about the creation of a police state and racial profiling. But Mr Dutton hasn’t finished with us yet, he has a very singular view of Australians, possibly formed in the years when he was a Queensland copper; he thinks we are all shifty and unreliable and he will frequently support this view by reference to the fact that some of us vote for Labor and the minor parties.

The next move by Obergruppenführer Dutton will surely be the issue of Australia Cards with photo ID and to receive one of these you will need to know the names of all Liberal Prime Ministers since federation and the political hierarchy of the Downer dynasty including Georgina the most recent political aspirant from that family, fresh from the IPA indoctrination camp.

The introduction of the Australia Card with Iris recognition algorithms is inevitable in the brave new world of Duttomania. Let’s just consider the aforementioned Aunt Maud who had been taken into an unmarked interrogation room at the airport and subjected to questioning and a strip-search but because she doesn’t drive she doesn’t have a photo ID driver’s licence and whilst she proffered her Medicare Card and her Woolies orange Rewards Card these were insufficient proof of her indentity. The options for the ABF are to return her on the first available flight to Mildura or hold her in detention indefinitely until a third country claims her.

The question for you is, do you know where your maiden aunts are right now?

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