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Assange has a Window of Opportunity!

In a fairly lengthy judgement, District Judge (Magistrates’ Court) Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London has given Julian Assange breathing space by denying the application for his extradition to the USA, made by the Trump administration. This extradition essentially for publishing information provided to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning was not pursued by the Obama administration who evidently considered that issues of freedom of speech would make a prosecution unlikely : Obama also commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning who had been the original source of the Wikileaks releases.

Interestingly one of the arguments against the extradition raised by Assange’s team was that there exists in international law a Right to Truth and that in publishing the information Wikileaks, despite the embarrassment to the government of the USA, was merely publishing the truth. The Judge rejected that defence :

138.The defence have not established that the principle of the “right to the truth” is a legal rule that is recognised in either international law or domestic law. They identify no international convention or treaty that enshrines it as a free-standing legal right,still less one that has been ratified by the government and incorporated into domestic law. I accept that the phrase “right to the truth” appears in UN resolutions adopted by several UN bodies, but I have been provided with no authority to demonstrate that this translates into a right enforceable in English courts. I therefore reject the defence submissions that this principle would render Mr. Assange’s acts lawful in this jurisdiction.

This finding will no doubt be the subject of much interest and discussion in journalistic circles.

Judge Baraitser in her judgement skimmed over or dismissed several arguments concerning freedom of speech and other human rights issues and went straight to the Extradition Act 2003 (UK) and the physical and mental condition of Assange and his suitability for extradition balanced with the possibility or indeed probability that he would seek to commit suicide while in detention in the USA.The section of the act that the judge has relied on reads :

91 Physical or mental condition

(1)This section applies if at any time in the extradition hearing it appears to the judge that the condition in subsection (2) is satisfied.

(2)The condition is that the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.

(3)The judge must—

(a)order the person’s discharge, or

(b)adjourn the extradition hearing until it appears to him that the condition in subsection (2) is no longer satisfied.

Accordingly, with ample medical and psychiatric expert evidence the Judge made the Order [at 410]

“I order the discharge of Julian Paul Assange,pursuant to section 91(3) of the Extradition Act 2003.”

Even so on Wednesday UK time an application will be made to release Assange on bail pending what is likely to be a long and drawn out appeal process, if that course is adopted by the incoming Biden administration. Based on the judge’s findings concerning Assange’s ‘physical or mental’ condition it would seem that the bail application must surely succeed rather than continue his incarceration at Britain’s Belmarsh High Security jail where COVID-19 is also a very real risk : in the judgement the judge noted [at 346] that ” I find that Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide,if an extradition order were to be made,to be substantial”.

The difficulty for Assange is that, whilst he may be bailed and ultimately acquitted in the UK there is always the possibility that, should he return to Australia or another jurisdiction outside of the UK, he could again be confronted with an extradition request from a future vindictive US administration unless, of course, he receives a pardon from incoming President Biden or, less likely, the outgoing Trump administration.

We shall see, but at least things are heading in a positive direction for Assange despite his having been all but abandoned by the Morrison government.

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Now would be a good time to pick up the phone to Beijing, Scomo !

I’m paraphrasing some media reports from the past week :

“An Australian expeditioner has been medically evacuated from Antarctica, following a multinational effort by land, air and sea that spanned thousands of miles on the remote continent.

The Australian, United States and Chinese Antarctic programs collaborated on the five-day operation, which Australian officials on Friday called “an outstanding success” thanks to teamwork and, of course, good weather during the Antarctic summer.

“The synergy of operating capabilities, incredible expertise and a favourable weather window enabled us to bring the patient back from Antarctica to Australia within a week,” said Kim Ellis, the Australian Antarctic Division director, in a statement.

Officials declined to release information about the individual, citing medical confidentiality, but said the patient’s condition is not related to COVID-19. The patient had been stationed at the Davis research station in east Antarctica.

The Chinese icebreaker MV Xue Long 2 happened to be in transit to China’s Zhongshan station, about 75 miles from Davis, officials said. On Dec. 20, the ship’s helicopters transferred a team of Davis expeditioners to a site 25 miles inland, where they spent several days constructing a ski landing area or skiway.

Australian expeditioners constructed a skiway for aircraft equipped with skis at a site near the Davis research station.

Meanwhile, 870 miles east along the southern Antarctic coast, another team worked to prepare a glacial runway at the Australian-operated Wilkins Aerodrome. The aerodrome is a terminal for intercontinental air service, located about 40 miles southeast of Australia’s Casey Station.

The U.S. flew a ski-equipped aircraft 1,300 miles from its McMurdo Station in Antarctica to the aerodrome, where it picked up an Australian doctor. It then made a 1,700-mile round trip to retrieve the patient from the skiway near Davis and return to the aerodrome.

From there, an Australian Airbus A319 picked up the expeditioner and flew some 1,800 miles to the city of Hobart, Australia, arriving just before Christmas Eve.”

The weather in Antarctica briefly offered a window of opportunity : the diplomatic window has also opened briefly – a wise leader would seize this opportunity to extend the hand of friendship, cooperation and mutual respect to the Chinese in recognition of their unconditional and vital support in this medical evacuation… and then keep talking.

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Red’s Under the Bed in Tasmania or Uncle Eric’s Got Your Back !

One of the odd provisions of our now dilapidated and ramshackle Constitution is the manner in which the composition of our Senate is mandated : each original state gets twelve senators and the mainland Territories, two each – a total of seventy six. Paul Keating once designated this esteemed group of odd balls as ‘unrepresentative swill’.

What Keating was pointing to is the way that some states perhaps have a disproportionate influence on our upper House and the wisdom emanating from the Red Chamber. For instance, Tasmania with a population of around half a million has the same Senate representation as New South Wales, with a bit over eight million, Victoria at six and a half million and Queensland around five million and so on.

So, with this clear imbalance you would be forgiven if you thought that our Senate is supporting a gerrymander : defined as ‘a practice intended to establish an unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating boundaries (and populations) in such a way as to favour one group over another’.

In effect, the make up of our Senate does clearly favour the likes of Tasmania and to a lesser extent the Territories by giving their respective senators disproportionate influence. Hence the need periodically for the government of the day to ‘bribe’ certain senators to get their vote on a piece of scurrilous legislation to, for instance ban humane medical evacuation of sick and ailing refugees from remote Pacific islands – looking at you Senator Lambie !

So why do I raise this now, you may ask ? Well it was during the week when Senate Estimates were underway – a bit like a Star Chamber where senators get to ask difficult questions of public servants and others : questions like “who didn’t get a Cartier watch at Australia Post ?” or trick questions like “how much did you pay for a block of land at Badgery’s Creek valued at $3million ?”

Or as happened when Tasmania’s crazy uncle, Eric Abetz fronted up and asked three Australian citizens of Chinese heritage :

“Can I ask each of the three witnesses … to tell me whether they are willing to unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party …”

What an odd question even from uncle Eric. Can you imagine being asked in another setting whether you were prepared to unconditionally denounce and condemn the Liberal Party of Australia : the National Party not so much of an issue as nobody admits to being a supporter of the Nationals do they ?

For some reason it reminds me of the question posed of the philosopher Voltaire by a priest providing Last Rites to the dying Voltaire : “do you renounce Satan and all his works” asked the Priest. Voltaire never one to be easily tricked is said to have replied, “Father, would you not agree that this is no time to be making enemies ?”

Wisely, the three Australian Chinese undergoing questioning probably thought of Voltaire and declined to answer this nasty line of questioning.

Uncle Eric says there is nothing racist about his question and he just doesn’t want people of an Asian persuasion coming to this country and harbouring feelings of affection for the land of their birth and its political arrangements. A far as Eric is concerned, if you respect a regime that has in twenty years brought a billion people out of poverty into middle-class prosperity you are a ratbag and you should be sent ‘home’ preferably after spending ten years on one of Spud Dutton’s remote islands.

Senate Estimates is the best show in town, perhaps they could learn something from SAS and do us all a favour by pushing Uncle Eric out of a helicopter backwards : now that’s reality TV !

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On your bike, Roop!

When Rupert Murdoch decided to shut down 112 regional newspapers around Australia he did it in the typical Murdoch fashion. He was not satisfied with the returns from these regional mastheads so rather than sell them off to people who weren’t so concerned about a bottom line but who had a passion for journalism and for their community and who could make them work, he decided to completely shut-down 36 and move 76 behind a digital paywall.

Evidently staff found out through internal rumours and leaks on the Newscorp grapevine and then had their worst fears confirmed when retrenchments were announced, accompanied by the usual bland managerial double-speak.

Executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, Michael Miller, awarded the dreaded DCM (Don’t Come Monday) awards, thanked the departing employees for their “professionalism, dedication and contribution” and spoke in glowing terms of the 112 publications, saying :

“They have provided News with invaluable years of service, Their passionate commitment to the communities in which they live and work and their role in ensuring these have been informed and served by trusted local media has been substantial.”

I know that in my local area there was a general sigh as we contemplated the loss of our valued weekly newspaper, The Tablelander. No longer would we have all that local coverage that turns a disparate region into a community. The happenings at local council meetings, the names and shames of those who got pinged for DUI ; the local footy, golfing and bowls results ; and best of all the rantings in the Letters to the Editor. Not to mention the births, deaths and marriages and the weekly crossword.

They tell us that they can’t make money any longer from these publications, many of which have been around for more that a hundred years and were hoovered up by the Murdoch clan principally from the APN group at a time when Murdoch had decided that he wanted a monopoly of news distribution in this wide brown land. In my own neck of the woods in Far North Queensland we have access to three daily newspapers (Cairns Post, Courier Mail and the Australian) all owned by Newscorp and all, it seems, under direction to adopt a right-wing stance on pretty well everything. At the present time, with a state election looming in October, they are ranting against Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk largely because she has been committed to keeping Queensland free of COVID-19 as far as that is possible : in my local area we are thankful that her efforts have kept us free of this hideous virus with minimal disruption to our daily life. We are also thankful that her policies have kept this virus out of the aboriginal communities of the Cape York and Gulf regions and the Torres Strait islands. A cavalier approach of let it rip as demanded by Newscorp and its television outlet, Sky-after-dark would have been a disaster.

To say that these local newspapers were uneconomical is strange when you consider that most of the advertising revenue is drawn from the local community with no obvious interference from online platforms like Facebook and Google. The ads come from the automobile dealers, the local real estate agents, from the butcher, the grocer, the local traders and retailers, plus trade services and the classifieds. If you can’t turn a quid out of that lot, Rupert, you’re not trying.

In my local area of the Atherton Tablelands (far North Queensland) this media vacuum has thankfully been quickly filled by a pre-existing privately run weekly publication called The Express. Operated by a small but dedicated band of local people this independent, over the counter tabloid has stepped up and assumed the mantle abandoned by Murdoch. The gratifying thing is that the advertisers have followed and quality news content with a local focus has been maintained and enhanced : congratulations to all concerned.

Down the range from me, in Cairns, a similar thing is happening with a new independent weekly tabloid titled Cairns Local News publishing every Friday, with the first issue on September 18.

Clearly there will always be a demand for local stories and local advertising and I would like to think that what has occurred locally is happening elsewhere in Australia and that we are seeing a resurgence of independent regional journalism.

How are things in your neck of the woods ?

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Busy, Busy, Busy !

It was another busy morning at the Trump White House. Morning tweets were completed during bathroom time then hair and makeup performed their magic while POTUS consumed a breakfast of cheeseburgers, followed by a hydroxychloroquine capsule all washed down with a can of coke.

Next the freshly coiffured leader of the western world, sporting a disturbing orange glow [courtesy of Thin Lizzy Cosmetics] was off to the Oval Office for a promo on behalf of Goya Food Products : Ivanka was already in the frame clutching a can of Goya fava beans for the camera.

Jared (Kushner) sits in the corner nervously chewing his fingernails – not sure that his excellent adventure bringing about peace in the Middle East is enough to get him re-elected. Ivanka reminds him that they were not actually elected, ‘it’s known as nepotism’ she points out ‘with side benefits’.

POTUS positions himself behind the Presidential desk posing for the cameras with an array of Goya products and a creepy smile.

Next it’s a meeting with NBC executives who are considering another season of The Apprentice with Donald reviving the role that made him famous and perhaps one that he should have stuck with. Then it’s off for a quick eighteen holes and lunch with his buddies.

Down the corridor Mike (the knife) Pompeo is also planning for his future. This morning he is excited about a meeting scheduled with network bosses who are considering reviving The Sopranos crime series with Mikey assuming the role of Tony Soprano vacated by the late James Gandolfini.

Meanwhile at the Democratic headquarters presidential hopeful Sleepy Joe Biden sits at a desk in the basement behind his COVID-19 face mask. But is it Uncle Joe ? The Democrats are not taking any chances and have lined up a few Biden lookalikes who can step up at a moments notice ; much as Hollywood did with replacement dogs in the Lassie series or piglets in Babe.

On the shoulders of Uncle Joe rest the aspirations of a nation, their most fervent hope being that he stay erect – in the nicest possible way – until at least the inauguration.

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Heads they win, Tails you lose!

It’s not easy being a politician. Every day there are challenges that the average punter doesn’t have to face.

Just take the dilemma that Stuart Robert, Dan Tehan and Simon Birmingham had to face last year when deciding whether to go from Canberra to Sydney for a Liberal Party piss up. They had booked their flights and had their staffers book them into an upmarket Sydney hotel when some pesky intern in the minister’s office had the temerity to ask “but who’s going to pay?”

This was a Liberal Party fundraiser with seating, within winking distance of one of these luminaries, costing around $10,000 a head; that included a rubber chicken dinner, a glass of spumante and an elbow nudge with your favourite minister – it’s not clear if a bathroom encounter across a urinal was an optional extra.

The round trip including accommodation came in at $4,500 and it was this that the young intern was questioning: who’s going to pay for that?

Well, as The AIMN alumni will readily recall, we have been down this particular rabbit hole before and really it’s a rhetorical question as we know who’s going to pay, don’t we?

Remember, there was show me the chopper, Bronnie who travelled to a Liberal Party fundraiser by helicopter at the expense of the taxpayer. She was busted and had to go. She now delights us on a daily basis from Murdoch’s murky basement that we have come to know as Sky after Dark.

Not to mention former federal health minister Sussan Ley who found it necessary to make numerous trips to the Gold Coast on electoral business at the taxpayer’s expense. The more attentive among you will have noted that her electorate is the federal division of Farrer in NSW. So you may well ask why would she be attending the needs of her electorate from the Gold Coast whilst coincidentally viewing luxury investment properties … if that is the question you are raising, let it be known that Spud Dutton has your name and is likely to be popping a tracking device into your shopping bag at the first opportunity.

Anyhow, for Sussan, she had to stand down and went into a Liberal party re-education program which worked out very well as she has now been fully rehabilitated and is fronting as the minister for the environment: yes, the Gold Coast is part of the environment so it’s win-win!

So it was determined that we couldn’t go on stiffing the taxpayer for ministerial frolics so what is known as the dominant purpose test was introduced which basically means that the bean-counters in Treasury will identify, based on the information provided by the minister, what the dominant purpose of the trip was. If it was fair-dinkum ministerial or government business then you and I pay for it. If not, then the minister or the Liberal party pays – stop laughing this is serious!

There is also the which came first test which allows Treasury to determine if the ministerial business was just an afterthought and the real purpose of the trip was to get on the slops with your mates in Sydney. Timing thus becomes critical to this evaluation: which diversionary activity was first cab off the rank. This involves tossing a coin and making a couple of quick phone calls

Back to our three heroes. They decided that it was far more suitable and appropriate for you and I to pay for this trip rather than troubling their own pockets or those of the Liberal Party.

This morning Minister for Education, Dan Tehan told the ABC that he had a long-standing commitment to visit a school in Sydney – the name of which eluded him – and this was the dominant purpose of the trip and the Liberal party fundraiser was but a serendipitous coincidence that he happened to include in his busy program.

Stuart Robert, Minister for Government Services [remember his dodgy home internet usage – nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more !] believes he may have been chasing a pensioner in Bankstown for welfare overpayments that robodebt had missed and the fundraiser was just a happy marriage of interests in his very busy schedule.

Simon Birmingham, Minister for trade is still checking his diary and will get back to us but I can guarantee you that he was probably keeping a long-term prior commitment to see a man about a dog.

Heads they win, tails you lose!

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A couple of items in the news that caught my attention in an ever changing and sometimes confusing world :

Coalition to stop using Orwellian Doublespeak [for the time being]

In his novel, 1984 George Orwell introduced political doublespeak – using language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words to disguise the truth. Examples include the Coalition’s Ensuring Integrity Bill that has been languishing in the Senate.

Scott Morrison told the Canberra Press Club that the government has decided it “will not pursue a further vote in the Senate” on its Ensuring Integrity Bill.

He also told the Press Club that the coalition had not abandoned its commitment to “lawful behaviour of registered organisations”, and it would reconsider the “simplest, fairest and most effective statutory form” to give effect to that in the future – there’s another example of doublespeak.

So, in effect he has not abandoned the union bashing legislation but as he can’t get it through the Senate without Jacquie Lambie’s vote he has withdrawn it until another statutory format presents itself : Lambie was unlikely to support the coalition on this one having been dudded by Dutton on the Medevac repeal law – once bitten twice shy is our Jacquie.

There are still several dozen refugees and asylum seekers locked up on one floor of the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Vic. in indefinite detention limbo after receiving urgent medical attention under the Medevac law – they’ve been there for six months.

Off to Court – maybe !

The Israeli courts have found that former Melbourne teacher Malka Leifer is fit to stand trial for extradition to Australia, where she is wanted on paedophilia charges.

The ruling in the Jerusalem District Court came after a long legal battle to get the ex-principal, who is accused of sexually abusing students, returned to Australia – she was spirited out of Australia in 2008 after accusations were made against her.

Ms Leifer, 52, faces 74 charges of sexually assaulting female students during her time at the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel school in Elsternwick in Melbourne’s south-east.

Leifa has used every trick in the book to avoid justice including her own mental capacity to stand trial. All have now been quashed by the court but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s on her way back to Australia to face justice : the extradition application has yet to be approved.

No doubt our own Kathy Jackson has been watching this news with interest as she considers her next move in trying to further delay her day in court on criminal charges of having allegedly misappropriated union funds from the Health Services Union (HSU) where she had been national secretary between January 2008 and February 2015. In a civil action mounted by the HSU in August 2015, Jackson was found to have misappropriated union funds and was ordered to repay $1.4 million in compensation – that cheque is still in the mail evidently.

Jackson has already tried the mental health excuse to delay the criminal case against her as well as the the dog ate my homework [in this case a flood damaged documents apparently]. She also needed to apply for legal aid having transferred her assets to her partner after the civil case – and having petitioned for bankruptcy. Then she called for a further delay whilst she instructed a new lawyer for her defence. With jury trials now having been suspended due to COVID-19 matters, it is unlikely that she will see the inside of a courtroom this year.

They say that justice delayed is justice denied and there is no doubt that our Kath has tested the patience of our justice system. The question is, will she succeed in getting the case permanently stayed because she and her sixty-eight witnesses have been prejudiced due to the six year delay even though the bulk of the forensic evidence had already been uncovered by the civil court and the delays have been largely part of her tactics. Or will the long arm of the law eventually catch up with her ?


Twitter has decided to flag Tweets from President Trump (and others) that are either defamatory or outright perversions of the truth.

It came to a head when Trump Tweeted misleading and deceptive information on the California election arrangements for mail-in voting – much like the postal voting system in Australia. Trump is opposed to postal voting as he considers it puts him and Republicans at a disadvantage. Too much democracy is not good for the Republicans it seems.

The Twitter policy was introduced on 11 May and applied hours after Trump’s tweets initially went out because they violated Twitter’s “civic integrity policy”. The integrity policy bans users from “manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”, such as posting misleading information that could distort the voting process and in some cases discourage people from participating in an election.

Trump responded with a pair of tweets that repeated his false claims about voting and accused Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election”. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he wrote.

The question is : can you think of another global media outlet that will publish and disseminate right-wing lies and ideological perversions without question ?

It’s in the Bag !

On 8 May NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller received an $87,000 pay rise taking him to $649,500 a year and one of NSW’s highest paid public servants. Yesterday (27 May) NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a twelve month pay freeze for all public servants in the state.

If I were Mick, I’d buy a Lotto ticket, he’s on a run.


So there you go !

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‘A Bigger Picture’ or Malcolm’s Adventures in Wonderland!

On Monday, Malcolm Turnbull’s memoir A Bigger Picture, will be released. Already the Turnbull haters mainly at Newscorp and SKY are ripping into him for having chosen the middle of a pandemic to launch his reflections on his life and times in politics. In reality, with so many folk at home in lock-down, perhaps this is a propitious time to be launching a memoir.

I haven’t read the book and may not, at least until it reaches the remainders bin at our local market. It is a large tome and I understand that it runs to a bit under 700 pages – thoughts of a doorstop come to mind after all Margaret Thatcher’s biography is looking a bit dog-eared.

Overall, the commentators without an axe to grind are recognising him as a good writer and humorous raconteur and evidently we come to learn a lot more about Malcolm’s early years than many of us would previously have been aware. We can expect in the next week that the Abbott supporters – yes there were such folk mainly at Newscorp and Sky, will rip into Turnbull and try to diminish his legacy.

I’m not saying he has a towering legacy like, say Churchill or Spike Milligan, who both in their own way did the world a favour by seeing off Hitler. But Malcolm did rid us of that pestiferous, strutting twerp, Abbott and that gave many of us a warm feeling for him, initially .

There is little doubt in my mind that Turnbull is his own man and that he’s a pretty honourable sort of cove when compared with the rabble he came to lead.

Being prime minister must have been a bit like being headmaster at school for wayward adolescents.

He recalls on one occasion how two senior members of his staff brought news that a Daily Telegraph reporter had learned that Barnaby Joyce, then deputy prime minister, had accompanied his press secretary, Vikki Campion, to a doctor’s appointment. The purpose, it was understood, was for Campion to have a pregnancy test. He initially accepted Joyce’s assurance he was supporting Campion because she had no family to help her through a difficult time. “He gave me an unequivocal assurance he wasn’t in a sexual relationship with Vikki,” Turnbull writes. This had the ring of truth as you may recall there was much speculation about immaculate conceptions at the time.

Not long afterwards – well into the third trimester they tell me – Campion was again photographed by the Tele this time in a state of advanced pregnancy which even Barnaby could no longer ignore. He fessed up on this occasion and Turnbull was shocked to find that his Deputy, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia who would be running the country in his absence, had lied to him. No suggestion of an immaculate conception this time ; Barnaby had done the deed !

Joyce duly fell on his sword – is that what they call it now ? – and Headmaster Turnbull issued the “bonk ban” edict to his ministers.

No sooner had Joyce resigned and moved on to warm and cuddly interviews with Vikki in the Australian Women’s Weekly than the head prefect, in the form of Andrew Colvin, AFP Commissioner, had to inform the prime minister that young Georgie Christensen a Queensland LNP member of our parliament had been spending inordinate amounts of time in the Philippines. Staying at “seedy hotels” in Angeles City, the red-light areas of Manila, where he patronised girly bars and bought drinks for all and sundry. The Australian Federal Police were concerned that as a member of our parliament he may become a target for blackmail. Headmaster Turnbull must have wondered what sort of nut House he had wandered into when, in speaking of Christensen’s absence from his electorate whilst in the Philippines he said : “it beggars belief” an MP could spend nearly a third of the year overseas, on full pay, with the Nationals (federal National Party) either not knowing or not caring. “The hypocrisy made me sick.”

The rest is history and I am sure that if you are so inclined, you will read the book when it’s released on Monday. Suffice to say that Malcolm is now out of politics and probably reflecting on how he ever got into that Canberra bubble. Perhaps he takes some comfort from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland :

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here !

In conclusion, it is interesting to note that both Joyce and Christensen are still in our parliament and were returned with increased majorities at the last election : what does that say about us as a nation !

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Challenging Times!

Did you hear about the elderly couple who were wrestled to the sand by NSW Police with Australian Border Force backup, on Bronte Beach shortly after dawn this morning. The following exchange is said to have taken place :

Police Officer : Cuff them, constable and if they give you any lip, taser them.

Elderly Man : But officer we haven’t done anything wrong, we always take our constitutional along the beach at this time of the day.

Officer : You and your accomplice are in breach of regulations, to wit : assembling in a public place adjacent to the Pacific Ocean where five hundred people or more may [or may not] gather and not maintaining a distance of at least 1.5 meters between you and your accomplice.

Man : She’s not my accomplice, she’s my wife of fifty-five years and could you not sit on my chest and please have your officer remove his boot from my wife’s throat. We didn’t know we were breaking the law, nobody told us about these regulations.

Officer : H’ignorance of the law is no excuse and should you or your moll persist in these illegal activities I will have no alternative but to hand you over to Australian Border Force which could mean a period of indefinite detention on a remote island.

Man : She’s not my moll, she’s my wife and we are law abiding citizens officer and won’t be causing any problems for you. We will be keeping a low profile for the rest of the day and just popping into the RSL for a counter-lunch later : spotted-dick is on special this week.

Officer : Right constable read them their rights, clearly they are repeat offenders. Should you, sir, or your collaborator, be found within the vicinity of the Bronte RSL you will immediately be arrested and detained for intensive questioning and re-education. You will also forfeit your meat and three veg and if in possession of a spotted-dick you will both be prosecuted.

Man : Oh ! OK ! I don’t pretend to understand what’s going on but we are law abiding citizens and will just have a quick surf to get the sand off and then go home.

Officer : Right constable, taser them and call in reinforcements we are dealing with recidivists here.

‘Ooroo folks, keep smiling and don’t forget to wash your hands !

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A story with a moral, or when not to add water!

Listening to the endless chatter about coronavirus, COVID19, I was struck by the number of commentators who have been talking about the growth of the virus in the community as being exponential.

One, less than helpful, definition of exponential is this :

“Exponential growth is a specific way that a quantity may increase over time. It occurs when the instantaneous rate of change (that is, the derivative) of a quantity with respect to time is proportional to the quantity itself.”

Perhaps a more useful illustration of exponential growth is the rice on the chessboard equation.

The myth tells us that an ancient sage (picture Rupert Murdoch if you will) invented the chessboard and the game of chess and presented it to the Emperor (picture Donald Trump – with or without clothes – if you must ) and the Emperor was so taken by this invention that he offered the ancient sage anything he wanted as a reward for his ingenuity.

Rupert, the ancient sage, never being one to miss an opportunity, asked the Emperor only for one grain of rice, placed on the first square of the chessboard, two grains on the next, four on the next ; doubling until all sixty-four squares were covered. The Emperor who was not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer eagerly agreed to this request thinking what a great deal he had done – after all he was the greatest deal-maker in the world !

So the Palace (White House) servants started to apply the grains of rice, doubling square by square on the chessboard as instructed by the Emperor, who had gone off to play a round golf as was his custom.

Around the eleventh hole – his card prepared the night before showed that he had scored a hole-in-one on the 3rd and 5th – the Emperor received a tweet telling him that a problem had arisen and that the the West Wing of the Palace had collapsed under the weight of rice exuding from the Oval Office.

The Emperor was the victim of exponential growth and the remorseless application of compounding maths : as explained by this YouTube video.

This application of exponential growth had led to the sixty-fourth and final square of the chessboard having some eighteen quintillion grains of rice stacked on it : or the equivalent of 210 billion tonnes of rice which is quite a lot when you consider that global rice production for 2019 was around 500 million tonnes.

So the moral of this story resides in what happened next and, as with all fables there was a happy ending, depending on your point of view.

The ancient sage who we are calling ‘Rupert’ contracted the virus as did the Emperor who we are calling ‘Donald’. When they presented at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta Georgia they were subjected to triaging along with the rest of the population and as they were both over sixty-five they were turned away in favour of younger patients : so they both died !

Don’t forget to wash your hands, folks.

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ASIO worried about the Right Wing Nutters – aren’t we all !

When ASIO director-general Mike Burgess took aim at the “hateful ideology” of rightwing extremists it rattled a few cages in rightwing covens and cliques around Australia.

Surely he meant Leftwing nutters cried Rightwing extremist Peter Dutton: emerging from his lair, Mr Dutton said that it was important for security agencies to deal with threats from both rightwing and leftwing “lunatics”.

Rightwing spear-chucker and Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells attacked the ASIO chief for using the term “rightwing” when warning of the growing threat of rightwing extremism, saying it offended conservatives*.

*Conservatives are rightwing people who must not be offended under any circumstances – see IPA rulebook 13.1.

On Sky-after-Dark they were apoplectic in re-interpreting what the ASIO boss had said and clearly he wasn’t having a go at rightwingers like them.

Well, actually he was and whilst he didn’t single out Bolt, Credlin, Kenny, Murray and others in the Sky crèche, he obviously had them in mind as well as their shadowy alma mater the Institute of Public Affairs where rightwing grooming goes on to this day [and, so they tell me, selfflagellation].

So, I think we can safely assume that the ASIO boss knew exactly what he was talking about and it wasn’t a threat from those nice people on the Left but the extremist on the Right who are committed to tearing down Australia’s institutions – I’m not talking about the Sydney Institute but the good and wholesome things that we all treasure, like Medicare and the ABC.

It has to be said that the terms Right and Left have become somewhat confused in recent times. In Australia, for instance, we call a rightwing political party ‘Liberal’ which is clearly a contradiction in terms. Similarly, rightwing used to imply certain religious connotations meaning that somebody of the right held religious beliefs and was guided by religious principles. But that has gone by the board with religious zealots in politics finding it quite acceptable to tell lies and provide misleading information to a confused and increasingly cynical electorate.

In their origins, the terms spring from French Revolution (1789–1799) and they originally referred to seating arrangements in the French Parliament: those who sat to the right of the chair of the parliamentary president were broadly supportive of the institutions of the monarchy and the landowning class. Whilst those sitting to the left of the chair were more concerned about social equity, fairness and the rights of the people.

So, in simple terms it was very much as we see it today in Australia: the rich are on the right and they don’t agree with being taxed but they are very much in favour of those on the Left paying tax – that’s democracy.

What, then is to be done about this confusion? Mr Dutton has suggested that the ASIO director-general should be sacked or at the very minimum sent to an IPA re-education camp in the Blue Mountains. That could be a bit difficult as the prime minister has already booked out the re-education facility for the Auditor General and other members of the Australian National Audit Office who were caught out telling the truth at Senate Estimates in matters concerning the sports-rorts affair.

For those of us on the Left, we need to heed the warning from the ASIO chief and sharpen our antennae for spotting any of these rightwing nut jobs before they wreck the joint. Should you spot any of the aforesaid rightwing nutters, call your mum she’s the only person you can trust – but keep an eye on her particularly if she starts saying things like ‘I do so miss Gerard Henderson on Insiders, he’s so balanced’!


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Where’s Uncle Arfur when you need him ?

Here’s a quiz for you !

You are the prime minster and you want to stop Barnaby Joyce shouting in your ear about building coal-fired power stations in Queensland. You have a slush fund – well several actually – and decide to allocate $4 million dollars to fund a feasibility study on the merits, both economic and environmental, of building a coal-fired power station in somewhere like Collinsville in central Queensland.

To carry out this feasibility study you need to appoint an entity who will approach the matter with academic and scientific rigour ; but probably not too much – do you select :

A. a small mining company with no money and no experience but with a strong desire to operate a publicly funded coal-fired power station and who are well connected with the National Party ?

B. the CSIRO or other suitably qualified impartial body with the ability to objectively review the options from a scientific, economic and environmental perspective ?


C. Matt Canavan’s Uncle Arfur ?

If you chose C. you are clearly a ‘woke’ person in tune with the nuances and subtleties of present day political life. But you would be wrong as Matt Canavan doesn’t have an Uncle Arfur and despite Barnaby Joyce calling this a mere technicality, we are after all talking about taxpayers money and the National Audit Office will be looking over your shoulder.

B. is also incorrect, as Barnaby has noted of the CSIRO : ‘they are all sandal wearing, latte sipping, chardonnay gulping leftie wankers, with namby-pamby university degrees and doctorates : clearly socialists and entirely unsuitable for a scientific appraisal of this type.

So you turn to option A. which quite obviously meets all the criteria and even Bridget McKenzie with one eye closed could have told you this is the way to go.

So, how do you find this small, impecunious shelf company with aspirations to operating a coal-fired power station : well, here’s a clue, you don’t need to refer to the Yellow pages as Barnaby and Matt have a lot of mates.

The government have decided that $4 million will be given to Shine Energy to conduct the feasibility study for the proposed 1GW HELE [high efficient low emission] coal plant at Collinsville. Shine Energy, depending on what their feasibility study shows, want to build a 1-gigawatt plant at a cost of $2 billion which evidently would be funded by the person you see in the mirror every morning. Shine Energy had an engineering firm conduct a concept study which it has refused to release publicly, but CEO Ashley Dodd said it found the project was viable – of course it did ! Let’s hope that the feasibility study, which we have no doubt will find a new coal-fired power plant eminently desirable, is not hidden from public view.

So, are Shine Energy the best people to be conducting this feasibility study ? According to media reports :

“The only physical trace of Shine Energy, which wants to build a $2bn coal-fired power station in north Queensland, is a small post office box next to an Asian grocer at a suburban Brisbane shopping complex. The same mailbox is shared by more than a dozen online businesses, including the maker of a metal card that spuriously claims to improve the quality of wine.

Company documents show Shine Energy is worth a nominal $1,000 on paper. It has no registered financial obligations, and no physical office at its listed address.

On its website, Shine describes its business as providing “renewable energy solutions”, but the company could offer no evidence that it or its directors, mostly Birri and Widi traditional owners, has ever previously worked on an energy generation project.”

Clearly Shine in the cynical view of this government are the best people to be carrying out this feasibility study – I beg to differ. I tend to be dismissive of so much of the bumbling malfeasance of this coalition government, but somewhere, sometime we have to draw the line and to be using public money as a pacifier for the National party loudmouths is just going too far.

Enough is enough !

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Trusting Jacquie !

When Jacquie Lambie appeared on Q&A I thought that finally we would get some answers on why she allowed her pivotal vote in the Senate to repeal the medevac laws. The laws had been introduced on a private members Bill sponsored by Kerryn Phelps, Andrew Wilkie, Adam Bandt, Julia Banks and Rebekha Sharkie on 6 December 2018 and formally known as the Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018.

The purpose of the Bill was quite simply stated as :

‘Amends the Migration Act 1958 to: require the temporary transfer to Australia of transitory persons on Manus Island or Nauru, and their families, if they are assessed by two or more treating doctors as requiring medical treatment; and require the temporary transfer of all children and their families from offshore detention to Australia for the purpose of medical or psychiatric assessment.’

The need for this Bill had been driven by the 2014 tragic and unnecessary death of a young man in a Brisbane hospital after he had contracted a leg infection on Manus Island where he had been held in detention by Australian immigration authorities. Brisbane Coroner Mr Terry Ryan found his death followed “a series of clinical errors and delays, including a lack of antibiotics on Manus Island to treat tropical infections and a failure by Australian immigration officials to urgently grant a doctor’s request for the twenty-four-year-old asylum seeker to be transferred to Australia for life-saving treatment “.

The coroner found the Australian Government had not met its responsibility to detainees such as Mr Hamid Khazaei to provide health care that was “broadly comparable” to that available in Australia. The coroner recommended a systemic overhaul of healthcare responses in offshore detention, including a new policy to allow doctors on the ground, rather than Canberra officials, to approve medical transfers.

So the medevac Bill came into existence as a Private Members Bill and passed into the law of the land without the support of the minority government who pledged that they would repeal the legislation as soon as they had a majority. Not because it was bad law but because it was not their law and they will not tolerate any divergence from their legislative agenda such as it is.

After the law was passed the government had what I think you could call a ‘hissy-fit’. Dutton told us that those on Manus were paedophiles, murderers and rapists and would be fooling doctors to get on a ‘plane to Australia with a headache or an ingrowing toenail. Morrison hightailed it over to Christmas Island with a select media group as he explained that the wilfulness of the Senate in passing the medevac legislation would imminently result in an armada of boats from Indonesia and Christmas Island needed to be reopened at great expense to accommodate this new wave of ‘boat people’.

Let us quickly dismiss this nonsense : firstly if these folk on Manus were criminals as suggested by Spud Dutton, why have they not been brought before the courts of PNG or Australia. PNG has a mature legal system as was evidenced by their Supreme Court finding – against massive Australian diplomatic and legal interference – that the detention of people without trial is unconstitutional and thus unlawful in Papua New Guinea. PNG has also in recent days enacted ICAC legislation to take on corruption in high places, something Australia finds very hard to do. The PNG judicial system would have quickly apprehended these so called criminals if they were within their jurisdiction – it may be, as with Guantanamo Bay, that the detention centres are actually within the jurisdiction of Australia although our government is ambivalent on this when it suits them.

As regards Morrison’s Christmas Island adventure it tended to backfire as there was no armada and the detention centre has only been used for one Sri Lankan family and more recently for the quarantining of potential corona virus [covid-19] patients.

Let’s now turn to the legislation that brought into effect the more orderly management of medical evacuees that Dutton in particular was so opposed to. He saw this legislation as creating a national security problem because he, as responsible minister – I use that term loosely – would be unable to control the flow of people seeking medical attention in Australia as a result of this new – now repealed – legislation.

The new legislation set out the conditions by which sick people on Nauru and Manus could be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. The medevac law required that a medical evacuation could take place if two or more treating doctors considered that a person needed to be evacuated : the Home Affairs minister still retained the discretion for refusal despite saying that it had been taken out of his hands.

The ministerial discretion applied in three areas.

First, the minister could refuse the transfer if he disagreed with the clinical assessment.

The second grounds for refusal is if the minister reasonably suspected that the transfer of the person to Australia would be prejudicial to security “within the meaning of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, including because an adverse security assessment in respect of the person is in force under that Act”.

The transfer could also be refused if ASIO advises the minister that transfer of the person to Australia may be prejudicial to security “and that threat cannot be mitigated”.

The third grounds for refusal was if the minister knew that the transferee had a substantial criminal record and the minister reasonably believes the person would expose the Australian community to a serious risk of criminal conduct.

But, those decisions and that discretion needed to be exercised within 72 hours to prevent the matter dragging on and to avoid as far as possible the unfortunate outcome that bureaucratic bumbling had for the late Mr Hamid Khazaei.

Finally, if the minister denied the transfer request on health grounds (as opposed to security or criminal grounds), then the issue would go to an Independent Health Advice Panel “as soon as practicable”.

So, the minister was always in control of the situation he just had to make decisions based on reasonable evidence without unnecessary delay.

Back to Senator Lambie on Q&A. She was asked why she used her vote to help repeal the medevac laws despite overwhelming evidence from the AMA and other doctors groups including Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF] who said this :

In an ideal world we would not need the MedEvac Bill, but right now it is crucial to keep it in place. Because decisions around how patients should be treated must always be made by independent medical professionals, not politicians.

Clearly this legislation was sensible and humane and for Senator Lambie to join with the coalition in repealing it was baffling. Well, we still don’t know why she voted that way as all she would say on Q&A was that it was a matter of ‘national security’ upon which she could not comment further and she asked the Australian people to trust her and all would be revealed in due course, but not now.

We do have one clue why Dutton does not want refugees on Manus island to come to Australia for medical treatment and that, quite simply, is because PNG would not have them back again and why should they ? These people are not PNG citizens, they are not guest workers, they do not have visas and they cannot be classed as ‘detainees’ as that is now illegal in PNG. So, were they to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment they would probably stay in Australia unless the government took up the New Zealand resettlement offer – on which they have been obstinately uncooperative – or sent them to Nauru. Or perhaps they would end up in a motel in Preston which seems to be the preferred coalition solution.

Chaos is no stranger to this coalition but, the mismanagement and bungling of asylum seeker policy and offshore indefinite detention has been the biggest ongoing administrative cock-up we have seen in this country for a long time and yet it goes on and on.

PS: Jacquie I think they conned you !

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Government by Gobbledygook!

Attorney Alan Dershowitz, a member of President Donald Trump’s defence team, in the US Senate impeachment trial convinced the Republicans that presidents cannot be removed from office for an action they believe could help get them reelected. His actual words were :

“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” he said. “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

It’s much the same argument that Vladimir Putin uses to convince Russians that making him President for Life is in the public interest and thus must be a good thing for the country.

It’s not a new argument, it’s been used by dictators and demagogues through the centuries to sand down the rough edges of democracy and create an entirely new reality.

Sidenote : I looked up demagogue just to see what it actually means : a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument. How very appropriate in the prevailing political climate.

Scott Morrison’s political advisers have been watching events in the US with increasing interest and excitement and adapting Trumpisms to suit their arguments. They used it in the pork barrelling episode to convince us that, as they had decided it was in the nation’s interests to re-elect a coalition government then, it followed that marginal seats needed to be Bolstered – a marginal seat evidently is one where female athletes get changed behind the bike-shed and thus they need a new swimming pool – simple as that as Morrison has been patiently explaining to perplexed journalists

The nub of this argument flows from the initial in principle decision : to get yourself or your spouse elected. Thus, when Angus Taylor fed into the media arena spurious information about massive travel overspending by Sydney City Council and its mayor Clover Moore, it didn’t matter that the information had been manufactured and forged documents used to support it. What did matter was that you inflict maximum damage on the SCC and its mayor so that your Missus gets a clear run to take over at the next local council election : i.e. it’s in the public interest.

Incidentally gobbledygook is defined as : language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms. When I read that, I immediately thought of Josh Frydenberg who talks constantly of paying down Labors debt legacy having himself presided over an increase in government debt by some 250% since coming to office.

Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, had a slightly different approach when it came to his understanding of what democracy meant. He suggested that a governing principle should be government of the people, by the people, for the people.

But, hey isn’t that socialism ? That’s your starting point to blow-up the whole system – just ask Barnaby.

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Nudge Nudge, Wink Wink, Say No More!

On 4 January last I posted an item on The AIMN concerning the forged and falsified documents that were used by Angus Taylor and his office for a political hit on the Sydney City Council and in particular its Lord Mayor Clover Moore, over travelling expenses. You will remember that the minister also passed on the false information to the Daily Telegraph so that they too could pile on.

I concluded that post with the following observation after the investigation had been passed by the NSW Commissioner for Police to the Australia Federal Police as it seemed that the forgery had been perpetrated in the Canberra and thus in the jurisdiction of the AFP :

“The minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police just happens to be good mates with minister Taylor and whilst this should not in any way influence the outcome of this independent enquiry and I wouldn’t suggest that for a moment, I will wager London to a brick that this matter will be buried and that there will be no prosecutions and no resignations and no humble apologies.

Call me a cynic if you will and you may be right. So, I will give it until Easter and if there hasn’t been any movement at the station by then, it will be safe to say that the cover-up has been played out.

I’ll get back to you.”

We didn’t need to wait until Easter !

Today, Thursday 6 February 2020, the AFP confirmed it had finalised its investigations and it had :

“determined it is unlikely further investigation will result in obtaining sufficient evidence to substantiate a Commonwealth offence”.

“The AFP assessment of this matter identified there is no evidence to indicate the minister for energy and emissions reduction was involved in falsifying information,” an AFP spokesman said.

“The low level of harm and the apology made by the [minister] to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, along with the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

Let’s take the words used by the AFP.

“… it is unlikely further investigation will result in obtaining sufficient evidence to substantiate a Commonwealth offence.”

We have already pointed to the offence, it features in the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it’s staring you in the face :

144.1 Forgery

(1) A person commits an offence if:

(a) the person makes a false document with the intention that the person or another will use it:

(i) to dishonestly induce a third person in the third person’s capacity as a public official to accept it as genuine; and

(ii) if it is so accepted, to dishonestly obtain a gain, dishonestly cause a loss, or dishonestly influence the exercise of a public duty or function; and

(b) the capacity is a capacity as a Commonwealth public official.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 10 years.

“… there is no evidence to indicate the minister for energy and emissions reduction was involved in falsifying information.”

We know that the minister himself didn’t create the forged document. It was clearly somebody in his office who did the falsifying to induce the minister to use the information for political purposes : see above section 144.1 of the Criminal Code.

“The low level of harm and the apology made by the [minister] to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, along with the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

Wait a minute, this falsified information was used by the minister as a political hit on the SCC and its mayor : sure, under pressure he later apologised but that’s not the point. There was political harm intended and it was not of a “low level”.

And what do they mean “the significant level of resources required to investigate were also factored into the decision not to pursue this matter.”

The media have done the groundwork, they found out who was allegedly responsible for the forgery. He was a Liberal party operative within the minister’s office who has since been moved on : even Inspector Clouseau could point him out in a crowd.

So that’s it, we all move on. There was no harm done and there are no winners, no losers. Except for the stain on our democracy, except for the damage to the rule of law in this country and if the AFP have been politically compromised what of the doctrine of the separation of powers?

Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more !

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