Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed

There are few things more richly deserved than the punishment of a…

The enemy is at our door!

I am fairly sure that when, at the beginning of WWII, Britain…

Pardoning Julian Assange: Donald Trump, WikiLeaks and the…

The central pillar to Democratic paranoia and vengefulness regarding the loss of…

Indue, Uhlmann, Andrew Bolt And Holden Cars...

Politics seems to have reached a point where we don't just have…

Measure your goodness by who you include, not…

By Elizabeth Dangerfield  There is a delightful film called Chocolat, set in a…

Let's get religion off the agenda - NOW

The dictionary meaning of ‘to believe’1 accept that (something) is true, especially…

“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for…

“I think that now it is time that the government I am…

The smirking arrogance of the LNP

By Kathryn Not a single day goes by that we are not…


Category Archives: News and Politics

Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed

There are few things more richly deserved than the punishment of a profligate ruler who finds himself fending off a hungry citizenry. But such matters lie in the realm of government, elections, holding representative office. Universities, notably in Australia, are oblivious to accountability and have, over several decades, become a booming corporatocracy. Institutionally, they constitute a white-collar criminal class that should interest the offices of the public prosecutor.

Their Vice-Chancellors resemble degenerate generals padded with colostomy bags, cutting ribbons and navigating the cocktail circuit. Below them lie the quislings and Vichy academics, the sell-outs and pimps who have bought into the market even as it exploits the student base. They go to meetings, draw up their spread sheets, show that they can be dab hands at data entry. They shirk research and teaching as lowly tasks performed by academic grunts. They attend the management equivalent of Nuremberg rallies.

While this happens, a Demand-Driven Model, to use that unpleasant term, has become the established rationale for recruiting students. International students, in particular, have become the celebrated and mocked “cash cows” of the establishment, ruthlessly and generously milked.

This unsustainable system of ceremonial graft has found itself jerked by the recent travel ban imposed by Australia on those coming from China. In place since February 1, the Covid-19 travel ban has seen a parting of ways between Australia’s universities and the government. Had Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison perhaps reflected on the consequences of such a ban for the tertiary industry, a more measured approach to the virus might have taken place. Instead, Australia faces a potential exodus of students to other markets, leaving its blubbery university sector prime for trimming.

For this fact alone, heads should role. As sociologist Salvatore Babones reminds us in The China Student Boom and the Risks it Poses to Australian Universities (Aug 2019), Australian universities “are taking a multibillion dollar gamble with taxpayer money to pursue a high-risk, high-reward international growth strategy that may ultimately prove incompatible with their public service mission.” The China market figures dangerously and disproportionately. In 2017, University of New South Wales and Sydney could count on 22-23 percent of course fees from Chinese students. Of international student revenue, China accounts for half in the entire university sector.

As Babones documents with alarm, Australia’s universities are simply not appreciative of the financial risk of such a venture. Nor do they make sufficient data available to inform public discussion on that fact. The Covid-19 ban, in other words, was a financial storm waiting to happen. Instead of heading to Australia to commence classes, students such as Lei Feiyang languish in Chengdu, incurring costs without return.

Desperate measures have been implemented by universities such as Monash, which has rescheduled the start of teaching to March 9. Classes in the first week will be delivered in an online format, a potential problem for those whose courses were not originally designed or advertised as such. University propagandists suggest “seamless” joining of programs to prevent undue interruptions. No one should be fooled by this. As Michael Thomson, co-secretary of the NSW branch of the National Tertiary Education Union noted, university authorities were “not being completely clear about what is happening.” Policy was “being made on the hop.”

The Education Consultants Association of Australia had done its modest bit in jogging Australian universities out of their exploitative complacency in a WeChat survey of 16,000 Chinese students conducted between February 5 and 9. The findings did not make pretty reading for Australia’s university politburos, with 32 percent claiming they would be more than willing to enrol in another country if they could not commence first semester studies in 2020. The United Kingdom, with 58 per cent, proved to be the highest “redirection destination.” Canada, with 31 per cent, and the United States, with six per cent, were second and third respectively.

Such findings could not be ignored by even the smoothest university bureaucrat. Vicki Thomson, chief executive of the Group of Eight (Go8), suggested that, “This could be a lost opportunity,” despite making a feeble effort to reassure students to “hang in there and stay with us.”

Ahmed Ademoglu, National President of the Council of International Students Australia, stated the obvious: students felt “exploited” and were reconsidering options. “These Chinese students may have friends or relatives at school level who are considering coming over here and ask what their experience was in Australia.”

Abbey Shi, General secretary of the Students’ Representative Council at the University of Sydney, has also noted the fury from being in contact with some 2,000 Chinese students who find themselves incapable of returning after having gone home for the Lunar Year holiday. “Universities don’t care about our affected career path, life, tenancy issues, our pets at home.”

A hollow statement from Monash University suggests that all shall be well in the fullness of time. Cash has been supplied; services shall be delivered, even of uneven quality. “If the travel restrictions are not lifted on 22 February, we will work with affected students individually to determine a personalised study plan, which may include remote and intensive study options. Monash is committed to ensuring affected students are able to start their semester one studies and be fully up to date by the end of 2020 and able to progress to second year studies.”

This is all a rather unconvincing way of maintaining students without giving them the service they need, let alone the care they require. And for having exposed Australia’s education sector to levels of staggering greed and over-reliance on single sources of revenue, university management across the country should consider some equivalent of ceremonial seppuku, cheered on by the student body and academic toilers.

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Pardoning Julian Assange: Donald Trump, WikiLeaks and the DNC

The central pillar to Democratic paranoia and vengefulness regarding the loss of Hillary Clinton in 2016 was the link between Russian hacking, the servers of the Democratic National Committee and the release of emails via WikiLeaks. Over time, that account has become a matter of hagiography, an article of faith, with grave conclusions: WikiLeaks and Russia elected Donald Trump.

The Russia-DNC angle received another prod in pre-extradition hearings being conducted against Assange in the Westminster Magistrates Court, with his legal team disclosing details of the visit paid to the WikiLeaks publisher by former California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in 2017. The visit in question was not entirely a matter of surprise. The Wall Street Journal reported in September that year that Rohrabacher had contacted the White House in an attempt to broker a deal with Assange designed to alleviate his legal troubles. A conversation was said to have taken place between the Congressman and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, canvassing the possibility of ending the impasse in exchange for evidence that Russia was not behind the hacked emails.

Assange’s legal team, through Edward Fitzgerald, disclosed that President Trump had instructed Rohrabacher to discuss the possibility of a pardon for Assange provided he agreed to deny any Russian connection in the DNC hack. A statement produced by Assange’s personal lawyer, Jennifer Robison, included the following description: “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

For his part, former Congressman Rohrabacher is dissembling, claiming he had not discussed Assange with Trump prior to his “fact finding mission” to London. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the President because I had not spoken with the President about this issue at all.” Rohrabacher admitted to speaking with Kelly in a brief conversation after his trip to the Ecuadorean embassy in London. “No one followed up with me including Gen. Kelly and that was the last discussion I had on this subject with anyone representing Trump or his Administration.”

In 2018, Rohrabacher, in an interview with The Intercept, claimed that Kelly blocked him from briefing Trump about his London meeting with Assange. Both the congressman and his travel companion Charles Johnson had been shown “definitive proof [by Assange] that Russia was not the source of the Democratic Party communications that WikiLeaks published during the 2016 campaign.” The reason for Kelly’s obstruction lay with concerns that the special prosecutor might take an interest in Rohrabacher’s discussions about Russia, and how “that would appear to out-of-control prosecutors that that is where the collusion is.”

To keep matters interesting and mendacious, Trump now claims to “barely” know Rohrabacher while White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham insists that the allegations are “absolutely and completely false”, “a complete fabrication and a total lie. This is probably another never ending hoax and total lie from the DNC.”

In response, WikiLeaks has stressed that, “Chronology matters: The meeting and the offer were made ten months after Julian Assange had already independently stated Russia was not the source of the DNC publication. The witness statement is one of the many bombshells from the defence to come.”

The latest instalment in the case that keeps giving is a reminder of how trenchantly the Democrats have been seeking to link the DNC hack to Russia, WikiLeaks and their defeat. What Trump and Assange share, on some level, is the same tarnishing administered by the same brush.

In August 2017, Patrick Lawrence, writing in The Nation, suggested that the download of the relevant data from the DNC servers was most probably an internal job rather than an externally conducted operation. Reliance was made upon the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity memorandum to Trump claiming that, “Forensic studies of ‘Russian hacking’ into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer.” An “insider” had “copied DNC data onto an external storage device.”

A storm ensued: the article had laid some considerable explosive material under the traditional DNC account, leading to editor Katrina vanden Heuvel to conduct a “post publication review.” In a modest mea culpa, the editorial board suggested that they “should have made certain that several of the article’s conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties.”

Since then, the Mueller Report has sought to ensconce the Russia hack-DNC narrative, dismissing Assange’s inside job thesis with almost withering disdain. “As reports attributing the DNC and DCCC hacks to the Russian government emerged, WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the material that WikiLeaks was releasing. The file-transfer evidence … and other information uncovered during the investigation discredit WikiLeaks’s claims about the source of material that it posted.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser has yielded to Assange’s team on the material produced at the pre-extradition hearing, potentially linking WikiLeaks to the highest deliberations in the White House. The addition, along with the vast picture of surveillance targeting Assange, has the makings of a very compromising picture, indeed.

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Indue, Uhlmann, Andrew Bolt And Holden Cars…

Politics seems to have reached a point where we don’t just have different views depending who we are. We’ve gone beyond Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” where some were  arguing that Trump’s inauguration numbers were greater than what was being reported. At least, Conway was trying to argue a consistent set of incorrect information. She wasn’t trying to argue, as has become what I would suggest is Doubled-down Schrodinger’s Cat Position. Schrodinger’s cat, you may remember, was a physics thought experiment where a cat could be considered both alive and dead until one opened the box. Politician and opinion writers seem to arguing that the cat is both alive and dead AND they’ve opened the box to have a look but we can’t see because it invades the cat’s privacy/the cat is commercial-in-confidence/the cat is wrapped in a Cabinet paper/viewing the cat would sap consumer confidence.

I mean, is it just me but does anyone else find it strange that the Commonwealth can approach the robodebt court case announcing that they don’t have a duty of care while rolling out the Indue card. Of course if you’re a critic of the card, you can argue that it not only humiliates the holder but also makes their lives infinitely more complicated. However, the government’s argument is that they’re doing it to help the poor souls manage because if they don’t have to get approval to spend their money then they might waste it on things like drugs, alcohol, second-hand goods or rent. Yes, the government doesn’t have a duty of care, but it does care enough to check how people spend their money and it’s their duty to ensure it’s spent well.

Just when I thought that was going to win my nomination for Political Schrodinger of the Week, Chris Uhlmann bobs up on Twitter with this: For all of those who are taking up the memorable catch cry of RFS volunteer Paul Parker. Here is a bit more context from an interview he did with 9News AUS. There is only one politician in Australia he doesn’t think should “get f-ed”. Guess who?”

Yes, he wanted us all to know that Paul Parker was Pauline Hanson supporter.

Reading the response to Uhlmann’s tweet, the general reaction of the loose coalition of left and sensible centre who felt that Parker spoke for the nation when he told the PM where to go – which, if you didn’t hear it, wasn’t Hawaii – was, “Oh well, it’s a free country and while we don’t agree with him on PHON, he’s still a brave firefighter and didn’t deserve sacking just because he swore about the PM.”

It seemed to me that nobody much cared. Nobody was nominating the man for canonisation; nobody was asking him to run the country.

This was not the response that Uhlmann was wanting but, as with the wind farms not being the sole cause of the blackouts in South Australia a few years ago, Chris is not the sort of journalist to let the facts get in the way of his story. Suddenly there appeared an opinion piece from Unhlmann: “In despair, I wondered how politics got so bad – then I looked at Twitter” where he laid the blame of all that was ill with the state of politics at the feet of Twitter where Australia “has shattered into gated communities of the mind; a society Balkanised by its bigotries and harnessed by its hatreds.”

One of his main reasons for this conclusion? The way we all turned on Paul Parker after we discovered his political leanings. Which thanks to Uhlmann were broadcast on Twitter by… Oh, Chris Uhlmann.

According to Uhlmann, “When this nugget hit Twitter, it was like watching a train pull into Central Station as most of the mob got off. In the all or nothing era, St Paul can’t be part of what we hope for, he has to be with us on everything. He can’t be blemished by views that trigger delicate sensibilities.”

See, it’s not journalists who are failing to demand standards from politicians by holding them to account and reminding them of their tendency to hold more positions than the Kama Sutra. It’s Twitter!

I had just finished telling a friend that I thought that Uhlmann had managed to outdo Andrew Bolt and was a surefire candidate for lowlife of the week, when I was reminded that one should never underestimate Bolt’s ability to limbo dance under a snake’s belly.

Most of you probably heard about his little chat with Gerard Henderson where he said that the St Kevin’s coach “hit on the boy” and “no sex occurred”. Notwithstanding the fact that “hitting on” people in the workplace is generally not a good idea, there’s a whole offence called grooming which means that people can be charged even if they haven’t actually “hit on” the underage boy or girl.

Andrew wasn’t finished. He followed up by attacking the ABC for their reporting of his remarks. He was outraged that the pubic broadcaster had suggested that he was trivialising the coach’s behaviour and that they had falsely reported that he’d said that “only hit on” when what he’d said was that the coach “hit on the boy and no sex occurred”

Mm, don’t know about you but I infer a suggestion of “only” from that sentence.

Earlier this week I thought Scott Morrison’s anger about GM closing down Holden was sure to be the Political Schrodinger of the week. After all, Joe Hockey practically ran the car industry out of the country and we stopped subsidies in the first year of the Abbott government, but hey, it was the company that let Holden “wither away on their watch”. Yes, that’s right – Scottie didn’t try to blame Labor for that one.

Still, it is strange that Morrison should be angry about a commercial decision. For a start, it’s not like Holdens run on coal and secondly, doesn’t his government believe in letting the market decide. And when the market makes decisions like replacing the Holden Caprice Commcars with BMWs, doesn’t that mean that the company should realise the writing is on the wall and that they owe it to their shareholders not to waste money on something that not even the Federal government will buy?

Yes, it was a very even field, but I think the winner has to be Andrew Bolt.

Altogether now, to the tune of “Football, Meat Pies, Kangaroos and Holden Cars”:


Sports rorts, gun clubs, Morrison and leadership,

Pauline, coal mines, climate change and Energy

Indue, Uhlmann, Andrew Bolt and Holden Cars.


Yes, we sound pretty Australian.

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Let’s get religion off the agenda – NOW

The dictionary meaning of ‘to believe’

1 accept that (something) is true, especially without proof.

“the superintendent believed Lancaster’s story”

2 hold (something) as an opinion; think.

“I believe we’ve already met”

I was recently listening to a discussion on radio between members of various religious groups in relation to the latest revision of the proposed Bill to protect the freedom to practice religion.

Hold on!

I know – and you know – that there are much more important issues to be discussing – and so should the government.

Their agenda ignores our best interests and concentrates on keeping their supporters happy while Australia burns.

So, it is clear that our job is to ensure that religion takes a back seat (hopefully, permanently) while the government makes a very late start on guaranteeing the future for our children.

To get the ball rolling, let’s get this pesky subject of religion out in the open and settled, once and for all, and then forget it!

Section 116 of the Australian Constitution states:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. (My emphasis)

Now I could ‘believe’ that the moon is made of green cheese, and you could point out that mankind’s technology has enabled it to land a spaceship on the moon, and the exploration there did not even suggest the existence of any green cheese.

So other people might not agree with my belief but, as I am unlikely to ever go to the moon, that need not stop me from believing that I am right. And we can still all be happy with our own conclusions. Please note that the definition at the beginning shows that lack of proof or acceptable evidence does not inhibit belief.

Many people all around the world believe in the existence of one or more gods who, the people believe, can somehow act to affect the people’s lives. Some of the people even claim to have had experiences which prove to their satisfaction that their beliefs are well-founded.

They believe they have been given directions as to how their gods expect them to behave and some of these directions were recorded centuries ago, in many cases in languages no longer in common use. Over the years there has been much discussion as to the accuracy of the translations and also as to the meanings of the transcripts.

The major monotheistic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and, again over the years, followers of these religions have splintered into multiple sects which frequently disagree violently with each other.

That alone would lead me to have grave doubts as to the values of these religions if, despite their claims to the contrary, they are responsible for so much strife.

In the radio discussion I referred to, there were representatives of different Christian sects, and, in my opinion, the one who spoke from the perspective of the Uniting Church made most sense, suggesting that what we need is a Bill of Rights, which incorporates all human rights – including religion – something most other advanced nations have already achieved.

Because the Australian States have retained certain powers following federation, s 116 could be interpreted as meaning that the states can do what they like about religion but the Commonwealth is to some extent restricted.

And until the issue of same-sex marriage, itself a human rights issue – the Commonwealth was not unduly interfering on religious issues. It had allowed schools and other institutions established by religious organisations to have exemptions from some of the sections of discrimination acts – unwisely, in my view, in a country which is supposed to have a secular government, which implicitly overrules canon law!

Now we get to the nitty-gritty!

Our knowledge of our world, the universe, life on earth, evolution – an endless list – is incomplete, and we are making new discoveries and correcting past misunderstandings every day.

Many Christians believe that everything in their Holy Bible is the word of god and is truth which cannot be denied.

Some of them realise that this cannot be true, because we know the sun does not go around the earth and we have discovered a few other errors as well.

Looking back to my reference as to our knowledge being amended and added to as and when new discoveries are made, then rational thinking says that facts, as stated 2 or 3 thousand years ago, might well be open to revision.

And when it comes to human sexuality, it is only in the last few years that we have been able to understand that variations from binary are a natural phenomenon and members of the LGBTIQ+ community are ‘normal’ human beings whose uniqueness as individuals is no more surprising than is true of skin or hair colour.

Now we have come to the nub of the problem!

It people’s religious beliefs are so rigid that they refuse to accept that the Bible got it wrong, homosexuality is not an abomination, and all human beings have the right to love another without being confined to the traditional male/female bonding, then it is the rational non-religious members of the community who need protection from their bigotry and ignorance.

Let’s be honest!

It is no skin off my nose if my best friend is lesbian and she lives with another lesbian.

As long as she accepts that I am a straight female, then live and let live.

The only exception in this area is in relation to paedophiles.

Why? Because, if they follow their predilections and seek a sexual relationship with a child, they are doing a massive amount of harm, and we must ensure that this be prevented or punished.

All of us, if we wish to live in a harmonious community, must respect the rights and needs of others in a reciprocal way. If you want to follow a religion, just please leave me to live my life in my way.

I know when I studied law a decade or two ago, a Bill of Rights was, and remains, a contentious issue. But the lack of a Bill of Rights is now encouraging our government to concentrate on satisfying the minority who opposed same-sex marriage, to assure them that they will be protected if they speak in a derogatory fashion or refuse to employ an individual who does not conform to their definition of ‘normal’ as regards sexuality.

Look at what the Royal Commission exposed of the damage done by religious paedophiles. Think about the resignation of the headmaster of St Kevin’s College, Melbourne for effectively supporting a paedophile and punishing his victim!

When you hide criminal activity beneath a religious cloak, we are all at risk!

What is it about religion in Australia? In 1957 I was employed to teach maths in the Sacred Heart Grammar School for Girls in Hammersmith, and discussed progress with my classes with the Mother Superior, who was the Head Mistress, despite my being a non-Catholic! I was employed for my academic qualifications and was not involved in any way in religion.

Even Eire is divorcing government from religion more effectively that we seem to be doing!

Get this issue off the drawing board and concentrate on trying to prevent temperatures rising to unlivable levels!

Prime Minister: Please forget about protecting those who practice religion, concentrate on implementing an effective plan to phase out fossil fuels while creating new job opportunities for those who will be displaced, and get the lawyers on to developing a really good Bill of Rights which will ensure that I – as an agnostic – am not at risk from religious bigots!

PS: Much of the above applies to other religious groups who cling on to habits founded generations ago, and no longer valid in the modern world. And when it comes to their recognising equality of the rainbow range of genders – there is a long way to go!

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Why ScottyFromMarketing’s latest sales pitch is such a farce

In a belated attempt to look like he cares, ScottyFromMarketing has latched onto a new line to justify his government’s abrogation of its duty to take urgent action to protect us from the ravages of global heating.

SFM can’t commit to adequate targets for emissions reduction because he “can’t look Australians in the eye and tell them what it will mean for their electricity prices, what it will mean for their jobs.”

He won’t even entertain a goal of net zero emissions in thirty years’ time unless someone can tell him exactly how much that would cost, what electricity prices will be three decades into the future, and provide a guarantee that, unlike workers in the auto industry or tens of thousand of public servants who have lost their jobs under the Coalition’s stewardship, coal miners’ jobs will be protected in an industry that has already slashed its workforce and announced its intention to become fully automated.

Considering Treasury has not made an accurate prediction about anything in living memory, it is a ridiculous demand.

But SFM insists he has a plan – technology!

Well, yeah….but we may need a little more detail than that Scotty.

The media is saying that “The coalition is expected to release a new technology road map charting the way forward in hydrogen, solar, batteries, transmission, large-scale energy storage and carbon capture.”  This appears to be based on hopeful speculation rather than anything concrete.

The head of the Investor Group on Climate Change – which manages more than $2 trillion worth of assets – agreed that “technology development and deployment is critical” and said its members were “crying out” for investments in zero carbon opportunities and climate resilience measures in Australia.

“But to attract investment the credibility test is whether technology planning is embedded in a long-term strategy consistent with a smooth transition to net-zero emissions by 2050.  The lack of large-scale deals and policy instability remain critical barriers to opening up multi-billion-dollar investment in new industries, jobs and technologies across our country.”

It seems investors are not impressed with slogans and glossy brochures.  It is the government’s own lack of genuine policy and commitment that is costing this country investment and the jobs that would come with it, not to mention saving the planet as an added bonus.

How can they trust that the government wants to back new technology when, in their first budget, they cut $459.3m over three years from the carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years.

Tony Abbott said at the time: “For now and for the foreseeable future, the foundation of Australia’s energy needs will be coal. The foundation of the world’s energy needs will be coal.”

When Matt Canavan attended an energy conference in Houston in 2018, he mocked the world’s largest lithium battery that had been built in SA by Elon Musk to provide storage for renewable energy.

“It’s the Kim Kardashian of the energy world: it’s famous for being famous. It really doesn’t do very much.”

Matt’s always great with his disparaging one-liners.  It would be even better if he looked at the evidence occasionally.

The AEMO said in October 2018 that the battery’s performance was “very encouraging”. It:

  • Made $13 million in revenue during first six months of operation.
  • Saved SA Government $33 million by stabilising the grid super-fast.
  • Helped prevent SA blackouts during peak demand.
  • Led to 57% drop in Frequency Control Ancillary Services costs.

When Labor announced a 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030, the government described it as “reckless” and an “economy wrecker.”

Angus Taylor even went so far as saying that that level of renewables would “de-industrialse the economy”. Now, it turns out, Taylor is relying on Australia reaching 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 to deliver the only physical cut in emissions that he expects to achieve in the next 10 years.

From the government’s 2019 emissions projection report:

“Emissions are projected to decline to 511 Mt CO2 -e in 2030 which is 16 per cent below 2005 levels. This is driven mainly by declines in the electricity sector because of strong uptake of rooftop solar and the inclusion of the Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory 50 per cent renewable energy targets.”

Even when they try to do something that may be worthwhile, like the second interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria, policy inconsistency makes the viability uncertain and scares off private investment.  The huge cost is not justifiable until some of the coal fleet retires and, even then, that gap in supply might be filled by more economical means on the mainland.

So whilst the government continues to talk about extending the life of aging coal-fired power plants, or opening new ones, large capital investment is unlikely.

There is a lot of hype lately, mainly driven by Alan Finkel, about increasing gas supply as a “transition” fuel and about hydrogen as the industry of the future, but not all agree that this is the right direction.

As Ronald Brakels explains, “if other options cost less and are more energy efficient than expanding natural gas generation or making hydrogen, then those two things aren’t likely to happen.”

Investors aren’t buying SFM’s latest ad campaign and neither should we.

History shows us that a Coalition government is incapable of dealing with the future of energy and emissions reduction.  Until we get rid of them, we will be stuck gazing into the rear view mirror and listening to a bunch of crap from fools who, by their own admission, do not rely on evidence.

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Inequality: Just what do you mean by that? Surely you don’t mean you are my equal?

Nothing divides a community, or a nation for that matter, more than inequality yet conservatives through out history have practised it with fervour unequalled by any other political philosophy.

Lack of equal treatment, inequality of opportunity as in education, inequality of opportunity in team selection. Inequality in sharing the country’s wealth, health services, aged care, or social service payments like the dole.

That’s what inequality means. It’s when the government assists those who have more than those who have not. It is a servant-master discipline or born to rule attitude that prevents it.

Conservatives say that their only responsibility is to help those who are in danger of falling through the safety net. After that they reward those who have a go. How they measure that, I don’t know.

Why then are they so hell bent on assisting those who “have”?

The Sports Rorts affair has shown just how elitist this government is. They are rotten, by any measure.

The evidence is in. The ‘Christian’ Prime Minister is an unmitigated liar. Nothing is more unedifying than a government handing out grants to sporting bodies in their own electorates.

If you judge a government on how it treats its most disadvantaged then this government would be lucky to score a point.

The common good, or empathy for it, should be at the centre of any political philosophy. However it is more likely to be found on the left than the right.

Do we in an equitable sense share the country’s wealth? When hundreds of companies pay no tax and others receive billions in subsidies while making huge profits could you say we are a nation of equality?

The notion that a few privileged individuals can own the vast majority of a countries wealth and the remainder own little is on any level unsustainable, politically, economically or morally.

When the rich and privileged have a smorgasbord of tax breaks from which to choose, could you say that equality sets us apart from other nations?

When the law becomes a resource affordable only to the rich can you honestly plead a case for equality?

When our Indigenous folk are told year after year that we will bridge the gap of inequality, and we fail them,  can you openly preach the gospel of equality? Of course not.

When the government openly admits that it is deliberately keeping wages low can you see any equality?

When women suffer high incidence of domestic violence how do you explain equality to others?

Now we even find that children with development delay and who live in lower socioeconomic seats are waiting longer for a diagnosis than their counterparts in government seats in order to seek assistance from the NDIS.

In recent years Australian conservative governments have changed the way rises to the pension are calculated to save them billions of dollars.

In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks far below getting things done for the common good.

A few years ago single mothers received $700 to help their children start the school year and pensioners got $1000 dollars toward the cost of their partner’s funeral. All have disappeared and there are many more examples.

The incidence of wages theft has become blight on the business sector but those on the right would have us believe that it is all so complicated that large businesses are just making tardy errors.

Home ownership is ever becoming but a dream for the low paid and in the meantime those who have purchase, with the assistance of the government, as many properties as they want.

I feel people on the right of politics in Australia show an insensitivity to the common good that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

From Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian, (30 September 17):

“In a speech to the Business Council of Australia on Thursday evening, Morrison said the Treasury and the Reserve Bank had found, in specific analysis of current wage fundamentals, that wages were growing slowly across most industries in the economy, and most regions of the country.

And six months later Michael Janda for the ABC reports:

“Using Treasury data, as well as various ABS figures and the University of Melbourne’s HILDA survey, Per Capita calculated that major tax concessions totalling $135 billion to the rich per year were costing the budget more than the four main welfare payments — the aged pension, family assistance payments, disability benefits and Newstart — combined.”

That is astonishing. Even more amazing is the fact that the research for Anglicare finds more than half of the benefit from tax concessions goes to the wealthiest fifth of households.

“The vast wealth generated over the last three decades has decisively gone into the hands of the privileged few, and not the many.” (Inequality in Australia).

It is true to say that we haven’t had a recession since 91/92 but our wages growth has been the slowest of any sustained period since World War 2.

The fact that they are deliberately keeping wages down is both a mystery and an indictment of the Morrison government.

In terms of a more equitable share of the country’s wealth we did better post-war than we are doing now.

Despite record profits and record growth inequality in Australia over the last three decades has bounded along like an intoxicated roo.

The latest Oxfam report shows that Australia’s top richest 1% have more than double the wealth of the total bottom 50% – or more than 12.5 million of us.

Globally, the wealthiest 1 per cent of people in the world has more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people.

The problem is an historical misunderstanding of the relationship of money and society. The origin of money in ancient Greece resulted in the formation of class societies with inequality an unintended circumstance. It all happened at the same time.

Instead of being just a means of recompense or a medium of exchange, over time, money for public purpose came into being and the characteristic of money and inequality came with it.

The evolution of money was closely intertwined with the rise and consolidation of what we know as class society. Harmony and the use of money to procure it were forgotten and greed became entrenched. In modern society money, a class society, and inequality has become a huge problem because there is nothing natural about the existence of socioeconomic inequality.

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” is a saying that we hear often and there is no doubting its truthfulness.

This concentration of wealth is astonishing.

The world’s billionaires, 2,153 people in 2019, have more wealth between them than 4.6 billion people.

Oxfam’s report cited World Bank figures showing almost half the world is trying to survive on $5.50 a day or less.

Conservatives have never understood that economics and the social structure are intertwined each dependent on the other.

Look around you see how obvious it is.

My thought for the day

We live in a failed system. Capitalism does not allow for an equitable flow of economic resources. With this system a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level.

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Trashing our democracy

“They are trashing our democracy in the way they are dealing with this disgusting political cover-up,” Penny Wong [says] on Wednesday. “… This is all about protection of the prime minister, who is up to his neck in the sports rorts scandal. Well, I’ve got some news for the government: it’s too late. It’s too late for a cover-up when you’ve already been caught.”

Is it consternation or apoplectic rage? The shocked disbelief on Senator Erich Abetz’s typically saturnine features, Thursday, at a senate select committee on Administration of Sports Grants, or sports rorts sums up a disastrous fortnight for the Morrison-Gaetjens duumvirate that rules Australia when it’s not blaming the states, the COVID-19 Coronavirus, The Greens “creeping environmentalism” or Labor for its own failures.

“I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?” leads the Tassie Liberal Party Czar who proceeds, in faux legalese, to verbal Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) boss, Brian Boyd, Friday 14 February, a joust sure to enter the lists of epic political failure as Eric’s Valentine’s Day self-massacre.

Seek to clarify? It’s a clumsily disingenuous attempt which even Samantha Maiden sees as Abetz’ bid to lob a Dorothy Dixer which will let him repeat the lie that all projects were eligible. It’s the PM’s favourite talking point. Albo reckons Scotty’s misled parliament by repeating this disinformation sixteen times in the house.

Government by spin spawns MPs who believe their own propaganda. Originally billed in a blizzard of press snow drops as “a reset” and a chance for our jelly-back PM to re-assert himself, the parliamentary fortnight ends in a debacle. Abetz is gob-smacked when he collides with reality at the sports rorts senate inquiry.

David Speers exposes ScoMo’s sophistry in ABC Insiders. The AG says, “no applications assessed as ineligible” received money. Morrison spins this into, “every single one of the projects that was approved was eligible”.

Morrison conveniently conflates application with project. It’s lie which Abetz discovers to his chagrin.

“No, Senator, that’s not what we found,” Boyd replies. “… around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement was signed were ineligible.”

Abetz, clearly, hasn’t bothered to read the report, a practice not uncommon amongst Coalition Senators. In 2015 Chair into the Forgotten Children report, Ian MacDonald, declared he hadn’t read Gillian Triggs report. Nor did he know what the Human Rights Commission was. April 2016, Triggs observed in The Saturday Paper that politicians were “usually seriously ill-informed” and had “lost any sense of the rule of law”.

For Samantha Maiden it’s a spectacular political own goal, “inadvertently demolishing the PM’s central sports rorts defence and revealing a stunning 43 per cent of projects that secured funding were ineligible.” Abetz’ stunt is nearly as inept as Mick-Mack’s dying duck in a thunderstorm performance on ABC Insiders Sunday.

Many projects were ticked off by Sport Australia as meeting the criteria, but 270 clubs over-eager to receive funds disqualified themselves by starting building works before the final paperwork was completed. Grants were restricted solely to clubs who were yet to begin works. A few others disqualified themselves by completing work before receiving funds or amending their applications or missing the application deadline.

In brief, Sport Australia got hundreds of applications from clubs. Some were eligible. Others were not.

In addition to the $100m scandal which has cost (then) Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie her place in the ministry, details of a $150m rort obtained, by Labor, through FOI, emerge this week.

Poorly entitled, the “female facilities and water safety stream program”, when it clearly was aimed at women, it was announced by the Coalition less than two months before the election. Funded in the 2019 budget for providing women’s change rooms and swimming pool upgrades, it was supposed to go to regional and remote communities.

In reality, only $10 million went to rural projects in four electorates held by National Party MPs. The bulk of the money – nearly $110 of the total four year fund was spent on projects in urban Liberal-held electorates

Pearce and Corangamite, two key marginal seats were given almost 40% of the total funding pool.

Women’s change rooms pose a particular problem. Scott Morrison and deputy Mick-Mack seem obsessed with evoking images of women changing behind trees and in cars. Why this fixation? No-one in his staff of fifty-odd boffins can stop the PM and his deputy? The scenario is insensitive, if not totally inappropriate.

And dishonest. Grants were rushed along or even stream-lined to protect women’s modesty, or so they seem to leer;

“because we didn’t want to see girls changing in cars or out the back of the sheds rather than having their own changing facilities”. The verb “see” puts the male gaze where it should not be. Try “make” or “have”.

The alacrity with which the claim is made suggests it may have been part of a focus group but when repeated, ad nauseam, the image evoked betrays a pre-occupation; almost a type of voyeurism on behalf of the PM and his Deputy – an attitude to women which not just women find repugnant.  The claim is also based on a lie.

Sports rorts were not a flood of money to respect women’s needs to have their own change rooms. The PM dwells endlessly on women’s change rooms, in the hope that this issue will distract us from his vote-buying.

In fact, as Christopher Knaus and Sarah Martin report for The Guardian the Coalition rejected Sport Australia recommendations. At least twelve proposed grants for women’s change rooms at local sport grounds were overturned by the minister, including one where women and girls are currently changing in tents.

Making stuff up, includes inventing new reasons to avoid any kind of scrutiny. Or gaslighting the nation that its approval of 290 ineligible sports grants, through Bridget McKenzie’s office is all OK. Phil Gaetjens says so.

Morrison’s former Minister for sport is not allowed to be a good sport. Rather than accept the National Audit Office umpire’s decision, her PM has a vested interest in arguing the toss. Now clear links emerge between McKenzie’s office and his office, Canute-like, he foolishly tries to countermand the ANAO.

Morrison’s own dodgy inquiry adds injury to injustice as he hand-balls to his pal, Phil Gaetjens, the task of being his alternative fact-finder in a secret inquiry. New sophistry, casuistry and specious argument don’t help.

Morrison and Gaetjens demean the PM’s office and the nation. Worst is “fixer” Phil Gaetjens’ straw man that McKenzie is exonerated by ignorance. She didn’t even see the colour-coded spreadsheet designed to guide her department fund projects, not on merit, but in areas where they might buy Coalition MPs a few more votes.

“Her Chief of Staff also told the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet that the Adviser had categorically stated she had not shown the spreadsheet to the Minister.”

Gaetjens’ claim is absurd.  The former Morrison and former Costello chief of staff hopes to hoodwink us into thinking that the sports minister handles every piece of correspondence personally or that her former ministerial responsibility somehow excluded colour-coded spreadsheets which her staffers may have used.

Ministers “have large staffs of advisers, liaison officers and media people to handle their paperwork … the whole point is that, if you’re going to rort something, you make sure the minister doesn’t have direct oversight of it. Staff (who, conveniently, can’t be called before Senate committees) do it.” Writes Bernard Keane.

New lies abound. These include the lie that an inquiry into ministerial misconduct (a code of conduct said to embrace integrity, fairness and accountability) is automatically elevated into the status of a cabinet document and is thus protected by the pixie-dust of cabinet confidentiality – unless, as in Abbott’s case you leak the lot to damage then opposition leader Kevin Rudd over the pink batts affair, where four young installers lost their lives in a highly successful 1.1 million home insulation initiative which the Murdoch press mercilessly pilloried.

Morrison’s cover-up is a bit of shadow puppet theatre in which McKenzie gets sent back to the back bench for her gun club misdemeanour as part of his regime’s constant stream of disinformation, lies and secrecy.

Minister for Sports Rorts, Bridget McKenzie is found guilty of a breach of ministerial standards, but Morrison, unlike Trump, cannot prevent public servants from testifying at the senate inquiry. In his best SNAFU tradition, his Gaetjens’ fix serves only to highlight tell-tale signs that the $100m pork-barrel was run out of his office.

Clearly, Morrison should stand aside himself. But then, so, too should gorgeous Gussie Taylor Minister for Energy and Emissions reduction who has never satisfactorily explained his role in the uttering of forged documents, published in The Daily Telegraph to discredit Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore after Moore declared a climate emergency in 2019. An AFP investigation would up on 6 February

“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 says.

“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.”

Taylor has also failed to offer convincing explanations of his role in water buybacks to the total of eighty million dollars, which has yet to materialise. Then there’s his intervention in the clearing of protected native grasses on behalf of a constituent or so he claims but one which benefited a company in which his family holds a financial interest.

But with a quick application of lipstick, the Coalition government pig is transformed by a fabulous free trade deal with Indonesia. A Gamelan orchestra of Aussie spin-doctors begins gonging on endlessly. We hear them spin the usual inanities; how near, how big, how good is our is our trading neighbour? In the meantime, the highly protectionist Indonesians view Australia through narrowed eyes.

Gamelan derives from the Indonesian word to hammer, a perfect verb for the Coalition’s frantic attempts to ear-bash us into submission with talking-points, inane slogans and saturation media drops. Yet MPs insist their self-interested, self-deceiving indoctrination and propaganda campaign is a “national conversation”.

And how good is Jokowi, a human rights abuser who gets to travel to Canberra like some travelling saint of free trade? How good is an Indonesian free trade deal years in the making which is now re-announced? You’d swear the government were looking for a diversion. Megawati’s puppet, Joko Widodo fits the bill.

In 2015, on the day of his inauguration, Jokowi, as he is known, sat in the front row, party chairperson, Megawati Soekarnoputri, harangued him from the lectern. He owed the presidency to her, she said. He was to do as he’s told. Perhaps there’s a message in Jokowi’s visit for our National Party leader.

The free trade deal which is neither free nor about trade, has that nifty investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause to it which will help transnational companies sue our government should our laws imperil any of their profiteering. Sheer democratic genius.

The deal will also promote a flood of compliant temporary visa workers in 400 occupations who will be able to call Australia home, a move sure to cheer “chefs, nurses, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers, tilers and many more workers who are already struggling to find enough work,” ACTU President Sharan O’Neil observes.

It’ll help put downward pressure on wages to use a favourite government slogan which is just what the economy and working families don’t need but employers and other wage thieves will be tickled pink.

Amnesty International Australia and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman urges the Australian government to raise the human rights situation in West Papua during bilateral talks this week.

Koman’s has many concerns about the Indonesian government’s human rights abuses:

A joint military and police operation in Nduga regency of Papua province has taken place since early December 2018. As a result, according to a regency official, as many as 45,000 people, half of the regency’s population, are displaced in neighbouring areas.

The Humanitarian Volunteer Team, a local grassroots community, has been collecting data on the operation’s casualties and reported that as of 2 February 2020, 243 civilians have died due to violence by the security forces and hunger and illness from the displacement. 

Fifty-six indigenous West Papuans and one Jakarta-based Indonesian were arrested merely for expressing their opinion during mass protests against racism and for the independence referendum in August and September 2019 and during commemoration of West Papua’s national day on 1 December 2019, Konan notes.

They are currently awaiting trial and face life imprisonment. Yet on 10 February the Indonesian leader gives a speech in our House of Representatives in which he urges

“We must continue to advocate the values of democracy, human rights, stop intolerance, stop xenophobia, stop radicalism and stop terrorism.”  In a sign of the Morrisonian times, journalists could not ask questions.

Nor does anyone in Canberra talk about Pork’n ‘Ride. Car parks in the air. Michael West’s Jommy Tee, writes of a $500m Commuter Car Park Fund (CCPF) set up ostensibly to provide car parking at rail stations which turns out to be a brazen vote-buying gambit. Thirteen lucky winners are announced in the pre-election pork-fest. It’s big; $149 million worth of projects. All are Liberal-held seats with six in marginal NSW and QLD electorates.

Yet state governments and councils cannot say where exactly any of these mysterious new spaces will be.

A miracle of modern micro-targeting is at work. As Jommy Tee explains, micro-targeting is as simple as it is cynical.  Ask a member or candidate to spot a public need. Develop a petition around that issue. Use the data collected (names and addresses of constituents). Mine that data accordingly, fund the project, and then promote the outcome to the petitioners. Generate publicity. NB: Labor seats along the tracks get nothing.

But Banks gets $15m, Dickson $11m , Petrie $4m, Robertson $35m. Everyone is told the value of the pork on their fork. But the parks just don’t seem to exist. Funds just go to swell local party campaign coffers.

The Age calls out Pork ‘N ‘Rides in Victoria. It’s got the ring of a Ponzi scheme to it – except that taxpayers pay.

“So sparse were details of exactly how these six parking lots would grow, neither the state government nor in large part local councils could say where the expansion would occur”.

Nor do experts ever suggest that busting urban congestion is ever achieved with car parking or road space alone. It’s about the quality of the public transport service; its quality and interconnectivity.

The rorty story is a gift that keeps on giving. Thursday, the ANAO makes it clear at the senate committee on the Administration of Sports Grants that the PM’s Office worked closely with the sports minister’s office over six months, between October 2018 and April 2019. Yet it’s Bridget McKenzie who is made the scapegoat.

Porkie pies fly in all directions once the pork-barrel is busted. Like his mentor Trump, Morrison just makes stuff up to cover his hide. Here are two of examples of his insidious disinformation.

“all we did was provide information based on the representations made to us, as every prime minister has always done”.  It’s a lie. 290 projects, 43 per cent of all approved, were ineligible under program guidelines.

“the auditor-general found that there were no ineligible projects that were funded”.

Another lie which just re-hashes his notorious – “every project which was funded was eligible.”

Aloha Scotty, our fair weather PM, and his beleaguered crew’s legitimacy and credibility cop a hiding as reports of rorting and pork-barrelling confirm vote-buying is the Coalition’s sole campaign strategy.

Adding instability, is the Nationals’ failed DIY arsehole transplant, to apply former Minister for Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan’s parting shot at his “absolute arsehole” leader, Scott Morrison.

In other words, Barnaby Joyce’s abortive coup deals Mick-Mack’s leadership a mortal blow while three resignations and a spill put the skids under the Nats while Scotty’s numbers are looking crook. And it’s only February, two weeks into the parliamentary year, as brief as that may be under a Morrison government.

“In three times in less than two years I’ve been endorsed” says McCormack, who gets votes because he’s not Barnaby. Yet Mick-Mack claims that Joyce and Canavan have said they will support him.

Do you believe them? “Speersy” asks. “I always believe country people when they look me in the eye and say something and you’ve got to take people on their word.”

“The fact is, I’m the leader and I’m going to lead the Nationals to the next election,” Mick-Mack says scotching all hope of his announcing his retirement in order to devote himself to his Elvis impersonations.

“I haven’t thought it, I haven’t said it, [stepping down] and I’m not quite sure why it was written in that way, he deftly ticks off the media whom everyone knows should only write what is first authorised by politicians.

It’s a direction of state known all too well to our ABC which learns from Justice Wendy Abraham of the Federal Court, Monday, that its legal challenge is dismissed. The ABC must now pay costs. An appeal is being considered. ABC careerist who worked his way up to news director, Gaven Morris ruminates

The decision is “really disappointing” and a blow to press freedom and the public’s right to know.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson goes to the heart of the matter in this part of his statement.

“When the AFP executed its search warrant here at the ABC last June 5th, its raid was seen – internationally – for exactly what it was: an attempt to intimidate journalists for doing their jobs.

Not just the journalists named on the search warrant, but all journalists.”

Back in Mick-Mack land, our deputy PM is on thin ice. For Wagga’s Elvis, “There’s a whole lotta shakin goin on.” Like Turnbull, he believes he can count on ScoMo.

“I have the prime minister’s full support.” But so did Bridget McCormack – and look at her now. Besides, the country can’t even count on the PM’s full attention when it’s on fire. Good luck with that, Mick-Mack.

Clive Palmer could make the same claim here now it’s clear from even the limited reporting by The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on 3 February.

Despite publishing too little, too late, of political campaign donations, it’s clear from the AEC just how much Morrison owes him. Via his flagship company Mineralogy, Palmer spent at least $83,681,442, much of which went to fund targeted social media publication of anti-Labor lies.

His propaganda was alarmist and untrue: Bill Shorten’s economic policy would make “four million older Australians homeless and destitute”.

Palmer helped defeat Labor through harvesting preferences for the Coalition. He says he decided to polarise the electorate to ensure a Coalition win. Palmer says his shift to attacking Shorten and Labor immediately “improved the government’s position” and that they won a majority on the back of his preferences.

“Ninety per cent of those preferences flowed to the Liberal party and they’ve won by about 2% so our vote has got them across the line.”

The authoritative Australian Election Study (AES) reports,

“Measured by first preference votes, there was a swing against both the Liberal-National Coalition (-0.6%) and Labor (-1.4%) in the election. The Coalition managed to secure a greater number of seats than in 2016, despite the lower primary vote. The Coalition won the election through preferences flowing from the minor parties;” specifically, UAP and One Nation, which won 6.5 per cent of the primary vote between them.

Is it a flying pig? A pork barrel bigger than our parliament itself? Or pig ignorance? Protecting government from being accountable, this week, is Pauline’s party of two performing its traditional back-flip with pike.

“What I’m concerned about is setting a precedent here in this chamber where a senator can be thrown out of the chamber by the majority,” blathers Hanson. What the senate motion seeks to do is beyond her ken. It’s an attempt to get the Coalition to release Phil Gaetjens’ report – if any such report exists.

“Senator Cormann is an elected member of this chamber,” La Hanson declares, in a desperate lunge at high-sounding principle; only to lapse into pious piffle. “He has a right to his place in this chamber. It is not up to us to take away that right that was given to him by the Australian people when they voted for him.”

No-one is taking away Cormann’s rights. One Nation’s two votes torpedo the Senate motion. A corrupt government escapes accountability for its brazen bribing of electors in marginal electorates or sports rorts.

Worse it gaslights the nation. We are to believe that the Auditor-General’s ten month report is inferior to something quickly whipped up by the PM’s former chief of staff, Phil Gaetjens; a secret report which somehow exonerates dishonesty and duplicity. And which earns Gaetjens a promotion. The Liberal Party apparatchik is Morrison’s captain’s pick to be the most politicised, least qualified Secretary of the Treasury in history.

At the end of his first two weeks, Scotty may shout a lot about how his government is honouring the promises it took to the people. But surely that’s irrelevant when you buy the election. Surely also, given its record of deception and ineptitude, any credibility the nation may have extended toward this government is now completely shot to pieces.

Above all, at every opportunity on parliament’s return, this Coalition of secrets and lies which rorted and bought its “miracle election” shuns all accountability.

Now as it suppresses and intimidates the press, Christian Porter announces legislation to further silence dissent. At each turn, this government is trashing our democracy.

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The miracle of Brother Scott and the Mammonites

By Grumpy Geezer  

Even taking into account the brown paper bag kakocracies of Johannes Bjelke-Petersen and Robert Askin or the dodgy brothers operations of Fast Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Sir Lunchalot McDonald of Terrigals infamy there can be little doubt that we are now experiencing the most rancid regime in our history.

It has become apparent via the post-election rorting scandals that Brother Scott Morrison did not leave his electoral fortunes entirely in the hands of the Infinite Spirit. Perhaps ScoBro felt that the Big Guy could not be totally relied upon to deliver the much coveted miraculous election win despite his fervent swaying and praying being topped-up with his salary sacrificing to Jesus via the Horizon Church (sic) retail showrooms.

Holy payola was obviously seen as no guarantee of favours to be repaid so a backup plan must’ve been thought necessary – the bribing of mere mortals within at-risk and marginal electorates with hundreds of millions of re-purposed tax payer dollars. It was a risk mitigation strategy – after all if the celestial CEO had spent 6 days of hard slog creationing and you’re intent on salting the earth at the centre of it all then you need to hedge your bets. (Backing off the Big Guy with the Mosman Rowing Club and its ilk seems a tad blasphemous to me, but then I’m no theologian; but ScoBro’s deity will be across all of the nuances of religious-based commercial transactions I’m sure).

It seems that Jehovah & Co. were cool with all of that – delivering the requested miracle, albeit caveated by a tiny 2 seat majority. Perhaps with the blatant lies, the fraudulent election posters, Greasy Palmer’s $80M down payment for future favours and their 6 year track record of deceit, incompetence and graft the Big Guy was not convinced enough to give his full endorsement.

Regardless, we are stuck with these criminals for another 2 years – a frontbench that reminds me of Halloween trick or treaters from the burns ward and a backbench the like of which you’d expect to find under a serial killer’s floorboards.

We have a dysfunctional ragtag collection of misfits and spivs led, for the moment, by a smirking, incompetent and incontinent space invader from The Shire and a bobble-headed nonentity from Wagga Wagga, the Talking Thumb, who’s clearly been snacking on the Clag. As awful as this pair are they are both under threat from within by even worse alternatives. Kommondant Herr Spud-Dutton, the sadistic, neo-fascist rhizome from Dickson and Tamworth’s Barking Barmy, a purple-headed poster boy for a campaign warning women not to leave their drinks unattended and who has the coherence of a drunk on a bus shaken awake by a pot hole.

This L/NP is a coagulation of weirdos and shonks that is not so much a party as a death-of-democracy wake attended by flatulent aunts, uncle pervys, bagmen, corporate apple polishers, onanists, loose stools, Dogger’s Guidebook subscribers, sky pilots and scorched earthers.

Their grifters would not think twice about selling shares in a Rolf Harris Child Care Centre franchise to the befuddled in the nation’s raisin farms.

The autocrats within would happily taser widows and set fire to homeless people.

The door rattlers would steal from disabled kiddies’ Christmas stockings.

They have a bell-bottomed, helmet-haired harridan with a pebble-creted vajazzle who remains in AFP witness protection. There’s a bloated Filippino slum tourist whose oft-threatened crossing of the floor has been limited to-date to getting from the pole dancing to the titty bar and whose weight loss regime consists of taking a shit and having a haircut. There are water thieves and grass poisoners; there’s a Treasurer who provides us with all of the confidence of a recalled airbag; there’s an automatronic Finance Minister who’s as empathetic as a proctologist’s forefinger and a nut farm escapee who conjectures that a greenie conspiracy set the country ablaze to … wait for it … save the trees.

In short, we have weirdos, freaks and dullards; but their primary, shared characteristic is that they are all liars and thieves.

They’ve tried and tested a range of methods to avoid scrutiny – showing at least they had some small sense of shame. But now their deviousness has morphed into chutzpah; they’re playing the Trump card – “what are you going to do about it?”

So it is, unbelievably, getting worse. I feel a little bit of sick in the back of my throat. God save us.

(Thx to Frankie Boyle for a few of those insults).

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden

It seemed to be a case of grand misrepresentation. Holden cars, those great Australian acquisitions, along with home, lawnmower and nuclear family, gave the impression of indigenous pride, the home brand. It was also resoundingly masculine. But behind that image was a mighty American thrust, with General Motors holding the reins on investment as benevolent parent happy to rebadge the car brand when needed. Poor returns would invariably mean rough corporate decisions untouched by sentiment.

Between 2002 and 2005, things looked rosy. Sales of 170,000 a year saw the peak of the company’s returns. But Holden remained a distinctly parochial brand, incapable of moving beyond its Australian and New Zealand markets.

Breathing down the neck of GM’s Holden operations was the realisation that other auto companies were doing their own bit of wooing. The Australian buyer, over time, developed a taste for other products. Japanese car culture, with its clever alignments with game culture, seduced and won over buyers. Vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 impressed. Toyota became a mainstay and South Korea’s Hyundai has proven more than competitive.

In 2017, GM ceased its manufacturing operations in Australia, a decision that was already promised by the company at the end of 2013. Then GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson put it down to those “negative influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production, small domestic market and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was less inspired before his fellow parliamentarians, and did not “want to pretend to the parliament that this is anything other than a dark day for Australian manufacturing.”

Australia had simply become too dear as a base, and the closure of the Elizabeth vehicle manufacturing plant in Adelaide saw the loss of 1,600 jobs. Melbourne’s share was 1,300. What took its place was, in the sexed-up language of GM, “a national sales company, a national parts distribution centre and a global design studio.”

The sweet promise of the transformation remained more aspiration than substance. The sale run in 2019 proved so poor that it saw the cessation of the Opel-based Holden Commodore and Astra in favour of SUVs. Such moves spelled doom for the entire Holden enterprise, and on Monday afternoon, February 17, auto-watchers witnessed an announcement by GM and Holden executives that Holden will close at the end of 2020. Some 600 workers will lose their jobs by June, leaving 200 to provide the relevant customer service for the 1.6 million Holdens that are still on the roads.

A glance at the promotional messages on the GM website should have worried any Holden fan. On February 16, the company stated in the cold language of the corporate boardroom that it was “taking decisive action to transform its international operations, building on its comprehensive strategy it laid out in 2015 to strengthen its core business, drive significant cost efficiencies and take action in markets that cannot earn an adequate return for its shareholders.”

GM President Mark Reuss was suitably cool in his statement. “After considering many possible options – and putting aside our personal desires to accommodate the people and the market – we came to the conclusion that we could not prioritise further investment over all other considerations we have in a rapidly changing global industry.”

The federal government was notified a mere 15 minutes prior to the announcement, the sort of brusque treatment one has come to expect from the car manufacturer. The treatment is even more stinging given that the federal government has, historically, been one of the biggest single customers for Holden cars. Prime Minister Scott Morrison felt slighted, but despite noting the provision of some $2 billion for Holden over its existence, showed little surprise at behaviour he stopped short of describing as corporate vandalism. “I am angry, like I think many Australians would be. They just let the brand wither away on their watch. Now they are leaving it behind.”

Nowhere in the mournful tributes is the prowess of Holden cars, in all their ranges, mentioned. Family, sex and racing, yes, but nothing on the everyday competence of the products. Like relatives past their prime, they are celebrated as figures of mythology rather than the toilers of achievement. Former Holden worker Cara Bertoli summed up the sentiment of hope over corporate experience. “There were those rumours going around that yes, the brand name might eventually die off, but I guess it’s one of those things, when you’re loyal to the brand, you hope as much as you can that it doesn’t happen.”

Holden employees, on being interviewed, have shown consternation at GM. The alien parent, it was stated on ABC News Breakfast, had no idea about what a “home brand” might mean in terms of cars. Calls to the American offices were ignored; the parent seemed befuddled. Gary Mortimer, a professor of marketing and consumer behaviour at Queensland University of Technology, saw the Holden as lying at the “core” of a very Australian identity. “General Motors,” he rued, “took it away.” Australians may have fallen out of the love with Holden, but that was “because it fell out of love with us.”

Holden cars, repeatedly, tritely called “iconic”, have now lived up to that designation, a museum, or even church brand to be appreciated by collectors and the nostalgic. Any future manufacture, as the British car-dedicated program Top Gear discovered regarding the Jeep SRT Trackhawk, will be by American enthusiasts.

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Another John Clarke Inspired Sketch: Mr Saye De Pledge

In the Style of Our Late Master, Mr John Clarke

Brian: Now, your name is De Pledge?

John: My name is De Pledge, yes Brian, good evening

Brian: Have you got a first name?

John: Saye

Brian: Saye De Pledge. Is your brother Sine De Pledge?

John: That’s right Brian

Brian: Alright, Saye, your special subject tonight is nationalism

John: You mean, Patriotism, don’t you Brian?

Brian: No – it definitely says nationalism

John: Oh – alright then – basically the same thing anyway

Brian: Good luck, Saye, your time starts now. How did the parliament vote on Tanya Plibersek’s proposal to have school children pledge allegiance to Australia?

John: The right way, Brian

Brian: And what way was that?

John: They voted in favour of that great patriotic idea, Brian

Brian: Is it wise to have kids at school reciting some jingoistic slogans without understanding them?

John: I think it is, Brian. It gets them ready for voting when they’re older

Brian: Correct

John: Correct

Brian: Have there been any comments on the pledge or its content?

John: Well I did hear one bloke say ‘How good is a pledge of allegiance?’

Brian: Has anyone said anything critical of the pledge?

John: There actually was a fair bit of unpatriotic behaviour, Brian

Brian: Hang on – you just equated being critical of a pledge of allegiance with being unpatriotic

John: Correct. It’s good being on Team Australia, isn’t it, Brian?

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Corrupto-virus threatens world governance

By Ad astra  

People the world over are understandably alarmed by the recent eruption of a novel coronavirus (now named COVID-19) and its spread to countless countries, bringing in its wake widespread disruption, chaos, panic, illness and death. Previous coronavirus infections: SARS – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), and MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) haunt our memory. We fear how widespread this epidemic might become, what the final toll of illness and death will be, and how it might affect us personally. Although dismayed by the profound effects of this coronavirus, both personal and economic, we are somewhat reassured by the response to the virus, both in the field and in the laboratory. As Australians, we are proud of the contribution our doctors and scientists are making in developing a vaccine.

But are we as alarmed by the endemic nature of an old virus – corrupto-virus (2020+ CoV) – which continues to infect systems of governance the world over with flagrant corruption under our very noses? We ought to be. COVID-19 will eventually dissipate, but corrupto-virus is here to stay.

It has always been so. Reflect on the intrigue and backstabbing that characterised political behaviour as far back as the days of Ancient Rome. So little has changed over the years that it is too easy, too lazy to say ‘What’s new?’ and carry on as usual. That would ‘permit’ our leaders to believe that we, the people, have not noticed their behaviour, that we do not care, that they do not need to review how they conduct themselves, that they do not need to change.

Let’s review some contemporary examples of corrupto-virus.

Take the impeachment of Donald Trump. We all know, including the US congress and Senate, that Trump did just what he is accused of doing. He used his powerful position as US President to gain political advantage in the 2020 US Presidential election by attempting to bribe another nation to investigate alleged wrongdoing by an opponent, Joe Biden. By threatening to freeze millions of dollars of congressional approved aid to Ukraine unless President Volodymyr Zelensky did as he insisted, Trump thought he had him over a barrel. There is no doubt about it. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton recently confirmed this in a book he’s writing. But what did we see? The Republican dominated Senate, assigned the task of carrying out Trump’s impeachment ‘trial’, decided to not hear any witnesses at all! Have you ever heard of a trial where key witnesses were deliberately excluded?

Everyone knows the whole process was a cynical charade, but Trump got away with it because his Republican colleagues valued saving his skin and the political heft of the Republican Party more than justice, fairness and decency. Everyone knew Trump would be found ‘not guilty’. Prudently, he made no reference to his impeachment in his State of the Union address, but at a subsequent ‘prayer breakfast’ could not resist an exhibition of arrogant triumphalism’ when, after brandishing the front page of The Washington Post: ‘Trump Acquitted’, took the opportunity to lambaste his opponents, sack several of them, and viciously demean all those who sought to convict him, reserving his most extreme vitriol for one of his own: Mitt Romney, who had the moral courage to call Trump out.

Looking further afield, we see overt corruption in the Soviet Union where President Vladimir Putin is engineering an indefinite role for himself as President. Look at China where Xi Jinping is President without term limits, a position he manoeuvred for himself.

Let’s not get too smug though. Reflect on our own political turmoil.

I won’t go over the details of the Bridget McKenzie ‘sports rort’ affair; details are to be found in Accountability in the Canberra Bubble published here on 14 February, and anyway she’s already gone to the backbench. Suffice is it to say that she, her department, and the PM’s department too, carried out one on the most spectacular episodes of audacious pork-barrelling in Australian political history. Forget the rorting by the oft-quoted Ros Kelly. By comparison, she was an unsophisticated amateur. The best she could muster was a whiteboard! McKenzie and her entourage had a stylish spreadsheet. A professional rorter, nothing but the most elaborate colour coded display would do.

The ABC’s Andrew Probyn did a fine journalistic job in exposing, day after day, the depths to which the rorts descended. The subsequent parliamentary inquiry uncovered still more details of this monumental rort. Each new piece of evidence, each new rort uncovered astonished us, but apparently not our PM, who in response to questions about them, resorted to an old Turnbull stunt, labelling journalists’ pointed questions as ‘editorialising’, prefacing his answers with ‘I reject the premise of your question’, and old-fashioned lying. And like Basil Fawlty’s deflection of questions about the War, he probably thought ‘he got away with it’, so dangerously out of touch is he.

Are we as ordinary voters awake to the depth of corruption that we are seeing in contemporary Australian politics? Are we willing to ‘call it out’? Are we willing to pass judgement when next we get a vote? Or will we just drift along?

It’s so easy to become complacent, so easy to accept the corruption, let alone the sheer incompetence of the Morrison government, so easy to let our preoccupation with the cricket or the football or the golf distract us from how our nation is being governed, how poorly our government is addressing the crucial issues of climate change, inequality, and a stuttering economy, and how incompetent, dishonest and corrupt our politicians have become. As the image that heads this piece highlights, money, and with it power and influence, is at the heart of all corruption, as the recent ‘sports rort’ saga so strikingly demonstrates.

If we let our leaders off the hook, we will have only ourselves to blame.

So this piece is a heartfelt call to be aware of the peril we face while the Morrison government is in charge, an earnest call for the courage to speak up loudly, a plea to call out its corruption, its self-serving behaviour, and its incompetence. Otherwise we are doomed. The corrupto-virus epidemic will continue unchecked. Unless we can bring about a change, our beloved country will wither, and we with it.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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The pretentious “pretender”

In his book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, Michael Mann describes the six stages of climate change denial:

  1. CO2 is not actually increasing.
  2. Even if it is, the increase has no impact on the climate since there is no convincing evidence of warming.
  3. Even if there is warming, it is due to natural causes.
  4. Even if the warming cannot be explained by natural causes, the human impact is small, and the impact of continued greenhouse gas emissions will be minor.
  5. Even if the current and future projected human effects on Earth’s climate are not negligible, the changes are generally going to be good for us.
  6. Whether or not the changes are going to be good for us, humans are very adept at adapting to changes; besides, it’s too late to do anything about it, and/or a technological fix is bound to come along when we really need it.

Government rhetoric seems to have progressed to number 6 on the denial ladder, though most members of the Nationals, along with Craig Kelly, are still lagging a good way behind.

Even Andrew Bolt has decided it’s time to move up a rung or two, penning an article last week that began, “We sceptics can’t go on like this.  These bushfires demand we all stop pretending and face the facts.”

Oh, so he’s finally realised that his “pretending” has consequences?

Andrew graciously goes on to admit that the planet has warmed, that this warming could affect a lot of people, that man’s emissions probably played some role, and that the Liberals’ response has been hopeless and MUST change.

He then pretentiously informs us that he advised the Prime Minister before the last election that he “desperately needs a new line.”

And that’s where Andrew slides back down the ladder.  He’s not looking for more action, just a new line about why we can’t take any and how beneficial warming will be to lots of people.

In 2002, Frank Luntz advised the Republican Party that the there was only a small window of opportunity to challenge the closing window of scientific evidence and urged politicians to double down on their efforts to deny the consensus behind global warming.

With that argument now debunked to all but the most ignorant, they have moved on to the last ditch effort – cast “reasonable doubt” to convince members of the public that it is too expensive to take action.

Andrew Bolt wants a cost/benefit analysis.  I’m sure he thinks that sounds clever.  And unsurprisingly, Andrew seems to come down on the side of the benefits of doing nothing about global warming.

He asks how many coal power stations must go?

Well the answer is all of them – they have a finite life span – but no-one, not even the Greens, are suggesting they close overnight.  No private investor is interested in opening new plants unless they get a lot of government assistance and, even then, no-one has a proposal on the books.

Andrew also wants to know how many people will lose their jobs and how high electricity prices will go, before quoting a flawed paper by Brian Fisher telling us that workers would, on average, be earning $9,000 less a year than we should have been by 2030 if Labor had its way.

Then Bolt asks by how much would the world’s temperature then be cut before telling us the answer is zero.

And if we do limit temperature rise, would we get fewer bushfires and fewer droughts or would we have more cyclones and smaller crops?

Andrew finishes with a certainty that he used to devote to the old argument about there being no consensus.

“See?  Suddenly it’s not so clear as warming extremists pretend.  That’s why they hate talking like practical adults, not religious zealots.

So for Morrison’s Liberals, it’s confession time:  say that global warming is not just about costs but benefits too.  Or must hysterics dominate?”

I would kind of prefer the experts to advise us than the “practical adults” on Sky After Dark.

Bolt is just an ordinary person making his name through expressing ignorant opinions loudly.  Matt Canavan and Craig Kelly are about the only people who take him seriously.  Someone really needs to ram home to these idiots a dollar figure of how much their inaction will cost.  If they won’t believe the scientists, perhaps the insurance actuaries should have a word about cost and risk management.

If this country is to survive, we need urgent action and persuasive global leadership on emissions reduction, and we need a government who cares enough to lead us through the transition to a zero carbon economy and the new industries and jobs it will provide.

What we don’t need is pompous pretentious asses “pretending” they know what they are talking about.

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Intelligence Spats: Australia, Britain and Huawei

A note of fraternal tension has been registered between the United Kingdom and Australia. It began with Britain’s decision to permit China’s technology giant Huawei a role in the construction of the country’s 5G network. While the decision is qualified to non-core functions, as UK officials term it, the irritations to the United States and, it follows, Australia, have been far from negligible.

Members of the US Congress have been clear that letting Huawei into the stables of security risks future trade deals. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a visit to the UK, has been equally insistent on the dangers. “When you allow the information of your citizens of the national security information of your citizens to transit a network that the Chinese Communist party has a legal mandate to obtain, it creates risk.” In Munich attending an international security conference, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper warned that, “Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors … could render our partners critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation and espionage.” As for US President Donald Trump, the words “apoplectic” and “fury” figured in responding to the UK decision.

Australian officials have relished their role in telling the old, long-in tooth Mother Country off. Simon Gilding, director of the Australian Signals Directorate till December, suggested in The Strategist that the UK was putting its faith in “a flawed and outdated cybersecurity model to convince themselves that they can manage the risk that Chinese intelligence services could use Huawei’s access to UK telco networks to insert bad code.”

Gilding does not mince his words. “5G decisions reflect one of those quietly pivotal moments that crystallise a change in world affairs.” The British decision had been “disappointing” in “doing the wrong thing” on the technology. It had not considered, for instance, Australian testing in the field. “I was,” he smugly recalled, “part of the team in the Australian Signals Directorate that tried to design a suite of cybersecurity controls that would give the government confidence that hostile intelligence services could not leverage their national vendors to gain access to our 5G networks.” Measures of mitigation were designed with the express purpose of preventing a state actor from gaining access to the networks. All failed.

The UK government has been attempting to reassure allies within the “Five Eyes” agreement that any security concerns are unjustified. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab spent a good deal of his time during this month’s visit to Canberra attempting to assuage members of the Federal Parliament Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. That effort seemed to fall flat.

In a report that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Deputy Intelligence Committee Chair and Labor MP Anthony Byrne was irate, notably at Raab’s response that the Huawei decision was a “technical” if “difficult” matter, but hardly political. “How would you feel,” Byrne is reported to have asked of Raab, “if the Russians laid down infrastructure in your own networks? That’s how we feel about Huawei.”

Officially, Byrne gave the impression that things had gone rather well in “a full and frank discussion regarding 5G, trade and strategic challenges.” Privately, that same Byrne was cocksure, daring, even rude. According to the source reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, “He basically said: ‘I’ll raise you my ASD [Australian Signals Directorate] against your GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters].” China, he argued, had become an “existential” threat to Australia, being both its largest trading partner and most formidable “security threat”.

Few others were privy to the discussions that took place between Raab and various Australian parliamentarians. Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s Liberal MP Andrew Hastie was present, as was Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Liberal senator David Fawcett. The other person to bear witness to discussions was the UK High Commissioner Vicki Treadell.

For Treadell, the matter was obvious. Someone in the meeting had ratted. As the ABC subsequently found out, “measured” and “stern” letters were duly sent from the High Commissioner’s Office to both committee chairs chiding them for the leaks. Despite failing to confirm the existence of such letters, the UK Commission being supposedly “unable to comment on private briefings, or on any information pertaining to these private briefings”, the shells had been fired.

Feeling put out, Parliament’s intelligence and security committee cancelled a planned visit to the UK scheduled to take place in March, preferring the more reliable, anti-Huawei environs of Washington. The official, anodyne explanation for the cancellations was put down to advice given by Australia’s High Commissioner in the UK “as he advised that counterpart committees in the UK have not yet reconstituted following the UK’s December election.”

The reasons given to the ABC by a member of the intelligence committee proved more forthright. “If this is the attitude of the British, we may as well visit the Americans who we can trust more on this stuff.” A right royal spat, indeed, and one not without its juvenile connotations.

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The 3 Cs: Collusion, Corruption and the Coalition

Don’t get me wrong.

I do not think for one moment that the Coalition parties are the only political parties in Australia which lack integrity, transparency and a desire to benefit the electors more than themselves.

However, on Thursday 13/02/20, during the Senate inquiry into the sports grant awards, the following, fairly lengthy, exchange, as reported in Crikey Daily on Friday 14/02/20, took place between Senator Abetz and Brian Boyd, an Executive Director in the Auditor General’s Office:

‘SENATOR ERIC ABETZ (Liberal Senator for Tasmania): ” … I seek to clarify, you did find that no ineligible project or application was funded?”

BRIAN BOYD: “No Senator that’s not what we found. So if you go to the start of chapter three, which is the chapter on assessment, the finding there was ‘ineligible applications were identified and no applications assessed as ineligible were awarded grant funding’.

“So that’s the Sport Australia eligibility assessment process. What then happened subsequently was there’s applications, late applications were taken on board, which were ineligible under the guidelines.

“Amendments were made for existing applications which were ineligible under the guidelines and they were funded.

“But at the time — this relates to the Sport Australia assessment process. Sport Australia removed from its list those assessed as ineligible — that’s what that finding is.

“Subsequent to that there were the five new applications, the four amended applications. And then because things took longer — because you are now running two rounds, rather than three, and funding agreements are in place — you had eight projects where, according to the details provided by the proponent, the project had been completed before the funding grant was signed. They’re ineligible under the program.

“And there were 270 something where the project had started before the funding agreement was signed, which is also ineligible under the program. So we get to around 43% of those which were awarded funding, by the time the funding agreement signed, were ineligible.”’

It will be really interesting in due course to actually read in full what is revealed to the Senate Inquiry concerning the extent of communication between the PM’s office and the Sports Minister and the inquiry by Phil Gaetjens. The latter has clearly been significantly paraphrased by the PM in reporting the findings to Parliament.

We already know that this is not the first time that slush funding for sporting bodies in the run up to an election has been abused. Ros Kelly, the 1993 Labor Sports Minister was forced out of office in 1994 and later resigned from Parliament altogether.

First as a university lecturer and later as a lawyer, I have served on three different University Human Research Ethics Committees, which have really strict guidelines. Those guidelines apply whether the research is medical – where they are even stricter – or in social science areas but still collecting date from human beings. In the veterinary sciences there are similar research ethics committees.

As a lawyer, a compulsory unit of study is ethics and I doubt that is the only discipline area to which this applies. Most professions have requirements regarding continuous reaccreditation, as I know from firsthand experience both as a lawyer and as a mediator, and most also have disciplinary bodies with the power to limit or prevent practice by a member of that profession.

Yet when it comes to politics – it is horribly clear that anything goes!

Thus we have to drag a government, kicking and screaming, to a Royal Commission, when it comes to issues like banking and aged care, where poor regulation and supervision can be literally a life and death situation and where the terms of reference seldom fully encompass the needs for enquiry and the following up is seldom effected satisfactorily.


Because politicians of most flavours receive party donations on a significant scale which discourages them from being too critical to the donors.

Why else did we wait so long for smoking to be curtailed?

Why else are we still waiting for action on phasing out fossil fuels?

And what is the background of most politicians?

Once upon a time, politicians had a wide variety of backgrounds, and usually some work-life experience before entering politics. Nowadays we still have a significant number of lawyers – which is a mixed blessing! – but are represented mainly by political apparatchiks who have spent most of their adult lives to date in a political party environment.

On the pretext that they have nobly abandoned a lucrative career in order to work for the common good, they vote themselves generous-to-a-fault superannuation schemes which the average working person could only dream of and have generous allowances, claims for which depend on their integrity.

I am leaving out a lot of detail here, because most of us who ever stop to look closely at politics know only too well that the balance between public duty and personal benefit leaves none of them short changed.

So – where are we?

Looking back over the last few years, I would sum it up like this:

We have a prime Minister who is not interested in honesty, does not seek the best for the Australian people, and has a single focus which is keeping his party – and himself – in power.

Integrity? MIA.

Transparency? MIA.

Suitability for office? Absolutely none!

Once more – this is my 2020 new Year Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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The Consistent Narrative Of Barnaby Joyce And Dorothea Mackellar

Perhaps the speed of the 21st Century really has taken away people’s concentration span, but I keep coming back to the same point. While a clever brain can hold two points of view simultaneously while working out an answer, lesser minds usually seek a logical consistency that means they don’t frequently swing from one thing to the other without some attempt at a fig-leaf of an explanation.

You know the sort of thing:

“Yes, I am on record as saying that I don’t support violence in any situation but that guy I just punched must have really deserved it because I’m such a pacifist.” 


“Yes, the economy does seem to be running into some headwinds, so isn’t it lucky that you have me in charge because Labor have showed they couldn’t manage an economy in recession by doing all they could to avoid one when we had the GFC.”

So, I’m having a lot of trouble putting together the narrative of the Barnaby Joyces of this world.

  1. We’ve always had bushfires so it’s nothing to do with climate change. Dorothea Mackellar wrote about “droughts and flooding rains” in her poem over a hundred years ago, so this nothing new.

  2. No, the bushfires are not worse. They’ve been worse in the past.

  3. These bushfires are particularly bad because in the past we had hazard reduction burns but thanks to lots of red-tape like not burning on days when the fire is likely to get out of control, we have a build-up of fuel and without that, we wouldn’t have a problem.

  4. No, it’s not unprecedented. Didn’t you hear me? We’ve had worse in the past.

  5. Yes, it’s because of the fuel. The past fires were easily brought under control because we didn’t have all those greenie restrictions.

And so on…

While it’s possible to mount a strong argument against each point, it because impossible to defeat the moving target. It’s very reminiscent of against the There is no climate change/Of course the climate is changing because it’s changed in the past so it’s nothing to do with emissions.

When it was just climate change and the bushfires, it would be bad enough but the thinking seems to be seeping into other areas too. How else can the PM stand there and say that he has a report; he can’t show it to you because it’s confidential but he can tell you what’s in it? The absurdity of this is the failure of people to call out its absurdity. I wish some journalist would ask Morrison if he’s breached the official secrets act by revealing the contents of a report which can’t be shared!

In the past few years, I’ve made some very accurate predictions like removal of Abbott for Turnbull, and Scott Morrison impersonating Steve Bradbury to beat Dutton. (At this point, I should point out that Bradbury’s Olympic triumph was not solely luck. He concluded that he wasn’t one the fastest three skaters, so his best chance of a medal was to hang back and hope that some of the faster skaters got knocked over. It was a deliberate strategy which relied on others making a mistake, whereas Morrison… Come to think of it, it was exactly the same strategy!)  Anyway, my capacity for prognostication relies on one simple idea: pick the most absurd course of action and imagine it happening.

Which, of course, brings me to Barnaby Joyce. I could predict that he’ll attempt to sell himself as a man who believes in family values so strongly that he started a second family, but that’s not absurd enough for the man who made the Christmas Eve video where he told us that he wanted less government in his life.

No, my prediction is that Barnaby will make another tilt at the Nationals leadership and unless his colleagues decide that they have to make him happy by giving in, Joyce will take the rebels and form a new party, arguing that they’re getting back to their roots by reclaiming “The Country Party” as their name because they’re going to stick up for the little guy in the bush by backing mining, fracking and less government, unless it’s a subsidy to buy non-existent water or a coal-fondling lobby group. “We are no longer ‘Nats’!” Joyce will tell us, but stop short of giving his rebel colleagues the name that the rest of the Coalition will be calling them.

This strange turn of events will embarrass the government in House of Representatives with several votes being lost when Joyce announces that they’ll be abstaining until the government agrees to put a new coal-fired power station in every city and to legislate to restrict the amount of wind and solar which can be allowed into our nation.

Faced with possible humiliation of the floor of the House, Morrison will decide that this is his chance to get rid of the pesky Nats – and others – once and for all. He’ll call an election, content in his conviction that miracles do happen for him on a regular basis. Not only was he made PM, but he was actually elected by voters. Why not a third sign that he is the chosen one?

Content that the sports rorts and the disinformation about Labor’s policies did him no harm last time, he will begin his campaign by telling people that anyone in a marginal electorate will be given ten thousand dollars so they can start their own sporting club providing that they’re not a member at the time of signing, and attacking Labor for their policy of compulsory vasectomies for any male over the age of eighteen. He’ll try to win the female vote by announcing that Labor intend to charge you extra tax based on the number of children you have, presuming – like Tony Abbott did as Minister for Women – that the only thing a woman cares about is having babies.

The Murdoch press will ignore everything that he puts out and back him on the grounds that, as we’ve fallen into recession and the long-awaited surplus hasn’t eventuated, we need a government prepared to make the tough decisions. Various editors will attack Labor for their plans to actually spend some taxpayer money on the taxpayers when it could be better spent by ensuring that newspapers had enough money to continue operating.

Ok, it might not all turn out like I’m suggesting, but given the last few years, would anyone be surprised?

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