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Category Archives: Politics

Floods of Challenges: The Victorian Election Saga of Australia’s Transition from Neoliberalism and Guided Democracy

By Denis Bright

Victorians rejected the instability of minority government in favour of a third term for Labor’s Premier Daniel Andrews. He joins the ranks of just three Victorian Labor premiers who have achieved three consecutive election victories.

This Labor Government will have a comfortable majority in the Legislative Assembly with a likely 54 seats. Only the seat of Pakenham is still in the doubtful category with the Liberal Party just five votes ahead on preference estimates.

The Greens will have a stronger rhetorical voice in both houses of parliament. An additional fourth Green representative will represent Hawthorn at the expense of a local Independent. There will be a two additional Green Legislative Councillors. Under Victoria’s proportional voting system, the Andrew’s government has always lacked a majority in the upper house and will have to look beyond the Greens (3) to pass legislation perhaps with the support of pragmatic or progressive councillors from the Legalise Cannabis Party (2) or Democratic Labor (1).

The ABC News site has a full analysis of the swings and round-abouts from the Victorian elections including the results in the La Trobe Valley electorate of Morwell.

With a populist conservative campaign, the National Party (9) won three additional seats mainly at the expense of regional Independents. The National Party will take the Labor seat of Morwell in the La Trobe Valley on a primary vote of just 23.5 per cent with the support of preferences from the Liberals, One Nation (6 per cent) and a mix of local independents and far-right minor parties.

 

Photo from the ABC

 

Despite the weakness of the Labor Party’s vote outside the Geelong-Ballarat-Bendigo Triangle, one of the strengths of the Labor Party in Victoria is its formal and accountable policy committee structure covering fourteen policy chapters. Membership of these policy committees is decided by State Conference.

This committee structure has the capacity to zoom in on the policy concerns of voters between state elections. It can bring policy debates to branch networks particularly if it is supported by grassroots policy associations. This is a big change from the negative news about branch stacking which affects both sides of Australian politics including the NSW Liberal Party as noted by Anne Davies in The Guardian (23 January 2022).

Underlying the problem of branch stacking is the vacuous nature of political activity at the grass roots level. Victoria Labor’s Committee system could liven up grassroots politics through the formation of policy associations to extend the outreach of formal committee networks.

In contrast, the National Party offers a return to old time populism as emphasized by Nationals for Regional Victoria:

I’m a Traralgon boy, born and bred. I’m a plumber, run my own small business and I have had a lifelong involvement in the Traralgon Football Netball Club.

One thing I’m not, is a career politician. I come to this role as a genuine community candidate and I’m running because we need a strong voice in State Parliament to stand up for the Latrobe Valley.

​I’ve been a plumber for 35 years, running the business that my dad and mum set up myself for the past 20. I come from a strong family that values and rewards hard work and enterprise.

​Running my own small business means I know what it takes to create jobs in our community and the value of young people learning a trade. Life is tough for tradies and all businesses currently, with shortages of workers, endless government red tape and a lack of understanding of our region by decision makers in Spring Street.

Ali Cupper was prepared to co-operate with the Andrews Government to bring the Mildura Hospital back into public ownership after its privatization by the Kennett Liberal Government in 1992. The change back to publicly operated hospital was an quite amicable as the contracts for Ramsay Health’s operations was ready for renewal after twenty years. Ali Cupper just disagreed with Victoria Health’s new master plan for the hospital.

In that macro-theme of Floods of Challenges in Australian politics at all levels, progressive leaders can and should take up issues which appear to be insurmountable. Members of the broad Labor movement would surely welcome opportunities for involvement in policy formation even if their participation is through policy associations rather than formal committee structures.

The street art of Fintan Magee and others should encourage political elites to anticipate the need for greater community involvement in the fine tuning of grand plans.

Surely, the transition from guided democracy and political elitism is a plus for Australia’s slow transition from neoliberalism and demands for blind loyalty within the branch structures of mainstream political networks which raise money for those mindless political jingles at election time.

 

Image: The Pillars Art Gallery

 

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.

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Julian Assange and Albanese’s Intervention

The unflinching US effort to extradite and prosecute Julian Assange for 18 charges, 17 of which are chillingly based upon the Espionage Act of 1917, has not always stirred much interest in the publisher’s home country. Previous governments have been lukewarm at best, preferring to mention little in terms of what was being done to convince Washington to change course in dealing with Assange.

Before coming to power, Australia’s current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had made mention of wishing to conclude the Assange affair. In December 2019, before a gathering at the Chifley Research Centre, he described the publisher as a journalist, accepting that such figures should not be prosecuted for “doing their job”. The following year, he also expressed the view that the “ongoing pursuit of Mr Assange” served no evident “purpose” – “enough is enough”.

The same point has been reiterated by a number of crossbenchers in Australia’s parliament, represented with much distinction by the independent MP from Tasmania, Andrew Wilkie. In a speech given earlier this year to a gathering outside Parliament House, the Member for Clark wondered if the UK and Australia had placed their relations with Washington at a premium so high as to doom Assange. “The US wants to get even and for so long the UK and Australia have been happy to go along for the ride because they’ve put bilateral relationships with Washington ahead of the rights of a decent man.”

The new Australian government initially gave troubling indications that a tardy, wait-and-see approach had been adopted. “My position,” Albanese told journalists soon after assuming office, “is that not all foreign affairs is best done with the loudhailer.”

Documents obtained under freedom of information also showed an acknowledgment by the Albanese government of assurances made by the United States that the WikiLeaks founder would have the chance to serve the balance of any prison sentence in Australia. But anybody half-versed in the wiles and ways of realpolitik should know that the international prisoner transfer scheme is subordinate to the wishes of the relevant department granting it. The US Department of Justice can receive the request from Assange, but there is nothing to say, as history shows, that the request will be agreed to.

Amidst all this, the campaign favouring Assange would not stall. Human rights and press organisations globally have persistently urged his release from captivity and the cessation of the prosecution. On November 28, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel published a joint open letter titled, “Publishing is not a Crime.”

The five outlets who initially worked closely with WikiLeaks in publishing US State Department cables 12 years ago have not always been sympathetic to Assange. Indeed, they admit to having criticised him for releasing the unredacted trove in 2011 and even expressed concern about his “attempt to aid in computer intrusion of a classified database.”

Had the editors bothered to follow daily trial proceedings of the extradition case in 2020, they would have noted that the Guardian’s own journalists muddied matters by publishing the key to the encrypted files in a book on WikiLeaks. A mortified Assange warned the State Department of this fact. Cryptome duly uploaded the cables before WikiLeaks did. The computer intrusion charge also withers before scrutiny, given that Chelsea Manning already had prior authorisation to access military servers without the need to hack the system.

But on this occasion, the publishers and editors were clear. “Cablegate”, with its 251,000 State Department cables, “disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.” They had “come together now to express [their] grave concerns about the continued prosecution of Julian Assange for obtaining and publishing classified materials.”

Very mindful of their own circumstances, the media outlets expressed their grave concerns about the use of the Espionage Act “which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.” Such an indictment set “a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”

The same day of the letter’s publication, Brazil’s President-elect Lula da Silva also added his voice to the encouraging chorus. He did so on the occasion of meeting the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell, an associate of the organisation, and expressed wishes that “Assange will be freed from his unjust imprisonment.”

The stage was now set for Albanese to make his intervention. In addressing parliament on November 30 in response to a question from independent MP Monique Ryan, Albanese publicly revealed that he had, in fact, been lobbying the Biden administration for a cessation of proceedings against Assange. “I have raised this personally with the representatives of the US government.”

The Australian PM was hardly going to muck in on the issue of the WikiLeaks agenda. Australia remains one of the most secretive of liberal democracies, and agents of radical transparency are hardly appreciated. (Witness, at present, a number of venal prosecutions against whistleblowers that have not been abandoned even with a change of government in May.)

Albanese drew a parallel with Chelsea Manning, the key figure who furnished WikiLeaks with classified military documents, received a stiff sentence for doing so, but had her sentence commuted by President Barack Obama. “She is now able to participate freely in society.” He openly questioned “the point of continuing this legal action, which could be caught up now for many years, into the future.”

For some years now, the plight of Assange could only be resolved politically. In her address to the National Press Club in Canberra delivered in October this year, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson acknowledged as much. “This case needs an urgent political solution. Julian does not have another decade to wait for a legal fix.” This point was reiterated by Ryan in her remarks addressed to the prime minister.

The telling question here is whether Albanese will get any purchase with the Washington set. While enjoying a reputation as a pragmatic negotiator able to reach agreements in tight circumstances, the pull of the US national security establishment may prove too strong. “We now get to see Australia’s standing in Washington, valued ally or not,” was the guarded response of Assange’s father John Shipton.

 

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The Right is toxic: what next for conservatives?

The international right is cynical and dangerous. It is crucial we look beyond the surface rhetoric to understand what it represents because Australia is not immune.

The global right is pervaded with “expert and prodigious liars”: truth is irrelevant to their pursuit of power. The American experience is key to Australia: from the Civil Rights era, conservatives understood the future to be demographically grim for them. Instead of finding an electable path, they have increasingly developed deceptive strategies and gambits to con enough voters to enact their oligarchic agenda. The most dangerous lies have been delivered in the service of commercial interests such as fossil fuels. Now our very future stands in doubt.

Equally frightening is the degree to which the right is becoming honest: bigotries which were unmentionable in public or dog-whistled, these politicians now speak openly. The conspiracies that wind through the internet’s social spaces are spread by politicians and their media allies. Religion is used to dignify the ugly prejudices and fantasies.

One would be naïve not to expect lies and deceptions in the games of politics, but when one side destroys the bases of trust, the contest can no longer function. Constant lies gushed from President Donald Trump. The question of Scott Morrison’s honesty was deemed worthy of an entire book by Bernard Keane.

The Albanese government has granted Australians a pause in which to take stock. Around the world old divisions and alliances are unstable and shifting. The trajectory is towards profiteering amongst the richest in the face of mounting crises, and the subjection of the masses. The climate emergency’s catastrophes pile on the pressure. We need to stop assuming that our old truths remain true, our old alliances remain worthy, and that our moral bearings are intact.

It has become clear that formerly conservative parties are willing to work with anyone in the pursuit of power. It is also clear that they can be willing, in emulation of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, to use election victory to dismantle the structures that allow others to remove them.

In his essay on the results of the latest Israeli election, “The Israel we knew is gone,” David Friedman observed that “Israeli political trends are often a harbinger of wider trends in Western democracies.” The fact that Bibi Netanyahu has made a pact with the devil to regain power should stand as a stern warning to us all.

Netanyahu has formed government with figures that belong to the most extreme positions in Israel, who believe that shooting Palestinians should not be criminal; they won their election largely on mistrust of Israeli Arabs, threatening greater persecution of non-Jewish parts of the nation, including startling projects like separate beaches for Jews and Arabs.

A number of “conservative” parties in the West are beginning to work more overtly with the far right. The Neo Nazi-born parties are donning suits and detoxifying the worst of their rhetoric; in return, they are being accepted as partners in the political process. In Sweden, for example, three conservative parties have formed government by agreeing to work with the party of Neo Nazis to guarantee supply. The quid pro quo entails an array of harsh policies on immigration.

In France the far right has shown itself content to work with the left, to challenge Macron, but also to build a misleading façade of normalcy. These decisions to hide their ugliest faces in pursuit of power is one of the more chilling aspects of the movement.

In other countries, including Australia, the UK and US, our “conservative” parties are not so much cooperating with far-right parties as devouring them. John Howard’s lurch rightward from the 1990s to capture Pauline Hanson’s radicalised supporters was only the beginning of Australia’s “conservative” party’s moral destruction. Australia has, in turn, helped radicalise our anglosphere allies: our brutal policies against asylum seekers have infected our AUKUS partners, helping make their copycat actions shocking to rule of law representatives in those nations.

Victoria’s Liberal Party has presented itself as moderate to suit the electorate but is crippled by the branches gradually being overwhelmed by religious conservatives. Thus its policy platform includes support for conversion therapy, and its leader refuses to condemn candidates with a deeply reactionary mission. It has even preferenced known antisemite far-right candidates in its ethics-free desperation.

This reflects the American radical right development called the Nat Con movement. The billionaire-funded youth of the Republican Party now parades itself as fighting “the perfidy of the ruling class.” There it parades its bigotries as the defence of the little people.

The right has shown itself adept at co-opting left ideas and banners. The academics’ defining of relativism, which granted that there is no single truth for colonisers that is also the truth for the colonised, has been taken by the right to say that there is no truth.

The far right and the left share discontent with neoliberal orthodoxies. There are uncomfortable sympathies between the “poles” that have emerged over the pandemic. Resentment at government public health policies that they saw as precursors to totalitarianism melded with rampant (and often justified) mistrust of Big Pharma on the left to allow them to see the far right as fellow travellers. In a similar way, some feminists, particularly in the UK, have been co-opted by the far right into the anti-LGBTQI movement. Even Queer women join these attacks on trans existence – depicted as an affront to women – failing to realise that they too will become targets down the road. Thus, the far-right misogynist movement adopts a “feminist” face.

Antisemitic thought is as central to the radicalised right as anti-Muslim thought. Strange alliances are born. Orban’s Hungary has made George Soros a boogieman. This expat Jewish figure’s demonisation illustrates the hollow nature of Orban’s claim not to lead an antisemitic regime. Despite this antisemitism, his shared hatred of Muslims has made him a strong ally for Israel’s Netanyahu.

The Liberal Party, in federal and Victorian elections, chose to play duplicitous games, pitching themselves to the centrist voter as rational. They chose, however, to play also to the conspiracy and religious fringes. This American strand of right-wing politics has been rejected by Australians.

Those of us who hope for a future for our children cannot vote for the current right, infected by international strains of bigotry and deceptive authoritarianism as it stands. The centre right must evaluate what it has to offer, rather than cowering under the threatening might of its extreme partners.

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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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To be truthful, “sorry” is a word so hard to say

When you think there isn’t much to write about in politics, the system spews out an avalanche of year-ending scandals, policy decisions, election results and reports.

The year is approaching its final sunset before a new year reinvigorates us with good intentions. Some will reach fruition, and others will perish on the vine. “Sorry” will remain a challenging word.

1 For those who have followed the political career of former Prime Mister Scott Morrison, the knowledge that he was a first-class pathological liar, bible-thumping hypocrite, a devious long-winded speaker who gave the impression he knew everything about anything, and it would be clear to you. If it wasn’t, he would be happy to tell you.

He failed to achieve anything during his combative, disreputable, pathetic tenure as the worst, most destructive, totally corrupt and callously inhumane PM in living memory. People debate the purpose of his tenure, but we can be assured there wasn’t one.

Importantly, in addition to those characterisations, you would be aware of his incapacity to apologise for any error he made, regardless of its significance.

Such was the case when former high court justice Virginia Bell, whose detailed report was released last Friday said:

“We now have three new adjectives for the saga of Scott Morrison’s secret, multiple ministries: ‘unnecessary’, ‘exorbitant’, and ‘bizarre,’ she said in describing his break-glass-in-case-of-emergency powers.”

You can read Scott Morrison’s complete response to Bell’s report here but let me tell you that the word “sorry” doesn’t appear anywhere. Why? Because having the ability to admit that you are wrong is an absolute prerequisite to having the respect of your colleagues, and it’s a little late now. He would therefore be well advised to leave the parliament ASAP.

It’s not the weak who are unable to say sorry. It’s the strong and privileged.

2 In Victoria, Labor had a 6 per cent swing against it with a surge in support for the Greens and independents for a comfortable parliamentary majority. And on my reckoning, they will need to win 22 seats to gain government in four years’ time.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has announced he will resign as leader of the Victorian Liberals after successive massive defeats.

Daniel Andrews is the most dominant political figure of his time. Does anyone think I’m wrong?

 

 

3 On Facebook, Michael Brooke commented on my post for The AIMN; A view of Trump from Down Under:

“It’s never the man. It’s always who and what the man represents. Trump is an ulcer on the USA’s backside. John Lord, he’s absolutely as awful as you describe him, a festering sore, a pustule that is uniquely American – he is a symptom of a nation in decline, a failing empire, a once-democracy that has become a mere money-market. Demonising Trump is too easy: picking at America’s democratic scab is more to the point; one discovers, horrified, that the nation is a plutocracy; a nation ruled exclusively by the wealthy, either directly or indirectly, by subterfuge, only the wealthy rule.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

4 Stuart Robert’s in trouble, yet again. This time the:

“Nine newspapers have published leaked emails that suggest Mr Robert, a Queensland Liberal MP, secretly advised Synergy 360 in 2017 and 2018 and helped the company meet senior political figures.

Cabinet Minister Bill Shorten has ordered an urgent investigation into government contracts secured by a lobbying firm that allegedly has close links to former Coalition minister Stuart Robert, while using parliamentary privilege to warn against corruption.”

5 Ricky Pann posted on Facebook:

“Every time I hear delusional Greens say ‘Labor adopted our policies’ it reminds me of what a disappointing unrepresentative, arrogant rabble they are. The greens are a product of middle-class privilege & hollow rhetorical nonsense. It is why they will always stay on the fringe of governance as, like the Nationals, they are a brand that misrepresents their proper position.”

6 And I should keep Andrew Bolt on my list.

“I’ve never in history seen a Facebook post with purely laughs. No likes, no loves, just 500 laughs. Someone notify Andrew Bolt.” (David Fowles, Facebook).

 

 

My only thought on this nonsense is that Murdoch’s mainstream media will only ever print or say whatever is in its best interests. Then it might say something interesting and truthful.

7 It’s been going on for four years, so you must admire Guardian Australia; they don’t give up easily. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water had taken legal action to block it from accessing documents about an investigation into illegal land-clearing by Jam Land Pty Ltd. The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, and his brother Richard have an interest in the company.

Last month the Australian information commissioner ordered the release of 11 documents. Then a week ago:

“… the department took the unusual step of appealing against the commissioner’s lengthy ruling in the administrative appeals tribunal. The case is likely to be heard next year.”

It concerns:

“… the department’s site visits to the Monaro plains in late 2016 and early 2017 to inspect the damage to endangered native grasslands, which were sprayed with herbicide in late 2016.

The case has been controversial because Taylor sought meetings in 2017 with senior environment officials and the office of the then environment minister Josh Frydenberg about the laws that protected the grasslands while the investigation was under way.”

8 The 27th United Nations climate conference, COP27 drew to a close with fears it would end in total disaster:

“There appeared to be no momentum towards consensus.

Some countries were pushing to drop the ambition to keep global warming below 1.5 Celsius. Others said they would rather reach no agreement than accept such an outcome.

Before the meeting began, commentators had noted that because of the various crises distracting nations – wars, natural disasters, energy shortages – a “win” for COP27 might’ve been as simple as not backsliding from the ambitions set previously.”

On the subject of climate change. Think about this: If we fail to act and disaster results, then massive suffering will have been aggravated by stupidity.

9 A transference of votes started in the May 2022 federal election, and will continue. Anyone who follows political polling would know that the constituency of the conservative parties has always been older people. Every poll I have ever looked at proves it. It was always apparent to me that, at some time, these folks would pass on. At the same time, the left’s constituency has always been the 18-year-olds upwards. I’m surprised the LNP doesn’t realise that.

We must have the courage to ask our young that they should go beyond desire and aspiration and accomplish not the trivial but greatness. They should not allow the morality they inherited from good folk to be corrupted by the immorality and lies of evil minds.

My thought for the day

Sometimes I allow myself the indulgence of thinking I know a lot. Then I realise that in the totality of things, I know little. However, there are known facts in the world because science proves them.

 

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Nats Vote No OR When You’re Standing At The North Pole Everything Is South

It’s sort of interesting that just a few days ago we had the conservative side of politics telling us that they didn’t have a position on the Voice because they didn’t have enough detail. Now, according to Nationals muppet, David Littleproud, there’s enough detail to announce that they’ll be opposing it.

Ok, I shouldn’t be calling Littleproud a “muppet”. This sort of name-calling doesn’t advance the political agenda. Besides, the muppets were cute little puppets who were fun to look at and brought laughter to a lot of people… So calling him a muppet is only accurate on the last point.

Anyway, in rhetoric reminiscent of some of the reasons for not apologising to the Stolen Generation, the Nationals are opposing it because it does nothing toward closing the gap. When asked why his government did so little about closing the gap in their time in office, Littleproud insisted that they’d done plenty.

I’m sorry, but I don’t consider making health and education outcomes worse for non-Indigenous people is really what’s intended when people talk about closing the gap.

Anyway, I’m sure that there’ll be a disproportionate number of voices being given coverage praising the Nationals for their courageous stance in standing up to the woke forces…

On a side-note, given that Hitler was racist does that mean people who are anti-Nazi are just succumbing to woke nonsense?

Part of the trouble is that the media feeds off controversy and drama so instead of working on the theory that where there’s a strong consensus, let’s concentrate on fixing the roadblocks to getting things done, they work hard to find a problem. For example, if there’s difficulty getting help to flood victims, instead of an impartial investigation into how the problem can be fixed, as well as how similar issues can be avoided in the future, we’ll have a “PASTOR BLAMES BUREAUCRACY FROM STOPPING HIM BUILDING ARK.”

For example, in the recent Victorian state election, Independent Ian Cook was given a great deal of publicity because his exit poll of friends and family said that he was a great chance of upsetting Dan Andrews in the seat of Mulgrave. Having failed to get the required votes, he is now getting airtime on mainstream media with his complaints about the fact that the two-party preferred on election night was done between Labor and Liberal when after the distribution of preferences he would have been in second place, and this says something about the corruption inherent in the system.

While the Victorian Electoral Commission have explained that the election night preference count is done on the basis of who is expected to finish in second place and it’s just done to give a guide, but when preferences are actually counted, they are actually distributed in accordance with the actual distribution, this hasn’t stopped the various calls for a recount being given a significant amount of air time.

The only problem is that it looks like Andrews will score more than fifty percent of the first preference vote in Mulgrave, meaning that even if another candidate gets ALL their remaining preferences, Andrews will still have more votes. It’s like complaining that they’re declaring the winner of the Brownlow medal when there’s still a round to go when the leader is more than three votes ahead of the field.

Preferential voting seems difficult for some people to understand with various people tweeting that Labor only got 37% of the votes so most people oppose them. (Similar arguments in the recent federal election.)

So for the benefit of everyone I’m going to explain preferential voting in simple terms so that you can show this to your kids or that drunk uncle at Christmas.

A simple majority vote

I have a class of twenty-five students. I tell them that I am buying them lunch on the last day. They need to vote on what we get. These are the options.

  • Pizza
  • Red Rooster
  • McDonald’s
  • Fish and chips
  • Subway
  • Nothing – I’ll be on the sports excursion

After voting, the results are as follows.

  • 5 votes for Pizza
  • 3 votes for Red Rooster
  • 5 votes for McDonald’s
  • 2 Fish and chips
  • 4 Subway
  • 6 Nothing,

Of course, when I tell the kids that in a fair and democratic election, Nothing won with 6 votes, so they won’t be getting lunch, I suspect that they won’t see the fairness of the simple majority system. On the other hand, a preferential system would ask them to number their votes from first to sixth. Apart from anything else I suspect that those voting for Nothing wouldn’t fill the squares from 1-6 making their vote informal.

After the distribution of preferences we discover that apart from those who voted Pizza 1, eight people had it as number 2. At this point, Pizza has more than fifty percent of the vote and is the victor. While they may not be overjoyed at not getting their choice, they’re certainly a lot happier than if Nothing was declared the winner.

It’s also interesting that some people who claim that Labor are illegitimate because they got less than fifty percent of first preference votes are more than happy for parties like the Nationals and Pauline Hanson’s One Notion to wield power disproportionate to their number of first preference votes.

And that’s part of the trouble. For years, it’s been suggested that Labor are the left and that the Liberals are the right and other parties are far right or far left and there’s a battle for the middle ground between Liberals and Labor but this overlooks the reality of the electorate.

While I’ve often pointed out that there’s something strange about calling someone like me left-wing when I’m not exactly calling for the destruction of the capitalist system and all I’m asking for is policies that work for people and not an elite few, the problem is not simply that I’m considered a lefty by people with extreme right views. The problem is that when you’re at the North Pole, everything is south of you, and when you’re on Sky After Dark, then even Costello’s Nine is far too close to that lefty outfit, the Liberal Party.

In the end, most people won’t something done about the cost of living but they also want something done about climate change, they supported marriage equality, they don’t support racism or sexism even if they – like me – sometimes have problems recognising it.

So the rise of the “so-called Teal” candidates in the federal election was no surprise. Simply, in seats where people hadn’t been able to bring themselves to vote Labor because they just don’t, they suddenly had an alternative that more closely reflected their views than the Liberals.

 

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Was Amtrak Joe derailed?

By 2353NM

Prior to becoming President, Joe Biden was a US Senator for around 36 years. He is known as Amtrak Joe as he routinely took the daily 90 minute each way train trip (on the USA’s national passenger train network – Amtrak) from his home in Delaware to Washington DC to represent his state. If you listened to the predictions of Donald Trump and his allies, the ‘great red wave’ would ensure Biden was going to be derailed after the election with a reinvigorated Republican controlled Congress pursuing an agenda that is only partly based on reality.

Chalk one up for reality. As The New Yorker reported

There had been no red wave, never mind Donald Trump’s promised “great red wave.” Was it a red ripple or merely a red drizzle? A blue escape? Purple rain? Even Fox News decreed the results to be no more than a pro-Republican “trickle.” Whatever it was called, President Biden and his Democrats, by limiting their losses in the House to less than the average for such elections and likely keeping the Senate as well, scored an against-the-odds political upset that suggests the country remains deeply skeptical of handing too much national power to the Trumpified Republican Party.

However, The Guardian suggests we should

Expect the Republican majority to launch an array of congressional investigations ranging from the reasonable (Biden’s botched withdrawal to Afghanistan) to the grandstanding (Anthony Fauci’s coronavirus pandemic measures and Biden’s son Hunter’s laptop).

Expect a battle over lifting the limit on US debt with the potential to cause havoc in the economy. Expect a possible attempt by the Maga wing of the party to impeach Biden on spurious grounds, effectively as payback for Democrats having twice hit Trump with the ultimate sanction.

The New Yorker also suggests that Biden will have some problems in the next couple of years.

The biggest immediate problem for Biden and the Democrats, however, is that a win for the Republicans, even if it’s not a wave, is still a win. A one-vote margin in the House would still give subpoena power to Jim Jordan as the chair of the House Judiciary Committee. It would still mean the difference between Biden being able to advance his legislative agenda with a Democratic Speaker or the impossibility of doing so with a Republican one. A narrow Republican majority in the House might even further empower the crazies in the chamber, making a Speaker Kevin McCarthy beholden to the Trumpian extremists’ every whim if he does not want to be deposed by them – if, that is, McCarthy is even able to win the Speakership.

So yes, there’s a real risk of irrational exuberance from the folks who insisted in 2021 that Biden, governing with a fifty-fifty Senate and a single-digit majority in the House, could somehow legislate his way into the progressive pantheon with the likes of F.D.R. and L.B.J.

If a train is derailed, it has come off the track and can’t move. Usually it takes quite a lot of time, effort and machinery to put the train back on the track, only to be taken slowly back to the maintenance depot and inspected prior to being condemned or returned to regular service after a long and costly repair process. Joe Biden and his Presidency has certainly not been derailed as he still has a Presidential veto which can only be overruled by a two thirds majority of the House. Unlike Australia where voting against your party’s wishes is at best frowned upon and at worst a sackable offence, the Members and Senators can and frequently do vote with the opposition party if they think they should, there is a real probability that some Republican’s will vote with Biden’s Democrats during the next two years. Biden’s train seems to be still on the tracks, but it’s certainly hit an obstacle and the driver is out of the cab inspecting the damage.

Trump and his allies also have lost the momentum for a Presidential run in 2024 that a ‘red wave’ in the mid-terms would have given. There are various reports that Trump was furious with the result, especially the apparent popularity of the Governor of Florida, Ron De Santis, a former Trump acolyte and now potentially feared competitor in the Presidential Primaries. Nevertheless, he chose to make an announcement that he was running for President in 2024, regardless of the damage the Trump sideshow could do to the Republicans’ chances in a Senate runoff in Georgia early December.

The New Yorker’s final paragraph is telling

What we learned once again on Tuesday night is that America’s divisions are still America’s divisions. Democrats avoided a wipeout. But there was no knockout punch that would finally prove the folly of the Republicans’ Trumpian turn. Which means that democracy, as Biden would put it, is still very much on the line.

Which should be a concern for all of us on this side of the Pacific as well.

What do you think?

 

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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Thanks To Dan Andrews I Got My First Dose Of Covid On Election Day!

Just to be clear here, I didn’t get it at the polling booths. I voted on the first day in the first hour that voting opened.

“Have you voted anywhere else before?” asked the guy crossing me off. Gee, I thought, I’d have had to have been quick, but I guess it’s like when they ask you at the airport if you’re planning a terrorist attack. I mean, I don’t know how many people they’ve caught like that but I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Anyway, I picked up Covid somewhere and let me say I’ve felt better in my life. On the other hand, I can see how some people might be saying that locking down over something this mild was a massive over-reaction. Not the ones who died of course.

Which brings me to one of the great inconsistencies of some of the anti-Dan rhetoric we’ve all heard over the last few years. Apparently he was to blame for the 801 deaths which were a result of Covid leaking out of hotel quarantine, but locking down elsewhere wasn’t necessary because so what if a few people die. I found it hard to reconcile the idea that Covid needed the army – which we later learnt wouldn’t have been able to provide security – because it was so dangerous and needed to be contained but not for everyday citizens who should have been allowed to spread it because Freedom.

Whatever, Andrews has been re-elected and the media is talking about the swings against it as though the only thing that matters is the primary vote. Rather like saying Australia won the cricket test by 298 runs but their score in the first innings wasn’t as high as it was last time so they must be really, really concerned about that. As I wrote the other day, I have no idea if the opinion polls will prove correct but it seems as though some in the media are just ignoring them in order to feed a narrative that the election will be close. Yes, it’s always hard to work out exactly what will happen but if you’re just going to presume that the polls mean nothing it’s just as dangerous as presuming a single poll is 100% accurate.

There are all sorts of different factors at play in any election and it helps to create a single story around what happened such as this leader lost the left when he made all those homophobic and racist comments or that leader lost the educated vote with his policy to abolish universities. It’s far too hard to think that this person may have voted for the Liberals because he didn’t like people picking on some Liberals just because they’d been looking at inappropriate images, while the other person may have voted for Labor because he met the local member at the Football and he bought him a drink. Similarly I may have lost the female vote by talking about nothing but men in my examples there.

But the thing is that the narrative, while comforting for analysts, is rarely the actual thing that decides people’s vote. While protesters were complaining about Dictator Dan for trying to make them get vaccinated, many more people were complying and feeling relieved that they were vaccinated when they got Covid.

And getting back to my point about getting my first bout of Covid on Election Day. Yes, that’s thanks to the Premier because I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the lockdowns and the mask mandates and all the other measures then I’d have undoubtedly had Covid before now.

Like I said, everything is a matter of interpretation and all the reasons why people vote a certain way can’t be reduced to a simple narrative.

 

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Democracy Tested

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

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

The Report notes at 217.

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

It goes on to say :

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

Morrison declined the invitation to give evidence at the enquiry.

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

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

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Promises, Promises, Promises

What’s a promise or, more specifically, an election promise? Is it a guilt-edged set-in concrete commitment made during an election campaign? What if the circumstances change after the campaign making it impossible to fulfil? Is a promise a legal commitment? Is it nothing more than just a proposal?

Tony Abbott said this about promises before the 2013 election:

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their Government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.”

That is an unambiguous promise that one couldn’t take any other way than how it is written or spoken.

Yet:

The day before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott said there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to the pension, no changes to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS,”

 

 

And it is recorded in Hansard:

“…because his Government gave the false story the day before the election when the now Prime Minister of Australia said to the Australian people, ‘There will be no cuts to the ABC’.”

So, it is noted that Tony Abbott knowingly lied to the people on the eve of the 2013 election.

Paul Keating legislated tax cuts before the 1993 election but scrapped them soon afterwards when he recognised the budget was in great difficulties. The circumstances had changed.

Many believed he lied, but others thought it was an appropriate course of action.

Now we have another income tax promise. We have already legislated tax cuts for high-income earners. (Voted into law by both major parties.)

I believe the Prime Minister will abandon tax cuts for high-income earners once he has exhausted proof of the Government’s trust. Logic must prevail over emotion.

Then he can say:

“… we have reconsidered this tax break in the light of current knowledge and however obligated we find ourselves; the giving could never match the benefits of not doing so.”

Whatever criticism the Government gets, and there would be an avalanche of it, it is, however, the right thing to do. Transparency and honesty would be crucial. Broken promises are a hard sell and require exceptional circumstances. Therefore, words of explanation are essential.

They are not due for a couple of years, and by then, the Prime Minister should have built up a trust profile that will enable him to put a fair case for them to withdraw the legislation.

But let’s take a “so far” look at Albanese’s promises in the six months he has been in power. There is now but one week remaining of the parliamentary year, and some other promises remain on Labor’s list for 2022.

Although not as vast as the reforms of Gough Whitlam (now 50 years ago), one could draw similar parallels.

On the agenda are the Anti-corruption bill, or national ICAC, and the Government’s industrial relations reforms which the opposition describes as “extreme.”

The National Anti-Corruption Commission legislation will pass through the House of Representatives containing the “exceptional circumstances” clause for public hearings. It will be up to the Senate to change the clause that the major parties want but the average voter doesn’t.

You can almost hear them shouting, “we wanted a commission with teeth” now, we will not listen to or see any evidence.

Politicians will want to avoid any visible scrutiny of themselves. Especially if the “exceptional circumstances” clause is retained. But this will still be good legislation. It will have had a few teeth extracted and replaced with a reputational denture that protects the standing of witnesses and the accused fitted. One the Labor Caucus and the Coalition wholeheartedly supported anyway.

The rise of narcissism and inequality and the demise of compassion illustrate the state of the world.

Australians voted in tune with the temper of the nation on May 21. The two major parties suffered diminishing support that separated the boys from the men or, should I say, girls. This result ended with a three-way split reflecting the voting public’s mood for change. Teals and a scattering of independents were the third part of this three-way split, and all were progressives.

The progress made by Anthony Albanese and his Hawke-like team has been exceptional. From righting international relations, setting in train a decent Climate Change and energy policy, and last week, lowering the price of electric vehicles.

At the recent International Trade Union Conference held in Melbourne, Albanese told those in attendance that:

“… there are always those who say that any improvement in workers’ pay, any improvement in the status quo will see the sky fall in.

They say it every time and they are wrong every time.

And we will push ahead like we do every time.”

Philip Lowe, The Governor of the reserve bank, disagrees, saying that any wage improvement will only add to inflation.

With the Greens onside, it should be able to get the legislation passed before Christmas. David Pocock, the Australian Capital Territory independent senator, supports multi-employer bargaining, and the Government is willing to give him the amendments he’s pushing for. Although it’s hard to get anything out of him other than “I need more time.”

The promise, the commitment for our first nations people to have a voice in the Parliament, requires a referendum. History tells us they are challenging to win, significantly if the opposition is offside.

It is known that Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has a bitterly divided party room on the subject, and the only way out will be a free vote.

Indeed, we will, in this referendum debate, get a glimpse of whether Dutton has achieved his desire to become a more empathetic leader. Or will the long-standing, deep-seated conservative overtones of racism have their way?

There won’t be any funding for the yes and no cases. Why? Because you wouldn’t fund racist dogma on the no side.

The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can.

By the time Christmas rolls around, the Government will have delivered on all the promises with some urgency behind them, including territory rights on voluntary assisted dying. The last of the big ones before Australia takes its annual sojourn will be the Government’s answer to spiraling energy costs.

Conclusion: By any test, this Government has done more in six months than the previous one achieved in a decade.

My thought for the day

Under Albanese, at least truth has survived the worst of it.

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Coming to Terms with Floods of Challenges

By Denis Bright

Finton Magee’s Street Art on the railway underpass at Merivale Street, South Brisbane is a tribute to Brisbane’s survival after the January floods of 2011. In early summer, Brisbane is in temporary remission from disastrous recent and historic floods. Although river heights have not approached the 7 metres mark since 1893, the 1974 floods contributed to eight fatalities, mass inundation of property and enormous financial losses.

Dams on the Brisbane River and its catchments have contributed to a lowering of flood heights. The Flood of Challenges from the increasing frequency of intensive rainfall episodes arise largely from the neoliberal commitments to settlements and subdivisions in flood-prone areas in the post-1974 era.

On this theme of human follies, it is a good time to search for street art that expose the soul of Riverside City perhaps with assistance of the street art from Sarah Mattson (2021).

If you are really into your urban art you won’t want to miss the back streets of West End, South Bank, and South Brisbane. The highlight of street art in South Brisbane is the Pillars Project on the corner of Merivale Street and Montague Road. Created by eight local artists, the Pillars Project was launched in 2014 as part of the G20 celebrations. Artists include Guido Van Helton, Gus Eagleton, John Beer (aka Gimiks Born), Simon Degroot, Fintan Magee and Mik Shida.

Riverside Cities like Memphis, Tennessee are often eulogized in the American popular musical traditions. Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis encoded the transformative nature of Memphis with its reference to the Ghost of Elvis and the surreal effects of the city. Its entertainment precinct has been powerful enough to raise him ten feet off the Beale.

Readers might want to set out on a virtual tour of other riverside cities on their computers. Decide if cities in more neoliberal societies offer a better life for residents.

Historically, Colonial Australia provided more recognition of local environs in song. Brisbane gained a mention in the Irish folk traditions in The Convict’s Lament attributed to Francis McNamara (1810-61). The Commissariat Building remains as a tribute to the Convict era in the Moreton Bay Settlement (1825-42) near the ethically compromised Queen’s Wharf Casino Project.

Within our prevailing neoliberal economy, the transition of South Brisbane and West End from a flood-prone industrial riverside suburb and quite diverse residential area has been in progress for generations. The state government will buy out the Visy factory in West End and assist in transferring its recycling activities to outer suburban and portside areas at a cost of $165 million. The site will be used as a media centre for the 2032 Olympics. Meanwhile, progress at clearing ugly industrial sites out of South Brisbane and West End needs to be fast-tracked with financial support from state and local government agencies. This increasingly gentrified inner-city precinct is no place for a bulk-cement depot generating heavy traffic flows.

This population influx continues to attract new retail and commercial services along popular bus lines serving Montague Road. Montague Markets is in a commercial Transport Oriented Development (TOD) with diverse commercial functions including the main ground floor retail anchor, commercial and professional services on the first floor as well as several storeys of largely upper-income housing units. This project was a very capital-intensive investment requiring a low-risk outlay of $400 million through Pradella Developments.

Montague Markets is an architecturally innovative development with a breezeway food courtyard with access to underground parking facilities accessible by travelators.

Image: Montague Markets

In contrast to the high-security presence in more regimented shopping centres, security personnel maintain a low profile. The retail anchor and shopping centre management rely mainly on electronic robotic security, particularly at check-out terminals as well as the usual camera surveillance.

Almost 54 per cent of the issued capital in the Woolworth’s network is controlled by major global financial institutions such as HSBS Custody Nominees (24 per cent), JP Morgan Nominees (16 per cent), Citicorp Nominees (8 per cent) and Paris National Bank Nominees (BNP) (6 per cent). However, this Woolworth’s anchor store has a very Australian character. It promotes youthful talent in its selection of flexible local managers and acting managers. Woolworths also welcomes trade union membership of the two retail unions which is a big plus for working conditions of casualized employees who often use this employment to assist with their incomes during high school or university studies.

A particular aspect of Woolworth’s commitment to the Australian social market is this firms association with reverse shopping for recycling efforts through the Norwegian firm Tomra and other recycling firms. Recycling efforts by customers are convertible to cash or discounts off items purchased in this retail network. Woolworths does its share of legalized tax minimization to focus on commercial expansion. This services a corporate debt of almost $3 billion in 2022. Living with debt is indeed a tool of corporate expansion that is deliberately overlooked by the LNP’s saturation election advertising themes.

All sides of politics could indeed extend the TOD model of commercial development to more disadvantaged outer suburban and regional communities with some financial support from the Future Fund and the various state investment funds to attract local and overseas corporate capital to assist with planning and development.

Here in Queensland, the Queensland Investment Fund (QIC) has seen the commercial advantage of investing in retail assets in Australia and the USA to generate dividends which support superannuation returns and other vital public sector priorities. Some details of this investment are available on the QIC website.

With superannuation now recovering from the slowdown in the Australian and global economies, most funds have minimal returns depending on their level of exposure to market forces. Superannuants chose this level of exposure. The returns from most funds like the Australian Retirement Trust in negative territory for the past year to 21 October 2021.

Fund managers cannot possibly risk maintaining current low rates of return for superannuants by investments in less profitable social market projects. However, the Future Fund and the various state investment funds might consider taking hedge-fund investment, particularly from overseas firms and entrepreneurs to support new social market investment projects which do not guarantee dividends. Overseas investment would still be attracted by the strength of the Australian dollar in difficult times and the possibilities of discretionary dividends. Such investment policies would not affect the profitability of funds for superannuants as these investments would operate as social market funds.

Historically, government-guaranteed loans offered fixed rates of interest like the Electricity Loans in most states.

SEC Loan Float Joins Brisbane’s May Day Parade in 1953.

For today’s families and other householders who are burdened by unaffordable housing costs including rates, body corporate fees, water, insurance and electricity charges these personal stresses detract from community political involvement. Neoliberalism has succeeded in extending public debt to householders. Australia is in the top ten league table for large household debts (Yahoo News 25 August 2022).

Australian conservatives of all shades of blue are always concerned about public sector debt levels but largely ignore private and corporate debt levels or the unsustainable wage rates arising from casualized employment.

Labor’s profile in financially challenging times requires more emphasis on its pragmatic economic agenda as articulated by Jim Chalmers. Rediscovering Labor’s commitment to a sustainable social market is an important process in the rehabilitation of these credentials.

Vital issues such as the upsurge of global militarism do not trouble most householders who are struggling from day to day. Even affluent families make new commitments to add to that private debt such as fees at elitist private schools, state-of-the-art vehicles or that extra holiday in the sun.

As a riverside city with port facilities in the estuary of the Brisbane River, our state government offers protection from the hazards of nuclear ship visits from allied countries through Emergency Management Queensland. Details of these contingencies have been released for public discussion but are seldom reported in the mainstream media where the emphasis is on family visits to the vessels as an extension of hospitality towards allied countries and on the commercial value of visits by naval crews to Brisbane night spots. Emergency Management Queensland has some anecdotes of these nuclear-powered ship visits but remains silent on the intrusion of nuclear weapons into our ports:

“Nuclear-powered warships have visited Queensland for over 30 years. Analysis of monitoring devices and environmental samples has revealed that no releases of radioactive material were detected, nor were any radiation levels recorded in excess of normal background levels of ionising radiation, either during or subsequent to these visits.

Visits to Australian ports by either conventionally powered or nuclear-powered warships (NPW) of allied nations are one of the most visible means of demonstrating Australia’s commitment to defence cooperation agreements with those nations. For this reason, it is the Australian Government’s clear policy that these visits be welcomed. At this time, only NPW belonging to the United States Navy, Royal Navy and French Navy are allowed to visit Australian ports. Because of the nature of their propulsion plants, and despite the excellent safety record of their countries with respect to the operation of these vessels, it is a Government requirement that contingency arrangements be in place for all Australian ports visited by NPW in the unlikely event of an accident resulting in the hazardous release of radioactivity to the environment.”

There is an additional problem when and if Australia proceeds with the purchase of nuclear-powered submarines which was covered by Ben Smee for The Guardian (11 March 2022):

“Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would “inevitably” be forced into an emergency reactor shutdown by swarms of jellyfish if the fleet was based in Brisbane, a leading marine scientist says.

The Australian government this week released a shortlist of three sites – Brisbane, Newcastle and Wollongong – as a potential east-coast home port for the nuclear submarine fleet, which will arrive in about 2036 under the Aukus partnership with the US and the UK.

The Queensland government has been cagey when asked whether it supports a base in Brisbane, a position described as “very strange” by the federal defence minister, Peter Dutton, whose electorate is in Brisbane.

In 2006, the US nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan was forced into an emergency reactor shutdown in Brisbane after it sucked more than 800kg of jellyfish into its condensers, hindering coolant from reaching the main reactors.”

While Peter Dutton eulogises the strategic and commercial benefits from visits by nuclear-powered vessels carrying nuclear weapons into our ports, there are also hazards from such visits, particularly if the technology used on these vessels has passed its use-by date as with the ageing French nuclear submarine Emeraude which was commissioned in 1988 to be upgraded between May 1994 and December 1995. The French submarine Rubis has been operational since 1993 during the era when France had a more strident socialist government that was still committed to the US Global Alliance.

Our beloved allies in France sought to be on the Australian supply chain for new submarines and military equipment and sent the Emeraude operating in stealth mode through the Taiwan Straits to test Chinese surveillance. In hindsight, President Macron has a quite different viewpoint on the need for greater French independence in strategic policies within the US Global Alliance (AFR 18 November 2022):

Bangkok: Emmanuel Macron has doubled down on his criticism of Australia’s decision to dump French submarines for nuclear vessels, increasing pressure on Anthony Albanese to more strongly repudiate the French president he claims to be his friend.

Just hours after Mr Albanese dismissed initial claims by Mr Macron that nuclear-powered subs would increase the risk of nuclear confrontation with China, and could not be serviced or maintained, Mr Macron told Bloomberg the agreement with the US and UK under the AUKUS pact “will not deliver”.

Still trying to sell Australia conventionally powered French submarines, Mr Macron first criticised the AUKUS arrangements on Thursday.

“The strategy we had with Australia was a strategy that was fully aligned with this logic of the Indo-Pacific…meaning that of freedom and sovereignty,” said Mr Macron, who is at the APEC summit in Thailand as a guest.

“We were helping and accompanying Australia in building a submarine fleet in-house, an industrial cooperation.”

So those Floods of Problems continue. The lament of our beloved convict is ever more relevant. Will our neoliberal society stop a moment to work through some real alternatives to political non-participation and alienation in this brand new world constructed in the post-1989 era?

Strike Up the Beats For Change.

Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback by using the Reply button on The AIMN site is always most appreciated. It can liven up discussion. I appreciate your little intrusions with comments and from other insiders at The AIMN. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Reply button.

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Victorian Election: Liberals under siege from extremist religious groups

The Victorian election is a mess. This is the product of the destruction of our conservative forces by international right wing radicalism; for people in that sphere discrediting democracy is the desirable first step in dismantling the status quo. For the rest of us, it is a threat.

The Liberal Party in Victoria is caught in a trap. It pitches itself as the moderate old party of its forebears. Unfortunately, too many of the moderates who ran it or voted for it are disenchanted both by shambolic efforts in the state, and by its damaged federal reflection.

Around the state, branches are under siege by extremist religious groups, mostly Pentecostal but also Mormon. The state’s governing body is also gradually filling with these members.

Opposition leader Matthew Guy pushed Eastern Victoria candidate City Builder Renee Heath out of the Liberal fold last week, but there are others in this election with similar views from which he cannot separate the party. Too many seats would be lost in this campaign’s desperate effort to defeat the favourite.

Earlier this month a document was finally covered in The Age that is purported to have been designed by Liberal Candidate for the 2019 election Peter Killin. It sets out a “roadmap” for the religious right to “infiltrate” the Liberal Party at all levels. Killin was forced to resign at that time over ghastly homophobic commentary but now sits on the state assembly assisting in the running of the party.

In 2020, Marcus Bastiaan resigned from the Victorian Liberal Party after “having created a powerful network of religious “social conservatives” in branches across the state.”

Investigations into the branches suggests that Pentecostals have coopted Gippsland, South Gippsland and Morwell branches. There is concern about the Dunkley Branch on the Mornington Peninsula also being colonised. In January this year, moderate Liberals asked the party to “dump” a preselected candidate for Ringwood because her “recruitment of Mormon members and religious right views maker her unelectable.” In 2018, The Age reported on “conservative” Mormons winning seats as party officers at the state conference.

Bernie Finn was removed from the party when his praise for American total abortion bans proved the final straw for Guy’s team. The Western Metropolitan Branch has, however, been coopted by a religious majority and the replacement preselected is Moira Deeming. Aside from being Finn’s acolyte and, for a long time, his sidekick at the March for Babies extreme anti-choice body, Deeming has a long record of reactionary positions on LGBTQI rights.

One of the latest scandals has been the comments recorded from Timothy Dragan, aged only 26, compromising his candidacy for the Narre Warren North seat. He ranted about how colonising Australians “won this land fair and square,” arguing that respect for Indigenous Australians is unwarranted, and the nuclear waste should be dumped on Alice Springs. He also spouted anti-abortion views and climate denial. Matthew Guy chided Dragan for “disrespectful” and “silly” comments, but accepted his apology.

The state Liberals struggled during the pandemic’s worst to get traction despite constantly railing against “the world’s longest lockdowns.” Working together with News Corps’ Herald Sun, the constant attacks on the Premier and the state added to the pain Victorians experienced, helping drive “freedom” ralliers into violent attacks on the police. Victorian opposition politicians appeared at the rallies near a full-sized gallows and other violent threats on the government.

Two weeks ago, the Liberals released an ad which placed themselves in the thick of those anti-science, anti-health policy riots, demanding the “cookers” remember when “we” hit the streets to fight against Dan Andrews and vaccine mandates.

As Josh Burns MP has collated, the Liberal Party has agreed to give preferences to a number of figures who have made ugly threats. The list includes Rebekah Spelman who called for the Premier to be hanged, as well as co-orchestrating the rally featuring the gallows. Another is independent upper house member, Catherine Cumming, now standing for the “Angry Victorians Party,” who called for the Premier to be turned into a “red mist.” This term alludes to military jargon describing the impact of sniper hits. She was standing next to violent anti-lockdown protest organiser Harrison McLean, who has written that “Hitler had some good points”, when she made the speech at the “worldwide” rally for freedom.

One of the first acts of the next government should be the redesign of the upper house voting mechanism in Victoria. The state is alone in granting the voters a single choice above the line, allowing the parties to negotiate preference deals that are automatically allocated. Voters have to nominate a minimum of merely 5 selections below the line, but few choose to do so. This mechanism has enabled the scandal over Glenn Druery’s lucrative career as a “preference whisperer” where he assists parties to gain enough lower preferences to win a seat despite gaining few first preference votes.

Another key reform ought to be removing the “exceptional circumstances” block on IBAC’s ability to hold public hearings. The slow path through the process of giving natural justice to people facing adverse findings is holding up the release of corruption findings. More public hearings will allow greater public confidence in the ability of the anti-corruption body to hold politicians and public servants to account. Accusations being levelled at both main parties of corruption are undermining faith in the process.

Another systematic flaw is the behaviour of the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). It has executed some petty blocks on independent candidates, known as Teals, in a way that appears punitive and has been perceived as partisan by those candidates. VCAT overturned the Commission’s ban on their how to vote cards.

It is crucial that the VEC’s behaviour remain absolutely meticulously nonpartisan. The combination of its bans with the slow IBAC appeal process and preference-whisperer scandals has led to calls from the “freedom” conspiracy sector for the election to be postponed as unworkable. A Dan Andrews victory is being preemptively described as evidence of a corrupt electoral process in those corners of the internet.

Democracy depends on transparency, reliable information, nonpartisan systems and trust. The failure of the corporate media to adhere to that tradition is a critical attack on the ability of voters to select their next government in a responsible fashion. The Victorian Liberal Party’s attempts to suppress discussion of their gradual takeover by the religious right is deeply problematic. Victorians need to know that a “Liberal” vote is becoming increasingly neither liberal nor conservative.

America’s flawed electoral processes have compounded the crisis of trust. It is critical that we don’t follow them into that chaos. Dan Andrews is correct: we don’t want that Americanisation of politics here.

First published in Pearls and Irritations

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Opinion Polls OR If I Raced Usain Bolt I’d Be Neck And Neck With Him!

Costello Media told us that the two major parties in the Victorian Election were neck and neck, according to the latest opinion poll and I can’t work out whether:

  1. they are trying to boost Matt Guy’s chances by suggesting he’s a real chance
  2. they are trying to ruin his chances by worrying Victorians that we could actually have him as Premier
  3. they are just trying to sell newspapers by suggesting that it’s actually a close race
  4. they are complete morons who have no idea how to interpret opinion polls

Now, let me start by saying that I have no idea what the final result of the Victorian Election will be. However, I do know that if I were racing against Usain Bolt and he beat me by 90 metres in the heats, then I’d be a lot closer if I were to make the final. In the final, I’d be very close to him when we got on the starting blocks and I’d still be close to him when the gun went off and I’d still be a lot closer to him than I was in the heat and I’d stay closer to him until he’d run about twenty metres by which time he’d be a long way in front but I’d be as close to him as I’m likely to get… Unless he fell over and didn’t get up, in which case I’d beat him.

My simple advice to sports writers, however, is that you should not be writing me up as being a lot closer than last time just because we’re a long way from the finish line.

I’m going to make my point about opinion polls for what should be the final time but unfortunately political commentators still insist on doing the following:

  • Treating an individual poll as though it’s 100% accurate even though most firms running a poll will tell you that it has a margin or error of about 3% making an single poll pretty much useless for picking the result given 3% either way will usually mean a different party wins.
  • Ignoring the individual electorates and treating a poll like it will be consistent throughout the whole state or country. We’ve had a number of federal elections where the polls that predicted a swing that would result in a change of government were pretty much right, but there was no change of government because it just didn’t happen in the handful of seats that they needed to win.
  • Overlooking that a large number of people will make up their minds at the last minute and so the weather may make people feel happy or like they want a change. In the end, this handful may swing the three seats or whatever that make all the difference.
  • Treating all polls equally and ignoring the fact that some polls have been more accurate than others owing to the fact that they use better methodologies.
  • Failing to ignore the fact that certain polls are commissioned by certain people with certain agendas. If, for example, I commission a poll, it should be no surprise that the results show that even though Usain Bolt has won decisively the sprint final, most people admire my refusal to give up even more than his running ability.
  • Concentrating on something that won’t actually matter when people vote such as who is the preferred leader. Sure, it might swing some people but there could still be a case where the incumbent is the preferred leader by a significant amount, yet his or her party is behind in the poll. If the people who committed themselves to party B in the poll even though they preferred leader A, what makes anyone presume leader A’s popularity will be a significant factor in the actual election…

Speaking of Jeff Kennett, he recently tweeted that he was sorry that he didn’t stand. I don’t know what he was thinking when he tweeted it but I hope he wasn’t intending to drive anywhere in that state of mind. I inferred from his tweet that he thought that his standing would have helped the Liberals which tends to suggest that he doesn’t think that they’ve run a very good campaign. I also inferred that Mr Kennett seems to have forgotten that his own electoral record as leader consists of Loss, Loss, Landslide Win (When Labor Were So Unpopular That Tim Smith could have led the Liberals to a win… remember he’d have only been nine years old at the time…), Win after previous landslide, finishing with a Wi...Oh, hang on, this was meant to be in the bag, what do you mean the Independents hold the balance of power, well, I’ll sort them out and let them know who’s boss and.. what do you mean they’ve made Steve Bracks the Premier… I’ll quit politics and then you’ll all be sorry. So it’s three losses and two wins.

While Kennett was never all that popular, Dan Andrews was quite successful at winning some hearts and minds with his handling of the pandemic, even if a significant minority were showing their love of freedom by urinating on the Shrine of Remembrance. Even if some of that has worn off, there have been some truly silly attempts by the media to make Dan Andrews seem unelectable. such as the exciting news in The Herald-Sun that a federal politician slammed Dan Andrews and said that he didn’t deserve to win. Surprisingly, the politician concerned was Peter Dutton. Imagine that! The leader of the federal Liberals not thinking that a Labor leader was doing a good job… Let’s not forget that the stairs Andrews fell on were only steps. The “so-called stairs” refused all requests for an interview.

Three days out from the election in Victoria, it’d be unwise to make too definitive a prediction but I’m very sure that even if the opinion poll that made the media so excited was replicated, Labor would have a comfortable win. Of course, as the cliche goes, there’s only one poll that counts but the newspapers need a front page apart from repeating the Liberals’ election promise without criticism and finding a headline to link Dan Andrews with Satan (did you notice that If the “N” in his name was a “T” his name is an anagram of “WED SATAN”… of course, you have to leave out a couple of letters but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good front page story.)

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A view of Trump from Down Under

The news that former President Trump would be standing for the position again in 2024 has greeted the world with a mixture of dismay and weighty indignation.

That the American Constitution would allow such a thing suggests a lack of foresight in the founding fathers’ thinking. I’m not suggesting that former presidents shouldn’t be able to run for office again but that persons of such apparent mental derangement should not.

I am in my tenth year of writing for The AIMN, and goodness knows how many articles I have written in that time. As dreadful as it may sound, none have given me more pleasure than those describing the unfitness of Donald Trump for the position of POTUS.

It would be tempting to state the truth and describe President Trump as I did in 2016. And there have been many addons since that time, like stealing top-secret documents, inciting violence to take over Congress, and denouncing – not accepting his opponent’s victory and being impeached twice. Where to start and where to finish.

Well, why not. His performance as President left the world aghast at how inadequate the man was for the job. Ironically, around 40% of the population agree with his self-assessment that he is a genius.

Anyway, without apology, this is how I felt about the moron in 2016:

“From Down Under, we see a sick deluded man of no redeeming features, a sexual predator full of racial hatred, a narcissist in every sense of the word. A deluded, pathetic liar who was unsuitable for the highest office in the land, if not the world. He sees complex problems and impregnates them with populism and implausible black-and-white solutions.

He is a person of limited intellect and understanding, only capable of seeing the world through the prism of his wealth. The far edges of knowledge seem to have passed him by. Matters requiring deep philosophical consideration seem beyond him.

His opinions on subjects of internal and international importance are so shallow that one would think he spent the entirety of his youth in the wading pool at the local swimming pool or six years in grade 1 and never academically advanced.

He is a crash-through politician with a ubiquitous mouth. Trump remains an incoherent mess who bounces back after each disaster thinking he has been impressive while those around him are laughing their heads off. Entertaining in a uniquely American way, he might be to the hillbillies, but leadership requires worldly character.”

You can read my original piece, in total, of this deluded individual. Only in America: A look at Trump from Down Under (part 1), (part 2 ) I haven’t changed the text to retain the piece’s integrity. And do remember, it was 2016.

According to the latest reports, Trump officially intends to run again in 2024. And at a time when the US needs a steady hand, not a character reminiscent of a headless crook.

For the next two years, he will command the attention of the international press for all the wrong reasons. When the world needs rational-thinking leaders to overcome problems of immense complexity, this moronic, mentally challenged individual stands in the way, like another Putin, to world peace.

Trump is a greatly diminished figure who suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of President Biden. However, he still commands the interest of a mainly sick media who crave personalities over reality. We can only hope he doesn’t get beyond the primaries or is jailed before they take place.

 

 

People like Donald Trump believe in this thing they call “American exceptionalism.” It is a myth, of course, but they consider themselves superior to all others. Conversely, Australians might say they think their shit doesn’t stink.

In his book titled “A Brief History of American Exceptionalism,” Burton Mack (deceased) explains the truth of the phrase.

“In truth, “American exceptionalism,” a term currently making the rounds among journalists, denotes those features of American self-understanding that distinguish it from other modern societies, especially European nation-states. Most of the features of note are characteristics familiar to most Americans with some sense of our history and the history of Europe since the Industrial Revolution. Chief among these is the notion of democracy born of a revolution against monarchy, not driven by an alternative vision of society (as was the case in the European revolutions). The purpose of the American Revolution was to give the people and their colonies freedom for their pursuits without any control by the king in England and only minimal control by the other colonies in America. It was this kind of freedom that marked America as the “land of the free.”

My thought for the day

The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of reason never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation.

 

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Greed is the problem, not workers

Of course, The Australian republished Andy Kessler’s ridiculous Wall Street Journal column, “The decline of work in a spoiled society.” Those News Corp bedfellows continue to miss that they are at the core of the problem.

The pandemic drew back the curtain for the workers of the West, casting a glaring spotlight on the fact that they were cogs in a machine churning profit for the power brokers. Billionaires took off on joyrides to space, in rockets built of the workers’ stolen wages. Emergency workers received mere thanks for dying in excessive numbers to keep the upper echelons safely serviced in their beach home escapes. Nurses saw that their dedication had been exploited for unfair pay as their shifts ballooned. Teachers learnt they were actually childminders to allow capitalism untrammelled access to parent workers.

This edifying revelation only built on the growing crisis of 2008’s financial crash. Taxpayers’ money was demanded to refund the financial sector that had gambled away its wealth. In the US, 10 million Americans lost their homes, mostly left sitting empty. In the UK, bankers got their bonuses back as austerity policy savaged the lives and communities of the taxpayers who’d funded their bailouts.

Over the Cold War, a combination of factors kept the gap between rich and poor narrow. Partly the financial circumstances of the era; partly a society that required a large educated and healthy workforce to maintain mass-employing sectors. Partly, though, it was the bowel-clenching fear of the rich and powerful that their own masses could revolt to seize the means of production.

The resultant conditions meant that unionised workers could support their families with some spending money on the side. After capitalism’s collapse in the Great Depression and the nightmare of two World Wars, the bargain seemed worthy.

In the wake of the Cold War, neoliberal ideologues and extremists won the battle for understanding how the economy should operate. Milton Friedman’s diktat that the shareholder was the corporation’s only responsibility became the operating principle. Maggie Thatcher killed “society.” The workers were to be recognised as inanimate parts of the machine. The threat of starvation would keep them obediently clocking in, clocking out, clocking in.

Meanwhile, the Cold War reticence about ostentatiously displaying wealth with the prospect of revolution to chill the peacock urge, was replaced by reality TV where everyone could see just how stupid and venal the wealthy actually can be.

In America, the social contract is broken. The poorest workers slog between several jobs, often on poorly maintained public transport, without healthcare. Teachers drive Uber after hours to pay the rent. In the UK, private school alumni threw the country’s well-being off the Cliffs of Dover in pursuit of defunct imperial grandeur. Both countries’ discontent was channelled against people with a different skin colour, seeking safety. The “revolution” to date has taken the form of electing populist-nativist clowns who made all their problems worse.

Liz Truss was the final straw in this revelation of the cold calculations underlying neoliberalism. There would be unaffordable tax cuts for the rich and further austerity for the rest.

In Australia, the crisis of worker investment is different. Rising prices creating rising profits eat into the wages of those previously getting by. The Reserve Bank is driving up interest rates, again eating into survival funds, instead of begging profiteers to cap their greed. Policy promoting property as an investment rather than a necessity is robbing the next generation of the chance to join in that mode of securing their future. Landlords increase rent because that is “the market,” and renters become desperate.

Australia’s workers are, on the whole, better paid than our American parallels but the same pressures that the neoliberal ideologues have imposed on that nation are grinding away at the readiness of workers to give over most of their working hours to employers.

Signs of poverty are becoming more overt in Australia. The recent story about a mother wanting to keep a pot of yoghurt as a Christmas treat went viral, shocking to a complacent population.

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has taken some steps in his election promises to address the implications of these factors. One that drew howls of outrage from the Murdoch Dog Line was the promise to make menstrual products available in places where people might not be able to afford them. To any person willing to take a moment, it is clear that being forced to choose between food and sanitary products is a crippling decision.

To the Murdoch commentators, Andrews’ decision was an outrage. Regular Murdoch columnist Gemma Tognini fulminated that the promise was, bizarrely, “sexist” as well as “shallow, populist, cosmetic and desperate.” Then again, she is the columnist that equated accepting Dan Andrews to Chamberlain “attempting to appease a monster.”

In the worldview of the News Corp columnist, and their ultra-free market ideology, anyone not working hard enough is choosing to be unable to afford menstrual products. Pandering to this laziness encourages the slacker life.

Andy Kessler argued that what workers get from the ever-more poisonous bargain is “human capital” which he decodes “as what workers learn on the job is theirs to keep.” But too many jobs now, like the grinding immiseration of Amazon warehouse workers, grant little in the way of skills or satisfaction.

He demanded the American government “please stop paying people not to work.” At a moment in employment history where too many people are working in jobs that barely pay survival salaries because human labour remains cheaper or more precise than automation, the only way to get people to work at all is to starve them thoroughly rather than slowly.

A better option might be to abandon ultra-free market ideology as the destroyer of systems it has proven to be. Clearly, workers need to be and feel valued to sign over their lives to the awful jobs we need done. America’s extremes illustrate the utter failure of their neoliberal religion.

Removing obscene profits for executives and shareholders as the driving force of corporations would be a start. A fairer division of the spoils is necessary to keep society functioning. This might need to be achieved by higher taxes on the top tier, since they don’t seem to understand the crisis their never-sated greed has created.

This was originally published at Pearls and Irritations as Greed and a spoiled society: workers are not the problem

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