Evading Medical Care: Australia’s Refugee Arrangements with Taiwan

It is a credit to the venality of Australia’s refugee policy that…

Let's Keep The ABC And Sell The Government!

As I'm fond of pointing out, Liberal governments have a strangely inconsistent…

Do unto refugees

By John HalyDeterring and imprisoning asylum seekers is gaining popularity in the…

Our Minister for Women misses the point ...…

In 2012, Tony Fitzgerald summed up the state of politics in Australia…

Saga of Super Saturday: Will the LNP’s $144…

By Denis BrightA month out from Super Saturday, the five simultaneous by-elections…

If Abbott and Kelly want to cross the…

One of the most important roles of government is to prioritise.  They…

Day to Day Politics: In amongst the bullshit…

Friday 22 June 2018When I awoke Wednesday morning at 5.45 it was…

Activists Call for Mass Medical Evacuation from Manus,…

Media ReleaseIt is worrying that the latest death on Nauru and the…


Category Archives: News and Politics

Evading Medical Care: Australia’s Refugee Arrangements with Taiwan

It is a credit to the venality of Australia’s refugee policy that much time is spent on letting others do what that particular country ought to be doing. For a state so obsessed with the idea of a “rule-based order”, breaking those rules comes naturally – all in the national interest, of course.

Canberra’s policy makers, since the 1990s, have been earning their morally tainted fare evading international law with an insistence bordering on the pathological. The reasons for doing so have been cruel and vapid: target the market of people smuggling my moving it to other regions; harden the Australian electorate against dissolute “queue jumpers” who don’t know their place in the international refugee system; and speak to the idea of saving people who would otherwise drown.

In a tradition reminiscent of secret treaties, clandestine compacts underhand arrangements, Australia has done well for itself. The Turnbull government, spear tipped by the one-dimensional former policeman Peter Dutton of the Home Affairs Department, has shown itself to be obsessed with the clandestine when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers and refugees. Its invidious sea operation, termed Operation Sovereign Borders, continues to deter refugee-carrying boats approaching Australia. Last month, it took the revelations of a Taiwanese official to The Guardian to show that Australia had forged a deal with Taiwan on treating some of the most dire medical conditions afflicting refugees on Nauru.

The memorandum of understanding was made with Taipei in September last year. Since then, some five refugees have been flown to the state – some 5,500 kilometres – to receive treatment. “The government has been clear,” came the cold, unchanging line from a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs, “that people subject to regional processing arrangements will not be settled in Australia.”

The punitive dimension here has been stressed. Medical transfer would not be used as “a pathway to settlement in Australia”. Besides, Taiwan’s medical system was more than adequate, being “consistently ranked as having some of the best hospitals and medical technology in the world”.

There is an element of the police state grotesque about this, a whiff of the tyrant in search of satisfying a sadistic whim. Those who have found their way to treatment in Taiwan have been in particularly acute medical distress. There have been questions about incomplete understanding on the part of patients, and problems with informed consent. But such vulnerability is not one to prompt Australia’s officials to well up. No excuse will be accepted in permitting resettlement in Australia.

Such conduct continues to rattle human rights advocates who continue skirmishing with the Home Affairs department. Refugee lawyer David Manne sums up the issue. “The fundamental concern must be the person’s need for medical treatment. Once again, we see the absurd spectacle of the Australian government searching the globe to hive off its basic obligations… to properly care for people subject to its policies which inflict such devastating harm.”

To that end, such individuals as an Iranian woman in need of critical heart surgery was sent to Taiwan to be treated, after which she was returned to Nauru. (This resembles, in part, the ailing person awaiting execution treated to ensure his good health on being hanged). A 63-year-old Afghan man has been offered a similar option in terms of treating his lung cancer, but has been eminently sensible, and damned for that reason, for wanting to go to Australia.

The scrap over outsourcing medical care to third countries, and not merely the processing and housing of refugees, has also received attention in the Australian Federal Court. Lawyers from the National Justice Project this month won a bid to prevent a 30-year-old Somali woman from being sent to Taiwan. The lady in question had been a victim of female genital mutilation, and was seeking an abortion.

Expert evidence was given that the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, or the Westmead Hospital in Sydney, would be appropriate venues to treat victims of infibulation. The Taiwan Adventist Hospital, it was suggested, would not be up to scratch to supply either the medical expertise or the psychological ballast for the patient. Taiwanese physician Dr Sheng Chiang told the court that experience in performing pregnancy terminations on women with female genital mutilation was conspicuously absent in Taiwan.

In Justice Alan Robertson’s words, “infibulation carries significant emotional and psychological implications and those aspects of care need to be expertly managed.” Risks also came with later terminations, becoming “increasingly complex and dangerous”.

As for Taiwan’s side of the bargain, Shyang-yun Cheng, deputy representative of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, has written glowingly about Taiwan’s commitment “to cooperating with like-minded countries to provide high-quality medical support and humanitarian assistance.” Encouraging, indeed, if for the obvious point that is permits Australia to evade its obligations while showing Taipei to be a good international citizen.

It is about time that Australia withdraws from the Refugee Convention and cognate documents protecting refugees and asylum seekers. In making arrangements with Taiwan, a non-signatory to the Refugee Convention, the point is clear enough. At the very least, it would be an honest admission that the legal order of the time is up for dissolution and repudiation. While US President Donald Trump scours the world for deals to abolish and arrangements to upend, Australia can be looked upon as a prime example of disruption in a field that is now crowded with contenders from the United States to Hungary. A disturbing accolade indeed.

Let’s Keep The ABC And Sell The Government!

As I’m fond of pointing out, Liberal governments have a strangely inconsistent message. For example, they’re strongly in favour of free speech, but want any criticism of them shut down. People should be free to spend their money how they choose, but they want individuals contributing to GetUp! to jump through so many hoops that one has to wonder what happened to their “war on red tape”…

Similarly, we have to listen to their endless boasting about how awesome they are at economic management, only to be told that private industry is much better than they are at managing just about anything. Is it just me or does it seems strange that people who tell us that they’re excellent at running the economy, but totally incapable of running any of the things that comprise the economy.

And so it becomes Liberal policy to sell the ABC…

Let me be clear here: When I say that it’s Liberal policy to sell the ABC, I don’t mean it’s the policy of the Liberal Party because they’ve said quite clearly that it’s not their policy. Why it’s even more not their policy than introducing the “never, ever” GST, or Tony Abbott’s “ironclad guarantee” that there’d be no changes to the Medicare safety net after the 2004 election. And it’s certainly more strongly not their policy than all the election promises they broke after the 2013 election in order to keep their most important promise of getting the Budget back into surplus. A promise so important that we now have billions of dollars in proposed tax cuts, because the only thing more important the promise of getting the Budget back into the black was Malcolm’s promise that if you make me leader, I’ll keep winning elections.

No, selling the ABC is not the policy of the Liberal Party; it was only voted on at the Liberal Party conference. Even though the result was a resounding, “Yes, because Rupert wants to buy it”, it’s not really worth worrying about because the Liberal Party conference votes are – like election promises – not binding on the parliamentary party.

So recently we’ve had Scott Morrison tell us that he funds the ABC, so he doesn’t have to defend it and Malfunction Turnbull tell everyone that it has a left wing bias. While Mal’s comment begs the question, “Compared to what – Reclaim Australia’s manifesto or Socialist Weekly?”, Scott’s position is a little more confusing. Would Morrison say that the government funds Centrelink therefore they don’t have to defend it? Or we fund schools and hospitals, so we don’t have to defend them?

Assuming that by “I”, Scottie meant the government, and by the government he meant the taxpayers, then we have a rather strange logical extension if you apply the same concept to almost anything else. For example, would you say I’m funding my lawyer so I don’t have to defend his behaviour in court?

Whatever, it seems that we’re being softened up for the eventual attack on the ABC. While selling it would be politically hard, it’s even harder to oppose the will of Rupert “Monty” Murdoch. If you repeat something often enough, people start to believe it. I’m quite willing to concede that the ABC is further to the left than the editor of “The Financial Review”, but I’m yet to hear anyone on the ABC talk about which bastards will be lined up against the wall when the revolution comes. Neither is there a disclaimer after the News segment discussing the financial markets telling viewers that many of these companies make their profits through the tears and blood of exploited workers.

No, the ABC seems frightfully middle of the road to me. While many ask where’s the right wing equivalent of Philip Adams – a Sydney millionaire who’s meant to represent the ABC’s leftist bent – they conveniently ignore the fact that Adams isn’t exactly advocating revolution. More importantly, they also conveniently ignore that they’re often asking it on the ABC, in much the same way one talkback caller complained that they never had talkback callers like him on the morning show.

I suspect that the best way to stop talk of selling the ABC wouldn’t be to oppose it but to embrace it. Once I start my crowdfunding campaign to purchase it and run it as an “Alternative Broadcasting Company”, then we’d quickly see the government finding all sorts of reasons to keep it public hands.

Then we could start a campaign to privatise the Federal Government and Australia could be run by the highest bidder.

Which, I guess, is sort of what happens anyway…

Our Minister for Women misses the point … again

In 2012, Tony Fitzgerald summed up the state of politics in Australia with this observation (firewalled on The Australian):

“… insiders see problems with insiders’ eyes, recognise only some of the problems and few of the causes and suggest insiders’ solutions with voters as mere bystanders. The usual, and sometimes intended, outcome is a flurry of superficial activity, appointment of a suitable group of other insiders to report, lengthy discussion of their report, considerable navel-gazing, a feel-good pronouncement and business as usual.”

How very true.

We have endless committees and very expensive reviews and then ignore their findings and recommendations.  Instead of implementing solutions, we waste money on talkfests.

Which brings me to our Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer.

Kelly is an improvement on her two predecessors in the role in that she is a woman and also a feminist.  (Mind you, it would be hard to find someone worse than Abbott and Cash)

She has been very busy announcing lots of stuff of late.

“The minister for women is committed to addressing gender imbalances through leadership and financial literacy initiatives” writes Katharine Murphy.

O’Dwyer has started a fighting fund to get more Liberal women elected to parliament, contributing $50,000 herself.  She is also launching networking sessions in Parliament House for her female parliamentary colleagues and started a Leadership for Women course for female parliamentary staff which will focus on strategic planning for career progression.

In the May budget, the minister announced $65 million for a new not-for-profit organisation with “a focus on improving financial literacy.”

“I want this to be for financial literacy and capability what Beyond Blue has been for mental health,” she grandiosely proclaimed.

During the week, Kelly also announced $500,000 for an inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

She has also promised to deliver a women’s economic security statement in September (reportedly with a budget allocation of $100 million) which she said would “make sure that women have the economic capability, the economic resilience to make choices about their lives”.

So we have a campaign fund and coffee club for Liberal politicians and a seminar for their staff, a new organisation, an inquiry and a statement.  They will fit nicely with the tens of millions spent on advertising.

Meanwhile, family benefits have been cut, funding for legal aid has been slashed, refuges have closed, men’s help groups have folded, early intervention community programs have been defunded, over 100,000 are homeless, elder abuse is rampant, anti-bullying programs have been attacked, and women continue to be beaten, raped and killed.

It’s all very nice for high-flying women to empower each other but what about those women who are struggling to survive?  They don’t need investment advice.  They need a way to put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads.  They need to know that they have a place to be safe.

I agree that economic independence is a desirable goal that provides choices but Kelly seems to think that the only reason many women are not financially independent is because they just don’t understand how the system works.

We understand well enough, it’s just that the majority of women do not have enough left over to worry about whether to put it into superannuation or a negatively-geared property or shares.

Single parents don’t need lessons on economic literacy – they need practical help.

Victims of domestic violence don’t need advertising campaigns – they need safe havens, legal help, and paid DV leave.

It isn’t women that have to get smarter, it’s society that has to change.

Women joining the workforce began to break their isolation and dependence on, and often obedience to, the male ‘breadwinner’.  However, in many cases, women are now doubly exploited through lower wages and unpaid labour at home.

As for sexual harassment in the workplace, Ms O’Dwyer said she was prompted by the #MeToo movement yet, when asked if she had ever encountered sexual harassment in her male-dominated workplaces, she declined to comment, saying it wasn’t about her.

But she has just funded a nationwide inquiry that will, presumably, ask others to speak out about their experiences.  That takes courage.  Why do politicians (and their staff and the press gallery) refuse to tell their stories?  They seem too scared to speak up yet ask others to take that risk.

We don’t need a national survey.  We need all women, particularly those who have a public voice, to speak up about just how prevalent this scourge is and how unacceptable that sort of behaviour is.  Exposure and solidarity have done a far better job to create momentum for change than any policy and procedure documents.

Not only are women suffering a gender divide, there is also a serious class divide in the Western capitalist world.

While globalisation has shifted billions from abject poverty to relative poverty, it has brought with it unbearable inequality, brazen greed, climate change, and the hijacking of our parliamentary democracies by bankers and the ultra-rich.

Insecure work, low wages, and high household debt have combined to create an obedient, docile, uncritical workforce who will work to support the upper-class’s lifestyle and the economy.

As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.

The power of unions has been undermined, membership has declined, and industrial action been made largely illegal, with very expensive fines to further discourage withdrawal of labour as a negotiating tool.

Helping women achieve leadership roles is not really any use if they just then help the women who are already flush with choice and opportunity.

We need women who understand the struggle of those not born into privilege, the 50% of people who earn below the median wage, those who have sacrificed any thought of job security let alone satisfaction or even, at times, safety, the tens of thousands who suffer domestic abuse, those who are forced to exist on welfare, and those who cannot afford a home.

Help them first.  In real, tangible ways.  Maybe then we can find time to talk about ‘financial literacy’ without sounding completely oblivious to the real world..

Saga of Super Saturday: Will the LNP’s $144 Billion Tax Plan Deliver for Braddon?

By Denis Bright

A month out from Super Saturday, the five simultaneous by-elections are already part of Australian political folklore. The forthcoming by-elections now have elements of a US mid-term election which can either confirm the existing administration or move it into a lame-duck phase.

With the passage of the three-staged tax package by the Senate on 21 June 2018, this unprecedented round of by-elections has become referenda on the drift to a more unequal Australian society. In Phase 3 of the tax package, billions in future federal revenue will be wiped away. Tax concessions to corporations might follow in the next phase of the tax plan which will be tested in the Senate and perhaps used as a campaign weapon before Super Saturday.

Federal deficits will persist as the federal government’s revenue base is eroded. Australia’s insurance against downturns in the global economy is lessened. Only a change of government can unscramble the mess.

Despite last minute pleas from thirty-three progressive senators, the federal LNP had already secured the support of senators from One Nation and the Centre Alliance through private negotiations. No explanations were given of reasons for the final betrayal of principles.

Voters in Braddon should be outraged by the potential erosion of the size of the federal tax take in an electorate which is so dependent on financial assistance from Canberra. While public sector austerity lives on in federal cabinet, Prime Minister Turnbull continues his financial largesse on the campaign trail in Tasmania. State budget day in Hobart brought a commitment from Prime Minister Turnbull to a new motorway crossing at Bridgewater on the Lower Derwent with more federal-state funding for completion by 2024.

Posing next to an awkwardly placed map of Tasmania, Prime Minister Turnbull provided some words of caution to his support base in Braddon:

Your Liberal candidate in Braddon, Brett Whiteley worked hard to help deliver more jobs and better services and facilities for West and North West Tasmania. If he is elected at this by-election, Brett will be a very strong voice for his community in our Government.

By contrast, Labor and Bill Shorten pose a real risk to our economy. Labor voted against tax relief for small and medium businesses and want to increase taxes by more than $200 billion over a decade – including on housing, small businesses, workers, investment and retirees.

A vote for Justine Keay in this by-election is a vote for Bill Shorten. Braddon can’t afford to take that risk.

The key to a better future for Tasmania is a stronger economy, which means more jobs and better services. That’s what the Liberals plan delivers.

Labor sensibly ignored such provocatively targeted ideological shots. At the front-line in Braddon, Labor’s Justine Keay holds the seat with a margin of 2.2 per cent margin after preferences. There is no room for such off the mark side-kicks.

LNP candidate Brett Whiteley has not been idle after losing Braddon to Justine Keay. The federal LNP has assisted its former colleague with a temporary role as policy advisor to the Assistant Federal Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation (The Advocate 1 May 2017). This has given Brett Whiteley just enough time to review the special needs of the Braddon federal electorate. Its needs are the subject of a recent Australia Institute discussion paper (February 2018).

In Braddon, new investment is needed to cope with the relative decline of mining, logging, rural industries and traditional manufacturing. It is the quality of this federal government financial support which needs close examination during a time of difficult economic transition for Braddon.

Data from the Tasmanian Department of Treasury and Finance shows that the state’s average weekly earnings are the lowest of all Australian wage jurisdictions. There are high levels of casualization and underemployment particularly in the two main employment growth sectors.

Employment Trends in Tasmania’s West & North West Region

Tasmania continues to be highly dependent on an enriched financial drip from the federal government in GST allocations, grants and on levels of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES).

Other states and territories do not have the benefit of this rather uncritical federal largesse. 62.6 per cent of total revenue in the current Tasmanian state budget is derived from Canberra. This is a notch more than support for the Northern Territory (Tasmanian Budget Paper No.1 2018).

Tasmania has done well in the short-term out of the bipartisan largesse. The state economic growth rate was 3.5 per cent for 2017-18. Tasmania will achieve a small budget surplus in 2018-19. Current budget papers herald the possibility of zero net debt level from 2020-21.

The benefits of federal assistance to Braddon and the wider Tasmanian economy just keep on coming despite the overall financial austerity from Canberra. Winning Braddon means everything to the federal LNP as a timely morale booster after a long phase of internal tensions within the coalition. The tax changes are a bit for consensus-building between the conservative and liberal ranks within the federal LNP.

The Advocate (19 June 2018) announced that the Commonwealth had found another $164 million to fund social housing in the next five years under the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement which will be topped up by the state government’s own initiatives.

The favourable debt prognosis was achieved by tentatively capping new capital works at 28 per cent below current levels after 2020-21. The spike in the state’s capital expenditure to a record $752.4 million in 2018-19 carries $121.1 million in under-spending from 2017-18.

Sections of the mainstream media speak of a golden age for the Tasmania economy (Channel 9 News Hobart 14 June 2018).

Graphs showing falling net debt levels should of course be looked at in the context of increasing federal financial support for Tasmania which is a real asset in winning back Labor seats lost at the 2016 federal elections.

Tasmania’s Net Debt Levels

In the context of concerns about eliminating state debts, it could be noted that the long-deceased Labor veteran King O’Malley (1854-1953) represented Western Tasmania in federal parliament in the former electorate of Darwin. This become known as Braddon after 1955.

King O’Malley was an advocate of a strong investment multiplier of major capital works with credit from a national people’s bank long before Keynesian economics became fashionable. Alternatives to old style debt financing were King O’Malley’s dream for a young nation just federated within his life-time. All this evaporated as the Hughes Labor Government split over the extent of commitment needed to assist the British Empire’s war efforts.

Some positive elements of this federation era nationalism still linger on in the Tasmanian economy.

Productive Tasmanian state entities include Hydro Tasmania, its various subsidiary electricity units, Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) and the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TSS), the Tasmanian Ports Corporation (TasPorts) and the TT-Line Shipping Company to name a few entities.

Conversation online (4 October 2017) showed that intervention in electricity generation had served Tasmanians well as measured by interstate comparisons of interstate base household electricity prices.

Comparing Base Household Electricity Prices

Environmentally sustainable sites for new hydro-electricity generation sites are virtually exhausted.

Just in time for the Braddon by-election, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Hydro Tasmania are investigating the possibilities of a $500 million revitalization of the 80-year-old Tarraleah Power Station (The Advocate 21 June 2018).

Alternative forms of energy have been sought by Hydro Tasmania in solar panels and wind farms.

Households and businesses across much of Tasmania are now linked to an undersea gas pipeline from Bass Strait through commercial investment by Tasmanian Gas Pipelines (TGL). This pipeline now fuels the Tamar Valley Power Station.

Some industry leaders across Tasmania have called for the bulk purchase of all gas supplies by Hydro Tasmania to eliminate TGL’s command of gas pricing as the sole supplier. Both sides of politics have strongly supported these vital levels of regulatory intervention which protects Tasmania in the coldest weather (ABC News Online 13 December 2017).

Projects of such proportions really need the support of an Energy Transition Authority to tap global private capital flows into state or federal national investment capture funds. This is little difference in kind between dividend earning from investment in productive infrastructure and politically opportune grants from Canberra out of tax coffers.

New generation federal LNP leaders show no interest in such possibilities (Mathias Cormann at the launch of The Forgotten People-Updated by Paul Ritchie 16 June 2018):

As the Prime Minister wrote “our Party’s conservatism is an anchor that points to our values, tempers our exuberances and reminds us of our history and traditions; and our Party’s liberalism is our compass that points to freedom, opportunity, and a future where more Australians can share in our country’s bounty.”

Our party is a living, breathing institution that continually seeks to use our values to interpret and improve our times.

The strength of this book is that it is not about ‘the forgotten people’ of Menzies time but it is about ‘the forgotten people’ of our time.  It is a marker in our intellectual journey as a party.

Despite an initial lead by the federal LNP in the Sky News Poll for Braddon, many battlers might now be insulted by the tokenism of tax concessions in Phase 1 (2018-22) (Sky News Online 2 June 2018).

Calls for fiscal discipline on behalf of aspirational voters also co-exist with some sloppy uses of federal funding by the LNP’s Hodgman Government in Tasmania.

Rob Inglis of The Examiner Online (14 September 2017) provided vital specifics on capacity of TFES to serve the Tasmanian logging industry. Containers of wood chips from government timber reserves are now trans-shipped through mainland ports in a partnership with the Cayman Islands-incorporated Global Forest Partners LP

ABC News Online (9 November 2017) claims that logs and wood chips transported across Bass Strait attracts a federal subsidy of $700 per container from TFES.

Rob Inglis’ reporting in the Advocate Online offered a more balanced perspective on the Tasmanian economy with the imprimatur of economist Saul Eslake. It is the quality of federal financial support which trumps the current political largesse.

However, some federal-state projects have been financially successful in Braddon itself.

The Wilderness Railway from Regatta Point, Strahan to Queenstown in 2003 is a major source of tourist income. Tasmanian Labor is committed to the re-opening of other scenic tourist railways across Tasmania which once served an old rural and resource base economy.

Perhaps apathy and current spells of cold windy weather in Braddon combine to reduce interest in such policy debates. The federal LNP hopes that constituents will focus on their token tax cuts in Phase 1 of the new deal to 2021-22.

What of the possibility of alternative perspectives during the forthcoming by-election campaign?

Re-enactments of musical The Legend of King O’Malley by playwrights Bob Ellis and Michael Boddy might stir up some interest in alternative forms of funding for Tasmania’s continued sustainable development. Cosy bars across Braddon might welcome excerpts from the production by local drama students to arouse interest in politics and social justice issues during the forthcoming winter vacation. Street theatre to lampoon the federal LNP’s tax package would also be highly appropriate in the spirit of King O’Malley’s vision for the new Australian federation.

Image from monumentaustralia.org.au

The plaque to honour Labor veteran King O’Malley (1854-1953) in Burnie Park near the Bass Strait coastline is not completely isolated from contemporary debate about government debt levels and the exclusion of MPs who were born overseas.

Not being too sure of his precise birthday or even the country of his overseas birth, King O’Malley may have needed a high court clearance to serve as a member of parliament in today’s more disciplined political environment.

King O’Malley was defeated at the khaki-wartime federal elections in 1917. This brought a paradigm change in Australian federal politics which lasted until the Great Depression. Despite two more attempts to win another federal Tasmanian seat, King O’Malley did not make it back into the House of Representatives.

His optimistic spirit is still relevant advocates of social justice and commitment to peaceful international relations in contemporary Australia.

The federal LNP working towards a completely different paradigm based on the needs of aspirational voters and support for market ideology.

There are no precedents since 1901 in having five simultaneous federal by-elections on a single day. Probability in Braddon might appear to be on Labor’s side. My quick perusal of federal by-election results suggests Labor has not lost a federal seat at a by-election to a sitting conservative government since the fall of Kalgoorlie and Maranoa in 1920-21. The political headwinds of a conservative era also thwarted the re-election of King O’Malley in the Tasmanian seats of Denison (1919) and Bass (1922).

In fairness, probability illustration is hardly relevant. There are no precedents for Super Saturday. It is a risky political outreach exercise by the federal LNP.

History will tell us if Prime Minister Turnbull and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann are really in the ascendancy. Only the federal LNP’s game plan for Braddon is obvious. The Burnie-based Advocate Online will keep everyone well informed on developments in the campaign. The situation in Braddon is too close to call so far out from Super Saturday.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.


If Abbott and Kelly want to cross the floor, let them

One of the most important roles of government is to prioritise.  They must identify the challenges facing us and the consequences of inaction.  They must rank the urgency of responding to problems and decide on the most efficient use of resources to address them.

The current debate about energy policy is a prime example of a government failing to do that.

As Josh Frydenberg tries desperately to reach some sort of agreement with the states on energy policy, we are presented with the ridiculous situation of Captain No and his sidekick Kelly threatening to cross the floor if the government keeps to the emissions reduction agreement that Abbott himself negotiated and signed us up to.

Even the conservatives are pleading with them to give a little.

Trent Zimmerman, in defending the NEG, said it was “the best opportunity we have to find energy security and stability”.

Actually, it’s about the 5th best opportunity, the Coalition having scuttled all the better options.

“We have three goals in energy policy: providing grid security, lowering prices and meeting our Paris targets, and all three of these things are equally important,” Mr Zimmerman said to the party room.

But the point is that those things are not equally important.

On the one hand, we grumble about paying an extra $10 a week on our electricity bill or the possibility of the occasional short blackout.

On the other hand, we face the catastrophic consequences of continued global warming and the climate change that it is causing.

Unless we can turn a corner, millions of people will die.  Droughts, floods, heat waves, fires and storms will all intensify.  Coastal areas and low-lying land will become inundated and arable land will become desert.  Reefs will die off and many species of plants and animals will face extinction.

If Abbott and Kelly want to cross the floor, let them.  And then immortalise the photo of them and any who join them in their reckless, selfish ignorance.

History will judge.

Day to Day Politics: In amongst the bullshit some things are worth reading

Friday 22 June 2018

When I awoke Wednesday morning at 5.45 it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. I did those things that nature demands of us, made a cup of lemon tea, and set about sharing my daily post on numerous Facebook pages.

That takes a good half hour and then I dip my fingers into the many news sites and other places of information I follow. With anticipation I plunge my aging fingers into the many sites that might inspire me to pick a subject that I think requires my thoughts or observations. By this time my choice of subject is well-advanced.

Before I know it it’s nearly 8am. Bugger it, it’s time to prepare my wife’s breakfast. Before I do I try to get into the inner sanctum of The AIMN. God this is annoying.

I was already logged in and it dropped out. When I try again it bans me for a day and I feel like a little boy who has been admonished by his teacher. “Bloody technology,” I think to myself knowing that I wont be able to post on Thursday. The same thing happened last Sunday.

I turn on the television to News 24 and I am greeted with the smiles of the usual presenters. Fruit salad with yogurt, another cup of tea and it’s all done. Come 9 I’m back in my study still deliberating my next article.

I go back and peruse all the things I bookmarked earlier and begin to read. Obviously I start with The AIMN, which I think could do with a change of name and a bit of a makeover. The old girl looks as though she hasn’t been to the hairdressers for a while.

(Well rinse the blood from my toga, I go back to The AIMN and I have been reinstated). Thats crazy.

1 A piece by Dr. Binoy Kampmark attracted my attention about the  POTUS and international diplomacy.

“In short, the current US president likes the bruising, the bullying and the cajoling in the abstract name of US self-interest. Forget the distinctions and the similarities. There are no values in any shared sense. There is only his road.”

 My next point of call is the Roy Morgan daily newsletter. It has a lead in piece in the Australian Financial Review.

“There is still dissent within the Federal Government regarding its proposed national energy guarantee. Some Coalition MPs oppose the government’s inclusion of a carbon emission reduction target of 26 per cent in the NEG. They include former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, but Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has told a party room meeting that Abbott made a firm commitment at the Paris climate talks in 2015 to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. Abbott alleges that he had been “misled by bureaucrats”.

 What a perverted liar the man is.

My next stop is the Progressive Secular Humanist web site that leads with the headline:

“President Pence Would Be Worse Than President Trump”

As Trump’s troubles continue to grow, conservatives and liberals alike are wrestling with the very real possibility that Trump will be forced out of office due to scandal and/orincompetence, leaving a President Mike Pence in charge of the nation.”

 I happen to agree with the headline and all it suggests. If you look into the Vice President’s past you will find a very deluded man.

Then I read an article by Dana Milbank in the Washing Post, which contends that Obama’s Presidency was before its time.

“Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early,” President Barack Obama said in the passage, first reported this last week by Peter Baker in the New York Times.

I hate to say it, but I think the former president was correct.

Ten or 20 years from now, America will be much closer to the majority-minority nation it is forecast to become in 2045. A racist backlash to a black president wouldn’t matter as much.

But what was naively proclaimed in 2008 as post-racial America was instead kindling for white insecurity, and Trump cunningly exploited and stoked racial grievance with his subtle and overt nods to white nationalism. He is now leading the backlash to the Obama years and is seeking to extend white dominion as long as possible, with attempts to stem immigration, to suppress minority voting and to deter minority census participation.

5 Then I go back to a piece by Terence Mills at The AIMN: Playing Politics with tax doesn’t help anybody!

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

Now I’m at the much-maligned ABC where Jane Norman has written an article about the growing influence of conservatives within the Liberal Party. I have no doubt that they will eventually take control and if they win the next election then Turnbull will have to turn conservative with them.

The Liberals’ conservative faction is growing — and so is its influence over the party”

Upon the death of Philip Roth, David Marr wrote a telling piece about the banning of his book Portnoy’s Complaint.

“How Portnoy’s Complaint made Australia a better place”

I remember the time well when Australia was such a prudish place. A time when the then minister for customs Don Chipp gave Australia a new rating for sensitive books and film. He went onto keep the bastards honest by forming the Australian Democrats. His brother was a little less famous for up ending my middle stump whilst playing cricket for Heidelberg.

My favourite author Tim Winton writes a telling piece for The Guardian about boys.

“About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny”

“And the wonderful thing about getting older – something many women will understand – is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.”

 Some writers write stories, others like Winton seem to be able to craft sentence’s plucked from the experience of life itself.

I came by an essay in The Monthly by former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and became totally taken with it.

How politics works in Australia, and how to fix it

“My own experiences over the decade from 2007 bore out this early intuition, and what I’m about to say may shock you. There are good people in there, on all sides of the chamber. Sometimes, the system works. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a committee room where the evidence tendered by passionate and experienced witnesses is being weighed up and solutions sought, and everyone has left their party affiliation at the door. You’ll sit in mild disbelief as amendments are proposed and accepted without a fight, and you’ll know by the end that your close-knit little team helped make the law kinder, or fairer, or smarter. When the system is working it barely makes the news, but you can hardly blame the press gallery for failing to report on those times when your elected representatives are behaving like adults”

10 And finally with my “Add to reading list” still filled to the brim this one from Politico by Kevin M Kruze is well worth a read.

“How corporate America invented Christian America”

“It was a watershed moment—the beginning of a movement that would advance over the 1940s and early 1950s a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Fifield and like-minded ministers saw Christianity and capitalism as inextricably intertwined, and argued that spreading the gospel of one required spreading the gospel of the other. The two systems had been linked before, of course, but always in terms of their shared social characteristics. Fifield’s innovation was his insistence that Christianity and capitalism were political soul mates, first and foremost”

And to think that after 25 years of reading Biblical verse I always believed that Jesus was the world’s first socialist.

So, it is Wednesday, I’m ready to post my piece for publication Thursday but guess what happens. Yes, I’m locked out for another day. I try again early Thursday morning to no avail, and then at 11.30 I’m reinstated. Yippee he silently says to himself.

My thought for the day

“My reason cannot understand my heart but I know my conscience does.”

PS I still have about 75 Articles in my “to read” box but I will get around to it.



The Catholic Church in Resistance: Priests, Child Abuse, and Breaking the Seal of the Confessional

The tradition is represented as noble, the confiding link between confessor and penitent, a bridge never to be broken, even under pain of death. Taken that way, the confessional is brandished as the Catholic Church’s great weapon against the wiles and predations of secular power. The State shall have no say where the priest’s confidence is concerned, for all may go to him to seek amends. “The sacramental seal,” goes the relevant code of canon law, “is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for the confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Those points certainly have merits, even if these seem a touch faded after the sex abuse imbroglio the Church has found itself in. Confession, which functions as a barometric reading of Catholic guilt, has developed its own succour and relish, an ecosystem of ritual and understanding resistant to the prying of the criminal law. Not merely does its ironclad protection provide a dispensation from the laws of the land in certain troubling cases; the confession, in effect, serves as an economy of ordered guilt, reassurance for the next binge of sin. To remove it, or at the very least heavily qualify it, would be an unsettling challenge to a distinct Weltanschauung.

The process effectively permits all – including erring priests – to engage the process from either side of the grille. Historically, the process also imperilled children. Pope Pius X, in decreeing in 1910 that confession should commence at the tender age of seven, permitted an army of celibates access to vulnerable, an in certain instances titillating flesh.

Legislators troubled by the enduring force and fascination with the seal of the confessional have gotten busy, most notably in Australia. This was prompted, in no small part, by the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “We are satisfied,” went the Australian report, “that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt.”

One recommendation specifies that institutions “which have a religious confession for children should implement a policy that requires the rite only to be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult.” But the members of the Royal Commission went beyond the spatial logistics of the confessional. Institutional jolting was required.

Each state and territory government, argued Commission members, should pass legislation creating “a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context”. This, it was suggested, would extend to “knowledge gained or suspicions that are or should have been formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.”  The law would also exclude existing excuses, protections or privileges.

Despite treading delicately, such recommendations were not merely matters for demurral by the Church, but considerations to be sneered at from the summit of spiritual snobbery. President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart reduced the matter to one of neat sophistry veiled by religious freedom. “Confession in the Catholic Church,” he reasoned in August last year, “is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” being “a fundamental part of the freedom of religion”.

Hart’s protestations did not go heeded in the South Australian legislature, making it the first in Australia to legally oblige priests to report confessions of child abuse from October 1. Omitting to do so will result in a fine of $10,000. Bishop of Port Pirie and acting Adelaide Archbishop Greg O’Kelly, much in Hart’s vein, saw the move as having “much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of the faith.” Such comments could only come across as archaic and insensitive, given the conviction of his predecessor, Archbishop Philip Wilson, for concealing child sex abuse.

More to the point, the remarks by Bishop O’Kelly are brazenly selfish, permitting the priest an all-exclusive gold card for reasons of amendment, “that the penitent actually is sincere about wanting forgiveness, is sincere about anting reparation”. The conspicuous absentee here is the victim, always abstracted, if not totally hidden, by matters of the spirit.

While accounts such as John Cornwell’s, whose stingingly personal The Dark Box makes the sensible point that abolishing the confession and its lusty pull would essentially address the problem, the Church is already finding fewer penitents. In a sense, it is already losing the appeal, the allure, and even the danger, of the confessional. Musty physical convention has given way to digital releases and outpouring. Social media, crowned by the confessional fetish that is Facebook, takes the disturbed soul and expresses it to the globe.

From the vacuity of the Kardashian phenomenon to the newly enlisted grandparent keen to reflect on banal deeds, these platforms have stolen an irresistible march on those in the land of Catholicity. Such confessions of sin or achievement – the distinctions are not always clear – have become the preserve of Mark Zuckerberg and his technicians, rather than a local priest desperate to remain relevant. But that age-old resistance against the laws of the civic secular domain remains the Church of Rome’s stubborn, practised specialty. The elusive spirit, in dialogue with an unverified Sky God, continues to be its invaluable alibi for crimes of the flesh.

Leaving the UN Human Rights Council

The margin between what is a human right as an inalienable possession, and how it is seen in political terms is razor fine. In some cases, the distinctions are near impossible to make. To understand the crime of genocide is to also understand the political machinations that limited its purview. No political or cultural groups, for instance, were permitted coverage by the definition in the UN Convention responsible for criminalising it.

The same goes for the policing bodies who might use human rights in calculating fashion, less to advance an agenda of the human kind than that of the political. This can take the form of scolding, and the United States, by way of illustration, has received beratings over the years in various fields. (Think an onerous, vicious prison system, the stubborn continuation of the death penalty, and levels of striking impoverishment for an advanced industrial society).

The other tactic common in the human rights game is gaining membership to organisations vested with the task of overseeing the protection of such rights. Membership can effectively defang and in some cases denude criticism of certain states. Allies club together to keep a united front. It was precisely this point that beset the UN Commission on Human Rights, long accused of being compromised for perceived politicisation.

The successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Council, has come in for a similar pasting. The righteous Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, had made it something of a personal project to reform the body. It was a body that had been opposed by the United States. But reform and tinkering are oft confused, suggesting a neutralisation of various political platforms deemed against Washington’s interests. Is it the issue of rights at stake, or simple pride and backing allies?

For one, the barb in Haley’s protestation was the HRC’s “chronic bias against Israel”, and concerns on the part of Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a UN human rights chief unimpressed by the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents.

Accordingly, Haley announced that the United States would be withdrawing from “an organisation that is not worthy of its name”, peopled, as it were, by representatives from such states as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo. “We take this step,” explained Haley, “because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights.”

The Congolese component deserved special mention, the state having become a member of the HRC even as mass graves were being uncovered at the behest of that very body. Government security forces, according to Human Rights Watch, were said to be behind abuses in the southern Kasai region since August 2016 that had left some 5,000 people dead, including 90 mass graves. A campaign against the DRC’s election to the Council, waged within various political corridors by Congolese activists, failed to inspire UN members to sufficiently change their mind in the vote. A sufficient majority was attained.

The move to withdraw the US received purring praise from Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, still glowing with satisfaction at Washington’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem. For the Israeli leader, the Council had been nothing but “a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organisation that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights.” It had avoided dealing with the big violators and abusers-in-chief, those responsible for systematically violating human rights, and had developed, according to Netanyahu, an Israel fixation, ignoring its fine pedigree as being “the one genuine democracy in the Middle East”. The slant here is clear enough: democracies so deemed do not violate human rights, and, when picked up for doing so, can ignore the overly zealous critics compromised by supposed hypocrisy.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, did not restrain himself in praise. The United States had “proven, yet again, its commitment to truth and justice and its unwillingness to allow the blind hatred of Israel in international institutions to stand unchallenged.”

The common mistake made by such states is that hypocrisy necessarily invalidates criticism of human rights abuses. To have representatives from a country purportedly shoddy on the human rights front need not negate the reasoning in assessing abuses and infractions against human rights. It certainly makes that body’s credibility much harder to float, the perpetrator being within the gates, but human rights remains the hostage of political circumstance and, worst of all, opportunistic forays. The US withdrawal from the Council does little to suggest credible reform, though it does much to advance a program of spite typical from an administration never keen on the idea of human rights to begin with. The Trump policy of detachment, extraction and unilateralism continues.

Shifting sands in the Galilee Basin

Wondering what’s happening with Adani?

Well there have been a few developments of late.

Adani’s original plan was to use the coal from the Carmichael mine in its own generators at the Mundra power plant in Gujarat, India.  Except Adani Power Mundra is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Faced with mounting operational losses, they have already started scaling down generation from the Mundra plant. The average plant load factor in the January-March 2018 quarter dropped to 37%, from 73% a year ago.

Currently Adani Power has debts of about $US7.4bn, having lost $US927m last year and $US317m this year.  They tried to give the government a 51% stake in the Mundra plant for a token amount of Re 1 but they weren’t interested.

If the Adani firm gets bankruptcy protection from the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), there will be a 180-day moratorium on repayment of loans. During this period, the borrower and lenders will try to work out a repayment plan. If no plan is agreed to within the stipulated time frame, lenders can sell off borrower’s assets to recover their dues.

Meanwhile, back in Australia…..

Last month, the Townsville Bulletin said Adani would sublet 600sqm of office space at its Townsville headquarters.  Then a few days ago, they reported that Townsville City Council, sick of waiting, is redirecting $18.5 million earmarked for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine airport to shovel-ready projects around the city.

But you have to admire the perseverance of Adani in trying to get money out of our governments.

In May it was revealed that Adani will pay for Isaac Regional Council to hire four extra staff.  A week later, the ABC reported that the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Office of the Coordinator-General were negotiating terms with Adani and Isaac Regional Council for a $100 million upgrade of local dirt roads to give Adani year-round access to the proposed Carmichael mine site in central Queensland.

Adani had previously committed to carrying out the upgrade of Moray-Carmichael Road and the Elgin-Moray Road in order to keep it open in the wet season, a commitment noted in a coordinator-general report in 2014.  But hey, why look a gift horse in the mouth.

The various Indian governments want no part of Adani’s coal-fired power generation companies but here, our local and state governments want to build them roads and airports and our federal government wants to build them railways and ports.

Renewables are gathering pace in India. The Gujarat government announced last month it would build the world’s largest solar project, a 5000MW solar park that would be sufficient to replace the state’s lost power from Mundra.

Adani’s own renewables arm, Adani Green Energy, is poised to launch on the Indian stock exchange.

But here, we have Tony Abbott saying he was “misled by bureaucrats” and that our 2030 emissions reduction target was merely “aspirational”.  We have Craig Kelly and Matt Canavan insisting that the nation’s well-being relies on coal.

And we have a re-emergent Clive Palmer who, after successfully getting rid of the carbon price and mining tax in his last foray into politics, may well have his sights set on getting a slice of some government money for himself.

Waratah Coal, the company owned by Palmer’s Mineralogy, told the ABC in February last year that it had made an application to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to finance a proposed 900MW “clean coal” generator that would help provide electricity to Galilee coal mines planned by Palmer himself, Gina Rinehart, and Adani.

They say they will use carbon capture and storage by burying the emissions from the coal plant under the very same coal province that the three mining groups propose to mine – except that it will be “sequestered” in an “un-mineable” area of coal seams some 1km underground – a proposal that experts say is not commercially viable unless, of course, you get a shitload of government money to do it.

Then yesterday morning, we hear that Annastacia Palaszczuk told the Queensland Parliament that they would consider a taxpayer-funded loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to unlock the state’s Galilee Basin coalfields if it were sought by a company other than Adani, just no-one has asked….yet.

In a statement, Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said Labor’s election commitment related specifically to Adani.

“The Palaszczuk Government has maintained its election commitment to veto any NAIF loan for the Adani Carmichael Coal Project.  The Queensland Government is not aware of any other active NAIF proposals relating to mining development in the Galilee Basin.”

Will Gina start bestowing gifts on Matt Canavan?  Will Clive make a comeback?  Will the dinosaurs of the Monash Forum prevail?  We can’t subsidise renewables but we give billions to coal barons?

How ridiculous it all is.

Playing Politics with tax doesn’t help anybody!

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

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

The three-stage tax plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can check the figures yourself.

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

Day to Day Politics: You bet I’m angry.

Wednesday 20 June 2017

Understanding the conservative’s desire to eliminate a state-owned broadcaster is as simple as ABC. Conservatives don’t believe in state ownership of anything. They believe private enterprise and competition is the best way for all businesses.

It’s the same with health. They believe, philosophically, that individuals should fend for themselves and pay for any health service required through a private service.

That they do is simply a convenience or necessity of politics. A rule they break when politics demands it so.

The ABC was founded on 2 July 1930. Its purpose was to ensure that audiences had reasonable access to a range and high standard of radio services. The ABC was based on the BBC model and was originally funded by a combination of licence fees and some government funding. The ABC’s early services included twelve radio stations across the country offering live music, sport and information programs for 11 hours a day. It was quickly embraced by Australian households and became a fixture of daily life for many.

Well over the years it has done more than that. It has become a national institution performing much better in both programming and digital media than its commercial counterparts.

People in country areas find it essential in the function of their daily existence. It offers services far beyond those provided by the commercial stations both in television and radio.

By the way, have you heard a National Party MP defend it since the Liberals overwhelmingly voted at last weekend’s talkfest to sell it? Yes, break it up and sell it, they voted with capitalistic eagerness.

After the vote, senior members ran around saying “never, never” even though the vote was overwhelmingly to do so.

Even though they were high-ranking MPs and Senators, who could foresee the quicksand they were walking into, they are also members of the IPA from which the idea has its genesis.

One of them was the mercurial Scott Morisson who shouted with heightened blood pressure that the Government would never privatise our ABC but then suggested the broadcaster should “demonstrate to the Australian people that they are acting impartial and unbiased”.

In an article headed “The ABC is an indulgence we can no longer afford” by the NSW Young Liberals leader Harry Stutchbury (son of Mike) presents a case for selling off the ABC totally based on the capitalistic reason of profit. Nowhere could I find a cost for the maintenance of community standards and our taxes contributing toward it.

It’s rather like we should all accept that there is a cost to the maintenance of our general health but we shouldn’t have to pay for the maintenance of the planet.

He goes onto say that:

“The truth is that the ABC was designed for a bygone era, founded in the context of an underdeveloped media market, before TV, before radio matured and before the internet.”

What utter poppycock.

The truth is that the ABC is designed for the modern era. The ABC put to shame the commercial stations in developing the streaming technology to come up with iview, and what a success it has been.

If the Coalition were to win the next election, and particularly if Fifield were to retain the communications portfolio, then given their record of withdrawing funds from the ABC you can be certain that a death by a thousand cuts would take place.

Michael Pascoe writes:

“Yet we can expect further ABC budget cuts and more perfidious complaints about ABC reports and programs. On the current trajectory, Senator Fifield will soon be Apostrophe Man, protesting about ABC punctuation errors.”

Phil Manning wrote in yesterdays edition of The Monthly today that if re-elected, the Coalition “will be under pressure from an emboldened base” to move to privatise the ABC – if not via a sale, perhaps by tender, as Bernard Keane writes today in Crikey, as a step towards destroying the organisation.

The ABC has been attacked from both sides for as long as I can remember. Hawke and Keating were forever at them. Abbott treated it like his own personal punching bag. Enquiry after enquiry has been called (both internal and independent) with never a case to answer.

Bolt and other low-lifes have accused it, without any proof, of every bias imaginable. The Bolts of this world would never withstand the sort of obnoxious insults hurled at the ABC. That’s why the rag he writes for is at the bottom of the list of most trusted media outlets and the ABC IS THE MOST TRUSTED.

An observation

“It is a pity that fact in journalism cannot be made compulsory and decency legislated.”

The decision by the Federal Council is but one of many we will see if Turnbull wins. He may think that he would gain power for his position as Prime Minister but in essence, it will be a victory for the Trumpian right-wingers who happen to be older right wing nut cases, be they media tarts like Jones or nutter politicians like Andrews, Abbott and Abetz.

The apprentices  – Andrew Hastie, Zed Seselja, Michael Sukkar and Alan Tudge may well think they have become fully qualified.

An observation

“In the information age, those who control the dissemination of news have more power than government.”

Now that the Liberals have made this decision and the Nationals by their silence (even though once again like the NBN it is their constitutes who will be affected most) must presumably agree, it must be legitimate for Labor to take them to task over the decision. Yet another on a very long list.

Yesterday the ABC boss Michelle Guthrie gave a decent return of serve to the Liberal Party, the IPA and other Trumpian types saying that the ABC would never be a “punching bag for political and vested interests, and labelled the attacks as cynical, misplaced and ignorant.”

She is altogether correct.

My thought for the day

“Governments who demand the people’s trust need to govern transparently to acquire it.”

The government ignores the value of the ABC

It took the offer of a Chinese company to bring better telecommunications to the Solomon Islands to remind our government of the value of soft diplomacy.

After years of savage cuts to the Foreign Aid budget, ironically accompanied by huge increases in the defence and arms industry budgets, all of a sudden we can find a lazy $100 million plus to stop what is perceived to be an attempt by the Chinese to gain influence in the Pacific region.

Some would have us believe it is an attempt to hack in to our communications.  Perhaps so, though I rather think that is something that could be achieved far more easily another way.

This newly remembered responsibility to help our near neighbours (by means other than paying them to house our refugees or offering to build casinos) was not prompted by recognition of a friend’s need but in hasty reaction to someone else’s offer – more a PR exercise designed to remind them that they should be our friend, not China’s.

Whilst building needed infrastructure in poorer countries is commendable, there are other opportunities this government has deliberately thrown away for what seems little more than ideological spite.

One of the first actions of the Coalition after winning government was to axe the ABC’s $220 million 10-year contract with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to run the Asia Pacific television service, Australia Network, despite them being in the first year of the contract.

It may come as no surprise to find the IPA had “Cease funding the Australia Network” at number 47 on their infamous wish list.

While countries around the world are expanding their international broadcasting services as key instruments of public diplomacy, our government chose to give up one of the most powerful communication tools available to it to talk to our regional neighbours about Australia presumably just because they hate giving money to the national broadcaster.

Calls from the IPA to demolish the ABC  (#50 “Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function” and #51 “Privatise SBS”), followed obediently by the Liberal Party Federal Council, ignore the crucial help they could, and do, provide to the government.

It was a Four Corner’s story, Unholy Silence, that finally prompted the Royal Commission into the institutional response to child sex abuse.

It was the Four Corner’s expose of the cruelty at Don Dale that led to another RC into juvenile detention.

And their coverage of water theft in the Murray-Darling has prompted the SA government to hold its own RC (to which the Federal government are desperately trying to avoid giving evidence).

It was not the police or the regulators who initiated these investigations or uncovered the wrongdoing.  It certainly wasn’t the government or their departments.

Congratulations and thanks must go to Walkley Award winning ABC researcher/producer Mary Fallon who was involved in all of these stories, with others, and who then spent hundreds of hours compiling and providing evidence for the Royal Commissions.

And then there are the stories the government won’t allow the ABC to tell.

Like the allegations of Australian authorities paying people smugglers to take asylum seekers somewhere else and the mistreatment of asylum seekers by defence personnel.

Or how we monitored the mobile phone activity of high-ranking Indonesians including the President’s wife.

Or the plight of refugees in offshore detention.

Or the real state of the NBN.

Or the lack of evidence of any benefit from company tax cuts.

Mitch Fifield smiles at us as he assures us that the government has no plans to privatise the ABC but his message to the party is that they have ways and means of keeping the ABC in line.

Aside from the savage cuts to base-funding and the constant stream of complaints and accusations of bias, Fifield outlined some of their plan to further contain and control the national broadcaster.

“In the budget, we announced an indexation pause for the ABC funding in its next triennium. We have paired that with an efficiency review to make sure that the ABC is being the best possible steward of taxpayer resources that it can be.

I’ve also initiated something called a Competitive Neutrality Inquiry, which has the purpose of assessing whether the ABC and SBS are using their position as taxpayer-funded entities to compete in ways which are not fair with the commercial broadcasting sector.

We also have a range of legislative measures which we have before the Senate. One of those, is to put into the ABC’s Act, specific and explicit reference to its obligations to rural and regional Australia.”

I wonder how the unexplained $30 million gift to Fox Sports would fare under competitive neutrality scrutiny.

A recent survey showed that the majority of ABC employees were left-leaning – greenies even.  Is it so surprising that those who work for a national broadcaster, rather than a commercial enterprise with an agenda, are more motivated by social justice and environmental protection than profit, greed and personal ambition?

The Treasurer said many people think the ABC is biased but, as those of us who actually watch it rather than whinge about it know, opportunity is given to all sides to present their view.  The IPA have resident status and we are regularly forced to endure people like Gerard Henderson, Michael Stutchbury and Nick Cater.  Liberal politicians, current and former, abound.  Amanda Vanstone and Tom Switzer have their own shows.  Extraordinary lengths are gone to to ensure a cross-section in the Q&A audience and panels.

I think the accusations of bias come from people who don’t like listening to actual evidence.  Let’s face it, no-one subscribes to pay tv for the news.

Finally, ABC head Michelle Guthrie has been stirred to defend her charge as her predecessors have so often been forced to do.

“[Australians] regard the ABC as one of the great national institutions [and] deeply resent it being used as a punching bag by narrow political, commercial or ideological interests.

Inherent in the drive against the independent public broadcaster is a belief that it can be pushed and prodded into different shapes to suit the prevailing climate. It can’t. Nor should it be.

In a complex world it is too easy for the powerful to do their work in dark corners: to cynically use so-called narrowcasting messages that have a direct appeal to certain targeted audiences, while conveying an entirely different message to others – to rely on rhetoric that doesn’t match actions.  Good journalists call that out.”

She further referenced a soon-to-be-released report by Deloittes which shows that the broadcaster contributed $1 billion to the national economy last financial year.  In addition to its 4000 employees, the ABC helps to sustain more than 2500 full-time equivalent jobs across the supply chain.

The ABC is not just there for entertainment or to regurgitate government media releases.  It is a priceless asset that plays a pivotal role in our society in many different ways.  Attempts to strangle it of funds, to erode its independence, to censor coverage, or to dumb it down, must be resisted strongly by politicians and the community.


Rocking the G7: Trump Stomps His Allies

Disruption, disturbance, eruption, the words crowning the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who has effectively demonstrated an idea made famous by Nazi doodler of law and political theorist Carl Schmitt: politics is defined, not by identifying with friends in cosy harmony but with enemies in constant tension.

There are many ways that Trump might be seen as a creature of Schmittian reaction. Alliances may well be lauded as good (the diplomat’s clichés of “eternal friendship”, “special bonds” and the treacly covering that comes with it), but then again, potential adversaries can also be considered in accommodating fashion. In every enduring friendship between states is a potential enemy in wait, a dormant instinct that, given certain circumstances, might awake. In every alliance, a potential shift might undermine, if not threaten the national interest.

In short, the current US president likes the bruising, the bullying and the cajoling in the abstract name of US self-interest. Forget the distinctions and the similarities. There are no values in any shared sense. There is only his road.

The press conference concluding the summit with Kim Jong-un on Sentosa Island provided the platform for Trump to round on his supposed allies even as he praised Little Rocket Man as his newly made friend, Chairman Kim, no less. The spectacle was terrifying for groupies of the US empire, those who have praised the virtues of alliances and bonds with Washington as necessary for the Pax Americana. Before them, the spectacle of US hegemony was being challenged with a brazen confidence. The Chairman seemed to be getting what he wanted, even if it all seemed a touch vague.

As the Kim-Trump show unfolded, the rubble at the G7 seemed to be growing, a sentiment captured by the satirical Borowitz Report in The New Yorker. The meeting preceding the gathering in Singapore had put many a nose out of joint. After leaving the Quebec summit, Trump got his fingers busy by tweeting that he had asked US representatives not to endorse the customary joint communiqué from the G7 leaders calling for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” over the devil of protectionism.

The cooling towards Canada’s Justin Trudeau was a case in point, mixed with the usual air of berating condescension and sulkiness. Much of it had arisen because of a disagreement on whether a sunset clause would find its way into any renegotiated trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the United States. Trump’s own version of reality was that negotiators were “pretty close on the sunset provision”. Trudeau differed on such a reading, wanting nothing of the sort.  The bad blood was taking time to dry.

“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our US reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at tariffs on automobiles flooding the US market!”

In Singapore itself, Trump wished to add some flesh to the remarks, getting a few jocular asides in. “When I got onto the plane,” considered Trump, “I think that Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television. And he’s giving a news conference about how he will not be pushed around by the United States. And I say, push him around? We just shook hands. It was very friendly.”

Then came that picture, poured over by aroused pundits and eager commentators, showing Trump sitting down like a bemused, bright coloured Buddha, seemingly defiant, with Germany’s Angela Merkel leaning across with grave school teacher disapproval. “In fact,” he explained, “the picture with Angela Merkel, who I get along with very well, where I’m sitting there like this, that picture was we’re waiting for the document because I wanted to see the final document as changed by the changes that I requested.”

Image from www.vox.com

For Trump, the visuals are nigh everything, and this titillates the pundits he lures like starving waifs to a banquet. Academics are also getting on board, being brought into Trumpland’s sordid undergrowth. “Critics of President Trump say this is President Trump isolated,” suggested Dan Nexon of Georgetown University on the G7 snap, “so it feeds into the pre-existing narrative.” But then came the other side, those supporters who considered the show “a sign of American strength, status and position in the dominance hierarchy.”

Others have also fallen for tissue-like substance and liberal readings, suggesting that Trump is seducing those who should know better. “The symbolic meaning of a 13-second handshake in the visual form is the establishment of a physical and therefore a personal bond between the two leaders,” came the distinctly unscientific observation of political science professor Bruce Miroff. The G7 meeting did the opposite of the Sentosa Island summit, suggesting a spectacle “of alienation, opposition and even international condemnation of Trump.”

Any amount of time might be spent on such performances, but Trump, for all the displays, remains heartily consistent in what superficially seems to be jolting anarchy. On the issue of mistrusting, badgering, even punishing allies economically, he has remained true to his word, carrying through attitudes nursed since the 1980s. “I’d throw a tax on every Mercedes-Benz rolling into this country,” he claimed in his 1990 Playboy interview should he ever become President, “and on all Japanese products, and we’d have wonderful allies again.” And, prophetically, he promised a Schmitt-inspired attitude: don’t “trust our allies” and “perfect” that “huge military arsenal”.

Day to Day Politics: Two weeks of mayhem.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

After further consideration and another clue I am prepared to say that it is still possible to have a federal election in September or October.

The next two weeks of the sitting of the Parliament the Government has a full agenda and noticeably missing is a bill to ban foreign donations.

The Prime Minister has advised he will make an apology to the children found to have been abused by the Royal Commission on 22 October. It could be delayed or bought forward if a snap election were considered to be in the Government’s best interests.

If it were to win the Government might do something about foreign donations in its next term, but why would it forego the millions it could collect for this one? And Malcolm wouldn’t be inclined to put his hand in his own pocket again. For Labor’s part it gave up this generous cash cow 18 months ago whereas the Liberal Party has its hand out to anyone who needs a favour or two, including the Chinese, which is said to be about $3 million. Note no other comparative democracies accept foreign donations.

The bill seems to have disappeared into a black hole of the Government’s own digging. Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann denies the Government is being deliberate sluggish with it.

It’s just that next election is top of mind and takes precedence over anything else. Of course, the Government runs the risk of a public backlash given the current talk of interference in our domestic politics.

Early in the New Year it is believed that the Prime Minister told the Party Room that it was in a strong position to attack Labor on National security. Shorten though is making it difficult by agreeing with anything he says on the subject:

“But efforts to paint the Opposition as weak in this area are undermined by selectivity. This is especially the case in light of government ministers frequently quoting our domestic spy chief, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s Duncan Lewis, warning that foreign interference in our domestic politics is now at unprecedented levels. This is a claim we are expected to take at face value, as there has been no evidence put forward to substantiate it.”

On Insiders Sunday 10 June Attorney-General Christian Porter talked about this threat, making it perfectly clear that it needed urgent attention before the next farce in our democratic procedures: the citizenship by-elections.

The left-wing advocacy group GetUp! says:

“ … this is exactly what the government is doing, even in this amended legislation. Its national director, Paul Oosting, says the suggestion that it is about reducing offshore influence in our political system “is a farce”. At its core, he says, this legislation is an attempt to protect the Turnbull government from criticism from its own citizens. Very broad definitions of national security, sabotage and espionage catch in their net demonstrations, sit-ins, whistleblowers and investigative journalists. All are liable to new fines or jail terms.”

It is nothing more than an attempt to wedge Labor using the most draconian legislation possible. An imperative leading up to, and into the upcoming campaigns is that national security be front of mind in the electorate. If that means scaring people, then so be it.

The Coalition – since 2013 – have brought in more security bills than they have had people charged under them. It believes national security is one of weaknesses. Personally, I would suggest that after 34 Newspoll losses it is one of the Coalition’s.

On the one hand if Turnbull were to win the three seats it is contesting he would most likely call a general election. Mind you, he would have to defy history to do it. On the other hand if he lost all three, his leadership would come into contention.

Conversely, if Labor were to lose both Braddon in Tasmania and Longman in Queensland then Shorten might find his leadership in a spot of bother with Albo sitting in the wings just waiting. Whatever happens, it will give us some insight into how the electorate is thinking.

My thought for the day

“The real enemy of neo conservative politics in Australia is not Labor or indeed democratic socialism. It is simply what Australians affectionately call. A fair go.”

The perils of popularism

This week we originally were going to be discussing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and their apparent habit of losing Senators. After all, to lose one Senator is careless, two is a concern and so on. Apart from the Betoota Advocate doing the satire better, they also bring in the relevant point of popularism.

Hanson is “President for life” of the party that enjoys the use of her name and at the beginning of June effectively sacked NSW Senator Brian Burston by requesting him to resign from the party and to hand back his seat in the Senate by letter (at least it wasn’t a SMS message or Facebook post!). Burston’s crime was to support the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s corporate tax cuts, a position originally endorsed by Hanson as well.

Hanson has been a politician for around 25 years. After nearly a year sitting on the Ipswich City Council, she first ran for Federal Parliament in 1996 as the Liberal Candidate for the seat of Oxley in South East Queensland. During the campaign she made some statements that were (at the time) so abhorrent, even Howard’s campaign couldn’t stomach them and disendorsed her shortly before the election date. She sat as an independent and lost her seat in the 1998 election. Also in 1998, Hanson’s One Nation won 13 of the 89 seats in the Queensland Parliament

But what happened after One Nation won all those seats all those years ago set the tone for everything that would follow. Within a year, One Nation was deregistered as a party, its MPs split acrimoniously — one resigned from parliament, some became independents, some established the so-called City Country Alliance — and the great shining moment dissolved into tears before bedtime.

Hanson’s One Nation was also supposed to do exceptionally well in the recent Western Australian and Queensland elections. They didn’t.

The problem with popularism is that you may not ‘pick the mood’ of those you are trying to impress. In the past 25 years Hanson, according to her Wikipedia page, railed at times against extra funding for the disadvantaged in the Ipswich City Council, Chinese immigration, Government assistance for Aboriginal people, the media crusade against her, the Islamic religion, the ‘people’ versus the elite and so on. It’s not the first time Hanson’s quest for popularism has rated a mention on The Political Sword, this article appearing about a year ago when Hanson, who hadn’t been on the front page for a while, decided to weigh into a discussion on children of differing abilities/disabilities sitting in the one classroom. It was one of her less successful attempts at ‘picking the mood’ of the ‘people’ and was widely condemned. Surprisingly enough, this has kept Hanson quiet on this subject ever since.

In March this year the Coalition Government sealed a deal with Hanson’s party to support the corporate tax cuts it hadn’t been able to get through the Senate from the 2017 budget. The price for the support was a pilot apprenticeship package that was to be rolled out to benefit 1000 people across the country. At the end of May, Hanson walked away from the deal citing

The people in general don’t want it. It has not been well received. The Government has not been able to sell the package to the people and they haven’t cut through.

She also presented a new list of demands to be met in return for her support, including

cut in immigration, changes to the Petroleum ¬Resource Rent Tax (PRRT), a gas pipeline connecting Western Australian gas fields with the east coast, as well as “use it or lose it” provisions for gas exploration and development, more support for pensioners, a greater focus on reducing multinational tax avoidance and getting banks “to pay for this royal commission into the banking sector”.

“There has to be a decent PRRT,” Hanson said. “We need a pipeline from the west coast to the east coast. Unless we get electricity prices down in this country, we are going to see the closure of a lot of businesses.”

Those with a more suspicious bent might be able to see the forest in spite of the trees. Bernard Keane from Crikey probably can(paywalled)

The government is correct to hope that Pauline Hanson’s backflip on her backflip on company tax cuts — now opposed again, One Nation’s original position — won’t be her last. Hanson’s reversal isn’t due to any ideological reason or based on evidence — such as, for example, the fact that the Trump corporate tax cuts are flowing almost entirely into share buybacks and dividends — but because of the looming by-elections, and particularly that in Longman.

Longman is based around Caboolture in South East Queensland and there are significant pockets of poverty, social problems and under-employment in the seat. Hanson’s popularist ‘I represent the people’ rhetoric goes down a treat in areas like this. The rationale for her promises are illogical, as there is no chance that Hanson’s One Nation could redress the problems because her party won’t win Government (especially as a result of this byelection).

According to a Reachtel survey published in The Guardian

The Turnbull government’s proposal to cut tax for Australia’s biggest businesses is unpopular in the seat, with only 17% endorsement. A majority of respondents (53.7%) also thought the third phase of the income tax cuts proposed by the Turnbull government in last week’s budget, to flatten the tax rate on incomes between $41,000 and $200,000, was unfair.

Voters were asked whether they supported or opposed tax cuts delivering an average of $530 a year extra for low and middle-income earners in the first four years, and tax cuts for high income earners in seven years’ time.

More Longman voters opposed the measure (47.3%) than supported it (38.3%).

It looks like Keane is correct and the backflip on the tax cuts is not surprising as it would be hard for a popularist to be claiming to ‘represent the people’ while supporting tax cuts to large corporations, some of whom are currently attempting to justify habitual practices that disadvantage wage earners and small business to increase their large profits.

That’s the problem with popularism. You have to read the mood of those you are claiming to represent and at times you’ll get it wrong, causing either damage to your reputation with your followers or damage to the larger community. You could make the point that all political leaders seek popularity at one point or other, otherwise how do they become firstly the leader and secondly how do they get the opportunity to lead a government? The big difference is that popularists don’t seem to understand or care that they can’t be popular all the time across the entire population.

Robert Mugabe in Rhodesia is a great example.

Trained as a teacher, he spent 11 years as a political prisoner under Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government. He rose to lead the Zimbabwe African National Union movement and was one of the key negotiators in the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, which led to the creation of a fully democratic Zimbabwe. Elected prime minister and later president, he embraced conciliation with the country’s white minority but sidelined his rivals through politics and force. Beginning in 2000, he encouraged the takeovers of white-owned commercial farms, leading to economic collapse and runaway inflation.

It’s not for us in Australia to determine if the takeover of white-owned farms was warranted or the politics behind the actions, however the same article suggests that the takeovers, while obviously popular with Mugabe’s followers, were of dubious legality and were detrimental to most Rhodesians.

In 2000 Mugabe organized a referendum on a new Zimbabwean constitution that would expand the powers of the presidency and allow the government to seize white-owned land. Groups opposed to the constitution formed the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which successfully campaigned for a “no” vote in the referendum.

That same year, groups of individuals calling themselves “war veterans”—though many were not old enough to have been part of Zimbabwe’s independence struggle—began invading white-owned farms. Violence caused many of Zimbabwe’s whites to flee the country. Zimbabwe’s commercial farming collapsed, triggering years of hyperinflation and food shortages that created a nation of impoverished billionaires.

Republican Party US President Donald Trump is also a popularist. He recently decided to impose

tariffs on aluminium and steel imports, saying the new measures are meant to counter unfair trade practices that hurt American workers and industries and threaten national security.

The tariffs, which Trump had already telegraphed last week, will help protect the U.S. steel and aluminium industries, the White House said. Trump is imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent levy on aluminium imports.

For now, the tariffs don’t apply to Canada or Mexico, which a White House release said, Trump “recognizes … present a special case” while discussions continue with those countries to resolve U.S. concerns.

Ultimately, the US didn’t resolve the concerns it had with Mexico, Canada or the European Union. The European Union (who are now victims of this tariff war) are proposing selective retaliatory tariffs on US products that are primarily produced in states that are seen to be leaning towards the Republicans. These products include bourbon, Levi jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

The EU took the United States to the World Trade Organization to challenge the legality of the new tariffs and the Trump administration’s national-security justification. Brussels has submitted an eight-page list to the international trade body, covering goods it would hit with retaliatory measures.

The list includes U.S. exports running the gamut from big motorcycles like Harley’s, built on the home turf of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, to “canoes”, “manicure or pedicure preparations” and even “sinks and washbasins, of stainless steel” — the proverbial kitchen sink.

“We support free and fair trade and hope for a quick resolution to this issue,” Harley said in a statement.

“We believe a punitive, retaliatory tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycles in any of our major markets would have a significant impact on our sales, our dealers, our suppliers and our customers in those markets,” the statement said.

Trump, like Hanson, is going to have real difficulties in retaining his popularist image while being seen as responsible for the imposition of policy that directly disadvantages his support base.

Hanson obviously decided that Burston is expendable (and hopes the rest of us have no recollection of her statements in March being completely at odds to her statements in May and June). Mugabe apparently drove his country into the ground and Trump will have to be performing technically difficult verbal gymnastics to avoid his support base joining the dots between tariffs on steel being connected to reduced demand for US made products.

Abraham Lincoln (also a Republican President — but in another time) is reputed to have said

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Unfortunately Lincoln was correct. Some will follow the popularist leader to the bitter end such as those that followed the Reverend Jim Jones to Jonestown in Africa and ‘drank the kool-aid’. The rest of us need to question the motives and sincerity of the popularist — because drinking the kool-aid can be hazardous to your health and the welfare of those you really care about.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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