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Category Archives: News and Politics

Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade beats Turnbull’s 18C freedom of speech lies.

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honour, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Joseph Heller Catch 22 


 

“Bat poo crazy”, sneers loyal Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. “Just plain stupid. Just plain dumb.”

A dab hand at restoring sanity to the national conversation, Joyce takes time out from urging the export of edible donkey skins to China, the next big thing logically, now returns on iron ore and coal are down a bit, to jeer at Pauline Hanson for her call, Friday, for ‘Straya to be “vaccinated against Muslims”.

The 18C law is an ass.  Imagine if Putinista Pauline and other Islamophobes could say what they really think. Yet Barnaby’s Hanson slap-down applies equally to his PM’s own bat-shit maniacal mission to drop energy, budget preparation – everything –  to make Australia bigly bigot-friendly this week.

Nothing special is required. No trick. All you need to turn hate speech into free speech is no character.

Turnbull sucks up to the 18C brigade. Next he’ll be rewriting the national anthem: “Australians, all let us rejoice in our dem-o-cracy. O-ffend, in-sult, hu-mil-iate; for these deeds make us free.”

Mad as a March Hare, the PM darts about the national stage. A lot of shouting is involved. He exceeds even his Shorten-bashing, in forsaking decorum. And it works. Sort of. It impresses the odd critic.

Mark Kenny, National Affairs Editor for Fairfax, writes inscrutably of a “growing sense around the halls of power that Malcolm Turnbull is finally starting to get somewhere.”

All week, Turnbull extols the nation-building virtues of racial vilification, the acid test of free speech.

It’s an extraordinary contortion even for a practised back-flipper, a retail politician who sold his soul to the National Party and who hasn’t looked back since. Or forward. Just sideways. But now he’s hydro-pumped. Free speech, he blows all week, is not just intrinsic to insult and injury, it’s a core Liberal value. Somehow he’s persuaded by his Snowy 2.0 propaganda that he’s nation builder and elder statesman.

“Our freedom of speech is the foundation of our great democracy that has caused people from every corner of the world to join ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world,” he honks loftily, rashly cramming three lies into one canard. Vapid, pretentious nonsense enchants him. Becomes him.

All week he pretends he doesn’t know that the Racial Discrimination Act’s section 18D protects freedom of speech.  It goes down well. The Australian’s Paul Kelly and gang gush thousands of words in applause.

Turnbull’s performance reminds us free speech in Australia is a ruling class privilege. He intends to keep it that way. If he were serious about free speech for all, he’d repeal the secrecy provisions of section 42 of the Border Force Act 2015. These led the UN special rapporteur on human rights to abandon a planned visit to Australia that year. The Act would prevent workers from providing any information.

Free speech? Anyone is free to report on Nauru if Dutton approves of you and you can pay an $8000 fee.

If he were serious about protecting free speech, Turnbull would stop Centrelink divulging personal details of clients to silence those victims of Roboclaw extortion who dare criticise its operations.

He’d rescind his government’s permission for ASIO to trawl through journalists’ metadata to discern sources.  He’d be outraged at the way the ABC, our national broadcaster, has had its independence destroyed through budget cuts and government interference. He’d recall Michelle Guthrie.

A government committed to free speech would establish a bill of rights to protect this inalienable human right, article 19 in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It would reform our defamation laws exploited by rich individuals and corporations who successfully threaten to sue to silence critics.

It would repeal the 2014 law which allows the Attorney General to define a “special intelligence operation” making it a crime for journalists to report on the operation.

The government would also persuade to its cause State governments, who restrict free speech.

In 2014 the Tasmanian government enacted new anti-protest legislation to prevent anti-logging protesters from objecting to clear-felling of native forests in January 2016. Bob Brown has launched a High Court legal challenge.  WA and NSW also have laws to muzzle protesters.

Beyond the law, there are countless informal ways freedom of speech is denied Australian people because of their colour, class or gender. Despite Turnbull’s week-long harangue – and partly because of it – our nation excludes the voices of those who do not belong to the dominant elite.

Of course he doesn’t want free speech for all. The PM’s performance is a stunt to divert an insatiable rabid right wing. Yet the right will simply want more. Accordingly, Turnbull duly receives praise from Tony Abbott, another bumper sticker orator; Abbott knows an empty slogan when he hears one.

Yet Abbott, who’s busily alarming an adoring media about Victoria’s power crisis, ups the ante. He asks Turnbull to keep Hazelwood Power Station open until Snowy 2.0 starts pumping its hydro.

Turnbull quickly dismisses his rival’s latest mischief. It’s too expensive and unnecessary. He’ll put Abbott back in his box even if it means another U-turn from his catastrophising over renewables and his love of coal-fired power a week or so ago.  At least the truth is out. He doesn’t seem to have told Josh Frydenberg.

Turnbull also will tackle 18C – something Abbott failed to do – even though it was on his IPA-led agenda. What the PM proposes, however, has nothing to do with free speech and everything to with appeasing a few old, white, ruling class warriors feeling hard done by who love to beef about being bound by law; men whose privilege and power mean they will never suffer vilification or discrimination.

Or be overlooked. In a virtuoso display of duplicity and indirection, the Coalition devotes all Tuesday to diluting section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, 1975, a section added in 1995 to make it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate on the basis of a person’s race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

It’s a big back-flip. Leaving 18C alone was a Turbull campaign promise. He once told the IPA’s John Roskam “About 100 people care about 18C and there are about 16 million people on the electoral roll.”

The RDA helps the Australian Human Rights Commission, (AHRC) resolve conflict. Fewer than five per cent of complaints go to court. Yet critics claim fear of being dragged through court stifles free speech.

Never one to overshare, fearing leaks, or with his team plan still a work in progress, the PM neglects to mention the 18C changes he has planned when he addresses the full cabinet on Monday at 6:30 pm. Oddly, MPs come to feel excluded; slighted. Those in electorates with large ethnic communities fear that the issue will lose them votes. Some would cross the floor if they thought it would save their seats.

Turnbull’s timing is impeccable: 21 March is Harmony Day and the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day, moreover, is a Howard invention,  a day and a campaign dedicated to a truth self-evident to Howard’s band of reality deniers: racism could not possibly exist in Australia.

There’s a hint of this self-delusion in the statement on multiculturalism which the PM releases. It’s been doctored a bit to ensure that migrants know they have to assimilate. It’s almost no trick at all. Greens leader, Richard di Natale, however, calls him out on it; his One Nation dogwhistling:

Di Natale nails it.  New arrivals should adopt so-called “Australian” values?

“The new multiculturalism statement is an attack on multiculturalism,” Di Natale says in a statement.

Julian Leeser, David Coleman, Julia Banks, Russell Broadbent and Craig Laundy, oppose the proposed 18C re-wording. Only news that the law will go to the senate first, where it will surely be lost, persuades them not to cross the floor.

The group’s dismay illustrates how the PM wooing of his right wing is alienating the middle. It remains to be seen if the right will be appeased by a process where the new bill is set up to be lost in the Senate. It’s too tricky by half.

A snap Senate inquiry Friday by the legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee, to report back by Tuesday, is announced. Attorney General, George Brandis, whose previous reform proposals were ignored, has his submission quietly incorporated into Hansard. Also invited are the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

The inquiry allows Liberal senator Ian Macdonald to continue his bullying of the Commission’s President: “You’re here to answer questions, Professor Triggs, not to go off on a frolic of your own.” His belittling harassment of Triggs is a case study in freedom of speech at work in senate committee.

Triggs has been pilloried and accused of political bias since her 2014 report on children in immigration detention centres, The Forgotten Children was critical of government policy. Attacks have been mounted in parliament and Triggs’ findings have been howled down in Newscorp media.

Media attacks include accusations about her personal life and a piece by Piers Akerman alleging that she was an unfit mother. It’s an insight into the real constraints on our freedom of speech which the Prime Minister’s rhetoric ignores, and an illustration of the cruelty inflicted by the Old White Male brigade.

Macdonald is a veteran of the Coalition’s long-running war on the Human Rights Commission, begun by Tony Abbott and capably assisted by George Brandis who has insulted and demeaned Triggs mercilessly. He chaired the committee which looked into her Forgotten People report but he didn’t bother to read it.

“I haven’t bothered to read the final report because I thought it was partisan,” he told the committee. It is an insult not only to Triggs but to the nation. Macdonald doesn’t get it.

In March 2015, the Senate passed a motion declaring Brandis “unfit to hold the office of Attorney-General” over the Government’s criticism of the Human Rights Commission president. As Penny Wong noted at the time, Brandis failed as AG not merely to defend the AHRC as an institution but he actually led the charge attacking Gillian Triggs on charges that her report on children in custody was political.

Somewhere in the excitement, MPs misrepresent the change as sanctioned by the AHRC itself. It’s not.

“It’s very, very clear that we do not approve the changes to the substantive provision of the [act],” Gillian Triggs, AHRC President says on Friday.

“The current language has worked extremely well.” Inserting the word “harass” instead is “curious”, “an entirely circular process” and “highly unsatisfactory”, she says.

The Coalition’s amendments include substituting “harass” for the words “insult and offend”, a weakening which the PM pretends will make the law stronger, clearer, fairer. Inserting a reasonable member of the community test will discount minority experience.  It’s a disingenuous double-bluff.

In reality, the changes will weaken the law to “… give a free pass to ugly and damaging forms of racial vilification which do not satisfy the stringent legal criteria of harassment and intimidation”, say Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian, Aboriginal and Jewish communities in a signed statement to the PM.

Silence from the Kiwi migrant community, a whopping fifteen per cent of New Zealand’s population, does not equal consent. New Zealanders, along with the South Sudanese  report highest levels of discrimination in Australia, in a survey of 10,000 respondents, conducted by the Scanlon Foundation and Monash University and reported in August last year. Yet the Sudanese are twice as happy to be here.

It’s a report Zed Seselja, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, channelling John Howard “simply cannot understand”, exposing an inherent flaw in the “reasonable community member” test.

The Kiwi underclass is not asked to comment. Some may even be on Christmas Island awaiting deportation at Peter Dutton’s pleasure, courtesy of the character test an amendment to the Migration Act, of December 2014 which provides for mandatory cancellation of visas of anyone who has served a year in prison or who, “in the minister’s judgement” is a known associate of a criminal organisation.

Our immigration detention centres now hold more New Zealanders than any other national group. Kiwis are often held in detention for months awaiting “processing” of their deportation or appeal. Cut off from families and legal support, detainees report violence, abuse by guards, and a lack of medical treatment.

The government has no hope of getting its bill through the senate. At best, Turnbull’s bluff buys off bigots in his own party as well as those in the Murdoch press who deride his government for not making it easier for privileged white racists to abuse persecuted minorities. It is common knowledge now that 18C killed freedom fighter St Bill Leak, a racist cartoonist whom the PM has helped canonise.

“Political correctness did not silence Bill, any more than terrorists did, every cartoon he drew was an exercise of freedom.”

What the PM really hopes to do, however, is forestall a budgie smuggler putsch he fears is out to get him. Crazy? He’s read Catch 22. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.

Tactically, Turnbull’s batshit crazy; deluded. Every inch he yields, every capitulation he makes to his party’s right merely increases their demands and weakens his lame duck leadership of a government overwhelmed by such basic tasks as taking charge of its agenda. Yet after his cunning plan; his brilliant double dissolution disaster he lacks the political capital to defy his bullies.

Appeasing racists ought to be low down the list for a government with so much else that is pressing. It has yet to formulate a coherent energy or environment policy. It has yet to end Abbott era hangovers; zombie measures. It is racking up a massive deficit. It has no idea of what to do with the 854 asylum seekers on Manus Island once PNG closes the camp.

The refugee people-swap deal with an inept, crisis-ridden US administration appears flakier by the week.

Above all there’s the war on the poor, a crusade on behalf of the rich to cut up to $7,700 per annum from the wages of our lowest paid earners by axing Sunday penalty rates, a move which The McKell Institute reports, accelerates the mass casualisation of the Australian workforce which is now spreading, inexorably, into other workplaces and occupations.

The PM cannot bring himself to publicly announce his support for the pay cuts on the floor of the house but finds ways to announce that he’s in favour of a decision which he blames on Labor and the FWC.

Turnbull’s 18C stunt demeans the work of the bipartisan parliamentary committee which recently advised against any change and is yet another offence against democratic process committed as this government and its predecessor have sought to abrogate power into the office of the Prime Minister.

Increasingly, as one wag puts it,  what is good for the country is what is good for Malcolm Turnbull. His decision to devote himself to the repeal of a law he knows won’t get past the senate has to be the ultimate in cynical political manoeovreing.

In the process, his attempt to puff his posturing into a stand on free speech is likely to backfire and illuminate the extent to which his government is the catspaw of mining, business and media groups who are motivated only by the narrowest short-term, self-interest.

The PM’s hollow rhetoric this week is no substitute for vision or policy or leadership but is instead the desperate posturing of a hollow man intent on appeasing his right wing critics at any price.

Turnbull’s attempt to dilute the RDA’s section 18C to save his political hide, under cover of a fog of lies about freedom of speech and high-sounding lies nonsense about our multiculturalism makes Barnaby Joyce’s edible donkey skin trade with China honest and virtuous, a tangible public good by contrast.

 

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

I feel sorry for George Christensen.  Having so many people to hate can be really wearing.

He really hates environmentalists who he describes as “gutless green grubs“, declaring in parliament that “the greatest terrorism threat in North Queensland, I’m sad to say, comes from the extreme green movement.”

George really hates groups like Greenpeace and GetUp!

“The eco-terrorists butchered the international tourism market for our greatest tourism attraction, not for the reef but for political ideology,” he said.

It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to ignore coral bleaching and blame a campaign to stop coal mining for a drop in tourism.

As soon as Tony Abbott’s government was sworn in, they announced their intention to make conservation groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices liable for prosecution under consumer law.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.

“We’ll be looking at the way some of the environmental groups work because we are very concerned about some of the activities they conduct in the markets,” Senator Colbeck said. “They have exemptions for secondary boycott activities under the Consumer and Competition Act. We are going to have a complete review of the act.”

Section 45D of the act prohibits “Secondary boycotts for the purpose of causing substantial loss or damage” but exempts people if their actions are “substantially related to environmental or consumer protection”.

George was very vocal about stopping any boycott campaigns so imagine my surprise (on more than one level) to find him calling for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Their crime?

The company is supporting a series of events next week in capital cities across the country called ‘Scoop Ice Cream Not Coal’. The company is getting behind a ‘Stop Adani roadshow’ in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, giving out free ice cream as opponents of the mine hold public rallies.

This wasn’t the first time – the Newman government called for a boycott and referred the ice cream company to the ACCC over their “Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour” in 2014.

In response to this ecoterrorism, George posted on his facebook page

“The US-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream company are continuing their fight against local jobs by opposing the Carmichael mine and Abbot Point coal terminal expansion.
If you want local jobs and prosperity, boycott Ben & Jerry’s. Get a good Aussie-owned and made ice cream like Bulla instead.”

This brings us to George’s next dilemma.

One thing George really hates is halal certified food.  Bulla ice cream is halal certified and that would definitely not please his special friend, Kirralie Smith, champion of the boycott halal campaign, for whom George donated his time (or is that our time) to speak at an event raising funds to fund her defence in a defamation case brought by an halal certifier whom she accused of funding terrorism.

Ben & Jerry’s are also vocal advocates and active supporters of marriage equality and we all know how much George hates that.

Free speech, boycotts yes/no/sometimes, socialists, ecoterrorists, Muslims, gays….and now ice cream?  It’s a hard life hating all the time George.

Perhaps you should take a fresh look at the world through the eyes of Ben & Jerry.

“Peace, love, and ice cream”

We Need The Freedom To Offend So This Ridiculous Law Must Go!

Freedom of speech, I have heard recently, is a near-sacred concept and it includes the freedom to offend, insult and humiliate. While 18C has been fixed up and “made stronger” by changing those terms to “harass”, there remains a law on the statute books which greatly inhibits freedom of speech.

SUMMARY OFFENCES ACT 1988 – SECT 4A

Offensive language
4A Offensive language

(1) A person must not use offensive language in or near, or within hearing from, a public place or a school

Why is this ridiculous law allowed to remain on our books? I mean we all need the freedom to offend, right? Why should some bastard arbitrarily decide that my language is offensive? I mean, that’s fucked, right?

As has been observed:

“The cornerstone of public order legislation is usually a provision that permits police to act where behaviour in a public place is regarded as offensive, insulting, abusive or indecent. Such provisions are inevitably vague and open-ended, with the characterisation of the behaviour left to the discretion of the police in the first instance, and subsequently to the discretion of magistrates.”
David Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process of New South Wales

So where is the outcry? All right, nobody charged Andrew Bolt. And ok, it’s usually only indigenous people who ever get charged with offensive language. But still, this greatly infringes on my right to go to the football and scream abuse at the umpires. How do can tradesmen go to work when they know that an expletive uttered when they drop a tool or hurt themselves may see them hauled before a magistrate and, just like Andrew Bolt, be told to say sorry and not to do it again? (Ok, I know that some of you are going to mention that the defence offered under Section 2 of the Act which states: “2. It is a sufficient defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section if the defendant satisfies the court that the defendant had a reasonable excuse for conducting himself or herself in the manner alleged in the information for the offence”, but that’s like saying that 18D offered protection to Bill Leak when his cartoon drew criticism and we all know that people don’t like to be criticised so where’s the protection there?)

Why shouldn’t I be allowed to roam the streets with a megaphone pointing out what a pack of arseholes politicians are? Why shouldn’t I be able to stand outside a school waiting for any teacher that gave my child poor grades and express my views in language that makes it clear what my thoughts are? Why shouldn’t I be able, when pulled over for speeding, turn to the officer and say, “What’s the trouble, fuck-face?”

This offensive language act is outrageous and, even though it is may help in the locking up of aboriginal people, surely in this day and age, we can find a more sophisticated reason to incarcerate them. Something like, say, banning the words, “invasion day”! No, the act must go in the name of freedom of speech.

I urge you all to write to your Federal MP and ask them to put time and energy into the repeal of this act. And don’t let them put you off by suggestions that there is an energy problem at this time. When they try to tell you that it’s a state law and outside their jurisdiction, point out that’s never stopped them interfering when it suits them. Surely they could use the Corporations Act or something.

No, go online and start some petition. Organise. Or get Andrew Bolt onside… That should do it!

Day to Day Politics: Both beyond redemption.

Sunday 26 March 2017

You have to wonder about the sanity of people like Pauline Hanson. Three weeks ago she advocated parents have their children take a non-existent test before vaccinating  them.

She followed that up hours after the London attack with a video with #PrayForLondon hashtag as a way to “solve the problem”.  When asked by a reporter which God to pray to she seemed flabbergasted.

Yes Jews, Muslims and Christians believe in the same God. I was waiting for her to ask, “Please explain?”

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes called Abrahamic religions because they all accept the tradition that God revealed himself to the patriarch Abraham.

She wasn’t finished yet. “Islam is a disease; we need to vaccinate ourselves against that.”

Now before I go on let me explain my attitude to traditional religion. I long ago came to the conclusion that one of the truly bad effects religion (any religion) has on people is that it teaches that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

Now I think I’m right in saying that Hanson believes that Islam is not a religion but a political movement. Now she thinks it’s a disease. An infection, a virus or a condition of abnormal function. Trying to explain that would ensure that a headache will follow so I will give it a miss and concentrate on the racism aspect.

People like Trump and Hanson thrive on attention. They crave it with malevolent fallaciousness.

“Islam is a disease; we need to vaccinate ourselves against that.”

That’s about as racist as you can get I suppose but what is it that converts one into a racist? I don’t believe we are born racist. I think perhaps the reason I have difficulty understanding racism is that I have grown up and experienced multiculturalism since I was a boy.

Today the characteristic that most defines modern Australia is “diversity”. In all its forms, together with multiculturalism it defines us as a nation.

I firmly believe that people of my generation and later should divest themselves of their old and inferred racist superiority.

The Prime Minister said he had told her that:

“If you seek to attribute to all Australian Muslims responsibility for the crimes of Isil then  you are doing what Isil wants.”

Anthony Albanese in the Guardian:

“I think it was extraordinary that Pauline Hanson chose to politicise an issue like this at the time that she did,” he told the Nine Network. To play politics at a time like that, was, I just think, said a lot about the nature of her character.”

Christopher Pyne said:

“We’re not about to deport Australian citizens who are Muslims because of any kind of xenophobic campaign.”

Bill Shorten chipped in with “If Malcolm Turnbull thinks One Nation is helping Isis, he should stop helping One Nation get elected” he said. “Why is he still refusing to put One Nation last? He can make all the platitudes he likes, but it’s his policy to help One Nation get elected.”

But that won’t stop the likes of Hanson who have hate in their hearts and express it through tempestuous lips. The peddlers of prejudice and fear are not interested in love, truth, tolerance, understanding and internationalism. They are scared and lack any understanding of difference. Hate is in their hearts.

Allow me to digress and include some personal experience and one Andrew Bolt.

So it was last year when I was watching one of my grandsons playing basketball. One of the boys in the team is from Somalia. A number of families with African heritage have moved to our area. I observed the mateship of their winning endeavours and the generous enthusiasm of their play between matches. The fun, friendship and frivolity of their connectedness was a delight to watch. The dark lad is of prodigious talent with a generous smile, a face as black as night and gregarious nature.

I have also observed the total unabashed acceptance by children of different races at school, and at the local swimming pool where mature judgement is made by children unhindered by the prejudicial ignorance of adults.

My thoughts drifted to my own youth and I wondered just what it is that causes people to be racist. I recalled as a small boy being told what side of the street to walk to school because Jews lived on the other side. I lived through the post war era of immigration when Australians belittled and sneered at Italians and Greeks. Then later with bi-partisan agreement we accepted the Vietnamese who came by boat. But not before debasing them with the worst part of our own uniquely Australian prejudice.

Memories came back to me of a pub I used to drink at on my way home from work. The beer garden attracted a cohort of Aussie builders who sub contracted concreting work to a group of Italians. I would observe how the Aussie fellows would run them down with the foulest of language and then drink with them, without a hint of condemnation when they arrived.

There was a time when a relation who was traveling by caravan around Australia rang me from some remote area highly populated by indigenous people. After the usual greeting the following words were advanced.

“I’m not a racist but . . . “. When you hear someone say those words they generally are. What followed was a tirade of critical commentary about every aspect of Aboriginal culture and living standards. I have no doubt that much of what she was saying was true however, there was no situation that wasn’t replicated in white city society. Her comments were therefore racist. The singling out of any group for reason of drawing attention to colour is abhorrent to me.

More recently I have experienced racism where I live. I have two neighbours (one now deceased) who when talking about indigenous folk have described Aboriginals as taking up to much space.

At a junior football final a couple of years ago a teenage boy was standing behind me verbalising a young aboriginal player of immense talent. The insults insinuated themselves into the minds around me. The aboriginal boy had heard the remarks and was a bit distressed about it. I turned and said to the boy of uncouth mouth:

“So yours is what a racists face looks like.”

The teenager slunk away probably not used to having his racism confronted. In the unnatural silence that had invaded the group where I was standing I received a couple of congratulatory slaps on the shoulder.

You see, I hate all forms of racism in a way that even someone like me, with a love of the moulding of words as disciples for good, cannot do. It was a little brave of me to do what I did because I am getting on in years. But we must confront it.

In watching the antics of children of different races in their play we can bear witness to the sin of the abusers of decency. By the influence of those who cannot concede that we were all black once. And those who believe that superiority is determined by a chemical compound.

Children celebrate difference and prove to us that racism is not a part of the human condition. It is taught, or acquired. You have to learn it and those who tutor it and preach it are to be pitied for their ignorance and imbecility. No one is born a racist but we are born into racist societies.

What is racism?

It is best described in two parts. Firstly it is the belief that one race is superior to another. That it accounts for differences in human character and ability. Secondly racism is, discrimination or prejudice based on race.

Scott Woods puts it another way:

The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

Racism is preserved in many and various ways. Even Christian art propagates the myth of Jesus being white when in fact he would have been dark-skinned and of Middle Eastern appearance. But art depicts him as white with European features and more often than not as effeminate. Christians also cannot bring themselves to the point of accepting that dark-skinned people were responsible for the introduction of religion into society. No white person has ever introduced a major religion. Some Christians even quote Bible verse to justify white superiority.

Even the law disproportionalyl targets coloured (I hate that term) people resulting in levels of incarceration much higher than other groups.

The worst perpetrators of racism are those who do it through the guise of free speech. People like Andrew Bolt. A journalist of mediocre talent who writes in a grammatical style attractive to the intellect of 13 year olds, unable to challenge the mind (or his argument) with a word, or sentence.

He wants 18c changed so that he would be freer through his column to abuse and defame. When the legislation was turfed because of its unpopularity, the first time, Tony Abbott felt obliged to phone this journalist of such little virtue and apologise.

People who support Bolt, Hanson and others for their racism need to ask just why it is that they are fixated on the subject of race and Muslims and the answer is simple. Murdoch has built his news empire on smut and controversy. The formula has made him extremely wealthy. And there is no doubt that Bolt is paid extraordinary amounts of money to proliferate the pages of the Herald Sun with this sort of gutter journalism.

Let us not forget what Justice Bromberg, said about Bolt’s use of language. He said:

His style and structure is highly suggestive and designed to excite. His style was ”not careful, precise or exact” and the language not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic”. There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery,” he wrote. Language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines.

We should also remember that during the London riots, of the not too distant past Bolt in one of his pieces used the word ‘aped’ to describe the copycat behaviour of some people. The use of the word was legitimate in that sense until you appreciate that he was talking about black West Indians, and then the word became racist. Bolt keeps coming back to skin, or the colour of it as if it were a sexual fetish that gives him endless gratification.

And it must be said that Andrew is presumed a racist and has been found to on many occasions lie in his writing, particularly on the environment. In addition he has been known to defame a female magistrate.

He wants the law changed so that in the future under the guise of free speech he will be able to vilify at his heart’s content.

Take two recent examples from his TV program, ‘The Bolt Report’.

Bolt is an opponent of an attempt, which has bi-partisan support, to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution, contending that to single out any particular group is racist because it divides Australians? Former Labor minister Craig Emerson thus declared him a racist by his own criteria.

“Then you are a racist,” Emerson said, “because of the comments you made in relation to Indigenous people. By your own criterion, and that’s what you did. You identified a group of people and went for them.”

He was correct. Emerson’s remark relates to the legal case in which Bolt was found to have breached racial discrimination laws in articles that implied light-skinned Indigenous people identified themselves as Aboriginal for personal gain. He was guilty by his own admission.

Another more recent example is when he quiet bizarrely declared that ‘’aboriginals weren’t here first’’. As I said earlier he has this thing about race that sends him into some kind of mental climax that needs constant stimulation. If you want to figure out the argument he was putting go here and then explain it to me. I cannot.

I will end where I started with my observation of that gregarious dark-skinned boy playing joyfully in fellowship with his light-skinned mates, and the fact each was different in colour, one to the other didn’t enter the unblemished purity of their companionship. And I silently prayed that it never would.

Pauline Hanson’s remarks as contemptible as they were do nothing more than disclose the racist she is. Any words said in anger by me won’t change what she is. People like her and Bolt usually hang themselves with their own.

Wonder When the Seed Is Planted

I look upon the child’s face and see Innocence – unblemished purity Translated in looks virtuous How sweet how incorruptible

Then it happens with measured subtly The distortion of youthful thought Insinuated into free And immature minds

I wonder when the seed is planted When evil first takes hold And intolerance evolves To become scum on the pond of life

Who grants permission to damage the child? Of its pristine purity The wonderment of adventure And unfiltered creativity

Is it the sin of the father? That makes a child loathe That makes them xenophobic Racist just like him

When does it take root this hatred? That enters the child’s mind To be carried with them always Fermenting as they grow

Are parents so imbued? With experiences of the past That forgiveness is impossible Bad memories seem to last

So they pass it onto their children And intolerance lingers on Licking on the finger of hate It seems to have no end

I can only ask that compassion Might replace their putrid sin And the cry that is inside each heart Will – let understanding in. (John Lord).

My thought for the day.

“Why is it that religion assumes it has some bizarre ownership on people’s morality. To assume that an atheist is any less moral than someone religious is an absurdity.”

 

 

Day to Day Politics: Cunning bastards.

Saturday 25 March 2017

Why would the leader of a political party that is well down in the polls, with his own inadequate leadership under question and its mainstream policies seemingly hibernating for the upcoming winter, allow itself to get bogged down in arguments it cannot win. 18c and marriage equality are the two in question. Overwhelmingly the public supports the introduction of Gay Marriage and overwhelmingly they cannot see a reason to change 18c except for procedural matters. “No brainers” we call them.

It seems they have appointed Dutton (I have no understanding of why they wouldn’t use ‘The Fixer), the man who thought that $50 million was a good deal for settling two asylum seekers in Sri Lanka, to find another option for getting the legislation over the line.

An observation.

”Just because we are governed by clowns it doesn’t mean we have to laugh.”

Just why they think Dutton, once described as the worst Health Minister ever, and heartless Immigration Minister, might be capable of a solution outside of their existing policy of having a plebiscite to find out something we already know, is beyond me. And at a cost of around $160 million. Poll after poll shows two-thirds of the population supports marriage equality.

I have a solution for them, seriously, and I won’t charge a cent. Simply do what you were elected to do. Present the bill, vote on it, bury your pride, cop some flak for a few days and it’s all over. Better than giving the opposition a baseball bat to belt you with for the next two years.

Of course this would require the PM chancing his arm that one of the extreme right-wing religious screwballs in the party won’t take revenge later.

To say that some in the Coalition have an ideological obsession with 18c would be an understatement. Barnaby Joyce in a lengthy interview with Fairfax said there were only four in the party room who wanted changes made.

“This is an issue, it is an issue but I’ll be frank, it lives in the extremities of the bell curve. Where do you meet those people [who care about 18C]? At party meetings, they are absolutely blessed people and they are terribly politically involved and they have an intense interest in some of the minutiae of debate. They come into your office to rant and rave about it, all four of them.”

One’s first thought would be that they were completely outnumbered so why did it get approval. There must have been threats from one or all of the four to cross the floor.

The bill would remove “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” from the prohibition on discriminatory speech and add ”harass”. Now even blind Freddy could see that it would weaken the law.

So these bigots may have cost the Coalition six seats at the next election just to satisfy its ideological obsession with an issue that has little relevance to the lives of most Australians. Of course the bill won’t pass the Senate but the damage has already been done.

If you were to read between the lines of the speech given by Arthur Sinodinos at the National Press Club he was saying in no uncertain terms that sticking to long-held ideological beliefs that are certain to change anyway might satisfy ones purity of conservative values but it might also cost you government. All to no avail.

There is in the community now that with 18c, the Republic, Marriage Equality and the Environment/Energy a belief that Turnbull has meekly surrendered to the right of his party. His conversion is complete. Through his effortless hypocrisy he is now owned lock stock and barrel by the zealots within the party.

Whilst I once held some hope that he might have the guts to break free from their vice-like grip I now concede that he is now entrenched in the far right. They have humiliated him and is now one of them.

Whilst the government has had a victory of sorts with the Childcare legislation is still has no narrative for what it has done, what it is doing and what it wants to do other than to keep Labor out of power.

It remains a divided rabble with a leader ready to backflip on major issues. A softening up of tax policy has begun and you can bet it will be axed in favour of buying some votes. They are being supported by The Australian and other Murdoch outlets. Take this grandiose nonsense for example from Paul Kelly.

”The Coalition parties have nailed their principles to the wall. They fight for them or they die.”

Principles? Please spare me.

Labor has them by the proverbials over the $50 billion tax cuts and the Fair work decision over Penalty Rates. We might even end up with personal tax cuts.

An observation.

”Politicians who change their minds aren’t necessarily seeing the light. They might just be feeling the heat.”

There are those on the extreme right doing their very best to blame immigration for all manner of things. The cost of housing and supply. Even traffic jams. Like minded and  susceptible folk uninterested in the facts believe this rubbish.

Blaming and demonising minorities has been part and parcel of right-wing tactics for many years now and those believing they are not getting a fair go are the most susceptible.

In their desperation the Coalition put the blowtorch to Bill Shorten digging up all manner of dirt we have heard before. .

In the final Newspoll before last July’s election he recorded a net negative satisfaction rating of minus 15, but it did not stop him giving Malcolm Turnbull the fright of his life at the polls.

He has always been unpopular with the electorate and since the election nothing much has changed. And he did outperform Turnbull during the campaign. And remember during it the Prime Minister used the findings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption to characterise shorten in the worst possible light. It didn’t work.

Jim Middleton put it this way in Thursday’s edition of The Monthly Today:

“The question remains whether voters are more concerned about Shorten’s past or their own future.”

2 Malcolm Turnbull’s Small Business Minister has charged taxpayers nearly $50,000 to stay in his wife’s Canberra apartment but has defended the spending by comparing his travel allowance to penalty rates.

Michael McCormack is the Small Business Minister in the Turnbull Government and is one of about 50 federal politicians who use their $273-a-night Canberra travel allowance to pay off a second home.

He defended the spending by comparing his travel allowance to penalty rates:

“I get a travel allowance, others get penalty rates – it’s part of the package.” As a minister he receives $313,500 PA.

What happened with that enquiry?

3 Which President said this?:

“I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”

Like father like son. Which President’s son tweeted this?:

”You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”

However, he neglected to mention that Mr Khan was noting that residents need to ”be prepared” for such attacks.

Yes, like father like son.

My thought for the day.

”We all toy with the idea of changing the world but never consider changing ourselves.”

Instead of moving mountains, just build us a real NBN

I am having trouble understanding this energy debate.

For starters, we own the resources and we make the rules.  Remembering that would be a good first step.

Secondly, it is glaringly obvious that privatisation has not worked to keep retail prices down.  The bastards won’t even turn the generators on unless they get paid enough.

As Ray Goodlass wrote in the Daily Advertiser

“evidence shows that privatisation leads to price gouging and deterioration of service levels, as so clearly demonstrated by what has happened to vocational education, child care, job centres, Sydney airport, and many other services.”

The third thing that troubles me is everyone is focusing on how we can increase supply but there is little to no discussion about how we reduce demand.  With the existential threat of climate change hanging over our heads, surely this should also be receiving as much attention.

But I guess the capitalists don’t want to make it easier for us to reuse and recycle, and try asking them to stop designed obsolescence.  Remember when appliances lasted a tad longer than just after the warranty ran out?

Perhaps if we made manufacturers responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, they might think a bit harder about waste.

Speaking of climate change, how wise is it to pin our future power hopes on water – particularly on a river that is fed by snowfall.

As experts point out, “Energy Security will be more uncertain by upgrading the Snowy Hydro scheme as water availability in the Murray-Darling basin dries up. With competing uses for water and the increasing likelihood of drought brought on by climate change, increasing our reliance on water to provide electricity is ill-advised.”

Writing for The Australian Financial Review, Frontier Economics’ Danny Price said the largest beneficiary of Snowy 2.0 would be base-load coal-fired generation because it would be many years before surplus renewable energy could be used to pump water up the hill.

On the other hand, ARENA has been partnering in two proposals that would not require coal but they get little attention.

The reason that has all of a sudden become a political football is because of the Coalition jumping on the blackout caused by a storm in South Australia.

But Snowy Hydro 2.0 will do nothing to help SA which is a very long way from the Snowy Mountains.

ARENA announced last November that they would be providing   $449,000 of funding for the Australian National University (ANU) to map potential short-term off-river pumped hydro energy storage (STORES) sites around Australia.

As distinct from large-scale, on-river hydro, pumped hydro uses two reservoirs, separated by an altitude difference of between 300 – 900 metres and joined by pipe. Water is circulated between the upper and lower reservoirs in a closed loop to store and generate power.

According to ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht, there are “potentially hundreds of smaller, environmentally suitable, off-river STORES scale sites” waiting to be developed around the country.

A possible STORES site has already been identified in South Australia, with an altitude difference of up to 600 metres in the hills to the east of Spencers Gulf using sea water.

The proposed 100 to 200-megawatt power station, which could store power for up to 8 hours, would be close to Port Augusta and Whyalla, reducing the need for as much new transmission infrastructure, and the pumping could be powered by wind and/or solar rather than coal.

An off-river pumped hydro system can vary in size from 50 to 500MW, with the Australian National University estimating it would cost around $1 million per megawatt to construct — or about the same as duplicating an interconnector.

There is another ARENA-supported project being investigated in Queensland at the site of a disused open pit gold mine that would be used to store the power from a 200MW solar farm.

In his haste to outdo Jay Weatherill, it seems Malcolm failed to consult Infrastructure Australia, the independent statutory body with a mandate to prioritise and progress nationally significant infrastructure.

Their response was not enthusiastic.

“While the project would help manage electricity supply security during times in which traditional power generators would be too slow to respond, recent news that Tesla can supply 100MWh of battery storage to South Australia in 100 days shows that the lead time for a project like this may well be its downfall.

With the ability to locate storage batteries across a distributed network rather than having to move mountains a virtual storage plant can be built across a whole city connected not only to the grid but also networked to the internet where they can send and receive information to each other.”

Whilst Malcolm wants to move mountains, others are getting on with the job of providing electricity, where it is needed, as soon as possible, and with a focus on low to zero emissions.

If Malcolm wants a nation-building exercise, he should “get back to his knitting” and give us an NBN that works because I am over this FttN crap which drops out several times a day, taking my landline with it.

Day to Day Politic: What should progressives do?

Friday 24 March 2017

Author’s note. Today I give up my daily article to a long-time friend Max Odgen. We played football together and share a love for cool Jazz. We have kept in touch over some 50 years. Max is well-known on the left of Australian politics, particularly in the Union movement as an activist. Now retired he is an active member of the Collingwood/Fitzroy branch of the ALP.

I recommend this article to you.

TOWARD A GLOBAL COALITION OF PROGRESSIVES – 

DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS, FAIRNESS, JOBS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION

It is becoming urgent for the broadest forces of Progressives globally, to come together and reach agreement on a minimalist, but principled set of strategies to roll back the massive advance of the global Right. However it must be based on an objective analysis of the real world, and not some imagined, optimistic fantasy.

More & more experts are referring to the twenties and thirties for similarities and lessons, and there are many. The latest report of International Human Rights Watch – Jan., ’17, warns that the growth of populist movements and leaders, could lead to a resurgence of Fascism and Nazism.  No two eras are the same, but there are important lessons to be learned. Perhaps the most important, is how progressives in the twenties and thirties, were more concerned with fighting each other, which made it easier for the Right to come to power. This must not be allowed to happen again.

CURRENT STATE OF GLOBAL RIGHT ASCENDENCY 

Brexit, and possible breakup of the EU.

At this stage there is little chance of the British Labour Party winning the next election, especially under Corbyn, when 80% of his caucus refuse to serve under him.

Trump, with Republicans in control of both houses, 35 states, and he can appoint Supreme Court judges, which will reverberate for a generation.

Hard Right governments in Poland and Hungary. In Austria, while losing, the hard Right garnered 46% of the presidential vote. A serious concern.

Italian politics in chaos, with a right-wing, populist victory very real at their next election.

While Le Pen is unlikely to win the presidency in France, she could win the first round and accumulate a lot more influence, with the Socialists in their worst state for generations, and struggling to find a candidate.

A criminal state in Russia aligning itself with Trump, and a possible increase in nuclear weapons.

China, under the current leadership, tightening its grip and undermining whatever civil liberties there are, expanding militarily in the Sth. China Sea, while its global influence grows, especially in second and third world countries.

A self-confessed murderer, President of the Philippines, trampling on the few democratic rights they have.

Japan continuing to elect conservative governments, with Abe further to the Right than most.

Israel has moved so far to the right, that it is hard to see Palestinians ever being liberated, certainly not in the foreseeable future.

Fundamentalists making gains in Indonesia, undermining democratic developments.

Turkey under Erdogan moving rapidly to the Right and embracing Islam, attacking progressive movements, and gaoling thousands of activists and leaders.

The global wealth gap increased significantly in ’16, with the wealthiest increasing by 10s of billions, a lot of it immediately after the Trump victory.

The UN under the greatest attack since its creation.

‘17 is likely to see setbacks for climate change action.

It is clear from this brief summary, that there is little good news for global Progressives, as we are losing ground almost everywhere. There are those who are buoyed by the Bernie Sanders campaign because it mobilised millions of young people. However the result suggests a lot of them were so pure they could not vote for Hillary, and now look what they have got. Despite that good campaign, it was still insufficient to win. Some think Sanders might have won.

However given the incredible attacks thrown at Hillary, it is likely that Bernie would have copped far worse, as he threatened privilege more than Hillary, and that is the central issue. History suggests that it is difficult to maintain that kind of momentum. A colleague of mine says, it is mobilisation not organisation, and that is what it must transition to, across the globe.

2016 ELECTION

In Australia the ALP did well in the ’16 election, and it ran on possibly the best set of policies for decades. A friend said that the ’15 National Conference provided the best set of policies since he joined the party in ’62.

The election saw the growth of small, but vocal and influential right-wing groups, pursuing very dangerous racist and nationalist policies, taking their lead from Trump and Brexit. Increasingly they are being backed by the Right in the Coalition Government, which may even split away, although given their influence, this would be a silly move.

For virtually everyone, Turnbull has proved to be a woefully weak PM as he bows to the Right on almost every issue.  The most recent poll from Get Up, shows the ALP ahead on the two party preferred vote 54% – 46%. While this is heartening, the Labor Party primary vote is the same as the Liberals – 32%, which is not marvellous, but it strengthens the need for a broad progressive alliance. The ALP leadership is not cutting through. Shorten and his Shadow Ministers performed reasonably well during the election campaign, and they ran on those good policies.

Given the poor government performance and various scandals, the ALP should be polling much better. This isn’t helped by the recent endorsement of a controversial candidate to say the least, for a Senate vacancy, and police charges for breach of polling regulations against several members of the ALP Right. Both these incidents will blow back on the labour movement.

Given the growth of the Right and the general trend of politics in this country, despite that recent polling, winning the next federal election will not be easy. The Andrews Victorian state government, despite its excellent record, particularly the enormous investment in infrastructure, and other worthwhile projects, will probably struggle to get re-elected, given its very narrow majority. Hanson is planning to stand in almost every seat, and despite Victoria being their weakest link, it may be sufficient to attract some ALP and even some Green votes. They will preference the Coalition, so it is going to be a difficult task. Hanson support will also make it difficult for the Queensland, minority ALP government to survive.

POLICIES, LIES, AND FAKE NEWS

Progressives usually believe they have a chance of winning, provided our campaigns are based on good policies, and the last federal election showed the possibilities. However, other recent experience suggests that this may no longer be true.  Recent campaigning in Australia, UK, and the US, showed that outrageous lies, fake news, anti-truth, rejection of scientifically proven facts in many fields of science, with insidious use of social media, have prevailed over good policies and researched facts.

It is not widely understood that Hillary Clinton ran on the best set of progressive, Democrat policies since Roosevelt, according to an ex state Democratic Governor in an interview on Lateline. Yet virtually no one knew because of the dominance of lies and fake news.

We are in a new era where science is trashed, there is little regard for researched facts, which runs counter to the Enlightenment. We thought social media would enhance democracy, but so far, its manipulation by the Right has been successful in turning it into its opposite.

The Right have been clever in using simple phrases, but practicing the opposite. Everything is about more democracy, the elites – using the term exactly opposite to the reality, protecting our lifestyle, our shores, our culture, giving everybody a say over their lives, making our society great again, creating fear of anyone and anything different, and for many it works. This, despite the reality will be very different, and the wealth gap will continue to grow. They have been particularly effective in turning “political correctness” into a weapon against Progressives.

Progressives are disadvantaged, as their policies and solutions are necessarily more complex than just a slogan or one word, but we have to find a way around this. The simple focus on Medicare in the last few weeks of the ’16 Election campaign, was effective, but also real, as Coalition governments have been wanting to smash it for decades. We need to consider how more complex policies can be reduced to a few words which link them to reality.

Like in many other countries, Australia is experiencing attacks on democratic rights under the guise of fighting terrorism, climate change attacked and relegated to a minor issue, cuts and attacks on Medicare, and education, which is now the most privatised education system in the developed world, the gap in wealth ownership continues a pace, increasing joblessness and development of the casualised gig economy, vicious, and unprecedented attacks on the Human Rights Commission, and the ABC, and a trashing of scientific endeavours and their results.

To demonstrate the insidious impact of the Right, the Age newspaper recently exposed how right-wing fundamentalist Christian organisations have spent several years in successfully dominating the Casey council in Melbourne’s fastest growing Sth. East region. They are impacting many developments including public schools, and other public organisations. This is a new element, and frightening in its ramifications.

We cannot counter these attacks in the traditional way, of simply arguing for the return of an ALP Government. We must build a powerful movement of all progressive forces united around a minimalist, but principled set of key, strategic issues.

KEY STRATEGIC ISSUES

For the greatest unity I would suggest the following six issues as providing the greatest potential for unity.

Democratic Rights

Climate Change Action

Fairness, Tax and Closing the Wealth Gap

Jobs

Health

Education

These six are not suggesting that other issues are not important e.g. gay marriage, the Republic, etc., but they provide the best chance for the widest possible unity, and anyway success with them, will positively impact all the others.

I suggest that we begin a wide discussion immediately about a broad progressive coalition, with the objective that by the end of ’17 a national congress of all those progressives wanting to play a role can take place, and agree on the program, and how we go about decisively defeating the Turnbull government, and the Right in our country.

The Progressive Coalition should reach beyond the Centre to include small “l” Liberals, and Nationals, farmers, progressive business both small and large, unions, welfare lobby, environmentalists, leading individuals in their fields across the board, people in the man y artistic streams, academics, workers in as many workplaces as possible.

DIALOGUE AMONG FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

This means welding minimal unity among groups who don’t usually dialogue with one another, or even see each other as enemies. The stakes are such that we simply do not have the luxury of fighting among progressives.  There are, and will remain, significant differences among progressives, but for the sake of our country and society, there are larger targets than each other.

I am well-known for being a strong critic of the Greens, but that does not preclude a constructive dialogue for the greater good. I am also critical of ALP factions and lack of democracy, and a member of Open Labor, an organisation dedicated to democratising the ALP.

Late in ’16 three of us members of the Collingwood/Fitzroy branch of the ALP, had dinner, and a very robust discussion with three prominent local Greens. We went hammer and tongs, but at the end everyone agreed that we must do this again, which will happen in February. I learned as a union activist and official, that despite disliking most employers and managers, often with very good reason, although not all, we had to engage them on an almost daily basis to resolve problems, and also dialogue about industry wide and nationwide issues relevant to the job.  So if we can dialogue with such people, surely it is possible to dialogue with people with whom we have more in common.

If the Greens take part in the suggested dialogue, they will be critical, and eventual unity to defeat Turnbull, they and others will need to modify their attacks on the ALP. This is not to suggest that they not have criticisms of the ALP, but to do this in a way which contributes to constructive dialogue. It also does not suggest that they don’t stand candidates in ALP seats, but whatever they do it must be in the spirit of defeating Turnbull.

ALP FACTIONS MUST DIALOGUE

The recent Get Up poll strongly suggests that the ALP cannot win on it’s own, but must work constructively with all other forces with an interest in defeating Turnbull. This means that if we are to succeed it is urgent that ALP factions come together and reach agreement on the key issues, and agree to meet, dialogue with, and develop unity and campaign with other organisations and individuals with the overriding objective of defeating Turnbull, which may mean having to include others in a government.

PUT LIBERALS LAST

Eventually at the election itself, it will be critical that all progressive forces agree to “Put Liberals Last”, meaning no deals preferencing the Liberals. Each group may have a different list, and there will be significant arguments, but by agreeing to the key strategic issues, building massive campaigns, and then putting the Liberals last, we will have a very strong chance of defeating the Coalition government in’19, if not before.

While this paper began on a pessimistic but realistic note, there is cause for hope. There are thousands of young, energetic activists in Progressive movements. The unions and the ALP have very impressive numbers of such people, as do the Greens, Get Up, the environment movement, women’s rights, against racism, among indigenous organisations, opposing current asylum policies, and among art and music practitioners.

If they can be united, mobilised, and organised with the supreme objective of defeating Turnbull, then not only will we be successful, but lay the basis for an ongoing democratic movement, which will continue action to influence a government, which in the circumstance of how it will come to power, we can rightly call ours.

Max Ogden.

 

Day to Day Politics: The Trump Report No. 11 – “Just kids’ stuff”

Thursday 23 March  2017

She sat there edging forward with a tense look of bemusement on her face. It might have said, “why is this child acting this way?” He sat beside her looking like a spoiled kid with pouted lower lip giving the impression of a sulking child who had just been given a spanking by a displeased mother. She offered her hand but the most powerful man in the world sat, hands clasped together, paralysed within his own opinion of himself.

It was yet another display of snotty-nosed, juvenile insipid impertinence from a man completely out of his depth as President of the United States. Leaders making formal visitations to the White House leave wondering how this once great nation got around to electing a man with a childlike attitude to things of great importance.

It is now two weeks since his now infamous tweets about Obama bugging Trump Towers. As absurd as they were he, within the confides of his childish deliberations, believes them to be true. Children are susceptible to many influences and Trump has surrounded himself with many middle aged white Christian men. People who place faith and mysticism ahead of factual evidence and scientific methods of enquiry that are the best way of providing solutions to human problems. But then men have never really grow up.

It is therefore unsurprising that he would adopt the thinking of these people unequivocally. Any of them only have to whisper in his ear and it becomes his truth and he takes ownership of it. A president prone to conspiracy theories. He is a stubborn if not backward pupil.If there is no truth in it, it doesn’t matter. Truth became obsolete during the campaign. He now owns it and shapes it in his own image.

But who knows, somewhere along the way he might have a Road to Damascus coming of age experience.

After Merkel left Donald had his thumb working overtime. Germany owed us “vast sums of money”. Once again he was wrong and the German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called the criticism “inaccurate”. So did former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. “Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,” he said.

His lack of experience and preparation for the job shows up in almost everything he does. As in the case with his wiretapping tweets. Now that the FBI Director James B. Comey has categorically said there is no evidence of any taps and Britain saying the same on their part you would think he would lay low. The idea that the British Foreign Secretary might sign a warrant authorising an intrusion into US politics was laughable as are Sean Spicer’s surreal daily attempts at word twisting.

One can only conclude that Trump is susceptible to fake news and is one who believes whatever he is told without applying even the most modest test of truth.

He cannot escape the fact that the FBI director has publically humiliated the President of the United States. His tweets have been found to be lies.The President is a Liar.

On top of this England’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, is heading to Washington this week undoubtedly to tell the lads to grow up.

The character of the man, or lack thereof, insinuates itself on the American people every day and will continue to do so. In the short time he has been in power he has a litany of instances of having to be corrected over untrue statements.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-boggling event.”

So on and on it goes day after day just as I predicted it would. But there are signs that even his own side are sick of it. Let’s hope so. This puberty thing seems to be taking for ever.

From my American friend Ben Williamson:

”Republicans have agreed to investigate the ridiculous claim that Obama tapped Trump’s phones. Like Benghazi, we’ll spend millions on investigations without a shred of evidence, when if it were true, all Trump has to do is declassify the supposed warrant. All it takes is a stroke of the pen for him, and the fact he won’t do that pretty much proves he’s lying.”

”Much of what Trump does seems erratic at the time, but turns into extremely lucrative business deals for Trump, all on the taxpayer dime. It seemed crazy that Melania refused to move to the White House, but the Secret Service had to rent an entire floor at Trump Tower, the DoD a penthouse, and that money goes right into Trump’s pocket. He seems like just a lazy slacker for taking off to Palm Springs every weekend, but he’s making bank there too from all the extra attention …involved in a presidential vacation. When I say “bank” I mean “our money” of course. He thought he’d fool us into thinking he was divested from his holdings by making his sons trustees, but now taxpayers foot the bill for the Trump sons to travel the world and make deals that further enrich Donald Trump himself.”

”He was so proud of claiming he wouldn’t take a salary as president, but I’d be willing to bet he makes more personal profit in a week off the taxpayer’s back than that piddly $400k annual salary.”

My thought for the day.

Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth that that enables human progress.”

 

 

Coalition MPs push for legislation to ban opposition to change to race-hate laws

Yesterday in Parliament several government MPs, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, decried Labor’s opposition to proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) as a claim that Australians are racist. “[The Opposition] believe[s] that Australia is a nation of racists only held in check by Gillian Triggs and section 18C,” said Turnbull. “We have more respect for the Australian people.” Turnbull and at least three other government members claimed that Labor’s opposition to the changes stemmed from Labor’s belief that Australians are deeply racist.

Now some government MPs and Senators are pushing for opposition to the changes to the bill to be outlawed as discriminatory and offensive. “When Labor opposes our very reasonable changes to strengthen the race hate laws by weakening them, they make the very clear, very specific claim that I personally am irretrievably racist,” said Senator Eric Abetz. “This personal attack is intolerable and I have suggested to my colleagues that we need a new package of free speech law to protect against this kind of bullying.”

The government is trying to secure support for its changes to the RDA to remove the words “offend, insult or humiliate” and replace them with the single word “harrass”. “We are strengthening the race hate laws,” Prime Minister Turnbull told reporters in a press conference on Monday. “We are strengthening it because it’s clearer, it will be a more effective protection against race/hate.”

Senator Mathias Cormann said that “Blocking our very necessary changes to 18C is profoundly un-Australian. I’m proud to be a real Aussie, not like those Aboriginals who just want to cause trouble.”

The concerns about the 18C provisions were sparked by multiple court cases brought against columnist Andrew Bolt and cartoonist Bill Leak. Some conservative members of the Government would prefer clause 18C to be abandoned entirely, arguing it is a constraint against free speech. Even the current changes, however, face an uphill battle in the Senate.

The existing provisions of 18C have been in place for two decades and there now exists many years of case law clarifying the legal definitions of the terms “offend, insult or humiliate”. Experts have warned that changing the wording of 18C to remove these terms and replace them with “harrass” will inevitably lead to a large number of new cases as complainants seek to test the law.

When asked about the likelihood that changes to the law would embolden potential offenders to use hate speech and that vulnerable minorities could be damaged, Senator Cormann argued that this was part of the process of legislative reform. “These people should be proud. By being bullied and harrassed they are helping to make Australia a place where bullying and harrassing behaviours are not tolerated.”

Some Coalition MPs are understood to be investigating whether they can bring a lawsuit against Opposition members under the provisions of 18C. “I am offended that Labor is making me out to be a racist just because I want the freedom to mouth off at will about those people,” said one Minister who did not want to be named. “That’s exactly the kind of offensive behaviour these laws are intended to protect against.”

Note: this is a work of satire and should not be taken as news, either real or alternative. Yet.

Liberal senator admits 18C changes are designed to win back PHON voters

In case you did not suspect that Malcolm Turnbull’s explosion of piss and wind on Section 18C yesterday was entirely self-serving, this morning on Radio National Breakfast news, Liberal Senator James Paterson confirmed that the exercise was part of a suite of measures designed to win back votes from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Oh look! A Liberal can speak the truth!

It was as well another of Turnbull’s abject efforts to hold onto his rickety leadership by placating his simmeringly mutinous right-wing.  I hesitate to call them colleagues: that implies a co-operative relationship and this lot are snapping at their leader’s heels like a pack of rabid ferrets. Assuaging these furies is the motivation behind some 99.99% of Turnbull’s worryingly unhinged thought bubbles.

What yesterday’s exercise most certainly was not, is an expression of concern for the groups 18C is designed to protect, though Turnbull did his barrister best to spin it as such, declaring with silk-like arrogance that of course these changes would be of benefit, why else would his government so strongly support them?

The proposed change to the wording of 18C from insult, offend and humiliate to harass, is highly unlikely to pass the Senate, so Turnbull is on a hiding to nothing in that respect, however, he has silenced his critics’ savagery for a nano second (his nemesis, former PM Tony Abbott went so far as to congratulate him) and he has demonstrated to the pig ignorant that he won’t be enslaved by “political correctness.”

Aside: I have yet to fathom what political correctness actually is. Can anybody help me? Please be civil.

And so we have (on Harmony Day, nice touch lads) the spectacle of comfortably privileged white men demanding the right to insult, offend and humiliate others solely on the basis of difference. Comfortably privileged white men are inherently entitled to engage in these behaviours (we women know this all too well) and anyone attempting to interfere with their entitlement is guilty of “political correctness.”  Political Correctness is, apparently, a far greater crime than insulting, offending and humiliating others solely because they are different in some way from you.

The world is collapsing under the unsustainable weight of the entitlements of comfortably privileged white men and their female consorts. Like miserably greedy children who fear their parents don’t love them they must have control of everything, otherwise it’s not fair.

Section 18C is intended to curb speech that will cause harm on the very specific grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, colour and religion. I want Turnbull to explain why comfortably privileged white men and women need so desperately to be assured that they can legally insult, offend and humiliate others on the grounds of their race, ethnicity, nationality, colour and/or religion?

There is no upside to such commentary. It can only ever be derogatory, damaging and ill-intentioned. So why do the privileged need it? Why single out this particular aspect of free speech from the many others, including defamation law, that could more usefully be addressed?

Of course defamation law is what comfortably privileged white men use to destroy the freedom of others to speak about them in ways they find insulting, offensive and humiliating. Funny, that.

Changing the wording to harass almost certainly would have protected both Andrew Bolt and Bill Leak from complaints made against them to the Human Rights Commission. Harassment implies a sustained and personal attack, not a handful of cartoons or articles in a newspaper. A substantial body of work would need to be accrued before harassment could be alleged.

The bar would be set high so as to discourage complainants. The added recommendation that costs be awarded against complainants who lose their case is a powerful deterrent to making complaints in the first place.

The Murdoch press, on the other hand, has deep pockets and neither Bolt nor Leak would have faced personal financial distress, as would the majority of complainants. This does not, as Turnbull so deceitfully claimed, “strengthen the law” unless you are a perpetrator.

The proposed law is entirely political, and favours comfortably privileged white men over those they would insult, offend and humiliate, just because they can and by god, free speech!

One could almost claim that the LNP has struck (another) blow for Rupert.

What a happy Harmony Day we had in Australia. The day our government soothed the furrowed brows of ignorant bigots and promised to let them have all the freedoms they want, whenever they want.  Now all that remains is for Turnbull to name the proposed change “The Leak Amendment.”

As this piece by Jennifer Hewitt in the AFR proclaims, the spirit of Leak lives on in the 18C amendment. Oh yes, indeed it does, but not for the reasons Hewitt suggests.  It lives on in the cynical exploitation of difference for personal and political gain, normalised and legitimised by a very little, very frightened and very cowardly man, desperately clinging to his job and willing to exploit any circumstance that might help him stay in it for one more day.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Day to Day Politics: A tale of two polls.

Wednesday 22  March 2017

“Coalition support rises by three points in Newspoll but Labor holds lead” read the headline in Monday’s The Australian.

1 Yes, the Coalition was on 48% of the two-party-preferred vote with Labor’s on 52%. “This cannot be right,” I thought to myself. Did around 3 million people change their minds in the course of three weeks? Of course they didn’t.

The Newspoll in February recorded the same 10-point gap as Tuesday’s Guardian Essential poll.

How can that be? I have put it down to a rogue poll and I expect the Newspoll will come back next time around.

As the Monthly said.

“Newspoll’s margin of error, which is approximately 2–3%, so any upward trend for the government would at the very least need to be confirmed by another poll.”

Newspoll put it down to the Prime Ministers Snowy Hydro Carbon scheme but surely it couldn’t all be attributed to that alone.

Essential put it down to the fact that there has been a significant rise in voter perceptions that the Liberals federally are divided. It also cited the government plans to bring heavily contested changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. And another factor ist that many see the government as being ”too close to big corporate and financial interests” and is out of touch with ordinary people.

2 I have written about free speech, hate, racial discrimination and the state of our democracy on many occasions and these questions will not leave me.

If we live in the age of enlightenment. Why is it, in the name of free speech that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law?

Or conversely what is it they want to say that they can’t say now?”

Four times the PM was asked this question at Question Time on Tuesday and he refused to answer. It would seem that once again he has caved into the extreme right to hold onto his job. It’s probably safe to say that Turnbull is now rid of anything that allowed him to describe himself as a moderate.

So the conservative right faction has won again. The liberal moderates are but a shadow of their former selves. The small L Liberals wanted the procedures of the act changed but the nutters of the right wanted to if  see the words ”offend” and ”insult” removed from section 18C of the RDA, to be replaced by the term ”harass.” A massive watering down of the act. Bolt will be happy.

How one can argue that replacing words like offend and insult with the single one of harass makes the act stronger is beyond me.

An observation.

“We will never truly understand the effect  Free Speech has on an individual until we have suffered from the abuse of it”

To quote Bill Shorten:

“If Mr Turnbull walks out of his party room tomorrow with a policy that weakens the Racial Discrimination Act, everyone will know he has sold the last shred of his integrity to hang on to his own job.”

Shorten is correct.

As for me, well I have been writing everyday now for a number of years and I have never felt constrained in what I can say.

The internal wrangling has been going on for months now. Many Coalition members with marginal seats in the inner cities have been critical of such a move saying it would put their seats at risk. It is impossible to say but my gut feeling is that this decision will come back to haunt them.

And in taking the cowards way out the bill will go straight to the upper house where it will be defeated thus avoiding a debate in the Lower House .At least we now know where they stand.

And to do it on National Harmony Day of all days.

Religious and ethnic communities opposed to any watering down of the current provisions are sure to make their voices heard.

My thought for the day.

“An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.”

18C And Malcolm’s Return To The Left!

Early this week, we had Peter Dutton making his run for the leader’s job with his very effective slap-down of those business leaders who dared to express an opinion on marriage equality. Go for it, Peter, I say. I mean, what right to business leaders have to giving the government advice on something like same sex marriage. We should only listen to business leaders on things like whether climate change exists and only if they tell us that it’s a load of claptrap and scientists are far too insular to know which way the wind is blowing and hence they can’t advise us on climate, let alone whether. I mean, weather, or rather, whether or not we should be trying to increase our use of renewables.

No, no, no, business leaders should just quit their business and become a politician if they want to express an opinion. Or start a religion. If you’re a religious leader or head of the ACL it’s ok to have an opinion on marriage equality. But not if you’re a business man like Alan Joyce. I mean, what business is it of an openly gay business leader whether or not we have marriage equality. No, best leave that to white, heterosexual men who go to church. Like Peter. No, best that men like Mr Joyce do as our future PM suggested and stick to their knitting. Which shouldn’t offend Mr Joyce because clearly it wasn’t meant in a homophobic way and Mr Dutton was clearly referring to all business leaders and the Qantas leader shouldn’t feel singled out just because he was the one mentioned by name!

But just when I thought it was safe to go back to the Liberal Party, what do we have? That lefty, socialist Malcolm Turnbull ruining things again?

We’ve already seen how he takes good Australian money and stops the millionaires here getting their fair share, by sending it to the Cayman Islands. And we’ve seen how, like all left-wing socialists, Malcolm is trying to redistribute wealth via tax cuts to the wealthy.Yeah, we all know how that’s going to end, don’t we?

Thanks to the trickle down effect, those tax cuts’ll end up in the hands of the unemployed and homeless because the businesses will start paying their workers more and the extra taxes will lead to an increase in the money going on welfare because that’s what people like Malcolm do – don’t you remember that picture of him putting five bucks in some homeless guy’s cup – and next thing you know, we’ll be some sort of Maoist state like China… well, maybe not China, it’s looking even more capitalist than Rupert Murdoch these days. Cuba?

Whatever, it wasn’t Comrade Turnbull’s position on wealth distribution that made me see red tonight. No, I don’t mean that I’m angry. I meant in the sense that I can see his left-wing, commo’ views are being forced upon us, whether we’re in favour or not!

For years, we’ve been concerned about how 18C has stopped me putting those races back in their place (and you’ll notice that just because of that 18C thing I didn’t call them “inferior” or “subhuman” or “unionists”) just because it “offends” or “humiliates” them when I place a cross on their front lawn. God, it’s got so we god-fearing Christians can’t even put up a cross in someone else’s front yard. Last night I was stopped before we’d even set it alight… Bloody police state!

And brave culture warriors like Andrew Bolt (who isn’t a business leader and therefore has a right to an opinion) and Cory Bernardi have long complained about how 18C is preventing them from saying those things which they’d like to say, but when they do, not only do they have the Left telling them that if they don’t like our values why don’t they go back where they came from, they also risk joining all the other people who’ve been jailed or fined after violating 18C. I’d give you some examples but none spring to mind…

But Turnbull has bowed to the left and after refusing for so long to amend 18C because it’s too restrictive has decided to strengthen it!

Well, that’s what he said:

 

“We are strengthening the race hate laws. These are stronger laws, more effective laws, because they are clearer laws!”

 

See, he’s just shown how much of a lefty he really is. He’s strengthening it by replacing “insult”, “offend” and “humiliate” with “harass”.

Whereas once you used to have to insult, offend or humiliate, now it’s enough to simply harass. And one of the definitions of “harass” is to “make repeated small-scale attacks on”. So now you don’t even have to offend them, it’s enough to make attacks, and small-scale ones at that.

Bring on the challenge, Peter! Quick, before that socialist, Scott Morrison, brings down his Robin Hood Budget where he uses populist measures like tax cuts to low-income earners between $100-200k! This may be you’re only chance before those communists running our companies try to impose gay marriage on us all.

Oh, please don’t think that I meant the Chinese there when I said “communists running our companies”. I don’t want anybody to call me racist!

‘Free Speech’ corrupted by religious politics

Brian Morris takes on the political correctness of the Left and Right in an attempt to reopen debate on Free Speech, religion vs science, and how ‘Freedom of Religion’ has been corrupted. (For readers of The AIMN a free eBook offer from Brian follows his article).

How do we react to the growing use of ‘trigger warnings’? This may seem an early digression but it becomes relevant. What is it with the ABC and their escalation of trigger warnings — advising radio and TV audiences that “this story” will include offensive language, or that images may cause distress? And it’s prevalent across all national networks.

Have media consumers become so fragile that they’re unable to ride out the highs and lows of local and international news without suffering a nervous breakdown? Are children being overprotected? Why has the ABC adopted this insipid practice, imported from US universities where students are wrapped in cotton wool to protect their regressive eccentricities? And it’s this campus intolerance that silences speakers who hold views that upset them. The Right then reacts; the intolerance is ramped up; and Free Speech gets trashed.

That said, here’s a trigger warning! “Don’t shoot the messenger — this may well cause equal angst among the Regressive Left and the Repressive Right“. Political and religious debate has been deteriorating for decades but it has now become irredeemably rooted in the Trumpesque mantra of “if you’re not with me, you are against me.” And that’s very much the view of the Christian churches and their PR lobbyists.

Free Speech is the central issue — and while it remains a vexed question in politics, the taboo to openly criticise religious doctrine in Australia has become more deeply embedded. It’s much the same as US campus intolerance to views contrary to their own, where public debate on the foundational beliefs of all religions has been sabotaged by religious politics. Two good examples are the inability to freely discuss Islam, and another is the recent imbroglio involving the Bible Society, Coopers brewery and marriage equality — where conservatives raged against public disgust of the shamelessly contrived video, staged by the Society.

The Bible Society has escaped unscathed from its thinly veiled attempt to politicise same-sex marriage with a fake video, leaving Coopers floundering with declining sales.  It was a religious PR stunt that backfired badly. But it was never a gay marriage “debate”!  Really; two blue-suited right-wing Liberals mumbling awkwardly at parliament house, drinking Coopers beer — and never mind that Tim Wilson is gay. He and Andrew Hastie are MPs in a conservative government which still rejects an open conscience vote on same sex marriage!

It wasn’t good enough that the directors of Coopers had agreed to print biblical verses on 10,000 cans of beer — the Bible Society couldn’t help themselves; so they decided to stir up a political hornets nets. The reaction was swift.  In a market economy, the public was wholly entitled to boycott Coopers — if not for the sham video, then for trying to ram bible messages down their throats — literally! Where was the right of reply to this shoddy exercise by a wealthy religious organisation that has been biblically obsessed for 200 years? Unfortunately Coopers copped all the flak — the Bible Society, like all churches, remained immune!

But the question of Islam is far more dramatic and deep seated — the way that extremist views have corrupted Free Speech. It has left only a narrow strip of ground at the centre of the debate — occupied by those who are religion-neutral — and who stand between the warring factions of the Loony Left and Rabid Right. One conjures up the image of a raging battle field, where a neutral identity in No-Man’s Land is being raked by withering fire from both sides. It’s a concerted attempt to shoot the messenger.

The Regressive Left view all scrutiny of Islam as “Islamophobia”. In truth, their position can only be described as being “Islamophile” — an inability to consider any shortcoming within Islam! In fact, any written or spoken word against the supernatural beliefs of Islam is somehow seen as racist!  In reality, moderate Muslims are working tirelessly to reform Islam from within!  As for the Rabid Right, their position is quite unmistakable — Pauline Hanson et al regard all Muslims as being their religious and political enemy.

Attempts to speak freely — from a rationalist and atheist perspective — focus exclusively on the undeniable fact that Islam is simply the third Abrahamic religion. Together with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is based on supernatural God-beliefs. It is impossible to deny that the Quran is founded on an alleged vision of the angel Gabriel, by a desert warlord. As with Christianity and Judaism there’s a litany of man-made doctrines that follow from hallucinations of their invisible deities — and they culminate in paranormal beliefs of a human soul and the fictitious promise of a utopian afterlife.

Competing supernatural beliefs continue to divide the world in hate, bloodshed, misery and destruction.

Science has taught us so much since the Age of Reason. All “gaps” in human knowledge — which for centuries were attributed to “God” — have now been discovered and verified as “natural” by tens of thousands of scientists across the world, and in every field of science. Geologists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, cosmologists and scores of other disciplines have opened up the sheer inescapability of a wholly “natural” universe. Everything is made entirely of atoms from the Periodic Table — leading to the molecules and compounds that make up ever material substance and all living organisms; including ourselves.

From years of exhaustive experiments — most recently by particle physicists at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider — we now know ever particle and force within the sub-atomic structure of the atom. Not simply the elementary protons, neutrons and electrons — but the quarks, neutrinos, fermions, gluons, and Higgs field. There is no other particle or force that has any bearing or influence on the human brain — which is made entirely of atoms — that could even conceivably represent a living “soul”.

So — no ghosts, no poltergeists, no spiritualists talking with the dead, no magic crystals or psychic healers, no astrology, and no supernatural forces that influence any sphere of human existence. There is no eternal soul that miraculously leaves the brain at death to reside forever in heavenly bliss, or some imaginary satanic damnation. We have only one life so embrace it and enjoy it now, to your fullest potential!

But NONE of this gains any public discussion. The media is mute. And challenging the flawed provenance of any religion remains taboo. Scientists, like all academics, are not media junkies — they recoil at the very thought, except for a precious few. And even fewer are brave enough to broach the emotive issue of paranormal religious beliefs — they prefer to avoid the swift and vicious backlash from belligerent archbishops, muftis, and the slick religious PR machines such as the Australian Christian Lobby.

And here’s the killer. The churches only every talk about “Freedom of Religion” — as if it’s their passport to freely spruik their myths and supernatural dogmas without question. This is where the term has become corrupted.  Religious freedom is simply the right to hold “beliefs”, it is not a right to shield those beliefs from sceptical analysis and inquiry!

In truth, the full term is “Freedom of Religion and Belief” — and that includes non-belief and atheism!  Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — to which Australia is signatory — makes it patently clear that Free Speech includes an open inquiry of the foundations of religion. There is NO TABOO in doing so, but the media hasn’t yet got that message. And we’re still teaching Christianity in schools — without the science that can now contradict it. It is the antithesis of ‘critical thinking’ — a skill that all children need desperately to learn.

The rationalist and atheist position is certainly to acknowledge that all people have the right to believe what they wish — provided it does no harm.  That includes treating people of religion with respect — but it does not mean their religious views are free from scrutiny!  It is not incumbent on atheists to “prove” there is no God, but it is clearly beholden on Christians, Muslims and Jews to provide “evidence” that their supernatural beliefs are true! For an evidence-based society — and after 2,000 years of myth and pious fraud — this is an open public debate that we urgently need to have!

Brian Morris – World travel shaped Brian’s interest in social justice — wealth, poverty and religion in many countries. His book Sacred to Secular is critically acclaimed, including from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It’s an analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm it does. It’s a call for Australia to become fully secular. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.

 

For AIMN readers

Free eBook: Complimentary copies of Sacred to Secular

Sacred to Secular is a comprehensive analysis of Christianity in Australia today, and how its charitable “image” conceals negative and corrupting influences. Juxtaposed against a critique of religion in politics, education and social policy, the book focuses on how Scandinavian nations have successfully developed “religion-neutral” social models — ideas that Australia would do well to emulate.

Go to https://www.plainreason.info/sacred-to-secular/free/ to order your complimentary copy.

This is a newly published eBook — it’s a heavily revised edition of the 2015 hard copy. Brian has made it freely available to readers as either a PDF or a Kindle version.

Brian traces Christianity’s ambiguous origins, how the dogma became embedded in every strata of society, and why religion continues to cause more harm than good. He examines the role of ‘corporate Christianity’, the rise of predatory evangelism, and the privileged status of church institutions that contravene Australia’s secular constitution.

New discoveries in neuroscience provide fresh evidence for the direct link between brain chemistry and supernatural beliefs. Mounting material and circumstantial data further undermines the concept of all gods — and the latest international research by physicists buries any remaining notions of a “soul” and an afterlife.

And, on the Jesus Myth, contemporary historians and biblical scholars further erode the very foundations of Christianity — not simply the “divine Christ”, but also the mortal and “historical” Jesus of Nazareth.

With a positive end-piece the eBook profiles the Scandinavian experience; why Australia has more in common with the Nordic nations; and why we should work towards that objective.

Several courses of action are outlined in Chapter 9 — they are strategies we need to consider, particularly at times like these. Religion tends to become more deeply entrenched during periods when the political, economic and social climate moves further to the right. Australia’s secular voice needs to be heard.

 

Day to Day Politics: What’s happening in the bear pit?

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Author’s note: I have updated and re-posted this because it is of great public importance.

Has Question Time in the Australian Parliament improved? Well just slightly since Tony Smith took over from Bronwyn Bishop. Bishop was an insult to the intelligence of reasoned people. Although it is only watched by those with a professional interest and political tragics like me, it is nonetheless the prism through which the Australian public form a perception of their politicians.

Now and then news services showcase Question Time and voters are left wondering if it’s for real or just a group of bad actors auditioning for play school.

It is devoid of wit, humour, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

Question Time under Speaker Bronwyn Bishop degenerated into a bear pit of mouths that roared with hatred. The Speaker gave the appearance of disliking men with a bitchy witchlike headmistress’s loathing more suited to an evil character in a Disney movie than a democratic parliament.

Her demeanor was obnoxious, threatening and deliberately intimidating. She was consciously biased to the point of dismissing legitimate points of order out of hand. And in a mocking manner that lacked any dignity and grace. In doing so she gave the impression of a women obsessed with herself and her party rather than acting in the impartial manner the position demands. All with an authoritarian sharp-edged sarcastic manner calculated to make her subjects cringe. Her condescendingly belligerent manner lacked the civility required for reasoned discourse.

Unlike Speakers before her she attended her party’s parliamentary meetings to listen and be advised of tactics in order to respond accordingly. Anything to humiliate the opposition. There can be no other reason for doing so. In addition she regularly used her offices for party fund-raising functions. Something previous speakers would never consider.

She threw out the ”standing orders” and invoked her own set of rules. Particularly when it came to relevance, sometimes ignoring points of order or dismissing them out of hand. She even allowed Ministers to continue talking when points of order had been raised pretending to not to notice members at the dispatch box. Answers were allowed that were so far removed from the question asked that one could be excused for thinking one had a hearing difficulty. All in all Bishop so corrupted question time that it became so totally dysfunctional that it either needed to be terminated or reconstructed.

A new Speaker has returned some decorum to the chamber but it really serves little purpose. In so far as relevance is concerned it has not improved under Smith.

While a lot of the contestation is part of the drama of the Parliament; no one would wish Question Time to be reduced to polite discussion without challenge. Never the less, Question Time all too regularly descends into an unedifying shouting match between the Government and Opposition, damaging the public image of the Parliament and of politicians in general.

According to the Parliamentary Education Office the purpose of Question Time is to allow the opposition to ask the executive government questions and to critically examine its work. Ministers are called upon to be accountable and explain their decisions and actions in their portfolios. Question Time also provides ministers with an opportunity to present their ideas, their leadership abilities and their political skills.

During Question Time, the opposition also has a chance to present themselves as the alternative government

Question Time occurs at 2pm every day when Parliament is sitting and usually lasts for about one hour. By custom, the Prime Minister decides how long Question Time will last and indeed if it will be held at all.

Ministers do not know the content of questions posed by the opposition during Question Time. These are likely to be tough, designed to test ministers’ capacity to answer quickly and confidently.

During Question Time, government backbenchers also pose questions to ministers, in order to highlight government policies and achievements. These are prepared prior to Question Time and are known as ‘Dorothy Dixers’ after a magazine columnist who used to write her own questions and answers.

Question Time has evolved in the Australian Parliament over a long period of time. The first Parliament made provision for questions on notice to be asked and the answers were read to the chamber by the relevant minister. Over time, questions without notice were also put to ministers, particularly in regard to important or urgent matters. The focus in Question Time today is on making the government accountable for its actions and dealing with the political issues of the day.

Well in short that’s the purpose. Does it work in reality? Of course not. Every government on being elected says it will reform Question Time. As part of an agreement with Prime Minister Gillard Rob Oakshot and Tony Winsor made some effort at reform with a greater insistence on relevance and supplementary questions.

Prior to the last election Christopher Pyne, the then Manager of Opposition Business, but better known as ‘the mouth that roared’, or ‘the fixer’, had this to say:

”An elected Coalition Government will move to reform Parliamentary Standing orders in the House of Representatives.”

”Our reforms will make Parliamentary Question Time more concise and ensure Ministers are held to account and remain relevant to questions asked.”

”We will look to strengthen the definition of ‘relevance’ in the standing orders so Ministers must stay directly relevant to questions and ensure Matter of Public Importance debates follow Question Time.”

What a ludicrous load of nonsense. As I stated earlier, there is no requirement for relevance at all. And without it Ministers simply cannot be held to account. Without civility reasoned debate cannot take place. All we have at the moment is a shambolic gaggle of incompetent unedifying politicians not in the least interested in enhancing our democracy. It has degenerated to the point of being obsolete. It needs to be given the flick and rethought.

How should this come about? Try this. Bill Shorten should walk out of Question Time with his colleagues straight into a press conference with a detailed list of reasons for doing so. They being that Question Time has become untenable, so lacking in relevance that there is no purpose in asking questions.

After siting all the obvious reasons he should then, having prepared himself, launch into a list of proposals to make governments and Ministers more accountable. The whole point of his presentation should center on a better more open democracy. An address that takes the democratic moral high ground that is critical of both sides of politics.

”None of us can claim that in this place, first and foremost on our minds is how we serve the Australian people’.’

Let the ideas flow. I propose to appoint now, a panel of former speakers from both sides of the house, to rewrite the standing orders and reform Question Time.

All this is hypothetical of course because I am thinking out loud. But consider the following.

1 An independent speaker. Not a politician. Not only independent but elected by the people. A position with clout. The Parliamentary Speakers Office with the power to name and shame Ministers for irrelevance. Power over politicians expenses. It could include a ‘’Fact Check Office’’

2 Imagine if the Speaker’s Office adjudicated on answers and published a relevance scale on its website. This might serve two purposes. Firstly it would promote transparency and truth and secondly provide an opportunity for ministers to correct answers. It wouldn’t take long for profiles of ministers to build.

3 If in the course of Question Time the Opposition wants to table a document that they say supports their claim, in the interests of openness and accountability it should always be allowed. Documents would also come under the scrutiny of the Speakers Office and both their authenticity and relevance be noted in the Speakers weekly accountability report.

4 Freedom of Information could also come under the umbrella of the Independent Speakers Office with it deciding what could be disclosed in the public interest.

5 Dorothy Dixers would be outlawed because they serve no purpose. If back benchers want information from Ministers, then pick up the bloody phone. Question Time is not a public relations department. A place for policy advertising. Question Time is about Government accountability.

6 I acknowledge that our system requires vigorous debate and human nature being what it is passion sometimes gets the better of our politicians. When it occurs the Speaker should have the power to call time outs.

7 Lying to the Parliament is a serious misdemeanor yet the Prime Minister and the Ministers in this Government do it on a regular basis. An Independent Speaker would be able to inflict severe penalties on serious offenders.

8 In fully answering a question, a minister or parliamentary secretary must be directly responsive, relevant, succinct and limited to the subject matter of the question. Penalties apply.

Nothing has changed. The Government owns Question Time, the Speaker and the Standing Orders.

Democracy is dead. Lunacy prevails. Anyway I think I have made my point.

My thought for the day.

”If you have a point of view, feel free to express it. However, do so with civility. Then your point of view is laced with a degree of dignity.”

 

Jay Weatherill speaks truth to power; Turnbull comes up with NBN 2.0

Our parents toiled to make a home hard grubbing t’was and clearing 

They wasn’t troubled much by lords when they was pioneering 

But now that we have made the land a garden full of promise 

Old Greed must crook his dirty hand and come and take it from us 

So we must fly a rebel flag as others did before us  

And we must sing a rebel song and join in rebel chorus 

We’ll make the tyrants feel the sting of those that they would throttle 

They needn’t say the fault is ours if blood should stain the wattle 

From Freedom on the Wallaby  Henry Lawson 1891


Sparks fly, shots ring out. A whiff of grapeshot wafts across the nation’s political stage this week as South Australia, fair maid of liberty, flower of Athens of the South, rebels against Canberra’s dark, despotic cruelty.  The crisis goes viral as Minister for Energy and Environment, Josh Frydenberg tilts at SA’s windmills; blaming them for its power outages Thursday at a press conference set up to upstage, bully and humiliate its junior commonwealth partner. 

Frydenberg, the man with a plan from a government without an energy policy, is there to spruik his government’s Snowy 2.0 scheme, a pie in the sky project akin to Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN, a scheme which will take too long to complete, cost too much and fail to deliver. No. Let’s be clear. Snowy 2 is not designed to help anyone except the PM himself and his image-building PR team who must now reinvent the merchant banker as a nation builder.

It says a lot about your need for spin when even your hydro needs pumping. Weatherill is justly disgusted.

“I have to say it is a little galling to be standing here next to a man who has been standing up with his Prime Minister bagging SA at every step of the way over the last six months to be standing here on this occasion, him suggesting that we want to work together,” Jay Weatherill sprays. He wants a divorce. And he’s taking the kids.

The spat has commentators clutching their pearls or reaching for their smelling salts. “Unedifying” huffs Aunty, a word deftly dropped into the mix by the coalition spin team. Unedifying? Are we to believe the Prime Minister’s personal attacks on Bill Shorten are edifying? Was Malcolm Turnbull’s victory whinge where he blamed Labor for the mess he himself led his government into – edifying? On the contrary, Weatherill is inspiring.

It’s a dramatic scene which presents a clear choice between truth and more of the same old bullshit. Weatherill not only opts for truth, he  strikes a blow for freedom from the yoke of commonwealth. Yet it’s freedom from neglect and mismanagement as much as oppression.  The power price scam; the fake gas shortage rort are just the final straws. A nation applauds as SA walks away from an abusive relationship. Other states may follow.

Let the PM blow hard about our energy crisis. We’re about to overtake Qatar as the world’s largest producer of LNG.  No. We have more than enough gas for all our needs but we’ve let corporations sell it offshore and jack up our prices.

We are not paying international prices. We are paying an artificially inflated price jacked up by a cartel of companies. Who needs a federal government whose role is to just stand by and let price gouging and price fixing happen? Or aid and abet it? Blow smoke about how a rigged electricity market fairly decides consumer prices?

SA declares its independence over its electrical power. Pulls the plug. Consigns fossil fuels to the rubbish bin of history. It’s a bold move that rocks state and commonwealth bonds. Forget Snowy 2.0. This is federation 2.0 It also highlights the Coalition’s craven gas and coal corporation co-dependency.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill vows to build his own gas-fired plant. Generate his own backup capacity. Australia’s largest battery farm will store the electricity. Flamboyant TESLA CEO Elon Musk, whose very name conjures romantic heroism, pledges a money back guaranteed 100 mw battery farm in one hundred days.

But it’s as much a hard-headed business deal as an act of disruption which puts the skids under fossil fuel. With a toe-hold in the local market, Musk could make billions supplying households with his TESLA batteries.

The battery beats another gas plant. Or new gas production. SA farmers will never abandon all their fears about water contamination and environmental degradation. Weatherill’s offer to pay farmers for what gas companies can take out of their land will never lead to a new wave of gas production. Who’d embrace fracking or gas wells for a pitiful ten percent royalty? You’d need more than that just to repair the damage to your land.

In fairness, the long lead-in before any new gas would flow, the cost of new exploitation weighed against the falling cost of renewables and storage make new gas supplies the state’s least likely option. Weatherill’s having a bet each way. Gas giant Santos, for example, is choosing now to invest in a solar farm rather than drill any new gas wells.

Santos says the cheapest way to free up gas is not to drill for more, but to build a solar plant? We should listen.

Weatherill still needs the gas plant backup, however, because the state no longer has faith in the market operator to act in the state’s best interests. It will give itself emergency powers to fire up the plant when it is needed. And just to make sure, it will order emergency diesel generators to be on standby until the gas plant is operational.

Even more contentious is Weatherill’s promise to give SA new powers over the National Electricity Market, a price-rigging scheme designed to boost multinational power company profits at consumers’ expense regardless of reliability of supply.

The lines of authority are complex. The National Energy Market, NEM is governed within COAG’s Energy Council, a body which comprises federal and state energy ministers. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

The Australian Energy Market Operator  is supposed to look after System security and reliability while network investment is the responsibility of private network businesses, overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator.  

It’s a great management model if you want to run a business by means of a committee without a CEO. The prime bodies charged with delivering electricity and gas to the NEM have done very poorly because they lack a chain of command or strategic plan; no idea of what they want or how to get there. David Leitch Renew Economy.

“There are no real metrics for the success of the system and no shared vision of the appropriate direction or how to get there.” It’s almost a definition of the coalition’s approach to commonwealth government.

The privatised electricity system is a complete failure. In a damaging revelation, close to Neoliberal heresy, the Grattan Institute reports another open secret , Monday. The so-called competition of privatised electricity markets has failed, or in an odd admission from a mob that believes in markets, “has failed to be managed properly”. Up to 43 per cent of household power bills are profits which line the pockets of electricity retailers. 

Weatherill’s defiance drives the coal-powered federal Coalition government into a flat spin. It will seek legal advice, it huffs, to see if SA’s threats are lawful. But it can deal its legal mates in as much as it likes. Nothing can disguise its confusion. Energy Minister Frydenberg falsely claims that states are responsible for the stability of their power system.  That’s AEMO’s job. 

Terminally conflicted and confused, Josh Frydenberg whose cruel fate is to be Energy and Environment minister in a government which lacks a policy for either, is dispatched to upstage the unplugged upstart by re-announcing AGL’s 5 MW 2016 household battery farm. True to form, his fearless leader Malcolm Turnbull wimps out, opting instead for a nation-building image makeover, a Snowy chopper ride and a chat with the gas industry.

Tough-talking, trouble-shooting Turnbull goes the full tea-bag. He rebukes gas corporate CEOs by giving the lads a cuppa and a heart to heart about saving a bit of gas for Australia. The tactic works so well with the banks. His script is similar. Abandon your cartel and your price-fixing boys. So you over-invested $60 billion in plant? So you plan to gouge the Australian customer to recover that debt? Stop it now. Walk away, boys, walk away.

What could possibly go wrong? Richard Denniss, chief economist of the Australia Institute explains to Crikey:

that for the gas industry, everything is going to plan. “It took 10 years and $60 billion building three enormous gas liquification plants in Gladstone with the specific goal of increasing the domestic price to Asian levels,” he says.

The gas industry is frustrated prices aren’t even higher. Once local prices were linked to international princes, global prices fell. Turnbull’s meeting agree to another meeting. It’s difficult to see any more productive outcome.

Luckily Turnbull has some crack troops in the rear. Tea party crackpot James McGrath on ABC Lateline witters on about how state issues caused the Liberal rout in South Australia despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

It would foolhardy for the federal government to imagine national factors had no bearing on the vote at least in marginal seats. Apart from his energy fiasco, these include lame duck PM accelerating unpopularity, his capture by party reactionaries, the Centrelink Robo-claw extortion, the PHON deal and weekend penalty rate cuts.

As for the PM, terminal Turnbull is wedged by a fatal trend which Bernard Keane and Josh Taylor delineate. A parliamentary leader reflecting the party’s base will lose touch with voters as Tony Abbott discovered; while a leader even briefly popular with voters, as in Turnbull’s case is likely to alienate the hard right in the party base. 

Yet again there’s help from the crack troops behind the leader. Never to be deterred by research, former dud Health Minister, Peter Dutton, a Minister only nominally in charge of Immigration, boosts his leadership stakes, or so he calculates, by attacking Alan Joyce and thirty other CEOs for daring to exercise their right to free speech in a letter urging government to act on same sex marriage.

Dutton argues that businesses best leave such issues to our elected political representatives. We’ve all noticed how well that’s working.

Yet all eyes remain on plucky little South Australia, the giant-killer as it shapes up against its oppressor and tormentor.  It is a thrilling new twist in the faction-riven Federal government’s Energy Wars, an electrifying series which pits big business against the powerless, miners against all-comers –  and ministers against each other.

Resources Minister Matt King Coal Canavan, for example, departs his Coalition team plan, the bogus clean coal staging horse for prohibitively overpriced gas in favour of reverting to a mythical “cheap coal”. The cost of pollution and the un-investible cost of building new plant, mean that cheap coal is just as much of a myth as clean coal.

No-one seems to have told Canavan that the coal advocacy part of the cunning plan was yesterday. Gas is today. The nonsense with the lump of coal; the PM’s Press Club carbon fuel vision were all devices to make gas madly attractive. Except that it’s not working. The Coalition’s team plan is every man for himself.

Immune to empiricism, impervious to fact, as coal-lobbyists invariably are, Canavan appears on ABC Insiders Sunday to bag South Australia and peddle dangerous nonsense about how coal-fired electricity is more stable, cheaper and a vast source of safe, clean jobs. How it’s manufacturing’s saviour. It’s an alarming demonstration of a narrow mind closed tighter by ideology. Equally disturbing is the extent to which he is feted by the media.

One of the beaut things about Insiders, the 7:30 Report, The Drum or ABC 24 is that a government minister knows he’ll be indulged. On the couch. After an obligatory time-waster about gay marriage, broad-brush Canavan gets a quarter of the program to regurgitate as many asinine assertions about clean coal as he can remember from Peabody Coal’s press kit. He even gets to repeat the lie that his government will act to lower energy prices.

University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, recently reported that the average wholesale electricity price soared to $134 a megawatt hour last summer, compared with $65-$67 in the two summers the carbon price was in place. The biggest rise has been in Queensland and in NSW, states which rely heavily upon coal power. 

“High prices have nothing to do with renewables or state government [renewable energy] targets and everything to do with the Liberals’ failure to properly run our national energy network,” says Adam Bandt but the fiction of a Coalition standing for lower energy prices is unassailable if you say it on ABC or on MSM generally.  

“We need to act to keep power prices down”. A straight faced Canavan gets a nod and a wink from Barrie. What Canavan has in mind is a beaut artisanal, low-emission boutique coal mine industry boosting Queensland’s tourism potential.

If only he could get his head out of his coal pit and look at the vast solar farms setting up in North Queensland, he would realise that there is simply no business case for investment in coal-fired baseload power generation.

No bank will invest in it. Clean coal is nothing but an industry fiction. “Wanna maintain a manufacturing industry in this country,” he bleats. As we’ve seen with the car industry. But it’s way too late. The bird has flown.

In brief, frantically, up against this Monday’s Newspoll, Turnbull over invests in a rushed competitive bid: a nation-building stunt, he dubs Snowy Mountain 2.0, in a move worthy of the ABC satire Utopia.  NBN 2.0 would be closer. The PM’s announcement has every sign of haste. NSW and Victoria, both shareholders in Snowy Hydro, didn’t know about it, while the company itself has no proposal for pumped hydro in its Finkel submission. 

Newspoll does reflect a Snowy improvement. Labor’s lead is now 52 to 48 per cent in two-party terms and the Prime Minister’s personal ratings are up but the government is perilously below its July election support levels. There is a big risk that the hastily assembled promo will fall to bits as voters discover the plan is a thought bubble.

The government has had a study by ANU academic Andrew Blakers for some time, which accounts for the persistence of “pumped hydro” in the government’s energy lexicon in recent months. It seems to have swept its announcement forward to compete with Jay Weatherill’s initiative, a master of practicality by contrast.

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” grins the Mal from Snow River. “This is the next step in a great story of engineering in the Snowy Mountains and the courageous men and women who are confident and committed to Australia’s future.”

Yet only a few weeks before he was all for clean coal at the Press Club. His Treasurer was even more dramatic.

Like Morrison’s lump of coal, Turnbull’s announcement is a stunt. The project would take too long, cost too much and deliver too little to solve immediate generation challenges. Snowy 2.0’s business model is to buy cheap and sell dear. It won’t increase capacity but could become an expensive backup. The government is evasive on costs, funding and completion date.

Yet the Coalition puts maximum spin behind it. It has blasted SA for its unstable energy policy now it is gazumped when Weatherill acts to build capacity and stability. Its response is hasty and vague, a sketch of a feasibility study drawn with a very big brush and some loopy strokes.

The government has only itself to blame. Not only has it wasted years failing to come up with a successful energy policy, it’s backed SA into a corner.

Bullied, publicly pilloried for its reckless, “ideological” embrace of renewable power, South Australia is victim of an orchestrated bullying campaign by federal government as its mining backers label wind and solar as expensive and unreliable, spinning the colossal lie that fossil fuel-powered generation is stable clean, cheap and job generating.

Mouth that roars, Christopher Pyne, helpfully lies about the Australian Submarine Corp being forced to build a $20 million diesel plant to make sure the lights stay on in risky renewable South Australia.

When asked, however, its CEO says “I don’t know anything about that.” Jay Weatherill’s stand is not so easily assailed. The risk for the government is that its anti-renewable propaganda and bagging of South Australia’s ideological fix on renewables will backfire. The Coalition’s lies are more easily exposed now and the nation has sympathy for the underdog. 

As luck would have it there is another distraction. Look over there. Sally McManus, newly elected ACTU secretary, and the first woman to head the organisation says she will break unjust laws if she has to. 

“I believe in the rule of law where the law is fair and the law is right but when it is unjust I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it,” she tells Leigh Sales who is out for a gotcha moment on the CFMEU’s fabled thuggish disregard for the rule of law.

Exposed for a rare moment is the monumental hypocrisy of those who attack Sally from the Business Council with its tax sharp practices and in the case of News Corp UK, illegal industrial action to Malcolm Turnbull himself whose Liberal Party received millions of dollars of illegal donations. And would Spycatcher have seen the light of day without laws being broken?

There is also a pretence that the law is some inviolate, separate body of holy writ immune from human affairs. Or, as Sally herself, puts it. “Australia has been built by working people who have had the courage to stand up to unfair and unjust rules and demand something better.”

Now we can’t have that, can we? It’s just as crazy as expecting a commonwealth government to nurture its dependent states rather than bully or exploit or defame them. Or a federal government to be above petty politicking and scapegoating, dishonesty and manifest hypocrisy on something as vital as energy provision.

Yet the week has seen a line drawn in the sand with regard to energy if not states’ rights while Jay Weatherill has used the national stage to dramatically re-enact the need to speak truth to power. All the Snowy 2.0 or NBN in Australia can’t put that genie back in the bottle.