Your Say: the 1967 Referendum

From Gary Pead It should be remembered in Referendum Week ​that in 1967…

Day to Day Politics: After-Budget Hangover.

Wednesday 24 May 2017 I’m having one of those days where I’m going…

At least I never said "Adani"...

Someone asked me how my wife feels about having our conversations repeated…

Day to Day Politics: Three cases of…

Tuesday 22 May 2017 1 I have for some time now been calling…

“Baa, baa, black sheep …”

By freef'all852 (Warning: This article contains words and language that may offend the…

No, the banks aren’t really scared

By Ross Hamilton A lot of Australians are fed up with the big…

Finding the pathway to humanity

A few weeks ago, an international peace conference was held in Cairo…

A sticky end for Mar a Lago Hillbillies…

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep…

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Category Archives: News and Politics

Day to Day Politics: After-Budget Hangover.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

I’m having one of those days where I’m going over all those things that I haven’t gotten around to reading since the budget. Catching up on things that friends have sent me. It occurs to me just how much information I take in on a daily basis. Some things hang around for a few days before giving way to whatever has hit the headlines.

And that’s how it is at the moment. The Budget has come and gone leaving a residue of problems, complications and Senate procrastination. And a hangover of sorts.

So what follows is a list of things that have caught my attention. You might like to discuss some of them.

1 Tuesdays Essential Poll shows Labor leading the Coalition 54/46 showing there has been no budget bounce. It also confirms my belief that when you are on the nose with the public its awfully difficult to move the numbers.

Turnbull says the Polls since the budget vindicate his Budget. Can someone point me to one that did?

A Budget can only really be judged when you define its purpose and that need not always be economics. This one was unashamedly political. Sean Kelly suggests that behind it were four aims 1. Too obliterate Turnbulls reputation as a do nothing politician. 2 Too establish some sort of competence. 3 Re present himself as a moderate. Kill off Labor attacks.

2 Making sense of the jobless figures. That’s if you can. In any case the way we measure them needs to be upgraded. And it puts a lie to the Governments constant attacks on those without work.

The figure of 19 applicants for every job available might be far worse than we think.

The Australian – Page 2: 22 May 2017

Original article by Adam Creighton

Roy Morgan Summary

“According to official data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate fell by 0.2 per cent to 5.7 per cent in April 2017. However, analysis suggests that the real unemployment rate exceeds 20 per cent if all Australians of working age who are not currently in the labour market or are underemployed are included in the data. Roy Morgan Research executive director Gary Morgan argues that Australia’s political leaders should follow the example of US President Donald Trump in calling out “fake” unemployment figures. Morgan adds that the Reserve Bank sets interest rates too high on the basis of the “phony” jobs data.”

Be honest about unemployment – it’s above 15 per cent

The Australian – Page 12 : 22 May 2017

Original article by Adam Creighton

Roy Morgan Summary

“Official figures show that just 732,000 people in Australia are unemployed at present and the nation’s unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent. However, 6.9 million people of working age are classified as not in the labour force, and more than 20 per cent of them want a job. Likewise, the underemployment rate has risen to a record 9.2 per cent, which equates to 1.1 million people. The Australian Bureau of Statistics uses an internationally recognised definition of unemployment, but it should also publish the real unemployment rate, which would be at least 15 per cent.”

My apologies to whoever sent me the above piece. I cannot trace your name.

3 I was going to include a comment on this but Terry2 did so yesterday and I don’t think I could have said it better.

Just as an aside: I note that the Trump women didn’t wear a head covering when meeting with Saudi royalty as is conventional – something that Trump had previously criticised Michelle Obama for the same thing, he tweeted in 2015 :

Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf enemies”

Then Trump wears a ‘Kippah’ [skull-cap] at the Israeli Western wall as is customary for men: no women allowed.

When Michelle Obama met the Pope she wore a black ‘mantilla’ on her head as is customary: the Trumps will meet the Pope in the next few days so it will be interesting to see what the Trump women wear: perhaps beanies all round (?)

The politics of head covering!

4 Tony Abbott continues to be a thorn in the side of the Government saying his budget of 2014 was the gilt-edged Rolls Royce one that would have solved Australia’s economic problems.

He also thinks Australia has become part of the weak government club because centre-right politicians can’t get their agenda through the Senate.

I wonder why these people ever in the quietness of their thoughts ever ask themselves the very simple question ”why?”

It still hasn’t occurred to him that it was one of the reasons he lost his job.

In his latest advice to the party he once led he said the budget, which was the best the government could do in the circumstances, underscored the urgency of Senate reform.

Didn’t he realise they had already done that?

5 The Federal Governments Black Economy Task force is due to release its findings in October. Originally they said it was worth around 25billion but now they reckon if you include money laundering, and drug trafficking it’s likely twice as much.

I used to be one of those who insisted on an invoice from a tradesman showing the GST. Then I found out how many of the rich and privileged didn’t pay tax. Then I ……..

6 Pauline Hanson seems to have really gotten caught with her pants down trying to make money from One Nations own candidates. And it’s all on tape.

The conversation went like this (as reported by the Australian Financial Review):

“There is an opportunity for us to make some money out of this, if we play it smart. Now I know they say you can’t make money out-of-state elections, but you can,” Mr Ashby is recorded as saying.

“And I’ll deny I ever said this, but, what stops us from getting a middle man, or gracing, I’m happy to grace in cash and double the price of whatever it is, and we say to the candidates, we will fund 50 per cent of this package.

“So the package might be five grand, ‘you’re gonna pay $2500’ and we’ll pay the other $2500 of the $5000. The other $2500 is profit, it’s the fat, and I wanna write it off. I don’t want the cash for it, I’ll make it a bloody tax deduction.”

At one point, he suggests “we buy the corflutes for $5, we sell it to them at $11” and claims “that’s what the Liberal Party do”.

“Because when you lodge the receipt at the full price with the Electoral Commission of Queensland you get back the full amount that’s been issued to you as an invoice.”

At one point, Senator Hanson appears open to the idea, saying: “just look at it, what is the best financial outlook for us?”

Together with the ATO revelation last week they reinforce the need for a form of federal ICAC.

Bill Shorten said:

“But clearly here, down the track there will have to be questions of competence for the government to answer. And I also think it makes Labor’s support for having a Senate committee investigating the merit of a National Integrity Commission seem quite on the money.”

7 The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump registered eight companies in Saudi Arabia. The names appeared to be of a “hotels nature.”

Trump registered the companies in August 2015, shortly after launching his presidential bid, according to The Post.

Note. It is illegal for a President to gain economically from overseas companies.

My thought for the day.

“Life is an experience of random often unidentifiable patterns and indiscriminate consequences that don’t always have order nor require explanation. The more we relate to others the more we get to know ourselves.”

 

At least I never said “Adani”…

Someone asked me how my wife feels about having our conversations repeated in my articles. Of course, I had to explain to the person that, while it’s true I have a wife, the one I write about is like the Liberal plan for jobs and growth: mainly fictional. However, it made me realise that many people don’t realise that most of what I write is completely made up. The confusing part, I guess, is that my prognostications are largely accurate and even my invented sources give more realistic information than the ones that the newspapers create.

However, it worries me sometimes that what I write seems to be proving a template for some of our less able politicians. While I have no evidence that they’re actually reading it, I’ve decided to let that pass on the grounds that we’re not only in a post-truth world, but we entered a post-evidence world quite a while ago. When John Howard, for example, told us that he had to support an emissions trading scheme when PM for political reasons but he rejected climate change on “intuition”, nobody mocked him for basing his judgement on a gut feeling and ignoring science.

So when I wrote my piece on a company removing the stuff from my property, a lot of people took it as an allegory for the way the whole Adani fiasco was going. Now I’d just like to point out that – just as Trump reminded us that he never said “Israel” in any of his bragging to Russia – I never said, “Adani”. It was all a work of fiction.

But the trouble with fiction is that people are quick to see parallels in real life. For example, if I were to write that the company told me that the space under my house would be ideal for a meth lab, then some people might think that there really is a space like that and that I’d be silly enough to put myself in danger by have something as dangerous as that under my house. Unless, of course, we were using coal as a heat source. Whatever, some of you may suggest that selling dangerous drugs is the wrong thing to do anyway, but I’ve been convinced by the words of Malcolm Turnbull, “If we don’t sell, someone else will.” He went on to say that ours was better quality.

Ok, ok, he wasn’t talking about drugs. He was talking about coal which, as everyone knows, will lift India out of poverty because once Adani starts producing, there’ll be so much coal that even someone with no job can afford it. However, I think the point remains.

In reality, I have no intention to start a meth lab. Ok, the company and I did discuss it, but just like One Nation and their attempt to make lots of money from campaign materials, we knocked it on the head almost straight away. And that’s the point, isn’t it? I mean it’s fine to discuss a plan for doing something immoral or illegal providing you knock it on the head straight away… Or when someone produces a tape of you talking about it. Which hasn’t happened in my case, because – like I pointed out before – my writing is largely fictional like One Nation’s concern for the battler.

So much for me…

Let’s move on to Adani!

Last year, I wrote that the Adani mine wouldn’t go ahead because it just isn’t commercially viable. I did add the caveat that there was always the possibility that governments would be so determined not to have the deal collapse because, well, jobs and growth and coal and all that, and Queensland has really high unemployment and we can’t use government money to come up with ways of employing them. We have to give it to a company and let them find ways to employ them because the Adani mine is going to create 10,000 jobs according to one estimate, but that includes the government jobs in 2085 cleaning it up after whichever Adani company responsible has declared bankruptcy.

So we offer them an interest free loan to build a railway… Well, we might. And when that’s not enough the Queensland state government offers them a bit of a royalty “holiday” which means that the Adani family will make more in the first year than Queensland makes in the first ten. But that’s not enough. Adani is now considering its position and has put the mine indefinitely on hold.

Yep, that’s why I write fiction. The truth is so unbelievable!

Day to Day Politics: Three cases of lying by omission.

Tuesday 22 May 2017

1 I have for some time now been calling out members of the Government who have been repetitive liars. Abbott was and probably still is. He had some excellent accomplices in Hunt, Pyne and others.

But for omission Peter Dutton takes the prize. His latest example of asylum seeker bashing is a perfect example.

Earlier this month the Law Council of Australia severely criticised the immigration minister over his complaints about the legal system’s handling of cases involving Iranian refugees, calling his views “dangerous and erosive to our justice system”.

He had been on 2GB last Tuesday speaking about Iranian refugees who had been granted Australian visas that the Government had later tried to deport after making return trips to their home country.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal blocked the deportation bid.

Dutton told 2GB of his “frustration” over the AAT blocking the government’s plan.

“When you look at some of the judgements that are made, the sentences that are handed down it’s always interesting to go back to have a look at the appointment of the particular Labor Government of the day,” he said.

Then on the same day on 3AW he was at it again blaming Labor. He appears to hate all opinions other than his own.

“The tribunal will look at these cases and it will come down to the judgement; the professional judgement of some people within the AAT and obviously those appointments are made by the government of the day, as is the case with the judiciary across the court system otherwise,”

“It’s Labor’s fault” is his constant cry, his never-ending excuse for his own incompetence.

In his current attack on asylum seekers who haven’t yet applied for a Temporary Visa he omits to say that this was only a requirement from last November.

“Those people who are fake refugees, people who are refusing to provide detail about their claim of protection … or indeed refusing to lodge their protection claims.”

There is no proof that people are refusing to apply, it’s just Dutton being Dutton, demonising people as they have done for a generation.

David Manne said:

“These applications take many hours because we’re looking at completion of forms with well over 100 questions, plus a detailed written statement, of the person’s fears of return to their home country, all in English and needing expert legal help so that people can understand the requirements of the process,” 

Manne also indicated that his legal centre had over 2000 (of a total of 7500) asylum seekers on its books seeking pro bono help to apply for temporary protection visas.

He argued they had only had a small window of opportunity to do so.

“These applications take many hours because we’re looking at completion of forms with well over 100 questions, plus a detailed written statement, of the person’s fears of return to their home country, all in English and needing expert legal help so that people can understand the requirements of the process,” 

This continuous bashing of asylum seekers from a man of little virtue is becoming somewhat boring. He knows that legal services are already under pressure. He is a cruel man who would have no hesitation in splitting up families and deporting them. He’s deliberately trying to tear people out of our communities and deport them to danger without any chance of a fair and proper process.

If it is the case that there is an October 1 deadline then you would think that a Minister who is in charge of the well being of these people then he should be bending over backwards to accurate them. As Philip Coorey put it in the AFR:

Rather than a war of “fake refugees”, this has the hallmarks of a “fake war” on an easy, and very familiar, target.

What loathsome creatures inhabit conservative politics?

2 Now, lets move unto that other Coalition MP who lies by omission with scant regard to any transparency what so ever. Scott Morrison, since he delivered his 17- 18 Budget has deliberately created the impression that the banks would accept the government levy and not pass on the losses to their customers.

Even though they know the banks will do what they always do and slug their customers, just because they can.

Barry Cassidy called him out on Insiders.

Barrie Cassidy: “You can’t guarantee they won’t pass on the costs.’’

He was forced to respond.

Scott Morrison: “In the same way the banks have put up interest rates when there hasn’t been a move in the Reserve Bank cash rate. I mean, banks will find any way they can to charge their customers more with fees and charges.’’

It’s a clear as a bright sunny day that the banks will find a way to slug the taxpayer. So lets get it straight. It’s an underhanded way to implement a new tax.

Now Morrison may be presenting himself as a changed man. One who after a long period farinaceous inflexibility now sees that revenue is as important as spending in budgetary terms but he also needs to apprehend that people are sick and tired of his slogans, lying by omission and the habit he has of sneeringly talking down to people.

To quote Sean Kelly in The Monthy:

‘’So it’s a pity that Morrison, having been flatly contradicted by Cassidy on ABC’s Insiders and forced, on air, to correct himself, and having had at least two articles (one here) written about it, this week continued to repeat the deliberately misleading accusation that Labor’s tax policy means “the Labor Party wants you if you do well in life to spend one day working for the government and one day working for yourself”. He clearly had the line distributed to other Coalition MPs, too, who repeated it.’’

If Morrison expects people to accept his transformation from bad cop to good cop then he had best start with arguments based on fact and not this sort of staggering hubris. Australians, because they don’t trust them, don’t take a lot of interest. They do however have a good nose for bullshit, or when they are being conned.

3 The third Minister on my list is the Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Here he was on News 24 explaining the Gonski reforms. He insisted time and again that the Government was introducing the Gonski in full. In doing so he urged Labor to join with the Government and implement the legislation.

In an interview of some length he kept insisting that this was the real deal. Even blind Freddy knows that he is lying by omission.

My thought for the day.

”Have we reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians have convinced us to believe, “like alternative facts” rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence, arguments and assertions.”

 

No, the banks aren’t really scared

By Ross Hamilton

A lot of Australians are fed up with the big banks. While constantly trying to convince us via television ads how lovely they really are, they are busy ripping billions in profits away from us via fees. That is in addition to many millions in government handouts and protections in the last decade alone. This latest Budget has attempted to get hold of some of those excessive profits for the national good – not by something like an excessive profits tax, but by instituting a new special levy. But will it mean anything in the long run? Nope.

The attitude of Malcolm Turnbull towards the banks as a politician have been quite distinctive. As Leader of the Opposition, when the banks bowed to public pressure and passed on more of an interest rate cut than they had been doing of late, Turnbull declared this was because the banks feared his Opposition. They had ‘drawn a line in the sand,’ he declared, that the banks were too afraid to cross. I was driving on a freeway when that gem appeared on the radio in 2008 and I had to pull over into the emergency lane as I simply could not believe what I was hearing.

Malcolm Turnbull then became PM but the refrain continued. He had the measure of the big banks. And his solution to public concerns was to declare that the banks now had to attend an annual hearing before a Senate Committee to explain themselves. And the banks were apparently terrified of it. Their CEOs were hiding under their desks, piddling their pants. Take for example an appearance by the CEO of the Commonwealth Bank. In the wake of some scandals, the CBA had commissioned an external review of their systems and practices to see what was wrong.

So, asked the Senate Committee, “What did that review find was wrong?

Wrong? Oh it didn’t find anything wrong? No, no, no…all is just fine and dandy.

What? What did your clients have to say to the review? flustered the SC.

Clients? What clients?

You know, all those unhappy people who were making complaints.

Oh them. The review didn’t talk to any of them. Why bother? Everything was shown to be just fine so they didn’t need to talk to anyone.

You cads! shrieked the SC. You scoundrels! You rotters!

Yeah, whatever, replied Mr CBA CEO. Talk to the hand, dudes and dudettes.”

Now we can all relax. Everything is now just going to be just fine. A new levy is to be imposed on the Big Four, expected to raise $6.2 billion over the next four years. All that money is going to pour into the public coffers and is to be used for all manner of wonderful things.

Hooray. That is the big banks all pulled into line by the 2017 Budget. All is now wonderful in the world!

Sorry – time for a reality check.

What happens when a business incurs an additional cost of conducting business? Does it meekly absorb that cost and reduce its profitability or does it pass that cost onto the consumer? No questions about that one folks, it all goes to Column B. And the banks shall not be any different. Over the next four years, everyone who is a client of one of the big four or even dares to use one of their services such as an ATM, can confidently expect to be forking out more fees to cover that levy. And businesses shall pass on their share of those bank fees on to their clients. And so on.

Or am I being too pessimistic? Treasurer Scott Morrison has, after all, had some stern words for the banks. Not in Parliament where it might have meant something, but in a post-Budget speech at the National Press Club, Morrison told the banks he would be disappointed if they did pass on that cost to their customers.

Well then, that should take care of that. Don’t forget – the banks are all scared of Malcolm Turnbull and his government. Petrified. At least that is what he would have us believe, despite evidence to the contrary.

Of course, the big banks are going to recover every single damned cent of that new levy. Not in any single item that could be easily highlighted in their financial statements and subjected to more Senate scolding, but in free increases here, there and everywhere. And that will flow on from their business clients to everyone else.

Guess what, people, that levy on the banks is going to end up being one thing and one thing only – we have all been indirectly hit with a new tax which is going to cost us $6.2 billion over the next four years. All for the sake of some populist poll points.

This article was originally published on Ross’s Rant.

 

Finding the pathway to humanity

A few weeks ago, an international peace conference was held in Cairo at Al Azhar University, the most prestigious centre of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Speaking at the invitation of its grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, to an audience of some 300 religious leaders, professors and scholars from Egypt and several other countries in the region, Pope Francis reminded them that “religion is not meant only to unmask evil, it has an intrinsic vocation to promote peace, today perhaps more than ever before.”

The Pope called on Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Egypt and throughout the Middle East to join in building “a new civilization of peace” by declaring together “a firm and clear ‘no’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion and in the name of God” and to “affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.”

“What is needed are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.”

The grand iman spoke first, calling for an alliance of all organizations that work for peace.  He condemned the small minority who misinterpret Islam to kill and terrorise innocent people and accused “some parties,” whom he did not name, “of financing these persons and groups” and denounced the arms trade “as the principal cause of our problems today.”

The Pope began his address by thanking “my brother” the grand imam for the invitation to speak.

Interestingly, considering his upcoming meeting with Donald Trump, the Pope remarked “it is disconcerting to note that, as the concrete realities of people’s lives are ignored in favour of obscure machinations, demagogic forms of populism are on the rise.”

These forms of populism, he said, “certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability. No incitement to violence will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.”

He insisted that declarations are not enough “to prevent conflicts and build peace. It is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation, where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.” Moreover, he said, “it is necessary to stop the proliferation of arms that, if they are produced and traded, will sooner or later be used.”

He described violence as “the denial of every authentic religiosity” and declared that “as religious leaders we are called to unmask the violence that dresses itself with presumed sacredness….as religious leaders we are called to denounce the violations against human dignity and against human rights, to bring to light the attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion and to condemn them as an idolatrous falsification of God,” who “is the God of peace.”

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue, such as that being conducted together by the Holy See and Al Azhar, he declared that “in the field of dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, we are called to walk together, in the conviction that the future of all depends also on the encounter between religions and culture.”

He told the conference that in dialogue it is necessary “to educate to respectful openness and to sincere dialogue with the other, recognizing the fundamental rights and freedoms, especially that of religion, constitutes the best way to build the future together, to be constructors of a civilization.”

At this critical moment in history, Francis said, “the only alternative to a civilization of encounter is the incivility of confrontation” and “to truly contrast the barbarities of the one who breathes on hate and incites to violence, one must accompany and bring to maturity generations that respond to the incendiary logic of evil with the patient growth of good.”

He emphasized the importance of educating the young “because there will not be peace without an adequate education of future generations.”

He concluded by saying that religious and political leaders as well as “those who are responsible for information” are called “by God, by history and by the future to start, each in their own field, processes of peace.”

The two religious leaders embraced to a standing ovation from the audience.

This inspirational gathering was quickly juxtaposed against the Trump cabaret replete with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new arms to pour into the Middle East that he obscenely referred to as “a lot of beautiful military equipment”.

He then gave a lecture where he seemed to be declaring his friendship with the Sunni Muslims of the world and his enmity towards the Shia Muslims.

Trump blamed Iran – rather than Isis – for “fuelling sectarian violence”, pitied the Iranian people for their “despair” a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer as their president, and demanded the further isolation of the largest Shiite country in the Middle East. The regime responsible for “so much instability” is Iran. The Shiite Hezbollah were condemned. So were the Shiite Yemenis. Trump’s Sunni Saudi hosts glowed with warmth at such wisdom.

“Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination,” he grandiosely declared.

The politicians and business people of the world have lost the plot.  They have created the inequality and greed that provides fertile ground for unrest and environmental devastation.  They see caring for society as a drain on their profits and power.

There are things about organised religions that trouble me but if they can change their focus from a pathway to heaven to helping us find the pathway to humanity, if they have the courage to recall our leaders to decency, then they deserve our support.

 

A sticky end for Mar a Lago Hillbillies as Washington dumps Trump?

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal – for Donald Trump.


“I get great intel … people brief me on great intel every day,” Donald Trump boasts. You can tell he’s just busting to share. Show his visitors what a big shot he is. He loves to be liked. Instead, his net approval rating is below zero although he can boast he’s the only president to achieve this within his first 100 days in the White House.

Suddenly The Donald’s spilling the beans, sharing all the classified dot points he has been entrusted with about the latest, HUGE ISIS plot and everything.   A short attention-span is his characteristic, says Tony Schwarz who wrote The Art of the Deal for Trump, it’s impossible to keep him focussed on anything except his own self-aggrandisement.

Trump is big-noting himself to Russian foreign minister, salty Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, 10 May, at a private meeting to which Russian state media only was invited. The White House, for once, is being prudent. Two years ago, Lavrov was recorded calling the Saudis “fucking imbeciles”.

But Trump has more to over share. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.” The New York Times confirms from official documents. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Later The Donald claims he has a right to blab. Is the president trying to impeach himself? Or is this some new post-truth defence against collusion? The nation is flabbergasted this week by the sensational revelation that Donald Trump has shared classified intelligence with the Russians while bragging; showing off about all the secret stuff he knows.

The extraordinary events are the latest episodes of Mar a Lago Hillbillies, a top-rating US presidential soap opera about the rise of a tangerine-tanned former reality TV boss and his gold-digging family. This week in Russia-gate the show blends all the electrifying suspense of the McCarthy era red witch hunt with the Whodunit mystery of Watergate.

Luckily, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Showboat Bishop drops everything and dashes to help Trump, nine days later. Be there for him, almost. While she could not possibly know what he’s said, she’s sort of right behind him, more or less.

JBish is also in New York for an audience with wacky war criminal Henry Chicken-hawk Kissinger, a step vital to Australia’s application to join the UN Human Rights Council. There’s so much to gain from the wily old wire-tapper.

Julie knows her mentor once helped stage-manage genocide in East Timor. Right wing Latin American dictators who killed trade union leaders? Henry helped overthrow a democratically elected government in Chile. He urged Richard Nixon to wire-tap his opponents, including staffers and journalists. Julie sighs. So much to learn. So little time.

Kissinger got a Nobel Prize for his efforts to end the Vietnam War. These included extending it for five pointless years and  paving the way for Pol Pot and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy,” he says in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s The Final Days. Comedian Tom Lehrer protested that Kissinger’s Peace Prize made political satire obsolete.

Julie shyly reminds Henry how her country loves Netanyahu and other strong leaders. How being strong helps Australia keep its borders protected; keep ourselves tough and buff. Just look at Peter Dutton’s wonderfully humane handling of the close of Manus Island. Exemplary. No-one lectures us on human rights. We are proud of our record.

Australia’s treatment of those now in their fourth year in gaol on the islands of Manus and Nauru is “not as a negative at all” as far as our UN bid is concerned, she says, just a way of stemming the flow of people-smuggling and preventing deaths at sea. Naturally, we’ve had to move things along on Manus which is due to be demolished at the end of June.

But we’ve made provision. A few can go to East Lorengau where they face beatings from locals who hate them.

The rest can go to Moresby where they won’t be beaten up or robbed if they stay inside cheap hotels. There are no jobs there anyway. Or they can return to certain persecution. Or get swapped to the US – if and when they’ve passed the “extreme vetting”, a little something Donald plans to whip up later, that he says will be imposed on a deal he detests.

When it’s invented, extreme vetting will detect “American values;” screen out anyone who is not prepared to “embrace a tolerant American society.” Our own PM has a similar scheme in mind to help us select the right type of migrant.

Peter’s also doing terrific stuff rounding up asylum seekers who just rip off tax-payers by living here and not producing any paper-work. He’ll deport 7,500 into war zones and further persecution and to countries with the death penalty.

Of course, our AFP helps prosecutors in countries which have the death penalty, but the worldwide abolition of the death penalty still remains one of Australia’s goals. We have to be practical and “appropriate“.  JBish puts a lot of thought into her vocabulary. You can tell. A cut in her budget has just gone into $300,000 extra funding for the AFP.

But Trump’s in trouble. Australia’s Foreign Minister releases a statement in support of his indefeasible behaviour.

“… The conversations the President has had, are, to our understanding, within the type of conversations that one would expect leaders to hold,”

Julie Bishop tells every nationwide press outlet. One does one’s best.

Betraying top secret information – bragging about sacking your nut case FBI director? It’s all bog-standard, run of the mill diplomacy, really, even if, as the New York Times observes, it rather strengthens the idea it’s intended to dispel. Surely no-one doubts “the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives?”

Amazingly, incredibly, Bishop’s defence is simultaneously expressed by Teresa May and a swarm of other US bot-flies in the coalition of the willing who all chorus their independent, spontaneous support. Orchestrated damage control? Never.

If he ever read anything, Trump would take little heart in Bishop’s vacuous endorsement but he’s on to his next big crisis.

Former FBI Director James Comey claims Trump asked him to lay off investigating former national security advisor and Turkish Foreign Agent Michael Flynn because – apart from illegally secretly discussing US sanctions with the Russian Ambassador to the US last December – Mike’s a real nice guy.  I mean I really want him back on the team.

Trump also asked Comey about imprisoning reporters for publishing classified information, reports The New York Times.

Whatever he thinks of muzzling the press, Big Jim, who loathes Trump and everything he represents. Schwarz identifies the essential Trump as his willingness to run over people, the gaudy, tacky, gigantic obsessions, the absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” Comey formally notes the attempt to obstruct the course of justice. Things go pear-shaped for the orange Commander in Chief soon after. Hugely.

Trump hasn’t helped his case. Bad-mouthing Comey to Lavrov and Kislyak is not a wise career move.

A bombshell follows.  A special counsel is appointed, the widely-respected former FBI Director, Robert Mueller. He’s set to look into “The Russian Thing” as Trump calls it – and anything else he thinks looks fishy such as the Flynn Thing or the Blab Thing. The nutcase thing will probably take care of itself. The inquiry is now a criminal investigation.

Investigation of team Trump’s Russian links moves up a notch even briefly bumping news of the world laptop terror scoop. But it’s not entirely eclipsed. The Donald has confirmed he can’t be trusted with classified information. It will prove a most costly blunder – even if the details of the laptop blab sound suspiciously like a setup.

Classified Israeli intelligence warns the US that ISIS would use laptops to bring down planes. Terrorists may carry on laptops and use them to detonate explosives in the aircraft’s cabin, warn the spooks. News even emerges of a foiled plot involving an explosive-filled iPad. Talk about product placement. Details, naturally, are top secret.

For us, the jig is up. Australia’s government leaps aboard the nearest flight of hysteria to ban laptops and tablets from the cabin. Safer, by far, to stow devices in the cargo hold where an explosion may only bring down the entire aircraft.

Yet it’s not just about the laptops. Trump has named the city where the diabolical plot is being hatched. He’s identified an agent, causing a furore among US intelligence officers and their Israeli counterparts. Can he escape this lynch mob?

Trump digs deep. Using his signature double switcheroo, he denies he’s blabbed, then blabs about his blabbing.

For Tony Schwarz, lying is The Donald’s second nature. He believes whatever he says at any given moment is true – or sort of true – or at least ought to be true. He lies strategically. He has a complete lack of conscience about it.

As one Washington wag puts it, George Washington was a president who couldn’t tell a lie; Richard Nixon was a president who couldn’t tell the truth. Donald Trump can’t tell the difference. Luckily a bit of gun-running has to be done.

Peddling weapons to Saudi Arabia turns out to be TREMENDOUS; helps rescue Trump from a slump. The human hyperbole toddles off into the record books, extended family in tow, to clinch the biggest arms deal in American history.

Cue massive spontaneous applause from the conga line of suck-holes. Our ABC describes the arms sale at first as part of the president’s focus on “forging peace” in the Middle East. Even The White House modestly calls it, “fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East.” Later ABC reports go big on dollar values.

At $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over ten years, it’s a neat deal which son-in-law Jared Kushner has been keenly negotiating and will help the Saudis supply arms to Syria, Egypt, Lebanon. It is also part of US strategy to create a bulwark against Iran.  Relax. Australians can still feel secure, ten per cent of all US weapons exports will still go to us.

Trashier than the Kardashians but with sensational appearances from not one but two former FBI Directors and a guest spot from the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is visiting Washington not only to watch on as his Embassy goons beat up US protestors but to stop Trump arming Kurdish fighters in Syria, Mar a Lago Hillbillies has a breathtakingly unpredictable plot.

Sharing many themes and values with much of Australian politics, Mar a Lago Hillbillies  is all about heroic martyrdom. Serving hardworking Americans by cutting taxes for the wealthy and slashing services to the poor while raising pensioners’ energy bills and elevating global warming and boosting atmospheric pollution, a virtuous, yet totally misunderstood but beloved popular leader is persecuted by left media and toxic Washington insiders. Out to get him.

Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get you, as Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton well know. And it’s politically expedient to play the victim. “The single greatest witch hunt of a politician in US history”, gripes The Donald, perhaps the greatest witch hunter yet to inhabit the Oval Office, as his sacking of Comey backfires.

So unfair. A soft political coup or even an auto da fe may in fact await America’s presidential heretic. Despite stiff competition, he remains, by far, its most dangerously inept leader. But his biggest sin is that he won’t take advice. Mike Pence disappears. Washington gossips about Trump’s removal from office on the grounds of mental incapacity.

“They will say he has Alzheimer’s” claims pal Roger Stone, a “sinister Forrest Gump”, a mutual friend of Trump’s mentor, Roy Cohn, the lawyer who earned unparalleled emnity as Senator Joe McCarthy’s chief witch-hunter. Naturally attracted to The Donald, by his values, Stone is a self-professed “dirty political trickster” from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign and an inveterate attention-seeker for whom notoriety is better than no press at all. He warns of a cabinet coup.

Even without Stone’s conspiracy theory, Trump’s abuse of Comey is a tad ungrateful. Comey helped Trump’s campaign and caused a furore by reviving claims Hilary Clinton made “careless use” of a private email server. It remains an unprecedented public discussion and communication with Congress  by an FBI Director just prior to an election.

Could they be frenemies? There was a moment of bromance. On 22 January, during a ceremony, Trump called Comey over from where he was hiding against the curtain to hug him in public, a gesture which Comey found “disgusting“.

More repugnant was Trump’s attempt to recruit the FBI Director at private dinner. He asked me to pledge my personal loyalty, says Comey who Cordelia-like offered his honesty instead, offended by what he saw as an egregious impropriety.

Trump summarily dismissed his FBI head. Despite plenty of gratuitous slagging, he’s providing conflicting accounts for firing him. Comey fudged the Clinton case, (although he was full of praise at the time).  Comey’s a “show-boat”. Nobody likes him. “The Russian thing” is a hoax and a tax-payer funded charade. Now Comey’s a nutcase.

Is it a clumsy Trump cover up? Almost certainly. The FBI director discussed his agency’s investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election – and possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign – before a Senate committee. The timing is suspicious. So, too is Trump’s attempt to threaten Comey that he may have been taped.

The tape threat is Trump’s desperation bid to salvage his story that Comey promised him three times that he was not under investigation. Comey, naturally, denies this vehemently. For his part, Trump denies ever asking Comey to ease off his pal, nice guy and national security adviser, Russophile and foreign agent mad Michael Flynn.

Complicating matters for Trump are reliable reports that Comey filed a memo documenting the President’s request. An FBI Director’s memos would be admissable evidence in the current subsequent criminal inquiry or any other.

Comey’s friend, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the US establishment’s think tank and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog is in no doubt about what happened:

“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes tells NewsHour’s William Brangham.

Trump cries foul. The witch-finder is victim of a witch hunt. One of the least stable, most insecure occupants of The White House beyond even Nixon, Trump’s paranoid attacks on Hilary Clinton, Obama, Washington, Mexicans, Muslims, the media, aliens in our midst and other “real bad dudes” are his signature theme. He has only one other claim to fame.

No. It’s not the abomination of his second attack on Obamacare, his affordable health care Act, which will deny 24 million Americans health care. Nor his anti-Muslim travel bans. Trump’s biggest contribution is the alternative fact.

“Even my enemies would say there is no Russia collusion.” It’s not just “Look over there!”- but, “There is no “there” over there.”  He’s got millions of Americans believing him. Yet, just in case, as events unfold, he’s quick to change his story.

Now a special counsel is on his case, Trump makes it clear, Friday, he’s only speaking for himself. No-one else in the team. He, himself, directly, no Russian collusion. OK? He pulls Sean Spicer from the White House Podium.

It won’t help his cause. It won’t undo the egregious impropriety with which he has conducted himself. It won’t erase the impression that he is a president who holds the protocols of his office in contempt. Even his latest BFF, the Turnbull government, cannot save The Donald from himself.

He’s wedged himself. Now the 45th President of the United States faces an alienated James Comey on the outer, while on the inside, special counsel, former FBI Director Robert Mueller approaches with his signature painstaking forensic particularity. He has Trump’s number.  Things will turn ugly, however, as the cornered beast lashes out.

Commentators on ABC Insiders Sunday are unanimous in reassuring Australians that the impeachment of a president is a long and difficult process. That’s not the point. Trump’s presidency is already irrevocably damaged.

Inept, inexperienced, chaotically disorganised and overwhelmingly ill-informed, Trump has destroyed whatever credibility or legitimacy he may once have claimed.

A big arms deal with the Saudis won’t save his presidency, however much he trumpets its success or however much the ABC repeats the price tag. Nor will all of the accommodation, the normalisation and the flattery that our government and other US vassals have lavished upon his presidency avert the rapidly building crisis.  We need to get real. Our accommodation of the monster has already cost us dearly.

For all its entertainment and action-packed shock value, the Mar a Lago Hillbillies is likely to have a very bad ending. None of us is likely to come out of this well.

Doctor Who and the Obnoxious MP

In a recent television interview government MP George Christensen claimed to be a lifelong Doctor Who fan. According to George his earliest memory of Doctor Who is watching ‘The Brain of Morbius’ on his grandparents’ grainy black and white television.

Like George, I’m a YUGE Doctor Who fan. So much of a fan in fact that I can tell you that George would have watched that show in 1986.

As any lifelong Doctor Who fan would know, ‘Brain of Morbius’ was a touch too violent for the Australian Classification Board. It was therefore not shown on Australian television until a heavily edited version was screened in the adult time slot of 8pm in early 1980, when George was less than two. The first time it was shown in the regular 6:30 children’s time slot was in 1986, when George would have been about seven.

That’s about the same age I was when I watched ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, my earliest Doctor Who memory.

Now apart from being Doctor Who fans, George and I don’t have very much in common. In fact his politics and mine are about as different as you can get. So how did two people who became lifelong followers of the same TV show end up on the opposite side of politics? It’s not as if Doctor Who has shied away from political themes in the past. Environmentalism, pacifism, tolerance and gender equality have featured heavily throughout the show’s history.

Maybe it stems from the first shows we watched. ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ is the origin story of the Doctor’s greatest enemy and parallels the rise of Nazism. ‘Brain of Morbius’ is a Lovecraftian horror story where the titular villain is driven off a cliff by an all-female cult of religious fanatics. Make of that what you will.

Both shows did star Tom Baker in the lead role however. If there’s one thing that could span the political chasm between myself and George, it’s that iconic scarf. That’s the appeal of Doctor Who, everyone can take something from it.

But does everyone have something to give back to Doctor Who? Maybe not. Here’s why I think that George Christensen should never be let into a Tardis:

George is an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration, often speaking at Reclaim Australia rallies and the better dressed but equally racist Q Society. He claims we are “at war with radical Islam”.

So it’s probably safe to assume that if George had had his way in Britain in 1946 it is unlikely he would have allowed an eight year old Muslim immigrant called Waris Hussain and his family to enter the country. Which would have been a shame as Waris went on to direct the first ever Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child, in 1963. As well as most of the epic fourth serial, Marco Polo, in 1964.

George isn’t too keen on women either, if the opinion piece he wrote, ”The truth is that women are bloody stupid”, is anything to go by. The piece appeared in a student magazine edited by George in 1998, which also contained a number of anti-Semitic and homophobic articles.

It’s just as well George wasn’t in charge of the BBC at the time they hired their first female producer, Verity Lambert. She was hired 1963 to produce a children’s television show called Doctor Who, which was expected to last for thirteen weeks. Lambert was also Jewish, as was Carol Ann Ford, who played the Doctor’s first companion.

George is quite an outspoken opponent of LGBTI rights. That probably wouldn’t have sat well with John Nathan-Turner who was openly gay in an era where Boy George still hadn’t officially come out. Nathan-Turner produced Doctor Who from 1980 to 1989.

During that time he managed to keep the show running despite numerous cuts to his budget and attempts to cancel the show. In fact it’s fair to say that without his efforts the show would have been canned long before Christensen tuned into it on a black and white television in 1986.

The man who brought Doctor Who back to our screens in 2005, Russell T Davies, is also gay, as are a number of characters and companions featured in the revived series.

George was probably too young to pick up on the anti-Thatcher themes that permeated the Sylvester McCoy era, or known that many of the Doctor’s speeches in that era were copied from the CND policy platform.

Who knows what the Doctor would make of George’s aggressive opposition to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program? Most baffling of all though is that George is a member of a government who holds public broadcasting in contempt.

It’s difficult to imagine a show as iconic as Doctor Who originating anywhere other than the BBC, but they’re not the only public broadcaster that George has to thank for his favourite show. Without the ABC, which he and the government he is part of have attacked, denigrated and underfunded on an ongoing basis, Australians, myself and George included, would probably never have known about Doctor Who. That’s a parallel universe I never want to travel to.

So I hope that George Christensen enjoys tonight’s episode as much as I do. No doubt we’ll take some very different things from it. One thing we should all take from it however is that we’ll be watching tonight’s show thanks to people who are nothing like George Christensen.

Falling through the cracks

In amongst the budget, responses and ‘expert analysis’, you might have missed the news that so called conservative ‘warrior’ and MP for the seat of Dawson in Central Queensland, George Christensen, recently became a medical tourist to Asia. Christensen, who before the operation weighed in at 176 kilograms, went to Malaysia for an operation to remove 85% of his stomach.

While it is fair to suggest that this website hasn’t been overly friendly to Christensen in the past, he deserves due recognition for attempting to redress a health problem that he claims was due to the politician’s lifestyle of constantly being on the road and rarely eating at home. Like a lot of overweight people Christensen said he had tried “every diet under the sun”. Christensen apparently wants to outlive his grandmother who died at 96; and good luck to him with this ambition. According to the article quoted above, former politician Clive Palmer has also recently lost almost 60kgs in the last eight months.

Regardless of the reason for Christensen’s former weight, the lack of weight loss success with less invasive measures such as diet and exercise suggests there are some elements of an addictive personality resident in the head of George Christensen. He also apparently has the necessary finance available to fund not only ‘every diet under the sun’ but the costs of travelling to Malaysia and undergoing the operation.

It’s lucky in some ways that Christensen isn’t a job seeker and his particular addiction of choice was not to an illicit drug. Turnbull and Morrison’s second budget introduced the concept of drug testing Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients before they are able to receive benefits. Turnbull’s response to Buzzfeed’s question regarding the medical or scientific evidence that demonstrates this scheme would work was interesting

“Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that welfare money should not be used to buy drugs, and if you love somebody who is addicted to drugs, if you love somebody whose life is being destroyed by drugs, don’t you want to get them off drugs?”

On the face of it, Turnbull has a point. Generally, those who have family members would move heaven and earth to arrange for the affected loved one to come out of the end of a de-tox program as clean. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Christensen is the perfect demonstration that he knows he has a problem, has tried ‘every diet under the sun’ (presumably failed) and ended up taking an irreversible surgical option. In a similar way, taking money off those using illicit drugs will have a probable outcome of increasing petty theft and house breaking rates due to those who can’t pass a drug test ‘falling through the cracks’ by choosing to leave the welfare system. If he really wants to ‘share the love’, Turnbull should be funding de-tox centres and programs to ensure that those with an addictive personality who find themselves using illicit drugs (instead of food, alcohol or tobacco) can be taken through to fix the root cause of the problem – not the claimed anti-social effects of the problem.

The problem is that Turnbull isn’t funding appropriate treatment centres. According to The Greens, fewer than half those who need it, are able to access drug and alcohol treatment. Regardless of your view of The Greens as a political party, their leader Richard De Natalie is a General Practitioner who specialised in drug and alcohol abuse, so he probably has a better idea than you or I how well this country looks after those who ingest illicit drugs.

“It’s time to recognise this is a health problem not a law and order one. We have to have an open, honest conversation about this and stop pretending we’re winning this war – we’re losing and losing fast.”

In fact, Turnbull’s new policy is a demonstrated failure. A number of conservative states in the USA have been running drug testing programs for welfare recipients over a number of years. Most of them have been shut down by the Courts as unconstitutional. Time Magazine reported on drug testing welfare recipients in August 2014 quoting examples such as Florida, which tested welfare recipients for four months in 2011 (before it was struck down in court as being unconstitutional) and found that 2.6% of the recipients tested positive to the welfare based drug testing regimen.

As an estimated 8% of the population of Florida were using illicit drugs in that period of time, either the welfare recipients were good at hiding their health issue, they couldn’t afford illicit drugs or generally drug taking behaviour is significantly under-represented in the population of welfare recipients. Regardless, the evidence from the period Florida drug tested welfare recipients clearly demonstrates that conservative legislators aren’t letting the facts interrupt a good ‘druggies on welfare’ story.

There is an alternative to the draconian law and order solution to the ‘drug’ problem. Portugal decriminalised personal possession of drugs in 2001. Those found with drugs are offered support to enter and complete a treatment program.

ABC’s Health Report explained the concept in 2009

Ten years ago Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe. Heroin use was out of control and the rate of HIV infections in drug users became a humanitarian crisis. So what did Portugal do? They decriminalised all personal drug use in that country, crack, heroin, LSD, you name it. Drugs are still illegal, but it’s no longer a crime to use them. Instead of jail, users and addicts are offered treatment and education.

Also in 2009, Time magazine reported on the results.

in the five years after personal possession was decriminalized, illegal drug use among teens in Portugal declined and rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled.

“Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success,” says Glenn Greenwald, an attorney, author and fluent Portuguese speaker, who conducted the research. “It has enabled the Portuguese government to manage and control the drug problem far better than virtually every other Western country does.”

Compared to the European Union and the U.S., Portugal’s drug use numbers are impressive. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The German media organisation Der Spiegel reported on the ‘Portugal experiment’ in 2013 (during the time of concern over the Portuguese economy) and concluded

“We haven’t found some miracle cure,” Goulão says. Still, taking stock after nearly 12 years, his conclusion is, “Decriminalization hasn’t made the problem worse.”

At the moment, Goulão’s greatest concern is the Portuguese government’s austerity policies in the wake of the euro crisis. Decriminalization is pointless, he says, without being accompanied by prevention programs, drug clinics and social work conducted directly on the streets. Before the euro crisis, Portugal spent €75 million ($98 million) annually on its anti-drug programs. So far, Goulão has only seen a couple million cut from his programs, but if the crisis in the country grows worse, at some point there may no longer be enough money.

Greens leader Richard De Natalie has a personal interest in drug reform and has visited Portugal to assess the effectiveness of the program.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Turnbull and Morrison chose to take the path where behaviour outside what they consider to be acceptable norms is punished severely, rather than assisting the victims to recover from an illness. When you think of it, Turnbull and Morrison’s policy of drug testing welfare recipients is not a new concept. Regardless of the reality, suggesting those on Newstart or Youth Allowance are ‘dole bludgers’ or ‘druggies’ will assist a conservative government to reduce assistance to this disadvantaged group of people in our society without a lot of their core constituency protesting that unemployed or underemployed are getting a raw deal.

It’s a similar concept to the 2014 budget attempt by Hockey to make those under 30 wait six months before they would receive unemployment benefits. There are also parallels to the ‘Basics Card’ (when some people’s welfare benefits are ‘income managed’ and paid directly to a EFTPOS card that cannot be used to obtain cash or purchase a host of items including alcohol, tobacco and gambling products) or labelling refugees as boat people, illegal immigrants, queue jumpers and so on as a justification for the horrific treatment (consisting of detention centres in foreign countries, legal fictions in regards to the Australian border and the actions of the black shirted militaristic ‘Border Force’).

Certainly, Turnbull’s response to the question, ‘why test welfare recipients for drug use?’ was more nuanced than the quote reprinted here – but there is clearly a better way than driving people who are abusing substances underground. It’s telling that George Christensen – presumably a victim of an addiction to a legal substance himself – has called for drug testing for welfare recipients (and politicians) over a number of years.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate for Christensen (who seems to have an addiction to food) and other similarly minded conservatives who have a ‘interesting relationship’ with alcohol to be musing on the axiom there but for the grace of God go I.

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

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Mining Company Offers To Take Away All The Stuff In My Garage!

My wife doesn’t like mess, so over the years I’ve moved a lot of stuff under the house. I’ve always intended to go through it and work out what’s worth keeping and what’s just junk but, as I’m a busy man, I just never get around to it.

Anyway, there’s this company who came along and said that they’ll take all the stuff, sort through it, sell what’s valuable and they’ll give me some of the money.

Well, this is a pretty good deal, right? I mean, I’ll never do actually do anything with it myself, so getting some money is better than no money. They estimate that it could be worth thousands of dollars. Millions even, depending on whether anyone actually wants to buy my early poetry and diaries from last century. But failing that, my eighties memorabilia is a hot item and they’ll have no trouble selling it.

I’ve agreed, but my wife is proving harder to convince. She’s a little upset because, in order to move the stuff, they want to build a path through our backyard.

“They’ll ruin the garden,” she told me, but I assured her that they’ve promised to restore the garden just as soon as they’ve got all the stuff.

“And they’re going to pay for the path through our garden,” I told her. “We only have to lend them the money.”

“Why do we have to lend them the money?” she wanted to know.

“Well, you don’t expect a bank to lend them the money, do you? Besides, a bank would make them pay interest and they don’t want to do that!”

Then she wanted to know how much we’d be getting.

“Well, I told them that a royalty of five dollars a day would be enough… But they don’t want to pay anything for the first month, because they’ll be setting up then and they’re not expecting to make money straight away… I didn’t agree to that, of course! I told them that they’d have to pay twenty cents a day from the moment that they’ve laid the path.”

My wife still didn’t think that it seemed like a good deal.

“Look,” I told her. “we’ve still got a mortgage and I’m only working part-time. Our son’s looking for more work. The company has told me that there’ll be dozens of jobs and that should help us all.”

“If you two are going to be doing the work anyway, why don’t you just do it and keep all the profit for yourself?” she wanted to know.

I patiently explained that we didn’t have the expertise.

She was silent for a moment. “Ok, but how do you know that you can trust this company?”

I told her the name, and she looked them up on the internet.

“They’ve been involved in some very dubious practises,” she informed me. “They’re under investigation for fraud and corruption charges.”

“But that shouldn’t be a problem. That was in another country.”

“Oh well, in that case, there’s no problem. Let’s tell them they can start tomorrow.”

“Unfortunately, we still have to get permission from our next door neighbours because they’ll have to knock down their fence and garden as well. And you know how they keep trying to tell us that their garden is… I don’t know, spiritual or something… We may have to get the law changed so that it can’t be blocked by people opposed to selling relics from the twentieth century. I mean, some people are just opposed to progress.”

“Perhaps you should go and explain to them how important this is and how they may get jobs from it.”

“No, they seem to think that some things are more important than jobs and money.”

“Well, they’re right. Some things are more important than that.”

I stopped the conversation there. There was no point continuing if my wife was just going to be irrational.

Day to Day Politics: Malcolm Turnbull. How wrong I was.

Sunday May 21 2017

Author’s note: Is it my age or does time seem to just go quicker? When this morning I looked at what I had written on the corresponding day last year I was really amazed that what follows I had practically written a year ago. Even more amazing was that when I re-read it I was even more taken by how little has happened. The governance of the country has gotten worse. Note the mention of Peter Dutton and compare it with recent happenings.

What a fraud the Prime Minister has turned out to be

1 When Malcolm Turnbull came to power, I like many others naively thought that after Abbott’s confrontational gutter style politics we would see a new era in the practice of political discourse. Not exactly a lovey dovey one but at least it would be sensible and reasoned. After all, Malcolm for some time had been doing the rounds of media programs espousing his own particular brand of diplomatic civility. He was overwhelming seen as the conservative leader we had to have. At the time I wrote:

”Conversely, Malcolm Turnbull, will it appears, obtain the office with a calculated mixture of personal charm, reasonableness, and consummate diplomacy. He presents a façade of calm confidence and understanding in stark contrast to Abbott who shows all of the traits of a man who has lost control of his emotions”

The Saturday Paper in December 2016 said this of Turnbull:

”He has worked up a lovely public persona: as cultured as Keating but blessed with a kinder sense of humor; as intelligent as Rudd but far from as malevolent. And somehow, with his green-froth-drinking diet success and his endearing leather jackets and business shirts, his Stephen Fry-like adoration of gadgets and mastery of social media, his raffish smile and mellifluous voice, he has formed the perfect personality for most popular, and probably most trusted, politician in the nation”.

How wrong we were. Since coming to power he has proven to be a hypocrite and a fraud. Policies and beliefs he held for many years were ditched without as much as a hiccup when the far right nutters of his party demanded it. Consistently he has caved in on policies contrary to his beliefs.

When he allows and condones the xenophobic racist rhetoric of the immigration minister Peter Dutton any thoughts I had left that he might bring a new era of politics have been finally laid to rest.

I had thought there was a possibility of the election being about a contest of policies and ideas, the means to implement them together with the means to pay.

But Turnbull in utter desperation has played the racist card. He has allowed Dutton with his nefarious mouth to spew out racist talk like a daily shower of offensiveness that rains down on an unwitting society every day.

Dutton’s remarks about refugees were deeply offensive to the historically compassionate immigration program of both parties. An effective program that has helped Australia to become a multi-cultural success.

Not only did Turnbull express his agreement with Dutton’s remarks but said he was an outstanding minister. How crass he is. Pauline Hanson’s eyes would be popping out of her head with delight.

Turnbull was often critical of the politics of division thinly directing them at Tony Abbott. What a fraud he is.

Michael Gordon in an article for The Canberra Times said this:

”But, no, Prime Minister, the 25 Labor MPs you say are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ are not in open mutiny over Bill Shorten’s (and Labor’s) commitment to turning back the boats and offshore processing (notwithstanding the breathless headlines in the Herald Sun)”

”Many have done nothing more than express similar sentiments to you, like when you told Fran Kelly you ‘sympathise with, and grieve for’ the ‘mental anguish’ that so many on Nauru and Manus Island have had inflicted on them”.

The 25 Labor MPs mentioned are guilty of nothing more than harbouring humanitarian instincts.

An observation.

”Power is a malevolent possession when you are prepared to forgo your principles and your country’s wellbeing for the sake of it”.

2 The latest Essential Poll has Labor on 51% and the Coalition on 49%. The interesting thing is that for the first time we find Malcolm Turnbull dipping into net negative territory on personal approval for the first time. This can only be as a result of his hypocrisy

3 Craig Emerson tweeted:

”Rolling out Dutton so early in the campaign to vilify refugees with PM saying he’s an ‘’outstanding Minister suggests bad internal polling”.

Sean Kelly of The Monthly today makes the observation:

”Those who follow election campaigns know that early every morning the strategists of all parties get together to analyse and pinpoint the topic of the day. What you want the public to focus on is the most important decision of the day. Liberal strategists have been focusing on background briefings to the media for some time. They tell them that any day where the focus is on Asylum Seekers is a good one for the government.

Coincidently the day the Prime Minister attacks Labor immigration policy the Liberal Party’s pollster Mark Textor writes an article about how a party can win a political battle not by winning the political that day, but by pushing an issue on which it has an advantage to the heart of the debate”.

Strange how the planets can align so coincidently.

4 Did you know that during the last English election all three political leaders signed a pledge to tackle Climate Change? Are we really so stupid not to?

5 “When it comes down to a beauty parade for who’s best qualified to educate the children of Australia, I’ll pick the teachers and curriculum experts over the right-wing of the Liberal Party every time” (Labor leader Bill Shorten when asked about funding the Safe Schools program past 2017).

My thought for the day.

”Nothing matters in life so much as to live it decently. And you don’t need any form of religious belief to do so. Be as humane as you can possibly be”.

PS: The AFP have been given access to James Ashby’s old mobile phone records. Watch this space!

Day to Day Politics: A case of B&A

Saturday 20 May 2017

On Wednesday May 17 I wrote a piece titled ”What if Shorten …?” in which I canvassed what might have been the public reaction had the Leader of the Opposition taken a different tack in his Budget in Reply speech. I suggested that he might have gotten greater traction had he more aggressively said that in essence the conservatives had stolen well known thought out Labor policies. Sure they may have been Labor lite and didn’t represent Labor one hundred per cent but none the less were plagiarised.

I copped a bit of flak for what some thought was a criticism of Bill Shorten. It wasnt , and how people could have interpreted it so is beyond me. But that aside the next day Anthony Albanese in a speech to the Transport Workers Union in Perth, entertained my very sentiments.

There were two distinct approaches. On the one hand Shorten chose to say that the policies bore no resemblance to Labor policy. He was not wrong to do so because they didn’t. It just came over as a Labor lite reply.

On the other hand both I and Albanese reckoned we should say that A, they had stolen Labor policy and B, that we deny that it was the real McCoy.

Albanese said that the Labor Party ”should celebrate our victories”, in this case the ”ideological surrender” of the Coalition.

I had said that ”I don’t think I have ever seen a party so obstinately betray its own ideology and deliver a socialist budget. However lite.”

Albanese went on to say that  ”The way forward for Labor is to accept [the conservatives’] rhetorical conversion and triple our pressure for investment, while continuing to argue the case for further progressive reform.”

Shorten had spent the whole week arguing against the idea that the budget had even the faintest resemblance to Labor’s policies on the NDIS, education, infrastructure and health.

My whole point was, what if he had ripped into them with the truth of it. That they were so bankrupt of ideas that they had to pinch Labor’s, but even then they couldn’t bring themselves to go the whole way. What a bunch of liars and hypocrites they are. After telling us for years that it was only by cutting spending that we could get the budget back in the black.

I was just pointing out that there was an alternative method and, and it’s not too late to attack the Conservatives with it..

“Budget 2017 was an overwhelming victory for the Australian Labor Party and the broader labour movement,” Albanese said.

“It was the budget of ideological surrender”.

“We in the Labor Party and the broader labour movement should celebrate our victories.”

In contrast Shorten said the budget was an “admission of guilt” and fundamentally unfair, and rejected suggestions it was a “Labor lite” document.

He had missed an opportunity to damage the Coalition brand permanently.

Albo put it this way and I agree.

”The way forward for Labor is to accept [the conservatives’] rhetorical conversion and triple our pressure for investment, while continuing to argue the case for further progressive reform.”

Labor, in my view, should over the next few months seek to take back the policy initiative from the coalition and repetitively call them frauds without policies. And talk of a challenge to the leadership is just silly.

My thought for the day.

”I find it impossible to imagine that the Australian people would be so gullible as to elect for a third term a government that has performed so miserably in the first two. But they might”

 

 

Trump awards himself Medal of Honor

In breaking satirical news the White House announced this morning that Trump has decided to award himself the highest medal for bravery in action against an enemy force – the Medal of Honor.

Appearing briefly in the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump announced that after careful consideration, he had decided that there is nobody more deserving than himself to receive this award.

In a short speech, Trump said: “No commander-in- chief of the US army and navy has ever come under such relentless fire from the greatest enemy of the American people – the fake news media.

And no commander-in-chief before me has ever had to fight such injustice and done so with such courage. To recognise these tremendous acts of valour, I have today awarded myself the highest military decoration – the Medal of Honor”.

When asked what had led to this award, Trump replied: “No politician in history has ever been treated worse or more unfairly than I have. Everybody thinks so. While former politicians throughout history have been locked up for years, tortured, beheaded and even hung, drawn and quartered – none of them has ever had to endure the lies of CNN, the taunts of Stephen Colbert or the terrible acting of Alec Baldwin on SNL.”

Trump continued: “In my time as President I have had to withstand slings, arrows and even the threat of being burned at the stake by the ridiculous fake news media. But I endure it all for my people – the people who voted for me – and I know that they would want me to have this Medal.”

The White House confirmed that they are having a special Medal made up for Trump. It will be made of pure gold and be twice as big as the standard Medal of Honor.

Trump is expected to hold a special ceremony to award himself the Medal when he returns from his overseas trip. Fox News and the Russian media will be the only press allowed at this event.

The ceremony will be followed by a brief celebration where Trump is expected to be served three scoops of ice cream and an extra large glass of coke with his cake.

This satirical article was first published on ProgressiveConversation

Incompetence and Expediency

Despite overly optimistic, but what should be called laughable forecasts in the budget, wage growth in Australia is now the lowest it has been since the mid-1990s. And it’s not hard to see why.

Private-sector annual wages growth, at the March 2017 quarter, was 1.8%. The latest labour force data released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a modest decline in the unemployment rate from 5.9% to 5.7%.

The reason is, full time employment fell by 11,600 jobs, and part-time employment increased 49,000. As a consequence total hours worked fell by 0.12%. But here’s the kicker. Underemployment rose by 0.1% and there are now over 1.8 million Australians who a) want to work and b) want more working hours, but are under-utilised.

In seasonally-adjusted terms, 58 per cent of the net jobs created in Australia in the last 12 months have been part-time. When one grasps the reality of this depressing state of affairs, it is not hard to see why wages growth is so low.

When Scott Morrison brought down his fiscal statement (budget) last week, he predicted wages growth over the forward estimates to be 3.5%. This then, is factored into the tax revenue estimates and the broader bottom line. His projected surplus in 2020-21 is based on a wage explosion. That is the stuff of fantasyland.

It is laughable to the point of negligent. It’s as if a bottom line figure was established first and the rest put together to justify it. This is the way of it with the present government. It is incompetence and expediency played out to mask any realistic plan for job creation.

They simply do not know what to do, or do not want to. Either way, they are traitors to the nation they govern. The participation rate while steady at 64.8 per cent is well down on the most recent peak in November 2010 of 65.8 per cent when the labour market was still recovering from Kevin Rudd’s fiscal stimulus.

The answer, therefore, is blindingly obvious. Unless the government undertakes a significant spending program, targeted to soak up the idle capacity in our workforce, Scott Morrison’s budget estimates will not be realised.

There is no evidence that there is sufficient activity planned in the budget that will make this happen, even allowing for the additional infrastructure allocation announced last week. It is too little and too remote.

Despite the bluff and bluster coming from both Turnbull and Morrison, the economy is going nowhere. In the meantime, a debt burdened private sector is drifting precariously toward a precipice that has the capacity to cause a monumental economic collapse.

And we can’t say we didn’t see it coming.

Day to Day Politics: It’s all just so obscene.

Friday 19 May 2017

It has been known for years that besides the terrible incarceration inflicted on people who have not committed any crime it has been the conservatives intent to make their conditions so deplorable that they just give up.

Bleak and brutal conditions are fashioned so as to break the spirit and dehumanise the individual so that suicide seems the only option. People like Peter Dutton create these environments of self-harm and human despair. The apathy of it is reflected in the faces of the Australian people.

The Guardian reports that:

“Confidential documents from inside Australia’s offshore detention centre on Manus Island reveal bleak and brutal conditions inside, including persistently high rates of self-harm, repeated suicide attempts, regular violent and sexual assaults, and warnings of an emerging culture of drug use by staff and detainees.

Incident reports obtained by the Guardian show that on several occasions, four men in detention on Manus have attempted suicide and self-harm in a single day. In one week, 16 self-harm and suicide attempts were recorded by authorities.”

And did I hear that the Minister has been given $250 million to upgrade his offices.

Rather obscene, I should think.

2 With special counsel appointed to oversee probe Russia’s involvement with Trump American politics is becoming the never-ending scandal story with the President playing a leading role. The justice Department has picked former prosecutor and FBI director Mueller to lead the investigation.

In another emerging scandal it’s now claimed that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill in June 2016 with his fellow GOP leaders. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan interjected and stopped the conversation from exploring McCarthy’s assertion, saying: ”No leaks. This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

How ironic it would be if James Comey becomes the man who saved America and the world from the presidencies of both Clinton and Trump.

Will it take the FBI to do what America’s dysfunctional major political parties could not?

Look forward to the next exciting episode of ”The White House Needs a Plumber.”

3 Australia, not to be left behind in the scandal stakes has a major one of its own.

Adam Cranston, the 30-year-old son of deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston is among nine people arrested over an alleged $165-million fraud syndicate following 30 AFP raids across Sydney on Wednesday.

Turnbull’s comments on the midday news: “it shows the system is working.” Please explain. Not clear for whom the system is working for.

It seems the Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston is to be charged in connection with an alleged $165 million tax fraud syndicate. Police have described it as one of the biggest white collar fraud investigations in Australian history.

Among the items seized under proceeds of crime were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

All a bit obscene, I think.

4 Health funds are apparently overseen by regulators, including APRA, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and made $1.4 billion to April 2017. The funds lobbied heavily for the latest 4.8 per cent increase in premiums to battle what it called the “relentless upward curve of health inflation.”

In 2016, the government waved through a 6 per cent increase, with premiums rising a cumulative 28 per cent since 2012.

A bit obscene, I should think.

5 It seems the people building Australia’s high-speed broadband network, the NBN  has 5000 staff, and is spending more on coffee than all other major government departments and agencies, which have a combined total of about 155,000 staff. $447 thousand on coffee.

An obscene use of taxpayer’s money.

6 It seems Anthony Albanese agrees with my thought that That Bill Shorten should have gone in harder with his budgets reply speech. Yes let the people know that the Liberals are pinching Labor policies.

“We should celebrate our victories,” said Albo.

7 Wage growth figures show that we have entered negative real wage growth where wages are not even matching inflation. The cost of living is now soaring.

Yes, that is obscene.

8 Donald Trump now reckons he is the worst treated politician in history. With apologies to the three who were assinated I hope.

Now that is obscene.

9 Cory Bernardi says Liberals flocking to Australian Conservatives. 700 Have signed on. Don’t laugh. Given the size of the Liberal membership that’s a fair chunk.

My thought for the day.

“John Lord wants to write something positive about Australian politics.”

Is that obscene?

 

The broody hen sitting on a huge pile of our money

After Peter Costello conducted a fire sale of our assets while stashing away surpluses from the mining boom, he put aside over $60 billion of our money to establish the Future Fund.  This has now grown to $130 billion.

We are told the purpose of this fund is to pay for “unfunded Commonwealth superannuation liabilities.”

As all employers, including the government, are required to pay the superannuation guarantee into their employees’ super funds, how can there be an unfunded liability?  There is a continuous stream of income into superannuation funds.

As a sovereign currency issuing nation, it is impossible for us to be unable to meet this obligation.

Along with the Future Fund, Costello’s crowd are responsible for investing the DisabilityCare Australia Fund, the Medical Research Future Fund, the Building Australia Fund and the Education Investment Fund – a further $18 billion.

So what are they doing with this $148 billion?

The following are the returns achieved in 2015-16 and the current balance as at March 31, 2017:

FUTURE FUND   4.8%   A$129.6bn

MEDICAL RESEARCH FUTURE FUND   2.1%   A$4.6bn

DISABILITYCARE AUSTRALIA FUND   2.5%   A$6.2bn

BUILDING AUSTRALIA FUND   2.5%   A$3.8bn

EDUCATION INVESTMENT FUND   2.6%   A$3.8bn

Not only are the returns woeful, the expenses for running this fund are exorbitant.

In the year ended 30 June 2016, expenses for wages, management fees, performance bonuses, brokerage fees and the like were over $288 million, down from $316 million in 2015.

The Australian reported that three Future Fund employees earned salaries ranging from $1.058m to $1.235m last year, while more than $10m was paid out in performance bonuses to Future Fund staff in 2015-16.

“All permanently employed staff at the Agency at the reporting date are eligible to receive an entitlement to a performance related payment as approved by the Board. Employees who receive an entitlement may elect to have the entitlement converted to cash and paid to them. Alternatively, they may defer part or all of the payment for an initial two year period and receive a commitment from the Agency to pay them a future amount which will be dependent on the performance of the Fund over this two year period.”

As the majority of fund investments are in other countries, they also paid $62 million in tax to foreign governments in 2015-16.  In 2015 they lost $2.7 billion on foreign currency exchanges.

As at June 30, 2016, 21.7% of the funds assets were held in cash.

In the budget it was revealed that the $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund the government promised would find a cure for cancer won’t deliver the $1 billion promised for medical research by 2020 because of poor earnings.

Research Australia says while the government has banked $4.6 billion in health savings in the scheme it has so far released just $125 million in research funding.

Also in the budget was the government commitment to delay drawing down from the Future Fund until at least 2027 rather than 2020 as originally legislated allowing it to build to a projected $300 billion by 2027-28.

Whilst Peter Costello sits on this huge pile of money like a broody hen, the total face value of CGS on issue (gross debt) is projected to rise from $537 billion in 2017-18 to $725 billion by 2027-28.  The Government’s total interest payments in 2017-18 are estimated to be $16.6 billion rising to over $20 billion in 2020-21.

Surely this money could be better invested.

House prices in Sydney grew by 19% and in Melbourne by 16% over the year ending March 2017.  Couldn’t we use several billion to buy or build some affordable housing?  The government would benefit from income tax returns from those employed in construction, maintenance and management.  The Future Fund would benefit from rents and capital gains.  The citizens would benefit from having somewhere affordable to live with the security of long term leases and regulated prices.

The dollar return on investment in education, health and research is way beyond the paltry returns the funds are currently achieving.

Instead of investing overseas, losing money on foreign exchange rates and paying tax to other governments (they are exempt from tax here), they could be building Australian infrastructure like the High Speed Rail and an NBN that actually works.  They could be the ones to invest in our air and sea ports and electricity grids.  They could have bought the Kidman farm rather than giving it to the Chinese via Gina.  Instead of paying hundreds of millions to middlemen brokers, they could be investing in profitable assets.

Speaking at the Australian Shareholders Association Conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, Peter Costello welcomed the Turnbull government’s decision to lower the funds’ targets in line with a low-return investment environment.

Rather than accepting this misappropriation and mismanagement of our money, we should be putting it to work to benefit current and future generations.

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