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Category Archives: News and Politics

Reducing Energy Prices And Getting The Debt and Deficit Under Control or Back To The Future XXIV

Let’s jump in the Delorean and take a little trip back to 2013…

We’re heading for an election and Tony Abbott is making his big pitch. Let’s just have a quick look at what he saw as the big issues:

Early on in his speech he told us, “This election is about making a great country even better; and that starts with changing the worst government in our history.” 

Well, I think we’d all have to agree that whoever was the worst government in our history at the time he made that statement, it’s certainly moved into second place… Or fourth, if you want to count the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison revolving door as three separate governments.

He then went on with a series of promises:

  • “We’ll abolish the carbon tax so power prices and gas prices will go down.” Mm that worked well. Still, Mr Morrison is now working on a new plan so that gas prices will go down some time in the future. After his government – or someone else – builds a gas-fired power plant which he announced his intention to come up with a plan if nobody else did. 
  • “We’ll cut the company tax rate because, as the former Treasury Chief has said, the main beneficiaries will be workers.” Yeah, lucky workers! 
  • “We’ll move the workplace relations pendulum back to the sensible centre, restore a strong cop-on-the-beat in the construction industry, and hit dodgy union officials with the same penalties as corporate crooks.” So he intended to let dodgy union officials off with a stern talking to.
  • I want us to be a better country, not just a richer one, but you don’t build a better society by issuing a press release.” Scott Morrison knows this too, and if building a better society was his intention then we’d get more than the odd announcement. Actually, lately we’ve been getting announcements about the coming announcements. 
  • “The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will cease making non-commercial loans with taxpayers’ money.” Yes, loans need to be paid back and we don’t want our friends being burdened with a debt when they oould just as easily give the Liberal party a donation.
  • “The NBN will have a new business plan to ensure that every household gains five times current broadband speeds – within three years and without digging up almost every street in Australia – for $60 billion less than Labor.” Do I need to say anything here?
  • “By the end of a Coalition government’s first term, the budget will be on-track to a believable surplus.” Excellent, so when does that first term end again. Or did he mean the second term when the surplus was believable because there were all those coffee mugs saying “Back in Black”. Of course, they were referring to the mug itself, but you’ve always got to check the fine print. 
  • We’ll delay the superannuation guarantee levy increase because it’s another cost that small business can’t afford right now.” Or when Howard was first elected. Remember, he changed the legislation too. So we had it delayed until this term when  – surprise, surprise, surprise – we can’t afford it because it would be better for workers to get a pay rise. Let’s remember that when the government makes its submission to the next minimum wage hearing. 
  • “We’ll have a more functional federation where the states are sovereign in their own sphere.” But not if they shut their borders!
  • “Starting next year, I will work to recognise indigenous people in the constitution – something that should have been done a century ago that would complete our constitution rather than change it.” That went well. 
  • “As long as I am in public life, I will continue to spend a week a year in a remote indigenous community as I’ve done over the past decade.” He seems to have left “public life” before he left Parliament!
  • We will be a no surprises, no excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future.” No excuses, but it was Labor’s fault you know, so don’t blame us for anything ever!
  • “In 2007, Labor told you to trust Kevin Rudd, and you know what happened to him then. In 2010, Labor told you to trust Julia Gillard and you know what happened to her. Now Labor is telling you to trust Kevin Rudd again – but the one thing you know is that you can’t trust what Labor tells you.” And Labor told us not to trust Tony Abbott and look how that turned out…
  • The current government has turned a $20 billion surplus into deficits stretching out as far as the eye can see.” Given the eye can’t see into the future, that was shouldn’t have been very far at all, but…

Yes, it’s a speech that stood the test of time… If by time you mean until ten minutes after Abbott was elected. However, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say who knows what would have happened if they’d left Tony there until the next election. He may have succeeded in such things as knighting Donald Trump…

But it was the energy prices that got me checking the speech. I seemed to remember that a large chunk of the 2013 election was taken up with talk about how the carbon “tax” was sending energy prices through the roof and if we could just abolish it, everything would be hunky dory.

Of course we later moved on to Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee which wanted power generating companies to have both a reliability and an emissions reduction component. However, the Liberal Party decided that they’d prefer a Turnbull reduction and promptly replaced him as PM. Scott Morrison hoped that the whole thing would go away and he tried to ignore it, before eventually deciding that he didn’t want a better society because he did something that Abbott told us wouldn’t lead to one: he issued a press release on 23rd October 2018, which told us:

“Other measures announced today by the Morrison Government that will bring prices down and increase reliability are:

  • Stopping price gouging by the big energy companies. This includes banning sneaky late payment penalties and making energy retailers pass on savings in wholesale prices to customers. It will increase regulator’s power to crack down on dodgy, anti-competitive practices – through fines, penalties, enforceable undertakings, structural separation and divestiture. We have already seen prices come down in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales on 1 July 2018, and we have directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to monitor electricity prices until 2025 to ensure prices are fairer for consumers.
  • Backing investment in new power generators to improve competition. Underwriting new electricity generation will attract investment in the electricity market, increasing supply and reducing wholesale electricity prices. The Government will consult on the Underwriting New Generation Investments program, with submissions open until 9 November 2018. Based on feedback from the consultation, the Government will release initial program guidelines and invite proponents to nominate projects through an expression of interest process open from December 2018 to January 2019.
  • Supporting reliable power by requiring energy companies to sign contracts guaranteeing enough energy to meet demand. We will work with state and territory governments through the COAG Energy Council to ensure these contracts are signed.”

So, as you can see, Morrison recent announcement doesn’t come out of the blue. They’ve had processes to back investment in new power generation all the way back to when Scott Morrison first took over as PM. I wonder why they aren’t just going back and having a look at who “nominated projects through an expression of interest process’ which shut on 2019…

Anyway, this latest proposal should go a long way towards helping get us out of the current recession. There’s nothing like a power plant that hasn’t been built for bringing down energy prices. I can’t work out why some people are being cynical about it!

Ok, back into the Delorean. I’d make a little trip into the future to see when the plant is actually built, but there may not be enough fuel in the universe to get there and back!

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Thinktank validates that JobKeeper and JobSeeker cuts are lethal

By William Olson  

Unemployment figures for the month of August may look good on the surface, but when the impending cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker hit at the end of September, that will present a perilous impact to the Australian economy that may very well nullify any small inroads to recovery, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) said on Thursday.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the nation’s unemployment rate dipped 0.7 per cent over the last month, from 7.5 to 6.8 per cent – however, the under-employment rate remained virtually the same with 1.5 million workers classified as casuals or part-time workers working less than 20 hours per week, and 3.5 million workers still reliant on the JobKeeper subsidy.

And as the Morrison government’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg even confesses that the “real” rate of unemployment exists between 13 or 14 per cent, Michele O’Neil, the ACTU president, maintains that it is a dire error of judgement for Frydenberg, Morrison, and other federal cabinet members to agree to make cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker at this juncture of the nation’s pandemic response and in the middle of its economic recession as well.

“Working people need the Morrison Government to continue the stimulus, and provide certainty about what comes next,” O’Neil said on Thursday upon the release of the updated unemployment figures.

“We are still in the middle of this crisis and the Morrison Government is already trying to cut vital supports for working people and the unemployed. If you don’t protect working people they cannot protect the economy,” O’Neil added.

The ACTU further cites findings from the McKell Institute, a progressive institution for research dedicated towards providing innovative solutions for public policy challenges, that forecasts with $300 per fortnight being slashed from any single worker’s JobKeeper subsidy as of September 28th, the damage to the Australian economy could run as high as $760 million per week, or $1.52 billion.

“JobKeeper cannot continue forever. Beyond its expense, it also injects genuine distortions into the labour market, dissuading labour mobility and enabling potentially unviable enterprises to continue,” concluded Edward Cavanough, the director of policy at the McKell Institute, in the institute’s research paper “Crossing The Fiscal Cliff”, a text which delves deeper into the impact of the impending JobKeeper cuts.

“In good economic times, these distortions would ensure the program would never be enacted – but these are not good economic times.

“Unfortunately, the significance of the COVID-19 recession is such that any premature withdrawal of fiscal support is likely to further delay the road to recovery for the Australian economy,” added Cavanough.

From a state-by-state analysis via the ABS, unemployment figures dipped in every Australian state and territory bar Victoria – where Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions in the state’s regional areas were cited as causes for higher unemployment – and New South Wales.

Cavanough and the McKell Institute concur, further forecasting that based on the JobKeeper cuts to over a million employees receiving the subsidy, the Victorian economy stands to be hit to the rate of over $440 million alone by virtue of those receiving the payments once the cuts take effect.

In New South Wales and the ACT, where over 1.3 million workers are receiving JobKeeper, its recipients will be over $580 million worse off collectively.

“Vulnerable workers, already struggling through this pandemic, should not have to take a massive hit to their take-home pay,” Tony Burke, the shadow minister for industrial relations and manager of opposition business, said at the end of August when Labor was attempting to fight the government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker cuts with legislative action which ultimately failed.

“Low paid workers deserve better than to have their wages cut at a time that business is recovering,” Burke added.

Another Labor frontbencher, Brendan O’Connor, the shadow minister for employment, puts a different perspective on the current unemployment numbers.

Instead of looking at them on a month-to-month basis like the Morrison government and the ABS have done, O’Connor sums up the numbers as what has happened as of March, when the COVID-19 pandemic

In that time, over 400,000 jobs have been lost, contributing to the current status of 923,000 persons in Australia out of work.

And O’Connor says that the government has failed in its duties to stimulate growth in the economy by tackling the unemployment crisis to a greater extent than what has been exhibited so far.

“Instead of a jobs plan, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg want to wind back JobKeeper, cut super, cut wages, freeze the pension, point the finger and shift the blame,” O’Connor said on Thursday.

“Australians need and deserve a plan from the Morrison Government to promote growth, protect and create jobs, support business and set us all up for the recovery,” added O’Connor.

The ACTU has – on numerous occasions – offered a jobs-based plan to the government via its National Economic Reconstruction Plan (NERP) blueprint to stimulate the economy, but has been knocked back at every hurdle.

But from its advocacy position, the ACTU persists to offer the NERP up to the government, even for consideration of inclusion in the Federal Budget in a few weeks’ time, strong in its collective convictions that it represents the best foot forward.

“We cannot slump back into the same spiral of insecure work and low wage growth. This recovery is an opportunity to improve the quality and security of jobs,” O’Neil said.

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Low hanging fruit

By John Haly  

Disparaging the unemployed youth as lazy, pampered and opposed to hard work is a conservative mantra. Conscripting youth into the army (as Jacqui Lambert would have it) or off to rural farms to do hard graft, has been a talking point for years amongst conservatives.

This opinion has been prevalent during the pandemic associated with mass disappearance of jobs. Senator Gerard Rennick and Colin Boyce MP have respectively expressed these views, in Facebook posts from 16th Aug and 6th Sept 2020.

Similar views are echoed in the Courier Mail articles they posted. “Unemployed youth should be conscripted” by Peter Gleeson and “Crops rot as lazy young Aussies snub lucrative hard work” by Michael Madigan. The first article discussed claims Unions are calling for an end to the working holiday Visa because of exploitation of backpackers on Farms.

Despite the hyperbole, unions were asking for a reformed Visa system, rather than terminating the Visa. This distinction was missed by Peter Gleeson who dismissed union concerns about exploitation with the phrase, “What bulldust“. However, other Murdoch news sources have acknowledged systemic abuse problems when promoting a documentary about Backpacker abuse. Sydney Criminal Lawyers have also documented visa abuse by farmers as has the ABC and business-oriented websites. So, sorry, Peter, these union claims are not “bulldust“. The federal ministers supporting these stories should know that because of their Federal paper on the subject “Labour exploitation and Australia’s visa framework“.

The second story by Michael Madigan implies typically extravagant wages of $3800 are being offered by farmers desperate to find workers. Both articles have exaggerated the earning capacity of a good fruit picker (although Peter’s article “modestly” claims that farmworkers can earn up to $1500 a week). According to Madigan’s article, Gavin Scurr managing director of Piñata Farms (a multi-million dollar business) said, “We recently paid a worker $3800 for a weeks work recently, and that is a top pick up working six days a week, probably around 10 hours a day,…”. Now on that basis, one might be forgiven for presuming that you can earn $63 an hour for picking strawberries. This assumption would reflect a misunderstanding of how much growers pay their workers. Despite both Michael and Peter’s claim that farmworkers can earn extravagant amounts of money, it is somewhat contrary to the Horticulture Industry Award of $19.49 for full-time or $24.36 an hour for casuals.

None of these articles mentions the practice of bonus payments paid on top, of a meagre base pay rate. Performance bonuses are only given to their top picker to encourage competition amongst the workers. Neither do these articles mention the standard rate paid, to everyone else who picks fruit. It is only about the total paid to a single worker who had – in the case of Piñata Farms – worked a sixty-hour week for a farmer who “turns over more than $50 million a year and employs 70 full-time staff and 300 seasonal workers.” Contrast this with the projected cash income for Australian farms of an “average $216,000 per farm in 2016–17, the highest recorded in the past 20 years,” cited by the Department of Agriculture.

At least Peter’s claim of $1500 a week is possible if – at $25/hr – the casual worker picks for 60 hours a week. However, maintaining that level of manual labour on a farm would be unsustainable. Which is presumably why Piñata Farms paid one of their workers who did precisely that, a huge bonus, as per Madigan’s article.

Is the picture of the real potential earning for casual farm worker, gaining any more clarity now?

 

Senator Rennick’s FB protest disparaging Australian Youth

Colin Boyce’s FB protest disparaging Australian Youth

Why is it a backpacker industry?

Lower rates of pay than are legislated, are typical as many citizen’s confirmed on Colin Boyce MP’s Facebook feed. So why do backpackers take on this work? To qualify for the second Working Holiday Visa (subclass 417) applicants have to finish three months (or 88 days to be exact) of regional farm work in the country. The Visa promotes specific jobs such as fruit picking and packing, trimming vines, fishing, working in tree farming, or working in mining. Backpackers put up with being paid under the award and overcharged for food and accommodation and even sexually exploited. With backpackers in short supply, our politicians are suggesting the use of the “many young, pampered Australians [who] have an aversion to hard work.

 

Selected social media comments on Colin Boyce’s FB page

 

Australian youth who are not seasoned backpackers, face relocation issues, such as the costs associated with travel, accommodation and feeding themselves while on a farm, which would diminish their earnings considerably. Although being accustomed to the poverty level of dole payments have presumably inured them to scrape by on very little. Current travel restrictions prevalent under pandemic conditions would limit Australian youth to work on farms only in their State. Is seeking minimum wages in an industry well known for underpayment, exploitation and poor working conditions the best we can do for our young Australians?

Senator Gerard Rennick echoing these sentiments elicited reaction to his post varying from gratuitous approval like, “Totally agree with this…” to criticism noting why relocation and picking work was fraught with problematic issues. These included the propensity for exploitation and anecdotal stories of the poor working conditions on farms.

Dubious claims that CQ with 4.4% of State pop’ is a booming jobs zone

Logistic Viability

Is farm work a viable option to occupy our “indolent” and unemployed youth, irrespective of possible low pay rates?

Total unemployment is massive under the pandemic. Historically, it has not dipped under a million workers since May 2012, and it did so, only for that month, according to Roy Morgan. For regular numbers below one million you have has to look back before September 2011. ABS only reports half the numbers of domestic unemployment because of their international methodology, which I have explained previously.

 

Under/Unemployment and Job Vacancies under the coalition

 

Youth unemployment (15-24 yrs) has had a long history of being more than twice as high percentage-wise as the national average, even by ABS’s low standards. Which in July 2020 measured 16.3% of the youth labour market (Table 13) or 345,900 people.

 

ABS Youth Unemployment compared to all

Youth Unemployment

So what are the job prospects for this mostly unskilled market of unemployed youth? Are there plenty of jobs in the market?

The Government publishes such data every month in the IVI job vacancy statistics. Under the classification of Labourers, there is a sub-classification for “Farm, Forestry and Garden” Workers. Early September’s seasonally adjusted figures show that in July of 2020 there were 750 such jobs advertised in a class of general unskilled labourers of 10261 vacancies, that were a subset of total job vacancies advertised in Australia of 131072. Unemployment figures, according to Roy Morgan in July were 1,786,000 although the August figures (at the time of writing) were released showing a rise to 1,980,000 people. So from July’s perspective, we can note that farm labour vacancies represent 7.3% of general unskilled labour and 0.57% of all job vacancies advertised.

ABS Youth Employment/Unemployment and unskilled Labour jobs

 

Keep in mind that the IVI job statistics only drill down to the level of “Farm, Forestry and Garden” Workers which means that Farmworkers specifically are a subset of that 0.57% of Australia wide job vacancies. Given that the Courier Mail stories are spruiking the idea that Australians should be taking up these jobs, I think it is also safe to suggest farmers have been increasing their advertising for workers.

No matter how you cut the numbers and consider all the variables of remote location, physical suitability, skill limits, accessibility limitations, competition, financial limits, of young people; coupled with accounts of employer discrimination, exploitation, feeble pay and working conditions; one has to ask this question. Is the conscription of young people or shaming them into compliance, the best possible recourse of action, for which our political senators and ministers should be lobbying?

There are far greater vacancies in other industries. Should not these parliamentarians not be focusing on where the greatest needs are? Not that farmer’s needs are illegitimate because they are not. These crops do need to be harvested. But professional job roles like engineers, scientists, Health (particularly now), ICT, Lawyers and the like for which there are at least 39580 jobs advertised or 30% of the job market. Managerial roles have 13800 job vacancies (10.5%); Technical and trade workers have 18194 job vacancies (13.8%); Community and personal services workers have 12821 job vacancies (9.8%); Clerical and Administrative workers have 18655 job vacancies (14.2%). These jobs need an educated population to fill them so a better focus for young people would be – one might presume – to promote policies to make education more universally available to young Australians.

Instead, our political conservatives and Murdoch media are focused on the largest unemployed group in Australia to fill jobs in one of the smallest markets for jobs in the country. Dare I make the pun, that there will be no bonuses for your work ethics as you’re all targeting, the easy pickings of the lowest hanging fruit!

This article was originally publish on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches.

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They built a disastrous NBN and now they think they can build a power station. Wow.

While the evidence for climate change continues to be reconfirmed by science annually and catastrophic events become the norm, I am reminded of the words of Malcolm Turnbull when he was defeated by Tony Abbott:

“Many Liberals are rightly dismayed that on this vital issue of climate change we are not simply without a policy, without any prospect of having a credible policy but we are now without integrity. We have given our opponents the irrefutable, undeniable evidence that we cannot be trusted.

As we are being blunt, the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.”

There exists in the Coalition Party Room at least 50% of its members who are fervent climate deniers. They will have nothing to do with the science.”

Now well into their third term nothing has changed. When the world has acknowledged that renewable energy is the most cost-effective means of acquiring power the now conservative Liberal Party are wanting to build a gas-powered power station to:

“… replace the ageing Liddell Power Station by the summer of 2023–24, or else the federal government will have the Commonwealth-owned Snowy Hydro company build a new gas-fired power plant itself.”

Well it’s a threat really, by a government renowned for its almost obligatory stuff ups. Remember the NBN that the experts advised against?

Build it once and do it right, the experts said, but the government, pigheadedly went ahead with technologies now obsolete. The same experts now say they will have to write down the value of the National Broadband Network because it is under threat from 5G mobile technology that will eventually supersede its hybrid technology.

Will it end up as a stranded asset?

You will have read these quotes of mine many times before:

“In terms of the environment I wonder what price the people of tomorrow will pay for the stupidity of today.”

“On the NBN, the problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow.”

So back to Gas. After this re-announcement concerning a gas-powered station it is easy to fathom how all the advice goes against renewables.

Firstly, the threat to bring down the government by the nutter brigade by those renegade back bench MPs is still alive and kicking like a tiger snake in a hessian bag.

Secondly, when all your advisers come from the anti-renewable Murdoch media, the coal industry itself or pro-mining lobbyists with connections to all and every word other than renewable, what would you expect your advice to be?

To open your mind as to who these men are, go here. There are so many mining people in government advisory positions that you could call it a one-sided argument. Note: good leaders listen to all points of view.

So, after almost three terms of governance the Coalition is no closer to an energy (this pithy announcement I believe is about the 19th try) policy or indeed an environmental one.

We’ve had an injudicious and truly madcap debate about whether the government should or shouldn’t buy a clapped out 50-year-old coal fired power plant and a threat that if the industry won’t build a new gas fired one the government will. Now that’s called socialism. Yes, it gets sillier by the day.

Matt Canavan tweeted his disappointment.

 

I’m told he was almost gassed with nearly 700 replies.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler, didn’t mince his words telling RN Breakfast that the plan was more spin than substance:

“There is a plan for new basins that would be years and years away. Basins that are nowhere near connected to the gas network. There is a review of prices. We have been calling for drastic action since 2015, but there is a review of prices to manufacturers.

They talk about establishing an Australian gas hub at Wallumbilla – Wallumbilla is already a gas hub which the energy regulator only said in recent weeks is becoming more and more liquid every month … And in a development that I’m sure has the big gas industry executives shaking in their boots, the announcement also talks about a “voluntary industry-led code of conduct” to give gas customers a fair shake.

Principally, we are talking about our big manufacturers there who have seen gas prices triple over the past five years. I think we’ve learnt over recent years that reliance on the goodwill of the gas companies will not deliver any price relief.”

During the announcement the Prime Minister clearly said; “I don’t care what source the dispatchables come from.”

That got Atlassian Corp co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes a little excited:

 

What the Prime Minister effectively said is that renewables are so cheap that they don’t need subsidies, but fossil fuels do. Can anyone explain the logic in those words?

Writing in The Guardian last Tuesday Katherine Murphy said:

“So to pull all these threads together, we now manage to find ourselves in this position: the Coalition repealed the carbon price, and hasn’t managed to settle a policy framework to replace it that anyone takes even remotely seriously, which has led to investment uncertainty for many years.”

Wednesday morning I received an email from The Climate Council of Australia. In part it said:

Hi John,

“This morning the Federal Government announced a gas ‘plan’ that really stinks. 

What’s been announced?

The Federal Government has just announced it wants to waste millions of taxpayer dollars propping up the dangerous and polluting gas industry, rather than choosing to invest in a plan that will actually rebuild our economy and protect Australians from long-term threats.

The Federal Government’s ‘Gas Plan’ (1) includes the construction of a new gas power station in the NSW Hunter Valley, if the electricity sector does not replace the Liddell coal-fired power station. It would also waste $28.3 million unlocking gas basins, including the Beetaloo Basin in the NT and the North Bowen and Galilee Basins in Queensland.

Why is this gas announcement bad?

Essentially, this would:

  • Ramp up fossil fuels. Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, which means this plan could worsen climate change, and lock Australia into dangerous climate impacts, like longer more dangerous bushfire seasons, longer, more frequent and more severe heatwaves and increased coastal flooding.
  • Deliver no jobs in the short-term – when they are needed most – pushing up power bills and increasing uncertainty in the energy market.
  • Waste taxpayers’ money propping up an uneconomic industry during a recession, instead of using stimulus money to solve the long-term problems facing Australia.”

My view is that this hopeless, climate-denying government has no intention of building a gas-powered fire station. They are trying to bluff the energy companies into doing something unnecessary for their own political purposes.

Phil Corey, writing in the Roy Morgan daily email newsletter said:

“Large energy users have welcomed the federal government’s proposal to build a gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley if energy companies fail to outline how they will replace the Liddell power station’s output by April 2021.

The policy is aimed at encouraging the sector to invest in new dispatchable energy capacity, but Australian Energy Council CEO Sarah McNamara warns that it may deter energy companies from doing so.

Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute says the government’s proposal is “unnecessary intervention and overkill”, while National Party senator Matt Canavan argues that the government should build a coal-fired power station.”

Like the NBN, they, when it comes to looking the future in the face, the government is unable to accept a changing world.

If there is just one positive to come from the event called COVID-19 it is that vital decisions are now needed that go beyond defeating the virus.

It gives us the opportunity to change many past and present wrongs. The way we use energy and its source, the way we treat the environment, the way we treat our elderly folk, the way we educate our children, the way we conduct our politics and our diplomacy, the way money relates to society, the list goes on and on.

Our decision-makers need to tell us how all these decisions fit into a comprehensive narrative for our future otherwise a very unique opportunity will be lost.

If the government really believes that gas can be a part of our future then it needs to explain just how it fits into their comprehensive long-term energy plan. The problem is: that they haven’t got one.

My thought for the day

If one day in the future our children wake to find our prosperity gravely ill. It will be because Australia’s conservative politicians during the years 2013 to 202? Didn’t believe the science of a changing climate and left you with the consequences.

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Include the ABC and SBS in media code talks, say the Greens

By William Olson  

In an observation viewed as another episode of neglect towards Australia’s public broadcasters, the Morrison government should include public broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS in their negotiations around shaping new media codes while they seek pay-for-use solutions with digital technology giants Facebook and Google, according to the Greens.

Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens’ senator from South Australia who holds the party’s communications portfolio, feels that the government’s schemes for a communications update within a Mandatory Code legislation policy with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would be incomplete without including the nation’s public broadcasters in the codes or even in the conversations.

“The power and greed of the tech giants is threatening journalism and public access to news. The government’s mandatory ACCC code could be part of the solution but the draft needs fixing and additional measures brought to the table,” Hanson-Young said on Monday.

The government’s plans to alter the media codes – as viewed by its intentional directive as a further attack on the ABC and SBS – has come on the heels of years of decay to the public broadcasters, despite the consistent high level of trust the public possesses in the ABC, and all the service that both the ABC and SBS have given over the years to regional and ethnic communities as well as in times of emergencies, such as with the bushfire crises and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 alone.

And many would claim that the decay has been intentional on the part of consecutive LNP governments.

Such as:

And the consequence of these actions has affected not just editorial policy which is deemed as friendly treatment of LNP governments, but something which has diluted the ABC’s reputation for delivering unflinching, no-fear-nor-favour independent public affairs journalism, and damage to its Charter as well.

Moreover, Hanson-Young claims that while the government is seeking for Facebook and Google to pay the nation’s media giants fees to run their content – which has been tried and failed in Spain, France and Germany – they also need to ensure that the reform of any media codes must protect the public broadcasters and enhance freedoms for public interest journalism, its reporters, sources and whistleblowers.

“The ABC is Australia’s most trusted news source and should be included in any reform to tackle the greed of the big tech giants,” she said.

“It was a deliberate decision to lock the public broadcasters out of the draft code, allowing Facebook and Google to profit from their content for free – the Government should reverse this and drop their relentless attack on the ABC,” Hanson-Young added.

And while the ACCC’s notice of reforms remains in its draft stage, it also says that in addition to Facebook and Google, other digital platforms may be added in the future if they pose a threat to Australia’s media giants such as News Corp and Nine/Fairfax.

The considerations of the future of public interest journalism and protections for the ABC and SBS should also stand at the forefront of any reforms, Hanson-Young says.

“Australia’s media landscape is facing unprecedented challenges. Public interest journalism, reliable local news and trustworthy and informed analysis is essential for a robust and accountable democracy. The power imbalance between the big tech giants and Australian news organisations is unsustainable,” said Hanson-Young.

“It is therefore important that key parts of Australia’s media landscape are protected as part of this process. There is no reason for the ABC and SBS to be excluded from the code. Public broadcasters deserve a fair return for what they produce and what the tech platforms benefit from,” she added.

And as the AAP newswire service recently received a reprieve to allow it to continue operating – whereas the alternative had reportedly been for News Corp and Nine/Fairfax to create newswires of their own, and charging higher fees for its services – Hanson-Young maintains that the independence of the AAP also needs to be supported within the reformed code, for all media players large and small.

“It would be unconscionable for the Government not to find a way of supporting AAP while introducing a code that supports other media players. AAP is key media infrastructure that helps new players into the market and diversity across Australia’s media landscape,” she said.

Hanson-Young also stated that through an updated ACCC draft of the media codes, cost-effective benefits via the application of collective bargaining would have to suit small and independent media publishers as well as the likes of News Corp and Nine/Fairfax who are waging battles against Facebook and Google.

“If the aim of this code is to ensure the viability of Australia’s media, then the Government should ensure ABC is included, that AAP doesn’t fail and that small and independent publishers don’t miss out,” Hanson-Young said.

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Why is Morrison like the 3 monkeys?

Years ago the “I see no evil, I hear no evil, I speak no evil” 3 wise monkeys ornaments were frequently on display.

Abbreviate that to “Blind, Deaf, Dumb”, drop the word ‘wise’ and use the modern connotation of Dumb as being Stupid, and you have summed up Morrison.

The news this morning included warnings that cutting the levels of current Job Seeker payments would damage the economy, and statements by Morrison that, if industry did not invest in a new gas-powered electricity generator on the East Coast, the Coalition government would step in and do so.

In relation to the first point, Morrison is so besotted by the ‘economy’ that he ignores the fact that wealthy people increasing their wealth is actually less important than ordinary people – for many of whom, finding work is like looking for a needle in a haystack – being able to put food in front of their children and replace their worn-out school shoes.

In relation to the second point, I do not know whether he ever listens to any experts who have no conflict of interest in the recommendations they make, but I have seen a myriad of reports from banks and insurance companies which warn of the dangers of putting funds into what will certainly become stranded assets.

Even Adani is building up his renewable energy business!

When you never mix with people who are not well off, only with those owning the roof over their heads (or at least knowing they cannot lose it, other than in a storm, for which they are well insured!), able to satisfy all basic needs and spend on luxuries, you lose all understanding of what it is like to be struggling to see any light at the end of the budgetary tunnel.

If you believe the ALP, when they instituted the policy denying life in Australia to those who arrived by boat, they anticipated being able to find appropriate refuge elsewhere.

As with much in politics, that was ill-thought through.

Billions later, in times when the Coalition is begrudging funding to keep alive people whose jobs they have destroyed, they continue to pour money into torturing by hope those whose only error was to believe that the Australian government has integrity, and, being a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, would grant them safe haven.

I am one of the fortunate few who are retired, have a certain and secure pension, outside the Age Pension, have certainty of accommodation and no desire to travel or spend lavishly. So the two payments of $750 which I received, quite legitimately, as I am entitled to a small portion of the Age Pension, were passed on to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

The government wanted us to spend the money to support the god ‘Economy’, but I had no need to spend, whereas the ASRC needs every cent they can get, to help those refugees so cruelly treated by our government.

Please don’t accuse me of big-noting myself. I follow no religion but I was brought up to believe in social justice and helping those in need – particularly through no fault of their own.

The Coalition moans about the debt which will be born by generations to come. They careful ignore the extent to which the debt which they inherited was massively increased BEFORE the pandemic forced them to shut down business activity.

They also ignore the billions they are wasting, by locking away and cruelly guarding genuine refugees, who could have become productive members of society, instead of desperate, suicidal wrecks.

Has anyone been able to put a figure on what it has cost to date for the Biloela family to be snatched from their home, and the lives of their children permanently damaged? And I don’t only mean in money terms! The cost in quality of life is on-going for their lifetimes!

Morrison is definitely not following in the steps of Jesus Christ.

He is trampling lives underfoot while he worships false gods.

I do not remotely believe in a life hereafter, particularly with Heaven, Hell and Purgatory as the choices lined up.

I do think we will all be judged by those who come after us and I think most members of the current Coalition are unlikely to be judged as having achieved anything worthwhile.

Most of those who subscribe to the AIM Network posts would have similar views to mine, and I do not wish to preach to the converted. So, if you have friends who struggle to understand why Morrison is on the nose, perhaps you could consider passing this on to them.

I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:

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

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Scott Morrison And The Need For Gas Which He Can Certainly Supply!

Scott Morrison made an announcement…

Now I know what some of you are thinking: Our PM is pretty good with the announcements but it’s the follow-up that counts.

And yes, it’s true that some of his announcements haven’t been backed by strong action. Some of you will remember the “notional” bushfire relief and ask yourself why people are still living in tents but it would be silly to have rebuilt when there’s every likelihood that some of the houses may burn down again this summer.

And yes, some of you will point out that Morrison has a habit of re-announcing programs and funding that has already been announced.

However, today’s announcement is different. After the COVID-19 Committee of Committed Capitalists met and decided that gas was the best way to fix all the economic problems, a lot of people were surprised. Ok, the man running the show had the name, “Power” and he was connected to the gas industry but many people were expecting that maybe these people might suggest something like lifting the unemployment benefit because that could give retailers an extra kick along. But no, they unselfishly looked to the future and decided that we need to something about energy prices which – in spite of coming down $550 thanks to Tony Abbott, and in spite of the National Energy Guarantee that was an excellent policy that merely lacked a few details like exactly what was being guaranteed and exactly how it was going to work – are still too high.

So, after due consideration, Mr Morrison made an exciting announcement: The government will back a gas-fired power station. Just to break down this announcement into the important elements, they’ve said that they’ll build one if nobody else does. Of course, the government would rather it be built by private companies because they’re ideologically opposed to the government actually doing anything, so for them to actually spend taxpayer money to build something would be contrary to their beliefs that they – the government – are capable enough to manage any project or run any industry, so they’d ideally like a private company to step forward, but most private companies would rather make a profit, so it looks like the government will have to pay someone to do the job.

Yes, a new power plant. That should drive energy prices down when it’s eventually built which will be just as soon as the government finds out if anyone is going to build it and then after a process they can announce that they have things under control and that this shouldn’t cause any problems for Australia in meeting its 2030 targets because there’s no way that this will be built anytime before 2045. That should give hope to all the people who’ve lost their jobs and their livelihoods.

Speaking of which, I heard on the news last night that thirty percent of Melbourne restaurants would have to close in the next twelve months because of the COVID-19 restrictions, and I thought that must be a great relief to the owners because I’m sure I read somewhere that most restaurants don’t last twelve months so, not only is the figure lower, but the owners don’t even have to blame themselves for their business collapsing.

Anyway, if only these restaurants could hang on until they could afford the energy prices and if only people would work for free, then they’d surely be able to make a go of it.

At least they won’t have to pay that extra half a percent into people’s super. I’m looking forward to the next Federal Government submission to Fair Work Australia where they tell them that a half percent increase is a given before they even consider arguments for higher increases.

But I’m looking forward to the vaccine in January and to a strong, stable “no excuses” government like Abbott promised, the Budget surplus, good economic times and the unicorn ride…

Yep, with the amount of gaslighting the Liberals are doing, Morrison can certainly supply the need for an unlimited supply of gas…

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I reject the premise

By 2353NM  

Have you ever noticed that if a number of politicians don’t really want to answer a question, they ‘reject the premise’ or ‘reject the characterisation’ rather than answer it? Current Prime Minister Morrison is a past master of the ‘art’.

The implied message is that the question for some reason is either beneath their ‘dignity’ to answer or ‘too silly’ to be bothered thinking about. The response gives the impression the question is awkward or will bring up an issue that the particular politician doesn’t want to address. A similar sentiment, popularised by Adam Savage on the TV series Mythbusters is ‘I reject your reality and substitute my own’. As the Urban Dictionary suggests, the

quote basically means “you may be technically right, but you’re not changing my mind.”

While it could be argued that Adam Savage used the line for comedic value, the concept of refusing the premise or the characterisation of a question is not only deflection, it is suggesting that the question is so far way from being meaningful it should never have been asked.

However, if someone is asking the question, there is clearly some interest in a genuine and honest response. Politicians are supposed to be accountable to the people they represent for their entire term, not only for a few months every third or fourth year when it’s time to kiss the babies, shake the hands and promise that their particular beliefs and ideologies are far better than any other choice. If a reporter at a press conference is told the premise of their question is not accepted, more often than not the impression is the politician is trying to hide something, because the politician hasn’t given us any justification to consider another option.

In other parts of our lives, we understand implicitly and accept that a flat “no” is never a good answer. When responding to our partner, employers, employees or children, if we are delivering an unfavourable outcome, most of us innately know that an explanation is required along with the “no” so the person receiving the message is aware of why there has been a negative response.

So why do politicians choose to look tricky, evil and dishonest by refusing the premise of a question or more simply deflecting it? Discussing ‘why we are or not’ rather than just ‘yes or no’ does take a little longer than the length of a soundbite on the nightly news, and there probably are questions asked that make the politician wish for the ground to open up and swallow them. However if politicians put themselves up for ‘no holds barred’ long term interviews more often we all might have a better appreciation of why various decisions are made and what’s in it for us, engendering trust. It also might improve the typical shallow reporting of national events that seems to have been an ongoing issue in Australia (and elsewhere) for a number of years.

It’s just open communication and leadership. Most of us know that while saying what you really think about Aunt Beryl in front of your five year old (who repeats everything verbatim) may not be a particularly clever idea, explaining why something is or isn’t happening is a learning experience for your children. They realise there is more to a decision than the self-evident and should eventually realise you’re not saying ‘no’ just to be vindictive or annoying. In a similar way, if politicians actually explained why decisions were made, the reasonable amongst us would probably consider the evidence provided versus our pre-conceived ideas and understand and accept the basis for the decision — even if we don’t agree with it.

Leadership is the ability to made a decision that is believed to be correct based on a set of circumstances; and then if the circumstances change or are demonstrated to be incorrect, admitting the circumstances have changed and re-assessing the decision. Open communication is discussing the reasons for a decision and if relevant, the reasons the initial decision was incorrect. If people who claimed to be political leaders did admit errors and discuss reasons, the method of operation for ‘shock jock journalists’ would have to change as there would be no fodder for the ‘gotcha’.

Rejecting the premise or the characterisation of the question points to trickiness and deceit. Taking the time to provide an explanation is much more open and a discussion around why the question was inane, irrelevant or pointless demonstrates there is nothing to hide.

While we have seen traces of real leadership and communication during the current pandemic period, at this stage it is certainly too soon to be able to call most of our political ‘leaders’ authentic leaders and communicators. We have an opportunity to embed a ‘new normal’ in political and business life into the future — our future leaders need to answer the question rather than reject or deflect them. Who knows, they might engender trust if they do.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Is Fine-Tuning of National Curriculum Goals a Sufficient Tinkering with School Priorities?

By Denis Bright  

Educational priorities particularly in Humanities (HASS) and both Literary and Environmental Sustainability are key initiatives for the emergence of a more independent and creative Australian society.

Curriculum innovation in HASS ensures that young people are less likely to vote for conservative populists who rely on fear strategies to extend their political influence. The mobilisation of preferences from far-right minor parties in support pf the federal LNP in outer metropolitan and regional seats with high levels of social disadvantage will be an essential strategy to save the Morrison Government at a strategic early election in  late 2021 before the attack on living standards begins in earnest.

Should the LNP achieve endorsement for its future austerity measures, living standards and even civil liberties will be under threat, particularly if the Trump Administration happens to be re-elected on 3 November 2020, this is unlikely but always a possibility until every vote at the US Electoral College is fully counted.

Labor’s challenge to this attempted return to normalcy in a corporate state will require brave initiatives which are comparable to the consciousness raising which produced such good results in the 1960s in areas like health, education, infrastructure planning and greater national independence in defence and foreign policies.

There will be no opposition in Australia to Labor initiatives on behalf of our national curriculum priorities in HASS and improvements to the future focus of literary studies.

However, Labor’s prospects will be diminished if the 2021 poll becomes a khaki election with a focus on national security and a virtual referendum on a deepening relationship with a Republican Administration in the White House with or without President Trump who could be forced to resign as in Nixon’s Watergate years.

Educational priorities in HASS and English literature is always highly political.

Even environmental education can be is highly political. Any creative emphasis on Australia’s links with the Indo Pacific Basin, enhances  Australia’s consensus-roles in international affairs at the expense of conventional strategic relations from the Cold War era.

 

 

A Canberra insider warned me about the excessive costs of our fleets of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at a  not fully finalised cost (SMH 6 December 2018). The current price tag for each plane is $124 million. The purchase of 141 military planes would certainly purchase a lot of good resources for environmental education and literary studies in our schools (Costs from ABC News 10 December 2018). The federal LNP did not blink at this level of financial commitment.

The pressing demands of disadvantaged schools was easily over-looked by the federal LNP.

In national curriculum reform the Morrison Government has already taken Australians into a cul de sac in which students from disadvantaged areas are left behind the success stories of elite private schools and public education initiatives in well-resourced localities such as the ACT.

The hopes of educators were raised after the election of the Rudd Labor Government in 2007 (ACARA 2020):

Development of the Australian Curriculum

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) used an extensive and collaborative curriculum development process to produce the Australian Curriculum.

The Shape of the Australian Curriculumfirst approved by the council of Commonwealth and state and territory education ministers in 2009, guided the development of the Australian Curriculum. The paper reflected the position adopted by ministers collectively in their 2008 Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (PDF 978 kb). The Shape of the Australian Curriculum v. 4.0 (PDF 402 kb) was approved by the ACARA Board in late 2012, reflecting the evolving processes used in the development of the Australian Curriculum.

Over a decade later, the federal LNP has moved from innovative educational priorities to a focus on testing of standards in basic areas of reading, writing and numeracy as measured by NAPLAN test results.

COVID-19 has given students and teachers a reprise from this testing regime at least until 2021 or later.

Funded by joint federal and state expenditure, ACARA has moved to extend the back to the basics through fine tuning strategies in relation to new Australian curriculum goals:

“Today, education ministers have agreed to terms of reference for the review of the Foundation – Year 10 (F–10) Australian Curriculum, with the review to be completed by the start of 2022.

“We welcome the opportunity to ensure the national curriculum continues to meet the needs of students. The Australian Curriculum is well regarded, however, as it has been in place for some years now, it is timely that it be reviewed,” said ACARA CEO, David de Carvalho.

“Teachers have told us that, particularly in primary years, the Australian Curriculum is overcrowded and does not allow enough time to teach for deep understanding of core concepts or application of knowledge in the learning areas.

“Schools and teachers want a less crowded curriculum, one that provides flexibility and scope for greater depth of learning – and a more helpful curriculum, one that provides more meaningful connections within and across its three dimensions,” said Mr de Carvalho.

In preparing for the review, ACARA has been consulting with key education stakeholders to define the approach to, and scope of, the review. Through its program of research, ACARA has benchmarked the Australian Curriculum against the curricula of Singapore, Finland, British Columbia and New Zealand, and sought feedback from states and territories on the effectiveness of the Australian Curriculum through its annual monitoring process. This work has informed the terms of reference agreed by education ministers.”

The overall finding from ACARA’s program of research is that there is no need, nor support for, a major overhaul of the F–10 Australian Curriculum, but there is broad-based recognition that the current curriculum needs refining, updating and ‘decluttering’ to better support teachers with implementation.

The new ACARA Annual Report 2019-20 is scheduled for release soon. The latest available report shows a disappointing emphasis on National Assessment of School standards and data collection  at the expense of a mere 26 per cent commitment of funding to National Curriculum.

 

Excessive flexibility in the application of curriculum priorities, makes it extremely difficult for corporate publishers of curriculum providers to cope with the differing demands of schools in the various states and territories. Compared with expenditure on NAPLAN testing, expenditure on Curriculum Development was halved in just one financial year from a slender ACARA Budget:

The back to basics rhetoric sounds good but it is time for a progressive national government to rekindle the spirit of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians:

 

SchoolGovernance (21 February 2019) reminded everyone that the Melbourne Declaration was not merely about more standardised testing:

The most innovative state and private schools will have the resources needed to advance their own curriculum priorities.

In mainstream schools, attaining these goals without adequate curriculum resources is a great pressure on teachers who are under siege from an over-commitment to standardised NAPLAN testing and wider administrative demands.

The Bricks and Mortar strategies to achieve this in a cost-effective manner might justify the formation of senior school campuses within existing school complexes.

During my teaching career, I was really impressed by behaviour management at schools like Phillip Senior College in the ACT. It is now called Canberra College with its two campuses in the Woden Valley and Weston Creek.

Although it is beyond the resources of most state education authorities to extent the network of such well-resourced senior high schools, it may be possible to expand senior education hubs within existing campuses and new school facilities.

At a recent forum in Mt. Crosby on 12 September 2020, a member of the audience questioned the validity of capping of student enrolments at Kenmore State High School for residents from adjacent suburbs of Ipswich.

The forum was organised by the Kenmore-Bellbowrie Branch of the Labor Party to introduce Roberta Albrecht as ALP Candidate for Moggill at the forthcoming state elections.

Bricks and mortar initiatives to build senior schools within existing 7-12 high school campuses would be a possibility at least for new schools in the Palaszczuk Government ongoing school-buildings programmes:

The Queensland Government’s Building Future Schools (BFS) program is delivering world-class learning environments for Queensland students.

The BFS program is delivering new state schools in growth areas across the state, investing in existing school assets, and making strategic land acquisitions for the future—delivering new and innovative education infrastructure solutions for growing communities.

Over the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026, around 8,000 additional students are forecast to join the Queensland state school networks per year, with a majority of growth within the south–east Queensland region.

Initiatives in the bricks and mortar as well as administrative practices are all necessary to support new curriculum innovations of a new generation of national curriculum programmes.

I was courageous or fool-hardy enough to issue a press release to the Queensland Times in Ipswich during 1983 about the unfortunate state of some local secondary  schools in The Low Tax State.

 

Image: QTU’s Ipswich Secondary Branch Press Release (1983) authorized by Denis Bright with Artistic Work from Teaching Colleague, Rod Cassidy

 

The LNP’s Focus on School Standards

Years later the focus of educational reform has moved from Bricks and Mortar to the issues connected to curriculum standards and transitions from school to work which I covered in the press release that accompanied the cartoon sketch. The LNP,  at both state and federal levels, welcomes this evolution but hardly in the direction that I intended in 1983.

League tables of standardised test results are now scanned as an indicator of comparative school performance to the cheers of the manufacturers of these crude testing indicators both in Australia and overseas.

Australia’s Council for Educational Research (ACER) is now an enthusiastic advocate of the standardised testing model for schools:

Coordinated in Australia by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the IM2C sees students use their research, mathematical and creative abilities to develop a mathematical model to address a real-world problem.

ACER Principal Research Fellow and IM2C Australia Director, Ross Turner, said this year teams had to review data on goods to be offered during a sale, including the price and discount to be given, in order to identify which items would likely be most popular and the store layout factors that might affect damage risks.

“Teams had to develop and use a model that would predict damage to goods in order to recommend optimal product placement and department locations for the given store layout. Teams were also asked to create and evaluate a new and better floor plan for the flash sale scenario, and to write a one-page letter to the store manager presenting and supporting their findings,” Mr Turner said.

Teams from Caulfield Grammar School in Victoria and North Sydney Boys High School in New South Wales will represent Australia in this year’s International Mathematical Modelling Challenge (IM2C), which requires students to determine how a ‘bricks and mortar’ store should arrange its goods during a flash sale to minimise the risk of damage.

The teams each received a ‘meritorious achievement’ award from the Australian judging panel and will progress to the international judging round for 2020. The international results will be announced in July.

The ACER provides opportunities for corporate sponsorship of such events with differing acknowledgements for Major Partners and Supporting Partners. Perhaps the cultural and political blind spots in some of these activities should be cause for concern at a time of cultural wars in the USA and beyond about the best ways of dealing with problems like violence in our cities and schools.

The excesses of commitment to mathematical models over democratic political processes is reflected in this intriguing problem for the International Mathematical Modelling Challenge. A sample answer provided for students after the event is equally devious in its implied assumptions.

The authors of the test item clearly want a mathematical answer but surely the answer extends well beyond mathematics.

Sample answers developed after the competition produced these correlations between potential contributing variables and rates of violent crime. At least the answers offered were a win for better school and higher graduation rates.

 

In this new era of dislocation from the current pandemic and social unrest across the USA, the young minds can of course work on their problems through Zoom events to avoid the hassles of international travel.

In their new life, our deceased members of the old National Party in Queensland would be cheering on the regressive sentiments about the need to return education to the basics of that old schoolhouse on the prairies (Kevin Donnelly, The Australian 18 December 2016):

Instead of education and the curriculum being objective, whereby students are taught to be critical-minded and to weigh alternative points of view, the AEU’s leadership is only concerned with imposing its politically correct views on controversial issues.

While parents are shocked by the Marxist-inspired Safe Schools LGBTQI program, which teaches children gender is fluid and celebrating being a man or a woman is heteronormative, the AEU gives it full support. Its federal president, Correna Haythorpe, describes critics of the Safe Schools program as “extreme conservatives” opposing a “highly effective and positive program”.

At a time when Australia’s international test results are in free fall, the AEU, instead of focusing on the basics, is more interested in campaigning for “global movements for peace, social justice, nuclear disarmament, justice for refugees and the environment.”

Creative Paths for HASS and Literary Studies?

It seems that only a progressive Labor government will have that balanced curriculum to bring the Humanities and the Social Sciences into a truly well-resourced national curriculum programme. There is rhetorical commitment in the federal LNP’s Australian Curriculum Programme in these key areas for Australia’s future.

 

 

New curriculum resources are needed to assist secondary student to move personal development into a creative social frameworks and meaningful employment. Commercial providers of textbooks and other resources cannot be expected to have the resources to fund the new curriculum in an environment where more emphasis is being placed on league tables of standardised testing results.

In less prestigious schools, there are still high rates of school suspensions as student react to inadequacies in both national curriculum priorities and behaviour management practices. The two state high schools with the highest numerical rates of suspensions in Queensland are indeed in the City of Ipswich. The ratio of suspensions to school enrolments is running at 42.3 per cent from one school and 46 per cent in another. Some smaller schools in the Ipswich area have even higher rates of suspensions.

Full details are published in the Queensland Education Department’s data on school suspensions and exclusions 2015-19. Adjacent state high schools in more advantaged parts of Brisbane West have caps on their enrolment to restrict attempted catchment hopping by parents on behalf of their children and the growth of enrolments in alternative private schools.

Times may have changed since 1983 but the need for broadly based educational initiatives still involves the need for innovative bricks and mortar as well as state of the art curriculum and administrative initiatives on behalf of our future generations particularly from disadvantaged communities with high rates of youth unemployment and a dismal performance in federal funding of TAFE programmes.

This is my first article devoted to educational issues. ACARA in Sydney has made a commitment to keep me informed on the commencement of its timely review of national curriculum priorities which need to extend far-beyond a focus on NAPLAN using standardised testing models which have their origin in that land that is keen about our purchases of F-35 fighters at an undefined price tag.

It is the future of young Australians which should indeed be priceless.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.

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Donald Trump: The fool on the hill is full of rage

To say that President Trump is a liar wouldn’t surprise anyone. Nor would I think saying that he is the worst political liar of all time.

Saying that, with the wilful use of his lying, he is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans might turn a few heads but is it not time the citizens of the land of milk and honey saw the truth of it.

This time he has admitted it. He is on the record in his own words and documented by 18 recorded interviews by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame. Woodward is to release his highly anticipated new book Rage next week.

A copy was leaked to CNN. Its revelations are astonishing. Here are some examples:

  • Anthony Fauci “… at one point tells others that the president “is on a separate channel” and unfocused in meetings, with ‘rudderless’ leadership, according to Woodward. ‘His attention span is like a minus number,’ Fauci said, according to Woodward. ‘His sole purpose is to get reelected.’ “
  • Trump expressed admiration for Nixon and is currently echoing his “law and order” election strategy.
  • Barack “I don’t think Obama’s smart … I think he’s highly overrated. And I don’t think he’s a great speaker.”
  • The North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, thought Obama was an “asshole”.
  • Woodward suggested to Trump that white and privileged men like them need to appreciate the plight of African Americans. Trump replied, “No,” in a mocking voice. “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”
  • Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is quoted as saying that four texts are key to understanding Trump, including Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Kushner paraphrased the Cheshire Cat from the book: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”
  • Trump bragged to Woodward about a new secret weapons system.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, told the MSNBC network dropped a bucket of truth virus on Trumps lips:

“I think what he said connotes two things. One, his weakness: he didn’t know how to cope with the challenge to our country.

“Secondly, his disdain and denial for science, which has the answers, we could have contained this early on. But bigger than all of that was his total disregard for the impact on individual families in our country.”

On 7 February Trump told Bob Woodward in a phone call that coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus”, but the message he gave to the public was very different.

He described the coronavirus as “deadly stuff” at the same time while at the same time he was publicly predicting it would miraculously disappear and favourably comparing it to the seasonal flu. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.”

Yet on 27 February he was telling the public: “It’s going to disappear. One day – it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.”

By 19 March, Trump had declared a national emergency but told Woodward:

“I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Joe Biden used these words in response to the revelation of how Trump had misled the nation and is still doing so with no pandemic policy at all other than to just let the coronavirus run free:

“Trump was fully aware of how deadly the virus was. It was much more ‘deadly than the flu’ he told Bob Woodward. One has to ask why the President didn’t warn the American people of its dangers. Surely a basic right of any individual is to defend oneself and others in the face of death. Or does that only apply to guns.”

On 3 April, Trump was still minimising the virus. “I said it’s going away and it is going away,” he said. But just two days later, he told Woodward: “It’s a horrible thing. It’s unbelievable.” On 13 April, he acknowledged: “It’s so easily transmissible, you wouldn’t even believe it.”

In the election race Biden is leading Trump nationally by an average of about 8 points. Recent polls have indicated that the president’s efforts to paint Biden as a “radical socialist” who couldn’t care less about crime are not changing many voters’ minds.

You can also ask “what would Obama have done” and you can bet he would have acted entirely differently.

But Trump’s first response to any problem is to lie about, or blame others. He has been doing it for months now (actually, probably all his life) and one can only conclude that once again he has failed the nation. It is a life and death failure to protect the American people.

But his villainous ego is never tamed by his actions, he told Fox News’ (his own personal channel) Sean Hannity last Wednesday that he had done an “amazing” job dealing with the pandemic. The audacity of the man!

With the election only eight weeks away and these latest revelations coming not long after The Atlantic published a piece reporting that Trump had belittled American soldiers who died at war as “suckers”. It is difficult to see the mentally deficient President recovering this time.

He describes Woodward’s book as a “political hit job.”

“If you look at our numbers, our fatality numbers compared to other countries, it’s amazing what we’ve done. We’ve been able to do something … that especially with the country the size we have, we’ve done an incredible job.”

 

 

Again, the audacity of the man.

The Guardian reports that coronavirus-related deaths in the US, which stand at more than 190,000, account for a fifth of the global total. The figure is equivalent to one death per 1,700 Americans. The US has one of the highest fatality rates per 100,000 population, at 57.97.

According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, only countries with higher deaths per 100,000 are Peru (93.71), Spain (63.34), Bolivia (62.51),Chile (62.37), Ecuador (62.20), Brazil (60.85).

Trump’s actions are not indictable but they are impeachable but I guess it’s too late for that now.

In the final interview with Woodward Trump said:

“The virus has nothing to do with me. It’s not my fault. It’s … China let the damn virus out.”

In saying that, I guess he said it all.

My thought for the day

It is clear that from whatever way you look at it that Trump lied and people died.

PS: For the complete list of Trump’s lies about the coronavirus click here.

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Frydenberg’s Folly

By Ad astra  

What’s happened to Josh Frydenberg? As many have commented, Frydenberg’s vicious attack on Victoria’s Premier, Dan Andrews, came as a surprise. It’s intensity was extraordinary. Why?

Only he would know. We can but surmise. What did you conclude?

Here’s my assessment:

First, here are his acerbic words:

”Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelled the premier’s handling of the (COVID-19) crisis as ‘the biggest public policy failure by a state government in living memory’”.

Josh Frydenberg is ambitious. He hopes one day to become PM. He knew that his very public attack on Andrews would propel him into the public limelight and portray him as a strong future leader. Was Morrison watching? Did he feel the need to protect his back? Or was he so sure of himself that he thought he could allow Frydenberg to go out as an attack dog to do his dirty work?

And Dan Andrews was the ideal target – a Labor figure who has been attacked from all sides of the conservative spectrum. Andrews’ daily press reports on the status of COVID-19 in Victoria have been helpful and informative. He stays put at the rostrum until every question has been addressed. You can imagine how irritating his opponents find him! Some express their distaste of him in florid terms in the social media: “I can’t stand the sight of him”. Frydenberg knew that attacking Andrews would draw enthusiastic support from his conservative colleagues.

Frydenberg is politically smart. He knew that any attack he mounted would need to be dressed up in economic garb to give it authenticity. This was easy for him – being Treasurer, he has an abundance of economic bullets in his armoury. But his bullets we not aimed simply at wounding Andrews’ economic credentials; they were intended to wound him personally. The venom of Frydenberg’s words is testimony to that. If you’re sceptical about this assessment of his intentions, read his words again.

So why is this piece titled Frydenberg’s folly?.

Because in one fell swoop he has morphed his image as a credible commentator on the nation’s accounts into just another partisan attack dog. He has replaced his reputation in the area of finance with what we have come to despise so profoundly.

That is his folly!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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

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Just who are the losers and suckers, Mr Trump?

“Trump puts his stamp on the politics of other countries … both overtly and subtly. Populists, nationalists and authoritarians look to Trump and know that they may proceed unchecked. Countries more committed to the decades-long liberal international order scramble to respond to scrapped cultural, institutional, diplomatic and policy norms.” (Mary Jo Murphy The Washington Post).

Donald Trump, a silver-spoon buffoon who got away with the biggest con job in modern history, a type of Gordon Gekko, the character who had a moral bypass at birth, was set to play himself in the 2010 sequel to Oliver Stone’s Wall St: Money Never Sleeps but his outrageous demands – most of which were to do with his hair – were so over the top that his scene – in which Trump bumps into Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in a barber shop – ended up on the cutting room floor.

Mega-diva Donald’s bizarre list of demands include forcing a contract upon everyone in the scene not to touch his topknot. Hair today, gone tomorrow, Donald, just read Samson and Delilah, Judges 16.

Today, Trump’s hair is causing more grief. Again, it may cause him to fail to make the final cut; cost him re-election in November. His fear that his combover would come unstuck in the rain caused him to abort his 2018 chopper ride to honour American soldiers slain in battle. Now it threatens his re-election.

Trump pulled the pin on a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018. Rain forced his last-minute cancellation, he lies “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Another lie. The truth is more prosaic. Trump feared that rain would mess with his hair and makeup; undermine the pompadour he teases over his bald pate, to say nothing of his waterproof foundation which Washington Post pundits believe to be Bronx Color – a fourteen euro Swiss cosmetic.

Fear of cosmetic or wardrobe malfunction can paralyse public figures. Doubtless, after his “I shall return”, uttered not in The Philippines but in fact back at Terowie Train Station Alice Springs, Douglas McArthur added “but only if it’s not raining and I still look good in a bomber jacket with slacks”.

Trump’s re-wind is contradicted by four first-hand witnesses’ evidence, painstakingly recorded by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, who pursues the president’s total incomprehension of patriotism, service and sacrifice since Trump attacked the late senator John McCain’s war record.

“We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,” Trump rages, despite being not invited, report witnesses. Washington’s navel-orange-in-chief, President Trump sees White House flags at half-mast.

“What the fuck are we doing that for? Guy was a fucking loser,” Trump tells his claque; the bitching, backstabbing, festering, toadying grovel of sycophants, formerly White House aides who him prop up. The White House flag is back at full mast Monday morning – before being lowered again Monday afternoon – up and down like the zipper on JFK’s chinos; or a media whore’s drawers.

Time wounds all heels, however. In an age of pivot and spin, what’s certain is that by 20 January 2025, Trump’s enablers will be exposed. And even his most powerful collaborators have bound their fate to his.

As to the lies Trump told when cancelling his visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 at the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day, they won’t fly.

First, Marine One, the Presidential helicopter can’t fly in the rain? It’s almost plausible. Yet the weather has to be extremely cold, with risk of icing up or risk of thunderstorms. Neither was the case. Moreover, former aides confirm there’s always a back-up plan. Luckily The Secret Service won’t blab. For now.

Crippling vanity aside, Trump’s larger concern is his own toxic turpitude. Let his deluded following ignore the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no escape from the pox of Trumpism itself, now endemic in so many bodies politic including our own federal government – brought into being by the same forces which helped to take us from greed is good to greed is God, the Hillsong heresy. Trump is an enabler.

For Hungary’s neo-fascist PM, Viktor Orban who, like his US mentor, favours rule by decree, Donald Trump represents “permission” from “the highest position in the worldTyrants all over the globe from Brazil’s “strongman”, Jair Bolsonaro, to Cambodia’s fascist Hun Sen, or Scott Morrison, Trump’s mini-me down under, are vastly encouraged by the US President’s increasing disdain for the rule of law.

“I not only weaken the opposition, I’m going to make them dead … and if anyone is strong enough to try to hold a demonstration, I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.” Hun Sen boasts 2011 on suggestion he should be worried about the overthrow of a Tunisian dictator in the “Arab Spring”.

Whilst his captain’s-picked cabal of gas company executives and mining industry shills, the oxymoronic Covid-19 Co-ordination Commission, led by former Fortescue top dog, deputy chair of Strike Energy, nifty Nev Power meets in secret to plot pipe-dreams in pursuit of the chimera of a gas-led recovery and the stranded assets of new, uneconomic pipelines, Morrison steps on the gas.

Oxymoronic? There is no federal co-ordination. Morrison’s tactic is to politicise the pandemic. Relentlessly he bags Daniel Andrews for ruining the national economy with his frivolous lockdowns.

MSM continues the assault, taking its lead as always from Liberal propaganda organ The Australian. Show us your road map, he chants. Shrewdly he writes a threatening letter to the Victorian Premier attaching Frydenberg and Hunt’s names to his own. It will help him with a talking point evading responsibility; shifting the blame. Scotty, you are a born leader. Not only that you are our nation’s saviour, reminding us that we are all in this together.

In fact, Morrison is using the pandemic to divide and conquer. He ridicules Victoria’s effort because Dan’s health workers are just crap at contact tracing. Just look at Australia’s gold standard, New South Wales.

Overlooking the federal government’s Ruby Princes debacle is not easy but Morrison is brazen. It will be his undoing. Cases may well rise in NSW. The state’s contact tracing may be more thorough because it has fewer cases. If the number spikes it could all change. The Kirby Institute’s Infectious diseases expert, Raina McIntyre, points out that Victoria’s health system has been cut to the bone.

“When it comes to public health infrastructure and resources per head of population, Victoria is much worse off than any other state in Australia,” she says.

“Victoria is just a shell of a system, it’s just been decimated, and that’s fine in the good times, you can get by on a minimal model, but when there’s a pandemic all those weaknesses are exposed.”

McIntyre stops short of tracing the neoliberal origins of the state’s poor health system. “Economic rationalisation” under Jeff Kennett’s Liberal Coalition government during the 1990s devastated the Victoria’s health care system. Of course, Kennett claimed it was all Labor’s fault.

In microcosm, Kennett’s attack parallels the Morrison government’s upcoming austerity budgeting federal solution. Labor governments plunge the state into deficit, therefore “reforms” must be made. Kennett pursued a radical privatisation. Public services were contracted out to private operators, an approach which has helped cripple the state’s health care system, today.

Labor is to blame? Scapegoating is in full swing. Ben Fordham appears on ABC The Drum to spread the rumour that Andrews will resign. “People are saying that Dan Andrews is contemplating his future.” 

The PM presses the pedal to the metal. It’s total war on every front – Labor, international student farming, The Arts, arts and humanities, which the federal government sees as hotbeds of sedition, Super, especially industry super. But as Crikey’s Guy Rundle observes, nothing it does leads “to any conclusion other than that everything can be trashed to get a political edge.” Pure Trumpism in other words.

Trump’s war on Democrats and the media gives dictators like Hun Sun an alibi for their own attacks on the opposition, protest and freedom of the press. When, in 2014, Morrison devised his Cambodian solution, to handball 1000 refugees from our care, blithely outsourcing our obligation to provide asylum under international law, Australia told the south-east Asian nation it needed to stop its military from killing street protesters, violently crushing political opposition and detaining people without trial.

But it didn’t stop the deal – one of Morrison’s follies, abandoned, out of sight and out of mind. Another thing “we are not here today to talk about” if reporters dare raise the issue at a presser. After Australia’s caution, Cambodia’s government has continued to crush dissent. And the Opposition.

“Videos of police dragging peaceful protesters on the street and forcibly jamming them into vehicles should raise global concern for police abuse in Cambodia,” says Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director. “The authorities should immediately end violent tactics against peaceful protesters and respect the rights to free expression and assembly.”  Yet Trump undermines all that.

When the US embassy in Phnom Penh joins condemnation, Hun Sen calls on Trump to overrule his staff, “Your policy has been changed, but the embassy in Phnom Penh has not changed it yet,” he says.

Dictators feel affirmed by Trump’s trashing of the media; his fake news. His contempt for such basic democratic principles as the right of US Democrats to vote. Or how he urges supporters to vote twice. Or how he’s preparing to demand that all postal votes be scrapped because they shouldn’t count.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland notes, Trump’s seen data that predicts postal voters are more likely to support Biden. On 4 November, he’ll demand that tens of millions of postal votes be disallowed – leaving only votes cast on election day, from which Trump reckons he could achieve a narrow victory.

Poster-boy for petty despots and crazed crackpots world-wide, a monster man-baby whose name now surfaces as a rallying cry or potential “liberator” to Germany’s neo-Nazis and other far right extremists, America’s paranoid conspiracy theorist in chief; malignant narcissist and pathological liar, Trump is not, of course, responsible for the decline in freedom around the world. Yet he is an accelerant.

Now he “pivots” into damage control. Despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary, he denies he ever called US troops who died in war “losers and suckers”. But will denial work? And what does his insult reveal about Trump and his many fans including our own Trumpista Scott Morrison?

First, denigrating the military could prove a fatal error in Trump’s campaign for re-election. With fewer than two months until America votes, his minders fear he may have alienated a key component of his base at a critical time. Support amongst active service men and women is now down from 46 per cent at his inauguration to 38 per cent approval in a recent Military Times poll.

Trump’s supporters comprise a disproportionately high percentage of veterans. Aides panic. SBS reports a video is concocted in which four veteran stooges testify to their undying love of all things Trump.

In the meantime, Australia, which fancies itself as a US deputy sheriff, but which is closer to a servile lackey or “US imperialist running dog” is up shit creek without a paddle. In a barbed wire canoe.

We poked the Panda, as The Donald wanted but the Panda poked us back threatening our trade, expelling our journalists and detaining our citizens. Team Trump won’t help. They’re too busy in damage control – dispute, deny and discredit.

“It’s a fake story and it’s a disgrace that they’re allowed to do it,” Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office. Why, he respects all troops. “To me, they’re heroes,” he says. “It’s even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that, the level of bravery, and to me, they’re absolute heroes.”

Deny, dispute and discredit. It’s Trump’s signature strategy, aped by admirers world-wide including Scott Morrison, who continues to deny his key role in defrauding amateur clubs to help Clive Palmer business buy the election victory his business needed – a steal at only $67 million, in Scotty’s sports rorts scandal.

Yet much as Trump may protest, “I never called John a loser”, his bluster is also contradicted by video and Twitter which both show him doing just that in 2015.

 

 

Fifteen hours later, his aides are in full flight and panic mode. VoteVets, a progressive veterans’ organization and never a fan of Trump, releases an online ad featuring the parents of troops slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each parent declares that their son or stepson was neither a “loser” nor a “sucker.”

Why such contempt? Why does it appeal? Papa Trump is popular in “the shit-hole countries” as he fondly refers to sub-Saharan African nations such as Nigeria and Kenya, who rank number one on the US Security and Assistance Monitor; continue to thrive on US economic aid.

Why does it appeal to our local faux-populists such Morrison and Pauline Hanson? Trump and his acolytes in our pick-a-winner wide brown land cannot see the point of doing anything without monetary reward. Sacrifice? Dying for a cause? None of this makes any sense when your one true love is yourself; your only cause is your own self-promotion.

Lying’s hard work but The Donald’s protestations don’t deter him from his mission: beating Biden in November. Trump’s gone postal. Mega donor Louis DeJoy, whose name makes him sound as if he belongs in a fly-spray commercial, is President’s pick for PMG. Louie is joyfully ripping out mail boxes and scrapping sorting machines in any electorate where a hapless Democrat might try to cast a postal vote.

Since May, DeJoy has brought in reforms, which he claims cut costs. These reduced overtime and limited deliveries that postal carriers say created backlogs across the country.

Trump’s 2020 appointee, Post Master General DeJoy (the cheque’s in the mail) is now accused of paying former workers bonuses to reimburse them for donating to the Republican Party. The Washington Post speaks to seven former employees of his former business New Breed Logistics whom DeJoy forced to donate to GOP candidates. An unconcerned Trump says he’ll act if DeJoy has done anything bad.

Such a practice violates both North Carolina state and federal law. Yet it’s an insight into how the party enabled the rise of a Donald Trump. DeJoy’s rapid rise in Republican politics was helped greatly by his ability to multiply his fundraising through his company; increasing his influence in the GOP.

“Louis was a national fundraiser for the Republican Party. He asked employees for money. We gave him the money, and then he reciprocated by giving us big bonuses,” says David Young, DeJoy’s veteran director of human resources, with access to payroll records at New Breed from the late 1990s to 2013 and is now retired. “When we got our bonuses, let’s just say they were bigger, they exceeded expectations — and that covered the tax and everything else.”

The Washington Post reports that between 2000 and 2014, 124 workers together gave more than $1 million to federal and state GOP candidates. Many had not previously made political donations, and have not made any since leaving the company, public records show. During the same period, nine employees gave a combined $700 to Democrats.

While Mail voting sabotage is an irresistibly “authoritarian power grab”, team Trump, is supported by states’ refining ID requirements while it rigs every other aspect of the US vote it can get away with. This includes gerrymandering of electorates and removal of places of voting.

Since 2010, twenty-five states have enacted new voting restrictions, such as strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks, and registration restrictions. The land of the free is busy making it even harder to vote. Especially if you are poor, a person of colour or you live in a remote area.

Our own father of lies, Donald’s disciple the besotted Scott Morrison is on the tools again. Mugging for the Scott Cam camera he reprises his role as daggy Dad with Ryobi saw. Perhaps Cam does the building off-camera. It would be a fair return for his $300,000 salary. Achieve more than his former role as Careers Ambassador, another Morrison debacle.

But why is Scotty building the same Bunnings kit cubby house, his press agents gushed about in June? So high is staff turnover everywhere in our commonwealth public service, so savage are the cuts, there’s barely anyone around to turn the lights off. It’s systemic dementia, a loss of institutional memory.

Collective amnesia may create stuff-ups – promote the discovery learning that hapless Tassie battler Dick Colbeck whimpers about. Aged care is not perfect but that’s OK because it’s learning to be better.

Yet it’s also perfect for the evading of responsibility and accountability which fuels the duck and weave of our modern political Quotidien. Senators at estimates hearings have  been told that there is no-one left at the department to answer questions about all sorts of rorts and activities that have occurred within even the previous few years.

Churn and the rise of the PA mean an even chance we’ll see the same promo with bells on at Christmas.

But we may have to be careful with our Christmas carols. As Crikey’s Charlie Lewis notes after years of allowing neo-Nazisvarious terrorist groupsconspiracy theorists and democracy warping fake news to flourish, Facebook has finally cut down on the scourge of blog posts featuring Spotify playlists.

Will Trump’s “losers and suckers” undo him? Lose him votes among the veterans he counts on to vote for him? It certainly will do him some damage. Add in the cost of his coronavirus debacle and its economic consequences. But it must not be forgotten that the Republican Party that stands behind Trump, the party apparatus and the massive network of donors which enables him is hopelessly corrupted as the curious case of Trump’s Postmaster General, DeJoy suggests.

Whatever happens, the end of Trump will not be the end of Trumpism. Nine out of ten Republicans are fans of the job he is doing as president, David Smith notes in The Guardian. And who would replace him?

Smith points to an alarming paucity of alternatives: in SurveyMonkey poll for Axios last December, Republican voters’ favourites for 2024 were Mike Pence, with Donald Trump Jr in second place, followed by Nikki Haley, Ivanka Trump, Marco Rubio and Mike Pompeo.

If “losers and suckers” does help Trump lose, however, the gaffe illustrates a mentality which Trumpism has nurtured – a complete incomprehension of service, sacrifice or dedication to principle. It’s a perspective which Gordon Gekko, a fictional caricature, would instantly recognise – as would anyone attending a recent Senate Estimates committee. Or who follows the current attack on Dan Andrews.

“Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” The embodiment of the false creed of neoliberalism, Trump cannot fathom any human action that cannot be reduced to a transaction. He cannot comprehend volunteers because that involves altruism and empathy.

The narcissistic materialist is equally confounded; discomfited to discover that over 1,800 US Marines lost their lives at Belleau Wood. He sees them as “suckers” for getting killed.

In brief, as Goldberg sees, Donald Trump suffers the delusion that “nothing is worth doing without the promise of monetary payback, and that talented people who don’t pursue riches are “losers.”

It’s not hard to hear the same delusion at work in the News Corp journalists who endlessly, every day twit Dan Andrews with the same questions. Why should the state pursue public health and safety instead of profits for business at any costs?

Similarly, in his tedious repetition of his vacuous slogan “open the nation for business”, Trumpista Scott Morrison exhibits the same pathological indifference to others; the same failure to imagine another’s pain, along with an alarming poverty of mind and spirit which simply make him unfit to lead. He should resign over the sports rorts alone.

In their own ways, the rise of Trumpism and the coronavirus pandemic have helped create an environment where Morrison and Murdoch’s minions’ claims that we must endlessly pursue selfish competition – that greed is good and might is right – are so vividly exposed as toxic aberrations and hopelessly, grotesquely inadequate to the times’ need for compassion, co-operation, community and humanity.

We must expose their lies; continue to hold them to account.

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Tim Smith Is Paid A Lot More Than Me And His Achievements Are Abusive Tweets…

Now let me be quite clear here for the thousandth time: I am more than ready to attack both sides of politics. I look forward to the day when I can mock Labor and The Greens equally before whichever side I’m mocking will accuse me of being on the other side, as though somehow they’re further apart than George Christensen and his electorate. HOWEVER, the current mob of miscreants that masquerade as members of the media make it very hard to do anything but be critical of the Coalition because the media still seem to be behaving as though Labor is the party that have to provide all the answers and that The Greens are dangerous extremists who don’t understand that when Santa puts a lump of coal in your stocking it’s because he wants you to stay warm.

I guess the thing is that the Liberals aren’t really thinking things through…

You can’t blame them, of course, most politicians aren’t very good at looking beyond the election cycle. What is it that sporting coaches say? “We’re taking it one election at a time…”

Anyway, Kristina Keneally is quite the little attack dog, isn’t she? Wasn’t she premier of NSW at one point? But then she ended up in federal politics. Is that the reason that Liberals are telling the media to go after Dan Andrews and the media are happily complying? Do they hope to have the Victorian premier move to Canberra?

Remember this accusation about the Liberals providing journalists with questions wasn’t made by some lefty lunatic on Twitter; it was made by Steve Price on “The Project”. Or have we moved to the point where Price is considered part of those who have a Marxist agenda to destroy western civilisation?

Once politicians feared journalists. Their wrongdoing may have been exposed. These days, it’s more like let me give you a better scoop, not just yet, but if you’re a very good journalist, I’ll rub your tummy and let you know what’s going on.

Journalist: Your family trust benefitted by the Treasurer’s recent policy change to the tune of several million dollars, would you like to comment for a story I’m writing.

Politician: Look, my family trust is off-limits. You should know that families should be given personal space and not subject to the rough-and-tumble of politics.

Journalist: Sorry, you misunderstood. I’m not going to mention the family trust. I was wanting your comment about what a great announcement it was and how it’s going to help Australia...

Here in Victoria, the media seem to be trying to create a sense that Dan Andrews is facing a revolution when most polls suggest that people understand that he has a difficult job and he’s doing the best that he can. The media, on the other hand, seem to be playing gotcha.

On ABC radio this morning, Virginia Trioli asked the police commissioner, Shane Patton, whose decision it was to impose a curfew. He replied that it would have been the Chief Health Officer’s. She then played a clip of the Premier saying that it was his decision, leading to the frightful admission that Patton hadn’t heard Dan Andrews comments. Ok, so the point was? I mean we already know that Andrews made the decision and that it wasn’t at the behest of the CMO. I mean, we already know that we’re living under a dictatorship worse than anywhere and that anyone criticises Andrews is sent to a gulag for re-education. I happened to say that I thought he should be wearing a tie the other day and the secret police questioned me for days about who I was working for and…

Anyway, I can just picture Dan Andrews standing up in a press conference and telling them all that he’s had enough and he’s off to Hawaii. Can you imagine the volume in the Murdoch media being dialled up to eleven and all the ABC copycats joining in to condemn Dan for leaving when we’re in crisis, even though many of them have been asking for him to do so on a daily basis … Actually, I can’t picture it growing any louder. I suspect that if we get an out of control bushfire this summer, the media will be demanding that the premier tell us when it’s going to be brought under control, before asking if it’s really necessary to stop tourists from driving to the area because of all the business that’s being lost.

Meanwhile nobody in the media seems to be harassing Scotty about opening up Australia’s borders. While it’s prudent to stop international travellers from arriving on our shores and potentially spreading the virus, the borders of Queensland, WA and Victoria should be thrown open. South Australia seems to have been forgotten in all this and Tasmania, is after all, not part of the country. (That’s sarcasm, before I get correspondence from Tasmanians who don’t understand irony.)

Although the gods do seem to starting to say that it’s about time your luck ran out, Mr Morrison. Big announcement on vaccines, then a few days later the trial is halted. Ok, it’s always likely that there could be a glitch and that there needs to be a pause in a medical trial. That’s why it takes so long to get a new drug or vaccine on the market. I’m just amused that the timing was so soon after the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. Usually the Liberals make the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT and it’s some months later when we discover that only $27.38 was spent out of the $2 billion announced owing to people not filling in the application  form before the due date which was two days before the form was released to the public.

However, just so you don’t think I’m not being fair: in the spirit of bipartisanship, let me defend Morrison, who gets accused of running out on press conferences if the questions get too hard. In actual fact it may not be the questions; after all those curries he may need to make a hasty exit.

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Money matters

How could we change economics so that it better reflects the expectations of a modern pluralist society? The world, in the main, and in the absence of anything better relies on a capitalistic monetary system that is undisciplined, unregulated and intoxicated with greed.

Firstly, I believe a better understanding of why money matters might help. As I see it, we need to eliminate many of the reasons we worship it. Very simply put:

  • “Economics is the study of how people allocate scarce resources for production, distribution, and consumption, both individually and collectively.
  • Two major types of economics are microeconomics, which focuses on the behavior of individual consumers and producers, and macroeconomics, which examine overall economies on a regional, national, or international scale.
  • Economics is especially concerned with efficiency in production and exchange and uses models and assumptions to understand how to create incentives and policies that will maximize efficiency.
  • Economists formulate and publish numerous economic indicators, such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
  • Capitalism, socialism, and communism are types of economic systems.”

It was never intended to be a measure of one’s success, or lack of it. It has never made one person better than another but it has suppressed the advancement of many.

There are those who make money but are never remembered. There are others who do great deeds and are.

At the root of all that is evil is greed. The want of it, the craving for it, the love of it and the power that comes with it.

Economics is not and was never intended to be a capitalist gift for those who happen to support a right-wing political ideology. Nor was it intended to be a means by which the wealthy become wealthier. Nor was it meant to be a means by which politicians could cement their power.

How is it possible for the inherited rich and privileged to understand poverty?

Economics should be a gift used to mould a humane and rounded society committed to kindness and compassion. A system by which the pursuit of success is encouraged while at the same time acknowledging that fairness and equality of opportunity is real in economic terms.

Imagine if you will an Australia where economics has a humane face to it. Where capitalism is controlled by common good regulations.

America may be the most advanced technological nation on earth but its social progress on matters of great moral importance is still fighting its way out of the dark ages when mysticism was rampart.

The root cause of all this ill-conceived thinking is a failure to understand what an economy is.

I believe that the Morrison government thinks that our economy collects taxes and other methods of obtaining money and redistributes it, using a top down methodology.

It is this government’s view that the economy is an entity unto itself – it seems to operate somehow in a separate cloud to the rest of us. Furthermore, it is independent of the world in which we live.

That is until events wrench us back to it. For example, according to this theory, the environment is somehow in conflict with the economy rather than an essential, vital essence of it.

This theory is wrong

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

Invariably when I read about how successful people are. the measure is always the value of their assets.

For those on the left it has been a depressing year; losing an election that was there for the taking. A disaster no one expected.

Those on the right rejoiced at their unexpected good fortune in the belief that it was the way things should be anyway.

Then along came some blistering fires, a few floods and a pandemic with a recession tagging along. I don’t make light of these matters because they are unlike anything for over a hundred years.

There are mixed views on how well our government has handled all these matters but for the purpose of this piece let’s put that aside and look at the future.

If COVID-19 has given us anything positive it is the opportunity to look at things differently, with fresh eyes and ideas.

With a new budget coming down in just a few weeks would it be too much to hope that our government might aim for a more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth.

I wish to revisit what I wrote almost a year ago:

“Indeed, would it be a little too much to expect – even hope – that this government might show a little more compassion, even love toward the elderly, those who cannot find work, or those who simply need more?

Could the government we elected – headed by a man of faith who confesses that God is love – find it is his heart to do something about the lack of it shown to the asylum seekers left on Manus and Nauru? Don’t leave the heavy work to God all the time.

Will those Ministers who share his faith with him, who also confess love as the central tenant of it, do more for the lost who walk our streets, those who hunger for food and love, or lodgings?

Will those who confess that they walk in the shoes of Jesus and those who don’t, reconsider their decisions involving, climate change, ethics, education, morality, law, medicine, population, infrastructure, water, what we can grow and many other complex issues in the knowledge that the changes they legislate will have a lasting effect on our children and their children?

My fervent hope is that love, kindness and compassion is considered in their deliberations. May your God bless you in this?

I would also hope – as I’m sure you would pray – for far less lying by all politicians given that truth is one of the commandments unto all. That its restoration be hastily elevated to its former standing.

And so, it goes for what we see on our televisions, the demonstrable hatred toward each other that you show in Question Time. Please eliminate it now, urgently.

What I ‘m trying to say here is that a true democracy cannot exist without a love for all the things that it exists for.

Love is a democratic outcome of all the thoughts that humble us. Debate in our place of democracy is not of necessity about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, ideas and principles. Or in its purist form it is simply the art of persuasion

By this I mean that love shames us when we seek to act without principles, but love honours dignity and mutual respect for our opponents.

Love softens hearts that want outrage, violence, bossing, bullying and sometimes love cannot be spoken, only shown

There is such a widespread disillusionment with how politics is practiced in our country that people feel powerless. That their vote means very little and they are not participants in our democracy.

The absence of love from one to the other eventually insinuates its way into society and partakes in its decay.”

We are all in this together.

My thought for the day

“The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages … It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom or our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” (Robert Kennedy, 1968).

 

 

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Now the blame game

By Ad astra    

Do you, like me, bristle as you hear the political class playing the blame game?

Seldom have we been so inundated with such a plethora of reports, inquiries, Royal Commissions and sundry investigations into past blunders. The Ruby Princess episode springs to mind, but there are many others. They all have something in common. They address the same question: ‘What happened?’ The oft-repeated rationale for the question is that we need to know this so that we can avoid it happening again. That is nonsense. What has happened is usually patently obvious to anyone reading the report of the event, and how to avoid a recurrence equally obvious. While how to avoid a repetition sounds a reasonable aim, the actual motivation is to apportion blame.

The political class revels in the blame game. It is another form of adversarial behaviour masquerading as legitimate discourse. We wrote about this in Is adversarial behaviour damaging our democracy?

As soon as a report is released, politicians do not ask how ‘How did we mess up so badly’. Instead, they first seek to find someone or some body to blame. They usually begin by asserting: ‘It wasn’t us’. Political opponents are then targeted with vigour. Even-handedness in apportioning blame is not an option. Scoring political points and damaging the reputation of opponents, is all that counts.

We are surprised when a politician concedes an error; we expect that such a concession will be accompanied by ‘Our opponents did the same’. When a minister makes a blunder, no matter how monumental, colleagues spring to his defence. We saw this recently when minister Colbeck showed his ineptitude so starkly. Yet he was defended by his colleagues and his spineless ‘leader’ did not sack him, as he should have.

I won’t burden you with a long recital of examples of the blame game. Just think of Donald Trump.

When did you ever hear him accept blame for anything?

When challenged with America’s surging unemployment, he insists that, rather than being to blame, he is tackling it with outstanding success. When challenged with America’s faltering economy, he not only refuses to accept blame, but asserts that it is booming as never before due to his superior management.

When asked about the wild spread of COVID-19, he insists he’s not to blame, refuses to accept that his unpreparedness is responsible and even disputes the extent of the epidemic in the US, and the hundreds of thousands of deaths that have already occurred. Who will forget the interview he had with aspiring journalist Jonathan Swan, who challenged him so stylishly with a set of uncomfortable facts that laid the blame at his feet. He was not about to accept Swan’s assertions; he had alternative facts of his own, which he lamely offered on pieces of paper. When Swan retorted: ‘You can’t do that’, Trump looked astonished. In his world, he can do or assert whatever he likes.

In our own country the blame game is in full swing. Who is to blame from the spread of the virus in Victoria? Dan Andrews is the prime target of his opponents, but the ‘bungled’ hotel security arrangements comes a close second; again Chairman Dan the culprit. Opposition leader O’Brien has his daily whinge about Andrews’ ‘bungles’, laying the blame heavily on the Premier for anything that is not going well.

Do politicians realise how much voters despise them when they play the blame game? They seem oblivious to the disdain they attract, as they do in so many other instances. They live in their Canberra bubble disconnected from the real world outside. They are elected to understand the issues that affect us and the problems that beset us, yet how often do they offer us understanding, comfort, reassurance and advice. They let us down collectively, and often individually as well.

When politicians play the blame game, they demean themselves. Yet they seem oblivious to the harm they do to the political class, and the disdain they evoke. Will they ever wake up? I doubt it.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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

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