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Category Archives: News and Politics

Day to Day Politics: The polls tighten … but not enough

Wednesday 20 September

1 This week’s Guardian Essential Poll tightened up a little with Labor leading the Coalition 52/48. However, if that was consistent across the country then it would still be a big win for Labor.

Public support for marriage equality has dropped 4% in a fortnight and opposition is up 3%, according to Essential.

The months leading up to Christmas are shaping up like the calm before the storm. Turnbull has to contend with the Marriage Equality survey, eligibility of some MPs to sit, and no Energy policy.

Seasoned veteran journalist Paul Bongiorno said yesterday that some senior members of the parliamentary press gallery predicted that Malcolm Turnbull would win the next election.

Yes, this is in spite of the fact that the government has not won a Newspoll since the last election. The average of all the polls is close to an 8 per cent lead to Labor. “How is it possible?” I hear you say. Well, it’s based on the premise that Turnbull will still be leader at the election and that it will be held two years from now.

Three comments. One, I don’t see a reason to replace him. Anyone else would be more unpopular. Two, I don’t see another two years in them. After considering all the complications of state and federal elections it is my fervent belief that the next election will be held around this time next year. Thirdly, the die is cast, the people have judged and their minds are set in concrete.

If the ‘Yes’vote wins – although yesterday’s Essential survey shows a tightening in the votes – Turnbull will claim a victory over the conservatives and Abbott. If it’s a clear win, some will interpret it a victory over absurdity and others like me will see it a protest against mediocrity of governance.

Already the forces of the far right are muddying the waters with half-truths, omissions and deliberately trying to make other issues the order or the day.

If the ‘No’ vote wins, it will be a stunning repudiation of Turnbull and the senior members of his government who are campaigning hard for marriage equality.

2 A sleeper for the Government to have some concerns about is the appointment of Nigel Hadgkiss as Commissioner of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) last year when it knew he had been accused of breaching workplace laws during his earlier tenure as head of the Fair Work Commission’s building and construction office.

Fancy a LNP Government appointing people accused of committing crimes.

3 Here is something from the front page of the Newcastle Herald under the headline
‘It’s NOT OK’. Please don’t think that because I’m posting the words of others that I’m neglecting my own. It’s just that now and then I come across words worth passing on.

“The LNP will never be able to reinvent themselves because they are capital “C” Conservatives. This means that they do not just have reservations about change in general, but that they are firm adherents to a particular ideological viewpoint. It is not fair to other people who belong to the first camp as it lumps them in with the ideologues who are incapable of change. They cannot change as they are in a state of denial about any need to change. I think it would be fair to say that they are the worst, most dangerous and damaging government ever to be inflicted on the Australian people. Having a group of such rusted on ideologues in charge is akin to having a religious state. Facts and science are routinely attacked if they conflict with dogma. For a truly secular state we should be outlawing such governments.”

“To read every article the Australian has published on Safe Schools is to induce nausea. This isn’t even a comment on the content, just the sheer volume … And yet, across this entire period, the Australian – self-appointed guardian of the safety of children – spoke to not a single school-aged LGBTIQ youth. Not even one. Later, queer teenagers who followed the Safe Schools saga told me the dynamic felt familiar. AT SCHOOL, ITS KNOWN AS BULLYING. IN JOURNALISM, ITS CALLED A BEAT-UP.” (Benjamin Law, Moral Panic 101).

4 On Facebook a friend (Hayden Timothy) posted the following:

“Stephen and I are a completely normal couple. We do normal couple things. We go grocery shopping together. We bicker about stupid things. We watch the news together. We even do that weird meowing thing that a lot of couples do apparently.

But because we’re both men, that means we’re ‘different’. Even though we pay the same taxes everyone else does. We catch the same public transport. We work the same jobs (sort of). It’s weird – we’re more heteronormative than most straight couples we know. I honestly don’t even think of ourselves as a ‘gay’ couple. Sure, we’re two guys, but whose business is that?!

But because we are both male, we’re not offered equal rights by law. No matter how ‘normally’ we live. Isn’t Australia meant to be an egalitarian society? Doesn’t that by definition mean we all deserve equal rights?

I cannot believe it has actually come to a postal survey. The very thing we’ve been fighting against for years now and has never on any level been a viable idea. But this stupid thing arrived in our mailbox today and suddenly Stephen and I found ourselves having to fill in a box about whether, in our humble opinion, we should be allowed to get married.

The second I saw this form I felt a rage I’ve never felt before. A public opinion poll on a decision that is completely private, and completely nobody else’s business but ours. I felt angry that every person in Australia is being asked whether Stephen and I should be able to marry. I felt angry that LGBTQI kids now have to deal with hate from our own government, on top of everything else. I felt angry that they decided to spend 122 MILLION DOLLARS on a little piece of paper that doesn’t even actually guarantee any change to our laws.

Posting my answer to this questionnaire was one of the most humiliating things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’ve been so fortunate to grow up with a significant amount of privilege. But for anyone – SO many – people in the greater queer community who are more vulnerable and have no support network, this fiasco could be completely devastating. I am so ashamed of our country and our government for putting you through all of this. To anyone who feels like an ‘other’, please know that you are not alone. There is so much love and support out there, despite this government’s best efforts.

This is NOT a vote on same-sex parenting. This is NOT a vote on safe schools. This is NOT a vote on bestiality. This is NOT a vote on religious freedoms. This is simply an opinion poll on whether Stephen and I, and so many others like us, are able to have the choice to get married if we’d like to. We might; we might not. But the choice should be ours, and not anybody else’s. Not the catholic church’s. And certainly not Tony Abbott’s.

If you disagree and are voting no, I encourage you to come and find me and tell me IN PERSON that you do not think I deserve the same rights as you. This is personal, so tell me to my face.

Think of this vote as an early RSVP. Those who vote ‘no’ will not be welcome – to our wedding, or in our lives.”

5 Now, just a few words to finish this section. My 13-year-old grandson visits us on his way home from school. I generally pick him up if it’s raining. The conversation usually starts with something about school:

Me: “What happened today?”
Him: “Not much” The usual answer. Oh wait. “We had a free period so we had a discussion about Marriage Equality”
Me: “Really, how did that happen?”
Him: One of the girls started talking about it.”
Me: “Do you find the girls more mature.”
My wife: “They usually are.”
Me: “So what did they have to say about it.”
Him: “Most of us agreed that they should be allowed to marry. It was only a few boys who I think didn’t understood what marriage equality was about who voted against it. I should get you to talk to them poppa, he laughed.”

An observation

“Love is when there is an irresistible urge for the need of the affection of another and the irresistibility is of its nature mutual. It has no gender.”

6 Changing subjects … I have a great appreciation for the writing of Alan Kohler. Here are some words from last week:

“Actually climate change denial is demolishing Australian politics, and has been for 10 years.

The refusal of about half the nation’s politicians, and much of the media, to believe what scientists and business leaders say on this subject — while believing them on other subjects — has brought the normal functioning of politics and sensible policy grinding to a halt.

It’s going to be a long and difficult rebuild, but with the electrification of transport now happening, time is running out.”

“As Turnbull theatrically struts around throwing out childish taunts like ‘Blackout Bill’ and ‘No Coal Joel’, it should be remembered that … our energy crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of a divided Coalition whose own power struggles over the last decade have made it impossible for them to come up with any sort of enduring policy.”

7 On this day a year ago I wrote:

Peter Dutton was interviewed on Insiders on Sunday and gave his answers to questions on a “need to know” basis. Again he blamed Labor for everything to do with refugees, and avoids the point of the questions.

He was again asked about the future of innocent people who the Government has condemned to a life of incarceration without having committed a crime.

All he would say was “we are in discussions with other countries”. Which of course is the same answer he has been giving ever since he became Immigration Minister.

My thought for the day

“Wisdom is but a reflection on growing older.”

 

Turnbull’s postal opinion poll: a vicious, bullying farce.

 

It’s rather difficult to empathise with the marriage equality No crowd’s insistence that they are being “bullied” by the Yes side, given that the postal opinion poll on the issue is, in itself, one of the most outstanding examples of government and social bullying that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Subjecting groups to the judgement of their fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality is bullying, of the most insidious and damaging kind.

Sexuality is an integral part of who we are. It ought not to be the business of anyone other than ourselves, and those we choose to share it with.

And yet here we are, bullied into participating in a bullying opinion poll on our bullied fellow citizens.

(Well done, Prime Minister Turnbull. We all know you chose this persecutory path this because you’re scared dickless of your right-wing. We also know that bullies are always cowards.)

The opinion poll is a survey (and I use the word loosely, given it wouldn’t pass muster as an actual survey anywhere except perhaps North Korea) of what some Australians think of the sexuality of other Australians. It is inherently privileged: gay people do not and never will have the right to participate in a government-initiated opinion poll on the sexuality of straight people and their right to marry. (The very fact this comment sounds ludicrous is solid evidence of entitlement and privilege). It is a survey with a non binding outcome if the answer is yes, and a binding outcome if the answer is no.

I understand that the national result of the opinion poll will be broken down on a federal electoral basis, thereby enabling politicians to claim they will vote in parliament according to their constituents’ wishes and not their own. Yet again they’ve worked out a way of getting themselves off the hook. Eluding responsibility is the one skill this government seems to possess in abundance.

Although the postal poll is to say the least haphazard (piles of envelopes left in the rain at apartment blocks; sent to people who’ve left the address ten years before; stolen forms auctioned online and so on) the results will be a permanent record of opinion in each federal electorate without any safeguards in place to ensure everyone in that electorate had the opportunity to comment. It really is an absolute farce, confected by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and embraced by Turnbull as a way to save his sorry arse from a right-wing kicking. If this isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is.

The No crowd, on the other hand, seem incapable of distinguishing between disagreement, and bullying or silencing. It’s a conservative trait to believe anyone with an opinion that differs from yours is your enemy. According to the right-wing, if you aren’t agreed with you are “silenced.” To this end, the No crowd continues to appear on every available media platform on a daily basis, protesting their “silencing.” Not one of them can see the irony in this.

Here, yet again, we see entitlement and privilege in action. The No crowd is working from the premise that they must be agreed with, simply because of who they are and what they believe. It’s become perhaps an over-used concept since the advent of Donald Trump, however, the notion that anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is wrong and wickedly trying to silence you is teetering towards narcissistic. It’s also bullying.

So far throughout this debacle, the right has shown itself to be relentlessly seeking victimhood. However, for mine, Shelton’s appearance at the National Press Club last week conclusively undermined his accusations of silencing, both for him personally, and for his followers.

Let’s face it: we should be so lucky…

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Day to Day Politics: Don’t go right, don’t go left; go deeper.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Have you ever given thought to the state of our politics and what you would like to replace it with given you are deeply dissatisfied? I have, and I always come up with the words “common good.” I imagine what a “common good” society might look like. I include those things that are wedded to a common good society, the parliament, the law, religion and the fourth estate.

I take no ownership of the phrase “the common good” because it has been mentioned throughout history in one form or another.

“The great philosophers like Plato, the Ancient Greek philosophers indicates repeatedly that a particular common goal exists in politics and society. [For Plato, the best political order is the one which best promotes social harmony and an environment of cooperation and friendship among different social groups, each benefiting from and adding to the common good. In The Republic, Plato’s character Socrates contends that the greatest social good is the “cohesion and unity” that “result[s] from the common feelings of pleasure and pain which you get when all members of a society are glad or sorry for the same successes and failures.”

“Plato’s student Aristotle, considered by many to be the father of the idea of a “common good: uses the concept of “the common interest” (to koinei sympheron, in Greek) as the basis for his distinction between “right” constitutions, which are in the common interest, and “wrong” constitutions, which are in the interest of rulers. For Aristotle, the common good is constituted in the good of individuals. Individual good, in turn, consists in human flourishing—the fulfilment of the human’s purpose—which is the right and natural thing for humans to do.“

The idea of a “common good” has been mentioned in both religious and secular contexts. It can be found in Catholic social teaching, the Protestant social gospel, Judaism, Islam, and in the American Constitution. Indeed, the American constitution promotes a concept of “general welfare”

If we acknowledge that our current system of government and by inference our society is broken Then conversely we must ask the question how do we fix it. I have a view that we have lost our societal compass and are in need of a new one to take us forward.

Greed, inequality, capitalism, drip down economics and narcissistic individualism has been thrust on our society for so long that we have forgotten the word community.

How do we treat each other, especially the poorest and most vulnerable? How do we take care of not just ourselves but also one another? How do we accommodate the pursuits, the needs of the individual who wants to pursue their individual talents within the framework of a “common good society.”

The “common good” is also the best way to find common ground with other people-even with those who don’t agree with us or share our politics. How do both left and right survive in a “common good” atmosphere.?

A “common good” society is especially attractive to the young who have not yet been corrupted by the breakdown in todays “greed is good” society.

I was walking my dog Zach (since departed) one autumn day in 2016 and thinking about the year in politics. Many things came to mind but the one thing that stood out was the sense of self entitlement that politicians have.

To be fair, it’s not just politicians. The consumption society is a contradiction in terms. We know that what we consume keeps the economy ticking, creating jobs, but at the same time we also know that the materials we use are finite and will eventually run out but without materialism we won’t have the jobs we need.

As if just being a politician necessitated some form of self-indulgence that set them apart from the society they are supposed to represent. My thoughts drifted to what I thought a society should be.

An observation

“The word “Frugality” is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying and a consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.Therefore life is about doing things not having things.”

When, many years ago, the lady with the bad hair do uttered her famous and dispassionate condemnation of the human species:

” … there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first”

I was horrified. It was a statement that could only be expressed by someone with a deep sense of human isolation, selfish indifference, or indulgence. Was she saying that families only consisted of individuals making their way without any dependency on societal structures? The basic need to coexist and seek companionship.

We are by nature a herding animal. We form groups because no individual can survive without the assistance of others. ”No man is an island” as John Donne said. Margaret Thatcher’s statement condemns us to class self-centeredness and serfdom.

Successful societies should be built around a common good and we need to examine which political ideology is best placed to build such a society.

Firstly, let’s ask ourselves what is an ideal society based on the assumption that’s it’s an attainment we may never accomplish, but nonetheless is a worthwhile aspiration. Call me idealistic if you want.

In the modern Western sense an enlightened society is a populace of men, women and children who as a collective desire to express their humanity, work, aspirations, spirituality, art, poetry and play with the richest possible diversity.

It cultivates a “common good” with equality of opportunity for all. A society where one’s sexual preference or gender is not a judgement upon your character and the colour of your skin says nothing about you other than perhaps your geographical place of birth. A society that believes in individual pursuit, intellectual accomplishment and financial reward only regulated by what is beneficial for the “common collective good”. In other words everyone is entitled to an equitable share of society’s wealth.

A society where freedom of expression is guaranteed but limited only by the innate moral personal decency of the individual. Where free speech is fair speech. An enlightened society in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren.

A society where the health and welfare of all is sacrosanct and access to treatment is assured. Where the principle that we should treat others in the same manner as we expect them to treat us is indelible in the mind of every citizen.

A society that respects science before myth and mysticism, but at the same time recognises the individual’s right to the expression of their own form of spirituality so long as it doesn’t hinder or impinge on the common good.

A society that should be judged by its welcoming, and how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By how well protected we are and how accessible the law is regardless of stature or wealth.

In Democratic Societies (the best – or least bad form of government) our herding instincts are realised by the election of leaders who form government. Even in the imperfection of democracy we realise that a group mentality advances society better than dictatorial individuality.

So we need government that is subservient to the will (the “common good ethic”) of the people and is responsive to public opinion.

It is government that decides and regulates the progress and ambitions of society. Or at least provides the environment in which to do so. There is very little that is done in the name of progress that cannot be attributed in some way to government. Individual or collective ambition can only be achieved within a social structure built and controlled by government.

Currently we are experiencing a shift in power from government to those who control the means of production, financial institutions, the media, and the rich and large corporations.
Government by the people for the “common good” needs to be taken back.

It is our entitlement, not theirs. I have always thought that at the centre of any political philosophy should be the ‘common good. In saying this my thoughts often drift toward better ways of doing politics and the term “commongoodism” is central to my internal debate.

It sounds idealistic, this “common good” and it may not in itself be suited to all political persuasions but it is worthy of examination. It is probably more applicable to the left than the right. But politics after all is about compromise .

Maybe the isms of left and right have gone past their used by dates? Many questions arise. Do they suffer from the tiredness of longevity? Is there a possibility that a new politic could emerge from a society deeply entrenched in political negativity and malaise, yet still retain the essential ingredients of a vigorous democracy where a wide-ranging common good test would be applied to all policy. Have left and right so fused into each other that they no longer form a demarcation of ideas? Could the ideologies of the two somehow come together to form this “commongoodism?”

Who would decide the common good? How could one define it? Could capitalism embrace the common good or would it need a work over? Could conservatism which empathises individual responsibility and opportunity embrace it. What would common good values be?

That’s all a bit like political scrambled eggs I know but they are the sort of philosophical questions I ask myself on my daily walks. You see that although I still value my leftish views I do really believe that modern political thought and practice needs a makeover.

And that’s not just nationally but internationally. But particularly in Australia where politics no longer meets the needs or aspirations of the people and is held in such low esteem that politicians are barely relevant. I have long felt that the political establishment has taken ownership of a system that should serve the people but instead serves itself.

It is self-indulgent, shows no respect for the people it serves and lacks transparency.

Tony Blair says “the big difference is no longer between left and right, it is between open and closed”.

So with this statement let me introduce you to an address by Nick Clegg, leader of the British Liberal Party, on the “Open Society” In it he introduces many themes and ideas. This link was sent to me by my Facebook friend Daniel Carr who a thinker on these matters and now resides in London.

I shall say no more other than that this address is full of sound political common sense. It is full of idealism and controversial considerations that challenges current political understanding. I found it enthralling. It has helped me in my efforts to bring some clarity to my thoughts on “commongoodism” So I invite those who are seriously minded on the subject to share your views. I for one would be most interested in them.

Can a society deeply entrenched in political negativity and malaise, rise with a renewed interest in the “common good,” and still retain the essential ingredients of a vigorous democracy where a wide-ranging common good test could be applied to all policy. Even have a caveat placed on it.

Have left and right so fused into each other that they no longer form a demarcation of ideas? Could the ideologies of the two somehow come together to form this commongoodism? Who would decide the common good? How could one define it? Could capitalism embrace the “common good” or would it need a complete rethink? Could conservatism which empathises individual responsibility and opportunity embrace it? What would common good values be? Some might even say there is no such thing.
I have long felt that the political establishment has taken ownership of a system that should serve the people but instead serves itself. It is self-indulgent, shows no respect for the people it serves and lacks transparency. These thoughts I know challenge established political thinking. They may even be controversial, but politics, as we currently practice it has no future as I see it.

There, I have finished my dummy spit, my dose of idealistic medicine.

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” (said Winston Churchill).

“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” (said Robert Kennedy)

My thought for the day

“Don’t go right, don’t go left; go deeper.”

Right wing think tank “experts” with no teaching experience dictate Coalition education policy

It was with absolute horror that I read today of a supposed “expert report” recommending that Year 1 students face standardised testing in numeracy and literacy.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham released a report by an expert advisory panel on Monday, led by Jennifer Buckingham, which recommends a national literacy and numeracy check for year 1 students.

Despite never having been a teacher, Ms Buckingham has some very firm views on education and has, during her years working for the right wing think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, written many op-eds and articles on topics as wide-ranging as “school funding and performance, school choice, literacy and numeracy testing and reporting, teacher education, teacher employment, class size, and boys’ education.”

In the lead-up to the 2014 budget from hell, Ms Buckingham produced a policy discussion paper School funding on a budget as part of the think tank’s campaign to get the Australian Government to reduce spending.  The paper provided a justification for the government’s failure to implement Gonski and helped push an agenda for further privatisation of Australian schooling.

Bob Lingard at The Australian Association for Research in Education wrote a scathing critique of Ms Buckingham’s work and the influence of the CIS on Coalition policy.

SFoB is an exemplar of the think tank report genre. It is written in plain language, by author Jennifer Buckingham, and purports to be a research report.  In the footnotes, there is cross-referencing to other CIS reports and those of other think tanks, the work of a conservative free choice US Foundation that promotes the use of school vouchers, and to the reports of consultancy firms such as Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

SFoB is about agenda setting and ideas for policy in the context of a down-sized state and fast policy making. It sought to use a political moment to drive an agenda that would further entrench inequalities in Australian schooling.

The Abbott government appointed Professor Steven Schwartz, currently an academic advisor for the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), to chair the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority ( ACARA) and Dr Jennifer Buckingham, author of the SFoB paper, to the Board of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership ( AITSL).

I won’t be alone in wondering if CIS will be as influential with the Turnbull government as it was with the Abbott government.

Ms Buckingham has advocated for Education Bursaries for low-income students to use at non-government schools and charging high-income families to attend government schools.  She is a fan of charter schools  – privately managed public schools – and suggests removing mandatory class size maximums and resistance to further class size reductions.

Another of her ideas, seemingly ignorant of, or oblivious to, the difficulties of staffing schools in remote communities and in very disadvantaged urban communities, is to decentralise staffing.  Perhaps Ms Buckingham is unaware that the major criticism proffered by the principals in recent times has been that they are now responsible for everything, without systemic support.

But back to her latest thought bubble.

“We found that there is no systematic early assessment of the essential core early reading and numeracy skills identified,” Buckingham said.

As any teacher will tell you, there is an enormous range in ability level in 5-6 year olds and you don’t need to subject them to standardised testing to work that out – you spend every day with them assessing and addressing that in a myriad of ways that encourage individual improvement.

Early childhood development has some link to parental level of education and socio-economic status.  These deficits in emergent literacy for lower SES children can be reduced by high quality preschool childcare or education. There is now ample evidence of the benefits of preschool education for children generally and not just the disadvantaged.

I have spoken with many many teachers about this and I am yet to find one who agrees that standardised testing for tiny tots is necessary, desirable, or helpful in any way.

Think tank wannabes have no idea what works in a classroom.  Teaching is a profession that requires personal attributes, skills and experience that cannot be matched by bureaucratic ponderings driven by ideological hypothesising and focus on saving money.

Perhaps Ms Buckingham, with her fixation on phonics, could tell me how I teach a child to read “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”

 

The Genuine Article in Australian Politics

He was there with his entourage, a face unmoved bar the occasional muscle flex. “There’s Malcolm Turnbull!” exclaimed drinking companions at the Curtin on Melbourne’s famed Lygon Street, the artery of culinary matters Italian.

It wasn’t: Bill Shorten, the leader of the Australian Labor Party and contender for the Prime Ministership of Australia, was nursing a drink this Friday evening, treating it with the sort of caution one reserves for a lice infested child.

Various appellations and amalgams come to mind: Malcolm Shorten; Bill Malcolm; Malcolm Bill. Leaving aside the statistical dimension of who is the preferred person for prime minister, a poll that Shorten tends to lose, their similarity on much ground is stunning. Bill goes for the poor zinger-heavy speech; Malcolm goes for the fluffy slogan (growth, jobs) and the hunt for the tedious moniker to give his opponents. Substance is only optional.

Who, then, to turn to? Between the union machine hack and the uninspiring sloganeering merchant banker, Australian politics is suffering a death by boredom, the stifling middle belt that resists radical reform. The stage, then, is set for the next spectacular – this, after all, is the age of Donald Trump, where the absurd is scripted as a daily show.

The mad monk comes to mind, so mad he turns Australian politics inside out with an extreme touch, simple yet purely animal. That mad monk, the fab loon, the reactionary: Tony Abbott. There are others, the sort who infuriate, and trick, the spin doctor and the public relations entourage who distort and cloak. Their version of democracy is the controlled press statement, damage control and staged popularity. But former prime minister Abbott was always impossible to muzzle, allergic to modern forms of containment. Before Trump-Bannon, there was Abbott-Credlin.

If Australian forces would have to go it alone in Iraq, even without US air cover, he would say so with flag waving enthusiasm. On November 25, 2015, Abbott put forth the suggestion to staff and planners that 3,500 Australian soldiers could be deployed to deal with the Islamic State.

The Australian, a Murdoch paper usually in favour of drum beating reactionary politics, found this particular idea dazzling for its original stupidity. “The proposal to invade Iraq raises the issue of Mr Abbott’s judgment – it was made two months before his decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip.” Trump would have been impressed with both.

If deploying Australian armed personnel into a Ukrainian war zone to consolidate an air crash site was possible, he would also step up to the mark. This nugget surfaced in the revelations of former Australian Army officer James Brown, who called this “the clearest case in recent times of a prime minister struggling to grasp the limits of Australian military power”.

Covering him in the news would be like encapsulating a typhoon of verity. However detestable, he remained, and remains, pure to his loathing, dedicated to principle. It is the purity he carries with him to his cosy position at Radio 2GB, where he is feted by the shock jock family.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, he is evidently at home, the revolutionary who prefers to attack, rather than govern. For those against the measure to change the marriage laws, he is gold dust, giving the impression of tolerance while making sure that his position is left clearly combative.

“Like most,” he explained in the Fairfax Press, “I have tried to be there for friends and family who are gay.  They are good people who deserve our love, respect and inclusion but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to reserve the term ‘marriage’ for the relationship of one man with one woman, ideally for life and usually dedicated to children.”

Marriage as the sacred, reserved institution, special, biological, and for the heterosexuals to make or break. Besides, claims this authentic article, same-sex couples already have “marriage equality” despite not having it, the existence of something by another name.

A similar genuine article, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, also teeters in mad territory, a fabulous counterweight to Turnbull. Here is a person who will make international waves attacking a Hollywood actor for evading quarantine regulations. He will snipe at environmentalists while defending the use of pilfered water from the Murray Darling system. Joyce has a mouth which will go on vacation when it needs to.

Through Australia’s upper chamber, we also see the colourful expressions of the genuine article. There is Pauline Hanson to shore up a form of extremism that tends to find diluted form in the centre of politics; there are such figures as Derryn Hinch and Jacqui Lambie. (“You have no moral values and to go after the public broadcaster is an absolute disgrace,” she thundered in a late-night Senate speech on the government’s media reforms).

Such figures rarely attain the top position, being monitoring spoilers, the shock troops of controversy. Abbott was rewarded with the prime ministership, briefly, and was knifed by his own party. Joyce may well find that he is ineligible to sit in Parliament, courtesy of New Zealand citizenship he did not believe he had. But no one would ever confuse them for Bill Malcolm, or Malcolm Shorten.

Dr Binoy Kampmark is a senior lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge. He is a contributing editor to CounterPunch and can be followed on Twitter at @bkampmark.

 

 

Day to Day Politics: How do you rate the performance of the Turnbull government?

Monday 18 September 2017

Two years have elapsed since Malcolm Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. At the time I thought he had done a wonderful thing for the Australian people. After a month or so Abbott kept reminding us that his party may have changed leaders but his policies were still in place.

Two years later, with perhaps the exception of Gonski, they still are. As Labor shouted all last week, was it worth the change? As Malcolm Turnbull cast away the values he had convinced us he had, our estimation of him has declined.

We are apt to discount the fact that he signed an agreement with the National Party, but we cannot forgive his lack of courage for not telling them to go jump, and stand up for his principles.

Now before I am accused of repetitive writing let me explain. You see, I believe that in around a year from now the Prime Minister will be asking us to give him another term in office.

Therefore it is legitimate to constantly ask ourselves “how well are we being governed?” Much has been written about his first 24 months, with very little of it good.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett said after his first 12 months:

“No vision, no plan, and a loner who thinks he is brighter than the rest of us … Malcolm Turnbull has had training wheels spinning for 12 months and its time he started leading”.

But what are your thoughts? How would you rate him out of 10 on the following? (Be fair and let’s see it we can get a serious conversation going).

Firstly though, remember what he said:

“We need a different style of leadership. We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities, explains the challenges and how to seize the opportunities. A style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take and makes a case for it. We need advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people”.

I, despite being of the left thought that when he came to power he did the Australian people a great service in disposing of Abbott, and that should never be forgotten. I also thought he would usher in a new era of civility in the body politic. I will save my marks until later.

Out of 10 please:

1  Leadership/stability/harmony

2  Economy

3  Defence/ National security

4  Immigration

5  Education

6  Health

7  Communications

8  Trust

9  Transparency

10  Infrastructure.

11 Jobs

12 Housing

13 Equality

14 Freedom

Please be objective. Give them a score out of ten or just respond about one or more that is close to you. Even tie a score out of 10 for overall performance.

When I wrote on this topic last year and I happened to mention Pauline Hansen. I got the following response from Barry Clements:

“Get your head out of your fat arse John you despicable arse wipe. Your just another parasite that doesn’t like or don’t want to like the truth. This lady has more intelligence in her little finger than you have in you whole decrepit body and she always speaks the truth where as idiots like you always talk bullshit just to try get a name for yourself. Well this yime you have failed you wanker. You are a unaustralian dispicable left wing parasite and should shut you filthy mouth and fuck off just like you greenie friends”.

(I’m told The AIMN receives similar comments but filters them out).

My thought for the day

“Be generous with your praise and considerate with your criticism.”

Turnbull government marks two years of inertia, paralysis and failure.

“It’s been two years of great achievement … But above all it’s two years since I became prime minister building on the outstanding work of the Member for Warringah. And what that has done is delivered strong jobs growth.”

Malcolm Turnbull marks two years in office with a tribute to his nemesis Tony Abbott; a falsehood set in a farrago of lies.

Great achievement? Don’t mention the NBN. The ABCC was adulterated to buggery. The Gonski 2.0 con a $22 billion cut for education. Media reform? A path for Rupert The Sun-King to gain even more power. Strong jobs growth? The unemployment rate is stuck stubbornly on 5.6%. Over 730,000 people are out of work for more than a year. Every one of us is working fewer hours.  Most Australians are steadily getting poorer while the rich and the very rich prosper.

But in our Orwellian political arena, up is down. Back is forward; black is white. Our PM, the most over-promoted, least-attractive, poseur in our political history, leads his underwhelming, overweening parliamentary jeer-squad over the top.

Embracing their inner lout again this week, MPs set about bullying AGL, defaming “shifty” Bill Shorten and throwing such a hissy fit of denunciation, eye-rolling, finger-pointing, mocking, crowing and hectoring of demon Labor, as they can muster to divert from their imminent mugging by a host of scandals, self-inflicted crises and policy failures.

Gavin Hanlon, our most senior NSW water wallah resigns two months after it is revealed that he offered to share confidential government documents with irrigation lobbyists. Of course it’s nothing to do with our Water Minister, Kiwi, Barnaby Joyce. Not even a federal matter. And, Oh my, just look over there. Shorten’s telling lies again.

“We have seen this all before, because the Leader of the Opposition has a pathological pattern of behaviour to deceive, to falsify and to mislead the Australian people …” crows Josh Frydenberg rightly disputing Labor’s claim that NSW power prices would rise by $1000. Yet Liberals warned of $100 lamb roasts and Whyalla disappearing off the map, if carbon emissions were to be priced, in a carbon tax scare which Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott now freely admit to inventing.

Team Turnbull’s plan is a back-to-the-future attack on Labor as the party of high electricity prices in a re-run of Abbott’s astonishing success, yet it’s unlikely that NSW consumers whose bills Frydenberg claims increase by only $300 will feel upbeat – especially given that the privatisation of electricity was sold to them as a way to lower power tariffs.

Its ABCC scandal, on the other hand, is electrifying. Nigel Hadgkiss, their “tough new cop on the construction beat” confesses he published false information about site entry. He did not bother to read it, he says. Restoring law and order to building sites by appointing an industrial cop who breaks those laws himself would cause most ministers to reflect.

Not so Employment Minister, lip-readers’ friend Michaelia Cash despite being hoist by her own petard appears entirely unrepentant. Ms Hard Cash wins this week’s Government own goal of the week award. And Stand by Your Man award.

Ms Ready Cash tapped Liberal pal Hadgkiss to head the ABCC when she knew that he had broken the Fair Work Act himself.  There was no cabinet appointment process just a lousy $426,160 a year  She tells the senate that she first learned about Nigel’s behaviour in October last year but her office quickly modifies that to “learning of the allegations”.

“Merely because behaviour is alleged in a court process does not make it a finding of fact,” she shrieks on Thursday.

It’s a sobering thought, given forty-one, thirty year old unsubstantiated allegations about Lionel Murphy are released by Federal Parliament to help divert from pressing scandals and to help assuage the Coalition’s insatiable fetish for bashing Labor activists even after they’ve shuffled off stage left.

Never to be outdone, indignant that there is no posthumous Royal Commission into Murph, Merry Gerry Henderson eagerly puts his boot in also just to put aside for a moment The Australian’s sterling contribution to the respectful and mature hatred so consuming the national mood in what the government so fondly calls the same sex marriage debate.

Gerry finds 41 serious allegations to salivate over but allegations they remain. It’s a point The Oz, oddly, seems to lose sight of.

Perhaps Coalition MPs, too could bear Ms Cash’s distinction in mind when next they rise to repeat the Chiquita mushroom allegation or any other from two years of unproven allegations against Bill Shorten in the TURC.

Undeterred and in the spirit of a post-truth week, Cash proceeds to paints Hadgkiss as some kind of martyr,

“Mr Hadgkiss has played a pivotal role in restoring the rule of law to Australia’s building and construction industry, despite relentless opposition and appalling intimidation from lawless construction unions and their political supporters.”

Cash admits to knowing for almost a year, then, that Australian Building and Construction (ABCC) chief had broken the laws he was supposedly enforcing.

He says he thought the laws would be repealed and didn’t bother checking. Why would he? She says she had no proof and besides, he only admitted to the breaches this week.  Why would she check?

In like Flynn, Hadgkiss was immediately appointed, in 2013, by then Employment Minister, Eric Abetz, to head the Fair Work Building Inspectorate. Shortly after his appointment he told inspectorate staff not to correct misinformation to employers that they could direct unions where they could hold their on-site meetings, advice which was left uncorrected for two years, despite warnings from CFMEU and Commission staff.

Hadgkiss admits in a 25 page agreed statement of facts tendered to the Federal Court Tuesday that, in December 2013, he directed his agency to not publish changes to right-of-entry laws that were of benefit to unions. Above all to workers.

The coalition has always claimed that Howard’s ABCC brought a 20% increase in productivity, a lie refuted in Productivity Commission reports. Not only did construction activity decrease, it became more dangerous. Now it’s even worse.

Deaths in construction soared to 19 in the first six months of 2017, equivalent to 38 per year, the worst rate on record. Under Abbott, deaths became more frequent but under Turnbull, the rate at which workers are killed has accelerated.

The fatality rate is even more worrying given the industry’s unprecedented three consecutive years of investment decline under the Abbott-Turnbull government with a corresponding slump in output. The ABCC was supposed to revitalise the industry. Construction would boom once government relaxed the red tape in a new era of deregulation.

Malcolm Turnbull even gave it his best Neoliberal benediction,

“Deregulation, enabling businesses and individuals to pursue their own dreams, their own freedom, is the way to deliver the prosperity upon which all depends.”

Pressed by Leigh Sales, recently to list his achievements, the PM was quick to instance the ABCC. No hint from Sales that construction industry activity or its safety record since Turnbull’s ABCC revival is an indictment of his government.

So, too, is the slump in residential building which headed for a 31 per cent decline according to BIS economics. Jobs? Tens of thousands of construction workers could find themselves unemployed in 2018.

The Australian Construction Industry Forum predicts construction industry could shed as many as 166,000 jobs over the next three years as a deterioration in engineering construction dovetails with the slump in residential building,

It’s a big cloud gathering but Pollyanna Scott Morrison is still inanely braying “better times ahead”. Perhaps he has to. The alternative is unthinkable.

The Cash scandal, together with Stuart Robert’s sensational revelations, would bring any other government to its knees.

Robert is alleged to have made his eighty-year-old father, Alan, a director in his IT service business, Robert International, which he ran with his wife, Dorothy, so his son’s business could continue to receive tens of millions in government contracts.  It also links Robert to GMT Services, an IT business with which Robert says he has “ceased involvement”.

Any normal government would be rocked to its foundations but the Coalition has the answer. More loud shouting. Slurs.

You can’t let Shorten “slither in”. Malcolm Turnbull’s morphing into Tony Abbott with a bigger vocabulary and a better postcode is almost totally complete two years after he hauled the mangy junkyard dog before his own kangaroo court.

Turnbull 1:0  still in his suavely debonair Q&A leather jacket stage, couldn’t tell Tony that, as PM, he was a hopeless joke.

Worse. It was the savage god, the economy, that ravenous beast that made him do it. He had to knife his PM, he said, in his languid, lofty, hollow, vowels primarily, because Abbott was hopeless with budgets and spending. Simply no idea of how to act like an economic leader, or what tie to wear, let alone how to keep a Cayman Island company or trust afloat.

How Turnbull’s Abbott hatchet-job has come back to mock him. The 2017 budget is big-spending and high taxing. Yet the economy is going backwards. Hours worked, to take the single most reliable indicator of jobs created, have been below 85.10 in the 22 months since Morrison became Treasurer and Cash became Employment Minister.

The lowest under Labor was 85.7.

Despite the nonsense about total jobs created – meaningless without population growth, jobs wound up and above all attention to the steady decline in total hours worked, unemployment is stuck at 5.6%.

While profits are at record levels, wages growth hasn’t budged from 1.9%, for the last four quarters is a record low. It helps to put the lie to trickle-down if not the entire corpus of laissez-faire Neoliberal economic theory.  Wages as a proportion of GDP are at their lowest since records began in 1959.

Today, economic leadership amounts only to repeating “our economic plan.” And “strong jobs growth.” Yet, in keeping with all true contrarian experience, every claim the Turnbull team makes about the economy, employment or their goals is refuted by the experts.

Similarly, Abbott’s leadership style was held to be deficient. How, for example, Tony spoke down to the nation. Talk about superficial slogans. “Jobs and growth.” The tosser sounded like a talking bumper sticker. Sloganeering was no substitute for advocacy and didn’t respect people’s intelligence. It was mutual. Witness 30 straight Newspoll fails.

Despite solid progress, Turnbull is still working towards the Newspoll goal but most of the other key non-performance indicators are there. Especially the slogans, arrogance and the autocratic tendencies. This week, in the bullying of AGL, there have been flashes of the Ayatollah, as the imperious Turnbull was known in his banking career.

The power play of the week has been to wheedle cajole and bully Andy Vesey, the CEO of  AGL into an undertaking to keep Liddell, the nation’s oldest, dirtiest and least reliable power station open beyond its 2022 use by date. Or sell the plant to a competitor, a proposal which has curiously been spurned by the company’s board.

No-one would buy a station which AEMO itself says is most likely to cause power blackout and which could consume a billion dollars just to get it back into commission – despite Barnaby Joyce’s claim that he knows of at least two. But he’s not telling.

The Turnbull government, however, has chosen the contrarian path issuing press releases suggesting the AGL board will take 90 days to consider keeping the station open.

In reality, the undertaking allows AGL a number of options including honouring its generation commitment by means of renewables – which was its intention in the first place.

Alarmingly, this week Morrison is not up to speed on AGL. And who knows where Joyce has got his Liddell tyre-kickers from. His place as a National party climate denier is to insist repeatedly that coal is affordable and reliable, neither of which is true but it all helps the Coalition strategy of ditching Finkel’s Clean Energy Target for something that would allow coal-burning power stations to be part of the “energy plan” a novelty in Coalition policy to date.

Expect a CET 2.0 which will have to be appropriately renamed as an ‘affordable energy target”. Whatever the government comes up with it deserves to be known as the dirty or unclean energy target. It will be billed as a product of the cabinet and party room “consultation process”. In other words what Tony Abbott’s mob tell Turnbull he must do.

An environmental, energy and economic disaster, it promises to end Turnbull’s political career.

Yet Abbott’s consultation style was hopeless, too. Nor was he big on “proper cabinet government”. Mostly he got Peta Credlin to tell ministers what they were up to – or how far they were off the pace.  And he made up policy on the hop.

Turnbull two years out is vulnerable on all these counts just as he is hamstrung by his secret Faustian pact with the Nationals. Captured by the right of his party with its climate denial and its opposition to marriage equality he is unable to exert his authority, let alone lead. Further, as Bernard Keane points out, the PM is wedged between the sudden death of neoliberalism, largely occasioned by its inability to sustain wages growth and the rise of populist resentment.

This week a conga-line of ministers turns itself inside out in a series of back-flips on everything including the Paris Climate Accord as the Turnbull circus marks the beginning of its third, surreal, year with an Orwellian tour de force.

“This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”  promised Turnbull at first. Now he’s intervening in the energy market, lecturing the banks, re-jigging the gas market, even bullying AGL to keep open a costly, inefficient, unreliable, uneconomic coal-fired plant and proposing to build and run state power plants and even a railway to a coal mine or two in the best Soviet command-economy style. He styles himself as a pragmatist but his record is more one of agonising confusion.

In common with Abbott, Turnbull falls back instead upon a political style which is permanently stuck in opposition mode.

“We know that this Leader of the Opposition is shifty and he can’t be trusted,” Coalition junkyard top dog Dutton says.

“The Labor left will not allow a policy which sees boats stopped, deaths at sea stopped, children out of detention.”

Kill Bill is the now the only game the whole bitterly divided government can safely play. No wonder they do it to death. Luckily, our leaders can still rally the nation if not the party’s esprit de corps by making war on the poor, the less fortunate and those who throw themselves on our mercy.

Peter Dutton has just cut financial assistance for up to 400 asylum-seekers across Australia. Over seventy refugees are evicted in Melbourne. Fortunately, Daniel Andrews’ Labor government will provide financial support, food and shelter, “so they don’t starve on the streets” to those now facing homelessness on top of the trauma they have already endured.

The state’s support package follows Andrews’ letter to the prime minister last year offering to take “full responsibility” for asylum seekers who faced being sent back to Nauru. He received no reply.

In another surprise announcement, it is revealed that construction is well-advanced on Manus 2.0 in Port Moresby, of a duplicate detention centre to incarcerate refugees displaced by PNG’s decision to close the Manus gulag.  Details are sparse. Doubtless all has to be kept secret to spoil the demon people smugglers’ business model.

The $20 m building will house men who have been given “negative” refugee status, a category which includes those who have withdrawn from submitting to the cruel torture of “processing” their claims out of fear, trauma or a lack of trust.

“Those people, who total about 200, who have been found not to be refugees are to be moved into an alternative place of detention away from the regional processing centre, given that they have no lawful claim to be in PNG,” Peter Dutton tells parliament.

Sadly, it is always “those people” whenever the government speaks of refugees. Not “our people” as our common humanity would tell us or as international law would confirm. And we have only Dutton’s notoriously untrustworthy word for the adequacy or the legitimacy of the processing to say nothing of its legality under our human rights obligations.

The only possible humane solution is to bring those on Nauru and on Manus home to Australia immediately. Four years of suffering is enough. Apart from petty political point-scoring the government has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Yet such a move does not suit its increasingly narrow, right-wing agenda.

Nurturing Islamophobia and the persecution of minorities is now a mainstay of Coalition politics but in a new low, even for the fathomless enigma that is Turnbull, the week is darkened by the PM’s inaugural anti-Muslim dog-whistle.

“I notice they’re all making a sign of solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood with the Rabia sign there,” he bellows. “They might want to think about that.

Labor MPs are displaying four fingers to indicate his government has taken four years to do nothing on energy policy. It could just as easily indicate it has nothing to show in ending the illegal indefinite offshore detention of men, women and children whose only mistake was to throw themselves on our mercy.

Four years out, the Abbott-Turnbull experiment has so little to show for itself in the economy, the environment, education or any other area of policy, that it may as well take the opportunity of the closure of the Manus detention centre to rediscover its humanity and reverse its opposition to resettlement in Australia of those in off-shore detention.

Time for the PM to give his precious innovation agenda mob a real project. Nothing much else seems to be working.

Australia’s energy security sacrificed to the Coalition’s internal power struggle

In 2001, John Howard introduced a renewable energy target (RET) to support the initial development of renewable generating capacity in the country and get it through the early stages where costs were high and private enterprise would be unlikely to support it without the legal requirement the RET provided.

In June 2007, Peter Shergold, then Head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, presented John Howard with a report produced by the emissions trading taskforce whose “key message was go soon because the longer you delayed, the higher the cost you imposed upon yourself and the greater the investment uncertainty.”

Consequently, the Liberal Party took to the 2007 election a policy to establish an emissions trading scheme.

EXCERPT FROM LIBERAL PARTY POLICY DOCUMENT 2007 ELECTION: A re-elected Coalition Government will establish the world’s most comprehensive emissions trading scheme in Australia, commencing no later than 2012.

Labor won the election and, by 2009, was well into negotiations with the Liberal Party, now led by Malcom Turnbull, on the details about how the system would work.

These negotiations, led by Penny Wong for the government and Ian McFarlane for the Opposition, were very close to completion – until the wreckers stepped in, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, and Cory Bernardi large among them.

Led by the Opposition Leader in the Senate and godfather of the liberals climate sceptics, Nick Minchin, the undermining of consensus began.

NICK MINCHIN: For the extreme left it provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of de-industrialise the western world. You know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the left, and the, and really they embraced environmentalism as their new religion.  I don’t mind being branded a sceptic about the theory that that human emissions and CO2 are the main driver of global change – of global warming. I don’t accept that and I’ve said that publicly. I guess if I can say it, I would hope that others would feel free to do so.

CORY BERNARDI: Well I think that scientists need to justify their own actions. They will keep putting forward and saying we’ve got all this evidence, the evidence is increasingly discredited, why have they done it, what’s their motivations for doing it? Are they afraid to stand up to the extreme green lobby?

TONY ABBOTT: We want to be careful that we’re not jumping on a bandwagon or being taken in by a fad.  It seems that the world has cooled slightly since the late 1990s. One of the things which I think has disconcerted a lot of people is the evangelical fervour of the climate change alarmists because they haven’t pursued their case with the kind of careful moderation that you normally associate with the best scientists.

BARNABY JOYCE, NATIONALS SENATOR, QUEENSLAND: And you can go to Copenhagen, you can go to Disneyland, you can go wherever you like but the position of the National Party on this will be quite clear, to understand the word no.

An increasingly frustrated Shadow Minister for Resources, Ian McFarlane, tried to bring some reality into the debate.

IAN MACFARLANE: The reality is, you are not going to see another coal fired power station built in Australia. That’s, that’s a simple fact. You can talk about all the stuff you like about carbon capture storage, that concept will not materialise for 20 years, and probably never.

Abbott rolled Turnbull shortly after, destroying any further negotiations with Rudd, followed by a ruthless and dishonest campaign that led to the repeal of Gillard’s carbon price.

The policy that Abbott took to the 2013 election committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5-25% on 2000 levels to be reviewed in 2015 to consider a longer term target in light of international agreement.  He also committed to the RET of 20% by 2020 with a review in 2014.

In preparation for the Paris climate talks, the Bestest Ever Minister in the Whole Wide World as judged by the oil-producing nations, Greg Hunt pulled one of his accounting tricks by moving the base year for emissions reduction from 2000 to 2005.  The reason he did this was because 2005 was a particularly high year for emissions.

To get an understanding of what impact that has, the following is an excerpt from the latest Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory:

“Australia’s annual emissions for the year to March 2017 are estimated to be 550.1 Mt CO2 -e. This figure is 0.8 per cent below emissions in 2000 (554.4 Mt CO2 -e) and 9.1 per cent below emissions in 2005 (605.0 Mt CO2 -e).”

Hey presto, an extra 8.3% reduction just by changing base years.

Despite professing bipartisan support before the election, the Abbott government also attacked the RET, initially with threats to abolish it altogether but reaching eventual agreement with Labor to reduce it from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh by 2020.

In a joint statement in April 2015, the environment and industry ministers said: “We will also remove the requirement for regular two-yearly reviews of the RET to give the industry the certainty it needs to move ahead.”

But less than a month later, Industry minister Ian Macfarlane backflipped saying Cabinet insisted the reviews remain.

“This is an issue we thought had been resolved now by both parties for the last 18 months,” Andrew Richards from wind farm operator Pacific Hydro said.  “We thought they had understood that constant reviews is not good for investor confidence.  We’d like to see it removed. We hope that saner people prevail eventually and they will remove it and will allow us to go on and invest with some level of confidence.”

Wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince said while it was glad a 33,000 GWh deal has been reached, the reviews needed to stop.

“It just has that air of uncertainty and the industry just locks up any sort of spending for probably a good six to eight months beforehand,” Mr Garner said.  “Every two years we seem to run out of work because the investment just stops.”

Changing back to Malcolm Turnbull has only made matters worse.  It is still Abbott, Joyce and Bernardi who are driving the debate which is now totally devoid of any discussion of climate change.  They are currently leading the campaign to destroy the clean energy target.

As Turnbull theatrically struts around throwing out childish taunts like Blackout Bill and No Coal Joel, it should be remembered that it isn’t Labor who has changed their support for emissions reduction and renewable energy.

You cannot privatise an essential utility and then create such uncertainty that the industry effectively grinds to a halt.

Our energy crisis can be laid squarely at the feet of a divided Coalition whose own power struggles over the last decade have made it impossible for them to come up with any sort of enduring policy.

Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse?

By Ad astra

Just when we thought Trump couldn’t possibly get worse, he has. Almost every day he exhibits more grotesque behaviour. It astonishes his colleagues, the media, the US electorate, world leaders, and indeed the entire world.

Back in May The Political Sword published America – what have you done?, which described the contemporary chaotic scene in the White House: That was at the time of Trump’s discussion with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, during which he foolishly exchanged vital intelligence with him. Trump subsequently denied this but later admitted that it had occurred, excusing his mistake on the grounds that he was entitled to do so!

America – what have you done? was published around the time that Trump fired FBI chief James Comey. The story behind this changed by the day. It emerged that Trump had tried to get Comey to wind up the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had resigned after being confronted with the fact that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials before Trump took office. Trump maligned Comey viciously, calling him incompetent, a ‘grandstander’ and a ‘showboat’. He said he was ‘crazy, a real nut job’, extraordinary language from the President of the United States.

Next, gaffe-prone White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was fired and replaced with the sycophantic Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Spicer was fired because he had objected strongly to the appointment of ex-hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to whom Spicer was to be subservient.

Then Trump fired Reince Priebus, White House Chief-of-Staff, and replaced him with homeland security secretary, General John Kelly. Priebus had been Trump’s campaign advisor and loyal supporter, but he still got the chop – loyalty runs in only one direction in Trumpland.

Shortly afterwards, Trump fired the foul-mouthed Anthony Scaramucci who had made a profane outburst against Priebus. Scaramucci lasted just ten days.

Steve Bannon, previously executive chair of Brietbart News (a far-right American news, opinion and commentary website), who became Trump’s chief White House strategist, was already on thin ice with Chief-of-Staff John Kelly who was unhappy with the influence he wielded in the White House. Asked about Bannon’s future, Trump was initially equivocal with: ‘We’ll see’, but within days Bannon had been fired. Trump said this ‘was a great day at the White House’. Bannon though had the last say as he returned to his old position at Breitbart News. He told The Washington Post: ‘No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go.’

Take a look at Trump’s firings/replacements/resignations/departures/job changes in his first six months, up to 1 August. There have been more since:

By the end of August Trump had also sacked White House adviser Sebastian Gorka. Gorka, a close associate of Steve Bannon, had generated controversy with his combative interviews and anti-Muslim views. No doubt Gorka will not be the last to exit.

In the same press release, on the Friday evening that Hurricane Harvey was headed for Texas, Trump announced that he had signed a directive to reinstate the ban on transgender troops in the military.

The riots in Charlottesville marked another low point in Trump’s presidency. They were initiated by far-right, white supremacist, Nazi sympathizers with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, who objected violently to the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, an American general who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Lee had married into one of the wealthiest slave-holding families in Virginia and took over the estate. He was cruel. He encouraged his staff to severely beat slaves who were recaptured. One slave described Lee as one of the meanest men she had ever met.

The extreme right clearly supported Lee’s behaviour and actions and resisted removal of this symbol of him. Anti-racist groups staged a peaceful counter protest, but the extremists, spoiling for a fight, began a violent pitched battle that left many injured and one dead.

It was Trump’s reaction though that landed him in deep trouble. At first, instead of roundly condemning the extremists for initiating the riot, he condemned both sides. Then, realizing that he had upset many of his colleagues and much of the electorate, he reversed his stand in a hastily-arranged press conference, where through gritted teeth he read a carefully scripted statement condemning the extremists and their bigotry, naming them all: ‘Racism is evil. Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.’

 

Image from The Atlantic

It was obvious this ran contrary to his real feelings, so much so that he soon reversed this balanced statement with a now-typical Trump rant, this time about both sides being to blame. He defended the far-right protesters at the Charlottesville rally, saying they were not all neo-Nazis and white supremacists and laid the blame for the violence equally on what he called the ‘alt-left’: ‘You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You had people that were very fine people on both sides.’ Trump’s attempts to claim ‘moral equivalence’ enraged not just Democrats and those opposing the provocateurs, but also his Republican colleagues, who came out in numbers to condemn him in strident terms.

 

Image from The Daily Dot

Not satisfied to leave the Charlottesville episode to fade out of conversation, he stirred the pot again at a rally in Phoenix where he ‘sought to portray himself as the real victim, and launched an all-out assault on the media, branding journalists who “do not like our country” as the true source of division in America….The crowd – some scowling, some laughing – turned and jeered at journalists in the media enclosure and chanted: “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” Even as he spoke protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center had gathered to voice anger at his presence.’

Since then Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have devastated his region. They will cost his nation billions of dollars in restitution. Trump’s initial reaction showed little regard for the victims, whom he met only on his second visit to Texas; he seemed more concerned with the size of the crowd that attended his rally. He promised lots of money and praised emergency workers.

Recently, he created controversy by his move to end President Obama’s DACA program that protected 800,000 ‘dreamers’ who had entered the US as children of illegal immigrants, who now live and work there. Trump gave Congress six months to ‘legalise’ the program, then did a deal with the Democrats to address this issue, much to the chagrin of the Republicans. The White House then gave contradictory accounts of what had transpired, confirming then denying the deal – typical Trump somersaults.

This man, who conducts international diplomacy via early morning tweets, managed to annoy PM Theresa May after the recent bomb event on London’s underground, with his tweet: “Another attack in London by a loser terrorist. These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!” May angrily retorted: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

Trump is incorrigible. His inner feelings always burst out. He generates discord whereever he goes. Commonsense and diplomacy are anathema to him. In business he called the shots and said whatever he liked. Now he cannot abide the constraints that the most powerful man in the world ought to accept. The only time he showed any constraint was when he was mugged by the reality of Afghanistan, and although it broke a pre-election promise, he took the advice of his generals and decided not to withdraw from that hell-hole.

Reflect on these events, which have occurred in the few months since America – what have you done? was published. Ask yourself if Trump’s behaviour has made the analysis offered at that time more or less valid. Let me quickly remind you of my thesis about Trump:

The following were held to be Trump’s underlying personality defects, which evoke his extraordinary behaviour:

Lack of insight
Paranoia
Delusions of grandeur
Narcissistic personality disorder
Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
Willful ignorance

Each was elucidated.

It was this analysis of the personality and behaviour of Trump that evoked the piece: America – what have you done?

Do you think his subsequent behaviour has made this assessment more or less valid?

Take another look at: America – what have you done?, and tell us what you think.

What is your opinion?

What do you feel about President Donald Trump seven months in?

How do you expect him to extract himself from the mess he has created?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Memo to Morrison: Inequality is on the rise

Back in July, Treasurer Scott Morrison dismissed suggestions that inequality was getting worse. “The latest census showed on the global measure of inequality, which is the Gini coefficient, that is the accepted global measure of income inequality around the world and that figure shows it hasn’t got worse, it has actually got better,” Morrison said.

A few days later, Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, contradicted Morrison stating publicly that inequality in Australia had risen.

It turned out not to be Morrison’s week when it was reported that just 8% of voters in his own electorate of Cook agreed with him. A whopping 63% believed inequality was worsening.

Most recently, this week the ABS released its 2015-16 Household Expenditure Survey where it concluded that, “The wealthiest 20 per cent of households in Australia has remained stable since 2013-14,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said.

Were the ABS and Morrison right after all?

Not according to two leading academics who, this week, refuted claims by the ABS that inequality in Australia has remained stable since 2013-14.

The academics, Christopher Sheil, a fellow in History at the University of New South Wales and Frank Stilwell, Professor Emeritus in Political Economy at the University of Sydney, have written an article posted on the ABC’s News website entitled, “The ABS is Wrong: Inequality is getting worse in Australia” demonstrating how comparing the wealth at the two extremes (the richest 20% with the poorest 20%), is a better indicator of inequality.

The ABS released a report last week that showed the wealth of the top 20% increased by 0.4% to 62.5% and the wealth of the bottom 20% fell by 0.1% to 0.8%.

Sheil and Stilwell claim that because the increase in the top 20% of 0.4% equals half of the total wealth of the bottom 20%, that inequality has continued to increase at these two extremes.

The second richest quintile (60-79%) fell 0.1 to 20.4% and the remaining two quintiles spanning 21-59% were unchanged. The two academics challenge the ABS’s conclusion because the methodology they use (the Gini coefficient), ignores the increase in wealth above the 90th percentile where most of the wealth increase occurs.

In their study, Sheil and Stilwell adopted the global standard best practice which uses data for the top 1%, the top 10% and the bottom 50%, drawing on OECD data and “ABS data supplied to the OECD not published in Australia.”

They concluded that the top 10 per cent of households owned at least 50 per cent of the total wealth, and the top 1 per cent owned at least 15 per cent. It is hard to argue against such an imbalance and confirms what most people have always believed.

As Opposition leader, Bill Shorten has made inequality a major issue leading up to the next federal election, it would appear Scott Morrison has been caught offside with his defensive comments. It also seems he was just plain wrong.

New data shows that with household debt at record highs and interest rates at a record low, even a small increase in interest rates will place one million Australian households in danger of financial stress, with one in four already under stress. If mortgage rates were to increase by 0.5%, the ratio would be one in three.

The next twelve months leading up to the election will be a testing time for Morrison whose blustering confidence in the strength of the Australian economy may well be his downfall.

Clearly, government spending is the only thing keeping growth above zero. How long that will last remains to be seen.

Same Sex Marriage Against Sharia Law!

Well, I don’t know that it is, but I thought that the heading was a great way to confuse Pauline Hanson’s One Nation voters. Although confusing them is hardly difficult…

What gives me the right to talk about Sharia Law when I know absolutely nothing about it. I don’t know, but there seems to be a prevailing argument in Australia at the moment that one can say whatever nonsense one likes and if someone points out that you’re wrong, you can complain that your freedom of speech rights are being violated.

I couldn’t help but smile during the week when I read about that couple having their wedding in the Presbyterian Church in Ballarat cancelled. But let’s back up a bit, and remember some of the arguments we’ve been hearing from the “No” case.

A large number of the arguments are about things that are currently happening – boys wearing dresses, schools promoting “safe” environments for people regardless of the sexual orientation – and the rest rely on hypotheticals. You know the sort of thing: If we allow two people the same sex to marry, how can we stop a cat and a dog from deciding that they want to get married?

And, we’ve been hearing that religious freedom was at stake. John Howard, for example, was telling us that we need to enshrine religious freedom before the vote. His concern was that Parliament was only taking about “the putative# marriage ceremony”, and that we needed to more “specificity” on how religious freedoms will be protected before we vote.

Mm, I don’t remember him expressing concerns about religious freedoms after Pauline’s attempts to argue for a burqa ban. Yes, I know the burqa’s cultural rather than religious, but aren’t most religious customs?

Anyway, there’s been all this concern expressed about churches being forced to marry gay people. And that will be contrary to their religion because, for example, Catholic priests aren’t allowed to marry anyone. Not only that, but all the florists and bakers who have religious objections will be forced to make bouquets and wedding cakes and this may offend their religious beliefs. Although, when I think about it, I’m yet to go into a bakery and have the baker ask me about my sexual orientation in case they have to refuse me service. Anyway, once the marriage equality is passed, I can’t really understand why Esmeralda and Petunia, or Tony and George, or whoever’s getting married would actually want to give their business to a homophobic religious nutter.

Oh, is that bullying? Calling somebody homophobic when all they’ve done is refused to make a cake because it’ll have two people of the same sex on the top? I mean, we’ve got to keep the debate respectful and not call people names just because they have a different point of view. Imagine if politicians did that! You know, if they called people with compassion “bleeding hearts” or people who think that maybe some millionaires could afford just a little more tax were called “socialists’…

So we must have no bullying in this respectful debate. Which brings me back to the Ballarat Church. Steven North, the minister, saw a Facebook post by the bride expressing support for a “Yes” vote in the ABS survey. Outrageous. But rather than bully them by calling them names, he simply called them to his church and told them that not only would he not perform the ceremony, but they couldn’t marry in his church. Ok, some of you pedant’s may want to point out that it’s surely God’s church and then some people will use this as an opportunity to push their militant atheist views down our throats with all the passion of a Jehovah’s Witness who hears the words, “This sounds interesting, tell me more!” So let’s just not go there, ok?

Anyway, the gay community – which, of course, is a group of like-minded people who all think the same way – should thank Steven North, because he has single-handedly shown up the absurdity of the argument that churches would be forced to perform ceremonies for LGBTI people. Churches can’t even be forced to marry Christian, heterosexual couples. They can already paraphrase John Howard and say: “We will decided who marries in this church and the circumstances in which they marry!” So how on earth would marriage equality lead to churches losing their border protection rights? There’d have to be new legislation enacted which forced to churches to make their buildings and clergy available to whomsoever wished to marry in a church. And, like the raising of children by gay couples, this wouldn’t be affected by simply changing the marriage act.

Yes, I think that the gay community – at their regular community meeting or whenever they all get together to set their agenda to wreck civilisation as we know it – should take up a collection to send a bunch of flowers to Reverend North. First checking that there’s a florist who doesn’t object sending flowers to religious people.

  • Yes I had to look it up. I’m still not sure what he means by it: Commonly believed or deemed to be the case; accepted by supposition rather than as a result of proof.

Freedom from religion

Over the last few months, we have heard, and will continue to hear, a great deal about religious freedom and how it is supposedly threatened by marriage equality.

In fact, the NO campaign would have us believe that our very way of life is under threat should we allow same-sex couples to marry, which seems to assume that our way of life is dictated by religious beliefs.

As a fallback for when their case inevitably loses, as it must, they want to wind back anti-discrimination laws that have been in place for over three decades to allow them to refuse service to gay couples.  They also want to be able to foist their idea of what marriage is – some sort of stud arrangement that reduces women’s role to being brood mares – onto children at school.

A strident message throughout the NO campaign has been that children are greatly disadvantaged, perhaps even in danger, if they are not raised by their two biological parents.  Which makes one question why the Church was so complicit in taking so many Aboriginal children from their parents.

According to the ABS, of the 5.2 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2012-13, 1.1 million (21%) had a natural parent living elsewhere.  That’s a lot of kids who are being told that their family is inadequate.  The church implies that sharing genes is more important than sharing love and assumes that a biological (white) parent will automatically be a good parent.

In the 2016 census, 30% of respondents reported they had no religion – this represented an extra 2.2 million people since the 2011 census.  That figure rose to 39% in adults aged 18-34.  Yet it is their future that is being determined.

Our children should not be compelled to attend religious instruction at school.  We should not be paying for untrained people to come into our schools proselytising their beliefs.  Teachers keep personal beliefs out of the classroom and encourage children to research, analyse, question, and form their own opinions.  Indoctrination has no place in schools.

Our parliament should not begin by chanting worship to a deity and we should stop swearing on the bible or any other religious text.

This is, for me, one of the real problems with religion – the amount of time and money wasted on worship.  I appreciate the sense of community that a church can bring.  I appreciate the charitable works they do.  The golden rule is a maxim common to many religions that encapsulates how we should live in one simple phrase.

But chanting and incense and ceremonial robes and bowing to statues, not to mention communion, all repel me.

Having said that, people I love dearly and respect greatly find enormous solace in their religion and I would fight for their right to do as they see fit.

There was a time in history where the church was all-powerful.  It made the laws, it kept the wisdom, it was the judge, punisher and absolver of sins, and the teacher of children.  It relegated women to a subservient role.  That is no longer the case.

Our laws are (or should be) made by our elected representatives and enforced by our police and our judicial system.  Our children are taught by trained professionals.  Knowledge and learning are available to all (in our lucky country at least).  Women now have a voice and some independence.

Freedom of religion is a human right in Australia, but so should freedom from religion be a right as fiercely protected.

Day to Day Politics: The downfall of a super ego.

Saturday 16 September 2017

Australia has suffered yet another poor week of governance. The Government who told us that our MPs didn’t have the intellectual skills to pass legislation that, over time, we had on many occasions, said we wanted, sent us a question. Then they passed legislation that got overwhelming support to introduce without even need of a vote draconian legislation to stop the hate speech it knew would ensue. If you work that out, will you please contact me?

The week started and ended with no Energy Policy and because of the internal bitter battles going on within the Coalition, we are unlikely to have one. They even publicly tried to bully an energy company to keep open beyond its used-by date to make amends for its own lack of foresight.

Incredibly, Turnbull says that Shorten is the most left-wing Labor leader in decades, while at the same time he presents himself as being the most interventionist leader since Labor’s Ben Chifley wanted to nationalise the banks.

On top of that yet another scandal has erupted with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s appointment of the now former head of the building industry watchdog:

Labor’s employments spokesman Brendan O’Connor says Senator Cash’s position has become “untenable.”

“It would be a fundamental breach of ministerial responsibility not to disclose legal proceedings.”

But as “Nurses1968” said on my post yesterday; “The scary thing about all this is no matter how bad this lot of miscreants are performing, 7,211,263 voters out there are ready to give them another 4 years.”

This week marked Malcolm Turnbull’s two-year anniversary of seizing the Liberal Party leadership from Tony Abbott. It’s therefore time to pause and think about how he got here and what has transpired since. Prime Ministers like to leave a legacy. Keating – Mabo and economic reform. Howard – GST. Rudd – the apology. Hawke – economic reform. Gillard – the “carbon tax” which Abbott repealed and will be remembered for.

Sean Kelly in his Monthly Today newsletter 14 September summed up where Malcolm Turnbull might end up:

“A little over two and a half weeks ago, Leigh Sales asked Malcolm Turnbull a very pointed question: “You have been prime minister now for nearly two years. How is it possible that, in all of that time, you’ve not yet managed to have a signature achievement?”

Turnbull, obviously taken aback, began by nominating changes to schools funding. Sales parried, saying that was initiated by Labor. Turnbull said, what about restoring the Building and Construction Commission? Then he added reducing company taxes, and reforming childcare. He added Snowy Hydro (Sales pointed out it was only a feasibility study so far). He listed a strong economy, and keeping Australians safe from terrorism.

At one point in the midst of this, Sales said, “But do you really want historians to look back and when they look for your signature achievement they go, ‘Oh, well, it was the continuation of a Labor policy, it was the company tax, it was the ABCC’?”
No prime minister likes to be called a minnow, which was effectively what was happening, and you can see why Turnbull was frustrated: some of the items he listed are not small achievements. But to say so demands that I add the following, for completeness: most of them are not, either, what you could call large achievements.”

Tony Abbott came to the Prime Ministership with a mixture of negative malevolence, callous misogyny, lying, cheating and creating crisis when none existed. With the support of Rupert Murdoch he successfully deceived the Australian public into believing that the country would be better in his hands. The evidence of his unconscionable leadership is open for all to see.

Since that time he has been on a mission of unabashed destruction even to the point of being willing to bring down his party if he gets Turnbulls back at the same time.

Conversely, Malcolm Turnbull, attained the office with a calculated mixture of personal charm, reasonableness, and consummate diplomacy. He presents a façade of calm confidence and understanding in stark contrast to Abbott who showed all of the traits of a man who had lost control of his emotions.

Since that time we have learn’t that it was all but a facade. He has proven to be just another politician willing to sell his soul to the highest bidder. He has been a monumental failure even to those on the left who had dared think that he at least might bring a modicum of decorum to the politics of the day.

In December 2014 The Saturday Paper said this of Turnbull:

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

It seemed inevitable that one will replace the other. I for one, like many on the left, didn’t subscribe to the theory that Abbott in power gives Labor the greatest chance of winning the next election. It may be true to some extent but the current state of our democracy demanded that the tempestuous buffoon Abbott be removed and the matter was urgent. At the time I thought nothing could be worse.

We wondered what might be different under Turnbull:

Climate Change. Remember these words?:

“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.”

“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.”

If ever words have come back to haunt a political party … it is those.

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.

Turnbull originally hung his hat on a firm belief that it is real and that the party’s current policy of Direct Action is nothing more than a joke. He has completely sold out any support for renewable energy, emissions targets and investment.

His hypocrisy will be difficult to overcome now that he has caved into the National Party. If anything he has demonstrated to the Australian people just how far politicians are willing to go in the pursuit of power. Even if you have to pay a cool couple of million.

One of Turnbull’s first problems was, as an intelligent individual, to form a balanced (I mean women) front bench. He should have disposed of the likes of Pyne, who he detests, and others like Dutton who are publicly disliked and who have passed their used by date.

He should not have reinstated into the Ministry all of the untalented disoriented, characterless and anachronistic group we have now and his credibility has suffered because of it.

He is a Liberal amongst neo conservatives and a sprinkling of Tea Party nutters.

As an outspoken supporter of gay rights it would naturally be expected that he would allow a conscience vote on the matter of marriage equality. But no, he was confronted by a huge number of homophobic Bernardie type personalities who demanded a plebiscite. He again caved in and again faced charges of hypocrisy.

As I see it the major challenges Turnbull faces are firstly his own ego which he depends on far too much, secondly the public’s perception of his party as untrustworthy ideologues, thirdly the Abbott factor. If he can’t be rid of him then Abbott will get rid of Turnbull. And fourthly if he cannot control and bring the party back to the centre from the extremity of the far right he is gone.

As a party with a born to rule mentality together with an obsessiveness’ towards telling people what’s best for them they will find it hard to listen to people of constraint and reason.

For a party now so infiltrated with political nutters it might be a bridge too far, or at least a bridge over very troubled waters.

What’s manifestly best for Australia should have been Turnbull’s first consideration but Malcolm has always been Malcolm’s first thought.

He has never been tough enough to stand up to the extremists in his party and that’s what is needed to make these words a reality.

“ … it is vitally important, both as a matter of social justice and political reality, that structural changes are seen as being fair across the board”

“That means not only must tough decisions be justified, but that the burden of adjustment is not borne disproportionately by one part of the community.”

My thought for the day

“We all have to make important decisions in our lives. None more important than the rejection of those things that tempt us into being somebody we are not”.

PS: Vote YES.

For Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, life is attack, attack, attack

In the mid-1970s, Malcolm Turnbull, then 21, told future radio broadcaster David Dale that he wanted to be Prime Minister by the time he was 40.

“For which party?” asked Dale.

“It doesn’t matter,” responded Malcolm.

And therein lies the real problem with Turnbull.  He isn’t in the job because of a driving passion for public service.  He has no lofty ideals about how to take the country forward.  He just views it as his rightful destiny, a natural recognition of his superiority.

An accomplished debater and successful lawyer, Turnbull doesn’t much care what side he is on as long as it is the winning side and he will do whatever it takes to get there.

Former Labor senator Jim McClelland described Turnbull as “a turd”.

“He’s easy to loathe, he’s a shit, he’d devour anyone for breakfast, he’s on the make, he’s cynical, he’s offensively smug. He’s a good exploiter of publicity.”

In a 1991 article in the Good Weekend, John Lyons wrote of the then 36 year old merchant banker that his language said it all: he talks about “retaliation”, how he is at “war”, how certain fights are only “skirmishes”, a smaller part of the bigger “battle”.

It details Turnbull’s fiercely aggressive approach in both the legal and business world.

Armed with an awesome, carefully cultivated network of contacts, Turnbull roams the corporate landscape, a hired gun after the main chance.

Inconsistencies abound with Turnbull.

Turnbull is tantalising; part of the contradiction is that while he protests that he is a champion of freedom of speech – he cites his victory over the British Government when he successfully secured the right of former spy Peter Wright to publish his memoirs, Spycatcher – some business people fear him for what they say are his threats to sue them if they speak about him.  Packer once quipped to a friend that Turnbull frightened even him. (He told the same person he would never stand between Turnbull and a bag of money.)

In the marriage equality debate, Turnbull says religious freedom must be protected but that certainly wasn’t his attitude when he was the one being discriminated against.

When he was studying law at Oxford, he and Lucy, who were living together at the time, decided they wanted to get married but were told by the Anglican vicar they approached that Lucy, as a Catholic, and he, as a Presbyterian, were not part of his flock. “Your petty sectarian approach is unconstitutional,” Turnbull retorted. “The Church of England is the religion of the State. You are a servant of the Crown, not materially different from an ambassador or an admiral. It is your constitutional duty to prevent fornication in your parish.”

[As an aside, in those days, Rhodes scholarships could not be awarded to people who were married, reportedly one of the reasons that Tony Abbott abandoned his pregnant girlfriend.  It would also be interesting to know what sporting prowess Malcolm claimed to help win his Rhodes scholarship.]

As Lyons points out in his 1991 article, “Tumbull is a legal street-fighter, someone who revels in taking on the hard cases, preferably also those which are going to involve big exposure.  For Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, life is attack, attack, attack.”

The Postal Survey: “What are you so scared of?”

By John Haly

The debate

The starter gun has officially “legally” fired on the government’s campaign for the alternative postal survey formerly known as the plebiscite. The all too predictable debate surrounding the question of Marriage Equality in Australia has finally begun in earnest.

Initial salvos have already been shot across the bow by the “No” campaign in recent weeks, raising uncertainty amongst the uncommitted. Despite this, the polls have long demonstrated a clear majority of Australians wanting Marriage Equality for some years. What is interesting to note here – presumably due to the prolonged nature of the political resistance – is that the “no” campaign’s latest arguments against Marriage Equality reform appear to have evolved.

In part, this could simply be due to the rebuttal against the “no” campaign’s original arguments having already been trotted out ad nauseam. Indeed, Eric Abetz, a long time serial disparager of anything remotely “gay” / homosexual, published his objections in the Canberra Times in 2015. I penned a long response of my own, although it is ground I am not looking to retread here.

Hurry up Australia, you’re going to be last in the race.

The earlier anti-reform arguments haven’t been abandoned entirely. Andrew Hastie has rehashed them recently. At a cursory glance, the local “No” campaign in their latest tack would seem to be most obviously singing from the same song sheets already utilised by largely unsuccessful opposition campaigns run by organised religious interests opposed to similar reforms (now won) overseas. But on closer inspection, the reality is more invidious.

This “new” campaign angle is really not so new. It is in many ways an age-old playbook of home-grown homo/trans/bi-phobia harkening back to every major campaign conducted in Australia opposing any and all LGBTI legal reform dating back to decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 80s. But with the re-purposed survey upon us and their lack of success to date in prosecuting these earlier positions, the “No” campaign has revved up their anti-Marriage Equality rhetoric.  Demonstrated by suddenly expanding their oppositional repertoire.  Evidenced by the surprising emails, I began receiving from the “oktosayno” website. While the arguments may have shifted subtly, I would suggest if I may, that the reasoning on display is still not that nuanced, intellectually rigorous or engaging. But if burying yourself in disingenuously privileged and solipsistic opposition for its own sake doesn’t sound like your idea of dear leader Malcolm’s long-promised exciting times, I’ve already done the work, so you don’t have to.

 

Sodomy is sexual abuse

 

The next generation will bring marriage equality into being.

Religious concerns are often based on the fallacious belief that sodomy, as it was expressed in the Bible, was about homosexuality.  But even an ABC article has pointed out that “Sodomy”, as it was expressed in the biblical literature, is about rape and sexual abuse. That the church has illegitimately changed the meaning of the word, is understandable. If you’re in the Catholic priesthood, you wouldn’t want the bible to be condemning predilections that your organisation’s members are infamous for, especially concerning small children. More surprising is that “homosexuality” as a word – not in existence till the late 18th century – has found its way into the Bible. Christ said nothing about homosexuals but had a lot to say about “loving one another” which seems to be a point many in the evangelical community have missed.

 

Procreation

 

Marriage Equality provides legal protections for Children

Then there is the recurring issue of children. Often raised by those most in denial about the already large numbers of same sex couples that are quite happily and successfully producing and raising children. Concern for children seems restricted to those that are raised by heterosexual couples, despite the fact that when it comes to family stability, studies are proving that heterosexual parents are not always managing better family outcomes. But the opponents to Marriage Equality seem to be unduly concerned about issues of procreation.

Procreation and Marriage are not necessarily related. Either one may be the cause of the other to occur, but the sequencing can fall on either side of the other. Alternatively, procreation or marriage may happen in isolation without the other ever being involved. The Marriage vows in contemporary western society are usually about an expression of love between two adults. Children aren’t involved, even if they are already at the ceremony standing by their mom or dad or step-mum or step-dad.  It’s not their marriage!

 

Marriage Legality

 

Beyond the emotive distractions, Marriage equality is about human rights

Marriage Equality is about justice and law, not about religion and procreation. Modern religious communities have appropriated “Marriage” and claimed it is theirs to dictate how and to whom it should be applied. However, marriage as a religious undertaking not only predates these religions but in the Christian’s case, it wasn’t even included as a religious celebration till the 9th century. Even then the ceremony didn’t include a priest till the 12th Century. Back then, as Peg Helminski very smartly points out, Marriage was, in fact, a contract between two men.

In the beginning, marriage was a relationship between two men. A man exchanged goods or services with a girl’s father to procure a virgin bride—a bride who likely became one of several wives. This way, he could assure himself that any children he supported held valid claim to his property. Yes, marriage began as a business transaction to assure male property rights. Often, marriage provided other benefits; increasing the family labour force, acquiring a trade agreement or securing a political alliance.”  Marriage and its legal prerogatives have changed a lot since then, regardless of any religious claims to inviolable and unwavering immutability.

Marriage, today, should be about the two non-related Adults legally acknowledging their love for one another. I am appalled that I have to expressly use the term “non-related” as I have seen social media claims suggesting it a slippery slope to incestuous relationships. In the unfounded nature of arguments that arise, the assumption that the parties are not direct descendants or siblings, including adopted (by law) relationships, has to be re-stated. Disallowing relatives are all outlined in Part 3 of the Marriage Act 1961 under the heading “Void marriages” Section 23. Not being able to marry minors is in Part 2. Marriage equality is about changing the Act’s definition of Marriage as between “two people” instead of “a man and a woman” and removing section 88EA in Part 5 (added by Howard), not Parts 3 or 2.

The marriage equality movement wants to change only five words for two in the Act and remove the section Howard added in 2004 because he realised the Act was “gay-friendly”.  That renders genderless, the subject of who can legally marry. In short, “two people“, not exclusively “a man and a woman“. So no Eric Abetz, polygamists, need not apply. Also prohibited by Part 3! Nobody in the Gay and Trans lobby groups is asking you to change Parts 3 or 2 so why do you – as a Lawyer – not understand?

 

Church denial

 

Marriage Equality is about equal human rights not exclusivity for some.

Church’s will still retain the right to deny marriage ceremonies from people they don’t want to have married in their churches. Irrespective of whether they are Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, non-attendees, the great spaghetti monster worshippers, or even gay. (Part 4, Division 2, Section 47 of the Marriage Act) It is about legal equality not ceremonial! It is, not about excluding a group in the community, even if they follow the great flying spaghetti monster. (The supreme creator of the universe – OK I am getting personal here, and I must confess in the interests of transparency, to being a signed up member of that “church”). It is about allowing a relatively significant minority group access to the rights and privileges the vast community already has. It’s access to the legal (not religious, not procreational) right to be married. Marriage ratified by the State, not the Church.

 

Political Correctness

 

Resistance to political correctness as an argument is odd or at the very least, anti-social. Yes, extreme aspects of PC have become draconian. But marriage equality isn’t about being draconian; it is about being fair. For the most part, political correctness is what everybody who isn’t a bigot, calls politeness. Yes, Mr George Brandis and Mr Scott Morrison, you do have the option (perhaps rather than right) to be a Bigot, but the rest of us want a civil interaction that will build a cohesive society that binds us all together, not separates us. The likes of Peter Dutton, Andrew Bolt, and Tony Abbott may rail against political correctness, but if the alternative is the sort of hate speech and fear mongering you lot love to express quite freely, the rest of us wouldn’t mind skipping. Political Correctness started as a “counterweight to prevailing orthodoxies and power,” and although it in particular cases turned oppressive and shrill, it originated out of trying to protect communities such as the gay ones, and as such, still has value and relevance. Marriage Equality is working to do that. So despite the enduring prevailing will amongst the oppressed and marginalised to speak truth to power, the “no” campaign’s freedom of speech is still equally well preserved.

 

The unbeatable argument

 

Vote “Yes” loudly!

There is one “No” campaign argument for which I have no rebuttal. It is one advanced in one of the many satirical pieces that arose out of opposition to the first televised Ad of mothers talking about concerns for their cross dressing children and safe school issues. (Small note: Safe schools is about bullying in schools and has nothing to do with marriage equality, people). The counter Ad shows young women talking about how she had planned her marriage for months but that it would never begin to compete with gay individuals who have been planning their marriage for decades. That “wedding competition” line has to be the most valid argument for the “No” vote campaign. It made me laugh and then realise, that’s quite a valid fear. You’d better believe they have been waiting for that day for years. It will come, and the weddings will be fabulous!!

 

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken.

 

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