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Category Archives: News and Politics

Just Don’t Try To Make Sense And Accept That The Liberals Can Flip Position Without Anyone Noticing!

Before I start talking about the incredible turn-around in what the mainstream media want from Google, I’d just like to point out the current government’s latest trick to move your money into their own pockets.

You probably heard about their trick with superannuation access where, if you accessed $10,000 from your account, you had to spend that before you became eligible for JobSeeker. Anyway, there’s a new proposal on the table where – instead of rises to your super – you can take the money as a wage increase. This is, according to Tim “Trust Me” Wilson, a way of helping you to afford a house so you won’t be homeless in your old age. For the sake of argument let’s presume that you’re on $100,000 and you forgo the 0.5% super rise. Now, if you’re thinking the this will give you an extra $500 per annum and should greatly increase your chances of owning your own home, I have some bad news for you: You’ll need to pay tax on the money which will mean that instead of the fifteen percent you’d pay if it went into your super, it’ll be thirty percent plus the Medicare Levy. Yep, that’s right. If the government can talk you into taking your super increase as a wage rise, then you’ll be paying twice as much tax, but you probably won’t even notice because who looks at their super and hey, there’s more money in my pay cheque… at least enough for an extra coffee a week.

Brilliant way of paying off their enormous debt, eh?

Anyway, before I begin to ask just what the government thinks it’s doing with the proposal to make Google and others pay for content, I’d like to put on record that I think that there is a case to be made that some of the big technology companies are getting a little too big for anybody’s comfort and we need to have a good hard look at them and how we can regulate to ensure that they don’t abuse their power.

HOWEVER when it comes to the recent events, I’d like to explain it in terms of a little analogy.

Imagine I see a YouTube clip that someone has posted online. (Actually in this case, it’s me but that’s not the point. You’ll need to pretend that I’m two different people for a mom.) I decide to share it with this link. Clip from YouTube Rossleigh.

Now, suddenly an extra five or five thousand go to that clip and YouTube Rossleigh is really annoyed because he’s not making any money from the clip so he wants me to pay him for writing about it and sending people to the site. I don’t want to pay him because I’m a greedy capitalist who wants to keep all my money and I tell him that it’s his business model that needs fixing and if he can’t make money from the way he’s set up his YouTube channel then that’s not my problem. He gets his local member, Josh Frydenberg to change legislation to make me pay him for directing traffic to his site. At this point, I remove the link and this outrages Joshie and YouTube Rossleigh who both think that I should be compelled to mention provide links because, well, how will he get traffic to his site otherwise?

This loosely is how the Google/Australian media controversy has gone. If I use Google to look up Scott Morrison to see whether he’s announced that he’s taking another break and I’m directed to an article by newspaper that doesn’t have a paywall, then they’ll be relying on advertising from the traffic that goes to their site in order to make money. Why they’d argue that Google should be forced to pay, I can’t work out. It would be different if Google was plagiarising the articles or breaching their copyright, but if the media companies aren’t happy with this arrangement, then they can put all their articles behind a paywall.

But it does seem odd to me, that Josh Frydenberg and the media companies are now crying foul because it seems that Google is experimenting with ways of excluding them from searches.

You can’t have it both ways, even if you’re a friend of the current government. Although I guess they’ve grown used to the idea that you can support the free market because it’s supposedly the most efficient thing that there is, while demanding government intervention and subsidies every time the market doesn’t do what you’d like.

After call, government MPs have no problem calling for a boycott of the ANZ because they don’t want to risk money lending to coal companies, then becoming outraged about “cancel culture” when someone calls for a boycott of one of their owners… Whoops, that was meant to be “donors” but perhaps autocorrect knows best!

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How many lies are too many lies?

By Dr Stewart Hase

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

The storming of America’s Bastille, the Capitol Building has, finally, forced the debate that we needed to have had years ago. Propaganda, lies, and misinformation have been with us for thousands of years – they are part of the human condition. Print media has long traded on the propensity for humans to need simple solutions to complex issues, to accept whatever reinforces their biases, to be influenced by the influential, to respond to emotions rather than facts or science. Murdoch and others have made the trade in misinformation and artform. The communication tech giants just did what they thought was their job, being vehicles, platforms, for people to communicate. They never gave the consequences a thought.

January the 6th and the threat of major protests across the USA up to the inauguration have created the perfect storm for a sudden gnashing of teeth. Finally, the lines are being drawn, pretty well in accord with the right and left of politics, about what constitutes freedom of speech. Are their conditions in which it is fine to lie, to spread misinformation, distort or ignore the facts, quote questionable ‘science’, to spread hate, and slur others? To create the conditions to overthrow democracy?

Well, Scott Morrison seems to think so by refusing to censor Craig Kelly over his Trumpian behaviour, using the ‘freedom of speech’ argument. Not a whisper from anyone on the right about his mate, George Christensen who, among other things and blind to the irony of it, wants to censor the tech giants for fact checking. Freedom of speech, then, means anything goes-say what you want. The real tragedy is that Facebook have let Kelly and Christensen get away with campaign of disinformation for so long.

Kelly has now used the platform to discredit the wearing of masks by children, calling it child abuse, has prompted the use of hydroxychloroquine in the past and now thinks that Betadine (a topical antiseptic) is the miracle cure. All based on unsubstantiated and even spurious research. What they fully realise is that they are coming from a position of power, and, wanting hope and miracle cures to reduce their anxiety, many will believe what they say. And even act on it.

No doubt that such power massages the politicians’ fragile egos.

The best that even the health Minister, Greg Hunt, can manage is to say that we should listen to the health experts. No censorship of his compatriots or recognition of the misinformation. Just a beige response.

Now we have the acting PM, Michael McCormack legitimising MPs who want to spread lies and disinformation, claiming that facts are contentious, and gracing us with the profound logic that the sky can be grey and blue at the same time because facts are subjective. Presumably he’s a fan of Kellyanne Conway’s thesis on alternate facts.

Not content with that, McCormack has now fuelled a storm by making an astounding comparison between the riots in Washington and the BLM protests.

We have seen the result of the ‘say what you want’ version of free speech in America and how democracy is being tragically undermined. The question is, when will we follow suit? We already saw an inkling of this with Tony Abbot’s unconscionable dismantling of Julia Gillard that went unchecked, and was fuelled by the media of the print and the social kind.

Australia is good at lying to itself. It’s done it for years over racism and misogyny. Are we going to kid ourselves that we are a fair, progressive, intelligent nation while allowing the manipulation of truth, as identified by George Orwell, to run rampant?

How far are we willing to go? Perhaps fostering hate to the point that people feel that it is OK to kill? Allowing the entitled to destroy our democracy, as nearly happened in America over recent weeks?

How far Australia, how far?

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Porter’s bills may sink BOOT into penalty rates, warns Burke

Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke has warned that Australian workers may lose their penalty rates by the end of January 2022 – not via targeted cuts, but through knock-on effects previously outlined in Attorney-General Christian Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

In contrast to the planned penalty rate cuts the Turnbull and Morrison governments executed in a three-year interval from 2017 to 2019, workers may see their wages drop markedly across four major summer-based public holidays if the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) results in being revamped upon passage of Porter’s proposed legislation of two bills on industrial relations reforms.

Successful passage of Porter’s legislation, crafted and presented in federal Parliament’s final sitting week of 2020 last month when representatives between union leaders and the business lobby failed to previously come to an agreement on areas of reform, could even see the BOOT halted for any length of time.

“Australian workers could lose between $840 and $1170 from their pay packets next summer holidays if Scott Morrison gets his way and public holiday penalty rates are scrapped,” Burke said on Thursday.

The BOOT – according to the Fair Work Commission – in considering labour and remuneration terms which may be more or less beneficial overall to employees in an individual agreement versus that of a Modern Award for a particular industry, views an overall assessment being made as to whether employees would be better off under the agreement than under the relevant award.

Instead, under Porter’s scheme of industrial relations reform measures, the BOOT could be suspended in particular situations as deemed practical by the FWC, thereby leading to workers’ wages potentially being lost during the summer holidays.

“The Government recognises the BOOT’s importance as a key safeguard for workers,” Porter said last month in promoting his reform bills.

“Given that many industries are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, it also makes good sense for the FWC to be able to consider agreements that don’t meet the BOOT if there is genuine agreement between all parties, and where doing so would be in the public interest,” he added.

In a retaliatory blow aimed against Porter’s bills, Burke has taken the difference between the base and public holiday pay rates of typical award workers who work standard eight-hour days across Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Australia Day – four public holidays over a month’s span.

Moreover, Burke has compiled a list of figures taken from the government’s own fair pay calculator to arrive at his conclusions.

“Millions of workers across the economy are vulnerable to attack under Mr Morrison’s nasty industrial relations changes,” said Burke.

And by Burke’s figures, no one industry will be immune to the changes, provided that the reform bills are approved.

“From cleaners to miners, aged care workers to waiters, checkout operators to nurses – all could take a massive pay cut if Mr Morrison is successful in suspending the Better Off Overall Test,” he said.

The list of which workers in each industry could stand to lose the greatest amounts of their wages per December and January public holiday:

  • In aged care – $270
  • Banking, finance, or insurance (Level 3) – $293
  • Cleaners (Level 2) – $263
  • Junior fast food worker – $227
  • Retail – $220
  • Underground miners – $287
  • Hair salon attendants and/or beauticians – $272
  • Registered nurses (Level 5) – $223
  • Hospitality (Level 2) – $210
  • Restaurant waiters – $215

Burke also added that in the other 48 or so weeks of the year, suspension or bypassing the BOOT could potentially see workers losing their weekend, early morning and late-night shift penalty rates as well as those for public holidays.

“If you abolish something called the Better Off Overall Test, guess what will happen: workers will be worse off,” said Burke.

Porter claims that, in a summary of his authored reforms, a re-establishment of enterprise bargaining via a 21-day approval deadline will drive wage growth and gains in productivity, even at the expense of the BOOT on a case-by-case basis.

And if it runs side-by-side with other areas of the proposed legislation, particularly, a simplification of awards in what Porter has specified as the retail and hospitality sectors, it may have the reverse effect.

The union movement remains understandably livid over the possibility of penalty rates being collateral damage in any applications of industrial relations reform.

“When WorkChoices was introduced, employers rushed out to cut wages — the same will happen if this law passes,” Sally McManus, the national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said last month in response to Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

“We believe this is the wrong thing for the country.

“We should be protecting working people at this time in order to grow the economy; you can’t go about hurting working people — that’s exactly the opposite to what you should be doing,” McManus added.

Burke also pointed out that the intentional cuts to penalty rates failed to create a single job, despite government promises to the contrary when the proposals were first floated.

“But now they want us to believe that cutting more penalty rates, cutting overtime, cutting shift loading, cutting allowances will create jobs?” Burke said.

Burke feels that Porter’s industrial relations bills should be doomed to fail – and the Morrison government is lacking priorities to growing the national economy out of recession.

“Pay cuts are bad for workers and bad for the economy. For Australia to recover from the recession we need people with the money and confidence to spend,” said Burke.

“The government says the economy is doing well enough that businesses no longer need JobKeeper. But then they say the economy is doing so badly they need to cut the pay of workers.

“They can’t have it both ways,” added Burke.

 

 

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The Trumpists are thriving in Oz

“Facts sometimes are contentious, aren’t they? And what you may think is right, somebody else might think is completely untrue. And that’s part of living in a democratic country.” (Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, January 12, 2021).

A neat four years ago Antique Barbie and Trump flunky Kellyanne Conway set the tone for a post-truth Trumpworld when she defended the tangerine tyrant’s ludicrous claims of an outsized inauguration crowd by invoking the Orwellian notion of “alternative facts”(1).

Fast forward from Trump’s Year Zero to when the seditionists and rioters obeyed the command of the despotic, half-sucked mango seed by attempting to literally torch American democracy, aided and abetted from within by treasonous, mercenary GOP urgers and spivs. All the result of four years of accumulated alternative facts and “fake news” gaslighting.

Across the Trump years tens of millions of willing dupes, oiks, the useful idiotista, Qrackpots, slope-shouldered racists and stool samplers wallowed in a steady effluvium of post-truth ordure that megaphoned Trump’s self-aggrandising lies and whiney grievance mongering.

But, the introductory quote at the start of this rant is not from some Trump vassal pissing out of the tent, it is not an artefact from crazy-town nor is it from the toxic bile factory that trades as the Dirty Digger’s Fox News. It is Australia’s acting Prime Minister Mickey The Dip McCormack speaking mere days after an attempted coup that was fuelled by “contentious facts”.

Apart from its timing the context of the quote is two-fold. Firstly, Mickey has an intellect that would not challenge foliage. He’s as thick as a coal miner’s sandwich yet he’s apparently the best and brightest the National Party has to offer – i.e. the least worst option. Secondly, he was defending the Trumpist effluent of two of the most egregious examples of the far right dross that has infected our own politics – specifically the swivel-eyed, Pete Evans-level Covid quackery from failed furniture salesman Fatty Carbuncle and, by extension, the trumpetings of Gorgeous George the Manila back street trawler and blubbertigibbet.

The BMI of these two globular nongs is such that they affect weather patterns, but that is not particularly germaine other than that these self-proclaimed champions of free speech should not have any problem with the deployment of a gratuitous sledge, yeah? The hypocrisy and idiocies of their flatulent gibberings have, following Trump’s attempted democrocide, received wide exposure and deserved ridicule but the bigger picture is the refusal of their respective masters to either call them to heel or penalise their Trumpian fanboy distortion of pandemic science and their anti-democratic blatherings and what that says about the mindset of the Tory side of our politics. Trumpism is a dangerous psychosis but both Scooter Morrison and Mickey Mac have now acknowledged by default that it has a home in the L/NP.

As the Tories go about their routine tasks of shovelling public money and assets to themselves and their cronies their ideological slide to the loony right has developed a distinctly orange tinge.

When Josh Freudenberg and Call Me Dave Sharma, two prominent Jewish Tory MPs, one an ostensible Prime Minister-in-waiting, the other an ex-Ambassador to Israel, jump aboard the anti-Twitter “free speech” ruse that propagates Nazi rhetoric and promotes Proud Boys’ fascist merch then something is deeply, deeply awry.

Scooter himself, interrupting his holidaying lifestyle to spend a few days attending to photo ops, has pointedly refused to criticise Trump in any way. Perhaps that’s down to Trump’s bestowal upon him of the Legion of Merit – the Right does so appreciate shiny baubles, ostentatious trophies and grandiose titles. The absurdity of a cowardly draft dodger gifting a militarty honour to a bloke whose first instinct is to flee from a crisis is lost on Scooter of course. Coming from Trump that medal merely symbolises Morrison’s membership of the cult of the citrus clunge.

From birtherism to The Big Lie (“the election was rigged”) Trump has long signalled his character. His betrayal of America is not new despite which Scooter has gone beyond the protocols of relationships between national leaders. His embrace of Trumpism was always enthusiastic, unquestioning and compliant with Trump’s grotesque adulteration of accepted norms and institutions. As one example Scooter, champion of the economy-first neo-lib mindset, jeopardised Australia’s economic interests on the altar of Trumpism by leading with his chin at the orange one’s urging to openly and loudly insult China.

Two deluded non-entities shouting at clouds from the backbench should be an amusing sideshow, after all the Tory goat rodeo had Abbott and Joyce in the two top jobs for a time. But Carbuncle and Gorgeous G are symptoms not abberations. With one notable exception(2), and Morrison’s dissembling weasel words aside, no Tory MP has condemned the radical right insurrection in the US last week.

Across the board the self-proclaimed champions of free speech hypocritically loathe any free speech that is not their own. They always have. Scrutiny, questioning, dissent, alternative views, truth…they don’t like it. Parliament, journalists, unions, the ABC, judges, scientists, academics, environmentalists, whistleblowers, safe schools, you and me…we’re all existing or potential targets for their mendacity.

RWNJ opinion is now the news. The Tories all watched Trump, they all liked what they saw. All the little lies are useful and the Big Lie almost worked.

What most citizens of Oz are not watching is our own Trumpist, post-truth creep to far right shitfuckery and that suits the Tories just fine.


(1) “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” George Orwell. 1984.

(2) Matt Keane, NSW Minister For The Environment

 

Image from 98five.com

 

Image from time.com (Photographer: Marco Bello/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

This article was originally published on Grumpy Geezer.

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Is Scott Morrison a Donald Trump lite?

Donald Trump and Scott Morrison have much in common.

Their policies and decisions show them both to be opinionated, self-centred, dangerously narcissistic and lacking in empathy.

Trump, as President of the USA, till now, a major world power, has more power in his own country than an Australian Prime Minister, for whom Cabinet’s backing is required – although Congress can still veto some of Trump’s Presidential decrees.

COVID-19 has been a godsend for Morrison, because it gave him the opportunity to cancel sittings of Parliament, and, now that sittings have resumed, his small but sufficient majority in the House enables all motions stating “I move that the speaker can no longer be heard” to be waved through, to stifle discussion points being raised by the Opposition.

This is destroying whatever vestige of democracy might have survived after 7+ years of Coalition rule, and is turning Morrison into a petty dictator.

Worse; because his majority is wafer thin, he cannot afford to call out the idiots in his ranks, truly moulded in Trump’s image, and including the Deputy Prime Minister, no less, who spout insane and dangerous lies and conspiracy theories.

Morrison’s National Cabinet served the purpose of his being able to claim credit for any worthwhile policies agreed to, while passing national responsibility for issues like quarantine – for which the Federal government is responsible – onto the states and territories, brushing aside the appalling level of deaths in Aged Care accommodation – again a Federal responsibility – and generally doing little but appearing to be in charge.

Because of Trump, the USA has experienced a massive loss of respect from the rest of the world.

Recent events have brought out very clearly the extent to which Trump’s Presidency has been a total disaster.

Because of Morrison and his stubborn refusal to properly review his policies on emissions reductions, Australia is also losing respect in the developed world.

The economy should be the servant of the citizens – instead of which, the Coalition government, under Morrison, puts the economy front and centre in its world, subsidises major fossil fuel companies, financially assists businesses more generously than human beings and is responsible for turning the gap between rich and poor into a chasm.

 

Image from cnn.com

 

Interestingly, many businesses – apart from the fossil fuel related ones, of course! – are doing much better than the government at moving to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

But how much more effective might that be if it was properly backed by government.

Morrison claims to keep his religion apart from his role in government, but many are wondering – and I do not want to embrace another conspiracy theory! – whether his belief that the faithful will enjoy some glorious extension of life in the embrace of the almighty – the ‘rapture’ – results in his disregard of the need to intervene to help undo the damage mankind is doing to our climate.

Today was the 50th consecutive Wednesday of my self-imposed, 2-hour weekly vigil à la Greta Thunberg (only I cannot sit on the steps!) outside the NT Parliament House, talking to all who stop by about the need for action on global warming. Many do not stop but give me the thumb’s up sign or wave. A minority go to great pains to not see me!

The Speaker has given me permission to be there, has approved a party – for which she will provide a cake – on 27 January 2021, the end of my first full year of activism, and, today, her PA came to see me and discuss arrangements.

We have a Labor government but, sadly, following the moratorium on fracking before the last election, it is being allowed. Stringent conditions are supposed to be met, but if it is discovered that they have been breached, will the damage be reparable?

Please don’t just bewail the failings of governments.

All that I have said here has been said by others before me.

We know what should be happening.

It is up to us to keep the pressure on until it does. I shall be 85 on Saturday and I aim to continue my vigil until policies change. I do not want to die on the job!

Please do your part to make others realise that policy change is vital and delay dooms the future of all life on earth.

Don’t you, also, care about your – or other people’s – grandchildren and their children?

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Julian Assange, WikiLeaks and Australia’s Complicity

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said little in the statement from her department, which was a good thing, as it might have been dangerously useful. The finding of a UK court on whether Julian Assange would be extradited to the United States was made “on the grounds of his mental health and consequent suicide risk.” She does not care to mention the actual details of the case, the fact that the decision by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, while blocking the extradition, was nastily focused against journalism.

Payne insists on objective distance from the proceedings. “Australia is not a party to the case and will continue to respect the ongoing legal process, including the UK justice system’s consideration of applications for release, or any appeals.” Superficial regard for due process is thereby preserved and acknowledged.

What follows from the statement is a cover excusing the feeble efforts by Australian governments over the years of all stripes to assist Assange in his monumental battle against the US imperium and the proxy torments inflicted by Britain and Sweden. “We have made 19 offers of consular assistance to Mr Assange since 2019 that have gone unanswered. We will continue to offer consular support.”

Such a statement sticks to the steady line that Australian officials have always been there, always ready and eager to assist a citizen beleaguered, persecuted and haunted by the agencies and instruments of an ally. But the position is sacredly supine: do not rock the alliance with either the US or the UK; do not disturb the good offices of Washington or raise hackles in Downing Street.

In the past, Australia, with a few dubious exceptions, has shown scant regard to shielding citizens in a monumental pickle, especially those accused of grave crimes of a political nature. The Howard government’s lamentable response to David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, both accused of terrorism offences by the US in the misnamed global war on terror, has been documented. Hicks found himself facing that most dubious of legal experiments with cheery Australian approval: US military commissions established by the administration of George W. Bush.

When the US Supreme Court struck down the legality of the commissions in Hamdan v Rumsfeld (2006) for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949, then Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer remained unmoved. “Prior to that the military commission process had been upheld by other courts including the US court of appeals, so it had been, until it went to the Supreme Court, a process that was upheld by American civil courts.”

Hardly the sharpest legal analysis ever offered, and one leaving Australian officials flatfooted in their treatment of an Australian citizen. “Our advice has been, as had the American Government’s advice had been, that it was lawful,” explained a less than contrite Prime Minister John Howard. “Now, the court has said no, well, we accept that – you get advice and you act on it.”

The case with Assange is no less dire. When President Barack Obama’s Vice President and soon to be US President Joe Biden was asked about the release of US State Department cables by WikiLeaks in 2010, the response was unequivocal: Assange was a species of “hi-tech terrorist.” Republican Rep. Peter King of New York insisted that he be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 (corks must have popped at the release of the Department of Justice indictment doing just that) and WikiLeaks designated a terrorist organisation. Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton merrily floated the idea of using a drone against Assange that same year, though claimed not to recall doing so in 2016. “It would have been a joke, if it had been said, but I don’t recall that.”

Rather than defend an Australian national against the positively homicidal and kidnapping disposition of US politicians and agencies, Canberra has been generally reticent, hiding behind the fiction of due process. In some cases, Australian officials have gone so far as to level their own accusations against the Australian national, hinting that Assange might deserve trial and incarceration. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard stumbled into a trap of her own making in asserting in 2012 that it was an “illegal act” to leak documents to WikiLeaks. “It would not happen, information would not be on WikiLeaks, if there had not been an illegal act undertaken.”

Unfortunately for Gillard, she had not reckoned with the corrective assessment of opposition legal affairs spokesman George Brandis. Gillard, he said reproachfully, had been “clumsy” in her use of language. “As far as I can see he (Mr Assange) hasn’t broken any Australian law.” Shadow Foreign Minister Julie Bishop similarly pointed out that Gillard was unable to identify “any Australian law that Mr Assange has broken. Nor has she apologised for pre-judging him in that way and making that prejudicial statement.”

In 2012, when he was Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr also waffled in accusation, casting a spear at Assange for releasing “secrets… for the sake of being released without inherent justification.” In doing so, he threw in his lot with those who considered the release by WikiLeaks to be nothing like the Pentagon Papers, that jewel of exposure released by US Defence Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg. The WikiLeaks exposures were “not like Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers which revealed huge American deception, huge deception by the American government of the American public.”

This was horrendously off the mark, not least given the assessment by Ellsberg himself since 2010 and at Assange’s extradition trial. In December 2010, Ellsberg released a co-signed statement remarking that, “Every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.” In giving his testimony as a defence witness for Assange in September 2020, he further argued that his “own actions in relation to the Pentagon Papers and the consequences of their publication have been acknowledged to have performed such a radical change of understanding. I view the WikiLeaks publications of 2010 and 2011 to be of comparable importance.”

Carr was also irritated by those nuisance accusations that Assange had not received sufficient consular assistance. In his diary entry of June 2, 2012, he notes being, “Fed up with complaints from [Assange’s] family suggesting he hasn’t been supported by Australia and the opposition spokesperson saying the same thing.” Disingenuous to a fault, Carr made the adventurous suggestion at a press conference that the WikiLeaks publisher “has had more consular support in a comparable time than any other Australian. Strictly speaking, I don’t know whether this is the case.”

Carr has since undergone the sort of transformation that the Czech dissident playwright Václav Havel found inherent in politics. The very nature of the practice – one can hardly call it a discipline – produces a divorce between truth and the human being. When it is convenient, these might meet, human might and solidarity marshalled behind verity. Carr, for a time, found it inconvenient to consider the truth of Assange’s situation. Now, he has become Assange’s late-to-the party standard-bearer and defender. His extradition to the US, argues the converted Carr, “would set an ugly precedent.”

In the aftermath of the court decision, Carr suggested on Twitter that Australia was “entitled to tell Trump in his last days that Assange is one of us and his extradition is wrong. He exposed US war crimes exactly like our own in Afghanistan which we are prosecuting.” He also had words for Payne: raise the matter of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in forceful and proud fashion to defend an Australian case. “Or does your view of the [US-Australian] alliance mean you never do that?” Havel would have rolled his eyes.

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Acting Prime Minister Morrison, Acting Prime Minister McCormack And Not Acting At All

When Scott Morrison was acting as Prime Minister last week he told us: “I’m not here to offer a running commentary on what should be happening in the United States”. Of course, like many fly-in/fly-out workers, he wasn’t at work this week, so it becomes time for a commentary on all things American, such as Twitter’s decision to suspend Donald Trump’s account because that inhibits his free speech. After all, there’s no other way for the POTUS to get his message out to his followers.

The trouble with the current debate has pretty much been laid bare by the Acting Prime Minister, Michael McWhatshisname when he said, “Facts are sometimes contentious and what you might think is right – somebody else might think is completely untrue – that is part of living in a democratic country,” Facts are not “contentious” just because they don’t fit a preferred political narrative. Facts are well, factual, and if they’re not factual, then they’re what one might call an opinion and there’s a difference between a fact that people generally accept and an opinion. This is certainly something that should be taught to several people that consider themselves journalists, although I’m sure they’d argue that it’s a fact that they’re a journalist and as such are just presenting the facts as they see them which includes the fact that if they don’t give Morrison a positive spin then they’ll lose access to his “scoops”.

Anyway, there a whole range of things that people argue are true when they’re just opinions and there’s a whole range of things that we consider facts that we’ll one day discover that we were wrong about. Where the trouble lies is when we slide around and don’t actually treat things consistently, treating some opinions as though they are so self-evident that they should be taken as facts, while some verifiable events are treated as though they’re still something that needs a lot of debate.

Let’s take two simple events and put them side-by-side: A couple of years ago, Coalition senators voted for a motion saying that it was ok to be white. Yes, they did back down and say that they were confused, but some of them still tried to argue that there was nothing intrinsically racist about the motion because all it was saying was that there was nothing wrong with being white and it wasn’t suggesting that there was something wrong with not being the same colour as those sheets that the Ku Klux Klan like wearing.

For a moment, let’s leave everything that’s wrong with that opinion and just leave it sitting there like some sort of legal precedent. What we’re left with is the idea that just because we say one thing about white people, then nobody should infer that we mean that other people are excluded by the statement. It’s just a simple affirmation.

Now with that precedent in mind, let’s look at the “Black Lives Matter” response. No, no say some, you can’t say Black Lives Matter because all lives matter and saying that implies that other lives aren’t important.

I’m not suggesting that we try to unpack all the inherent racism in the two positions; I’m just suggesting that when one puts them together like that, there’s a certain inconsistency that exposes where people are actually coming from. Saying that being white is ok, doesn’t mean that not being white isn’t but saying Black Lives Matter is leaving out all the other lives that matter just as much…Like the lives of the police unless they happen to be guarding Capitol Hill in which case it’s apparently fine to beat them to death with a fire extinguisher.

And, as I pointed out before, context is everything. While the BLM protests were in response to particular incidents, the glib “all lives matter” is merely a way of undercutting the racism that the protests were trying to highlight. Nobody jumps up in the middle of a funeral and interrupts the person giving the eulogy to say, “All lives matter so can you please stop just talking about Henry?”

It’s the slippery appeals to notions of things like freedom and free speech that actually prevent any meaningful discussion of areas where there is a difference of opinion. Rather than looking at the content, we end up talking about those things which we pretend are self-evident but in other contexts are hotly contested. (Yassmin and ANZAC day tweet anyone? Or Scott McIntyre.)

When asked if he was prepared to condemn conspiracy theories being espoused by members of his own government, Morrison asserted the rather general: “You know, Australia is a free country. There’s such a thing as freedom of speech in this country and that will continue. OK, well thank you all very much.” Nobody asked for the PM to send them to a re-education camp; he was merely asked if he was prepared to call out their rather strange ideas.

Compare Morrison’s mealy-mouthed assertion about George Christensen being allowed to say what he likes because of freedom of speech with the way he’d respond if Labor or Green politicians said anything that was controversial. I don’t remember him saying that he wouldn’t be commenting on the desire for a zero-emissions target by 2050 because it’s a free country and people have the right to say what they like.

So it’s all very simple. We have a strong belief in the rights of certain people and these rights are indisputable but we don’t need a bill of rights protecting these because then everybody would be able to claim the right to say whatever and big tech companies would have the right to impose conditions and implement their terms of service.

Is the decision of the editor not to publish my letter substantially different from Twitter’s decision to cease the publication of Trump’s opinions? If the answer is that he has the right to be published because he’s President, then you’ve already decided that, when it comes to freedom of speech, it’s no longer a right but a privilege granted to the important few and the rest of us just have to accept that it’s conditional for the many.

If you need to ask permission, it’s no longer a right.

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When your government thinks banning Trump from Twitter is the real injustice

The response of the Australian government to US President Donald Trump’s incitement of the January 6 attack on the US Congress was, shall we say, muted.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his “distress” and his hope that order would soon be restored. However, he stopped far short of condemning the President, an extraordinary omission for the leader of a liberal democracy, considering Trump’s goal was to violently overthrow the results of a democratic election and retain his power.

It seems reasonable to expect that the government of a country that regards the US as its closest ally would express considerable alarm at a violent anti-democratic insurrection in which five people died, and yet…

Members of the Morrison government have saved their loudest outrage for Twitter, the social media platform Trump used to incite his followers, and the platform that has finally banned Trump for life. This, it appears, is the great injustice, an affront to “free speech,” and, wait for it, censorship.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, Nationals backbencher George Christensen, Member for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack are among government members who have condemned the “silencing” of Trump. (Trump has a pressroom in his house & can summon the world corps at any time, but that spoils the narrative so let’s not mention it).

Several MPs have called for the introduction of regulations that will ensure the state has control over the terms of service of private businesses such as social media, a most extraordinary demand from the party of small government, and one made with absolutely no sense of the irony inherent in the demand.

Christensen has started a petition demanding legislation to rein in the big tech overlords. Sharma is calling for a “publicly accountable body” to control who social media companies can and cannot refuse to host on their platforms. Frydenberg says he is “uncomfortable” with Twitter’s decision to dump Donald, leaving this writer to wonder how “uncomfortable” Mr Frydenberg is with the spectacle of Trump’s anti-Semitic foot soldiers wearing shirts declaring that “6 million wasn’t enough.” Mr Frydenberg has remained silent on this outrage.

Michael McCormack (some of you may know him better as the Elvis Impersonator) has this morning doubled down on his assertion that the insurrection at the Capitol last week was no different from Black Lives Matter protests, an assertion that has been strongly repudiated by Indigenous groups and Amnesty International as deeply offensive and flawed.

McCormack went on to state that “violence is violence and we condemn it in all its forms,” except, apparently, when incited by President Trump, whom McCormack has conspicuously failed to condemn.

What actually happened was that Twitter warned the President over several weeks that his content was violating their terms of service. Twitter then placed warning notices on many Trump tweets, while still permitting their visibility. They offered Trump the opportunity to delete his more troubling posts, and he declined. Finally, after weeks of what many perceived as irresponsible tolerance on the part of the social media platform, Twitter banished Trump.

The President received far more warnings and chances than any other user in the history of Twitter.

It is a manipulative leap to equate the breaching of a private company’s terms of service with “censorship.”

As Garry Kasparov remarked on Twitter:

 

 

Let’s not forget as well the enthusiasm with which an LNP government, under John Howard, took us along with the US into the invasion of Iraq, claiming as one of their justifications the delivery of democracy to that country. And yet, when democracy is under threat from domestic terrorism inside the US itself, there’s an orchestrated effort on the part of the LNP to distract attention from these momentous events and focus instead on Twitter allegedly “censoring” the leader of that insurrection.

Big tech de-platforming Donald is what they want you to think about, not Donald trying to destroy the US democratic process. Ask yourself why this is.

It is deeply troubling when your government decides the issue is a president being chucked off Twitter, and not a president attempting to violently interfere with the results of an election in an attempt to retain power. In its refusal to condemn Trump, the Australian government leaves us with little alternative but to assume its tacit support of the outgoing US President.

If what you take from the events of the last week is that the outrageous injustice is Twitter banning Donald Trump, you are either complicit or incomprehensibly stupid. Which is the Morrison-led Australian government?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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How to clean up Australian politics

Hidden away in my ‘To read’ file I found a piece written by former Liberal Party leader John Hewson. I shall have to clean my list out more often in the hope of finding more gems. Hewson’s piece is important and I’m not sure how I missed it because I have witnessed him going through a Fraser-like conversion in his approach to politics in the past few years.

The piece was written almost 12 months ago and spoke of a favourite subject of mine: how to clean up our politics to make for a better democracy for all Australians. John Hewson proposes six Rules of engagement.

To make his case, Hewson recalls the time:

“Scott Morrison had his Trump Lite moment when he stared blankly at the Australian people and told them that an internal report – which they were not allowed to see – had found $100 million in sports grants were legitimate. It said much about the lack of transparency that is at the heart Australian politics and its parlous state.”

He goes on to recite other examples of Morrison’s oft-quoted adventures into fooling the Australian people and says that voters are sick to death of it. All of which is true except it doesn’t seem to hurt him in the polls. Even as I write, the public is being tricked into believing that the COVID-19 vaccines only a month ago could not be brought forward, yet now they miraculously can.

Hewson continues:

“The National Party carries on, seeing such programs as slush funds for the Nationals’ interest, not the national interest, blithely disregarding the erosion of their standing in regional Australia. On they go, pushing for the government to fund a new coal-fired power station in North Queensland in defiance of all logic: there is no net demand for electricity in North Queensland; banks won’t fund it; insurers won’t insure it; renewables are cheaper and have significant export potential.”

He notes that this is all to do with how we fund our political parties and who can lobby them in Australia. He also points to the standards and methods parties use to select their MPs and Senators.

“All political parties know these systemic weaknesses but, rather than fix them, and they seek to exploit them.”

Point one, he proposes cleaning up both campaign and party funding:

“While I would prefer to confine donations to individuals, to say $1000, and ban all corporate, union, foreign and institutional donations, I recognise some Constitutional questions. Hence, I recommend, with regret, that all campaigns be publicly funded, with tightened eligibility, and any administrative donations to parties and their affiliates are fully declared, on line, as they are made, and banning all foreign donations.”

The only thing preventing this is the major parties themselves who both have a vested interest in seeing that the status quo remains.

Second, he wants to:

“… make lobbying more transparent. Ministers and key bureaucrats should be subject to full and real-time disclosure of who they meet and when, and to what end.”

Of course, this would add a great deal of openness to how the public understands their representatives spending their time. Appointments should be fundamental to any MPs’ diary. It wouldn’t be hard to display a list of meetings/appointments daily and in real-time.

Thirdly, Dr Hewson says we should:

“… introduce truth-in-advertising legislation to politics. It would be independently monitored and enforced, with a limit on campaign advertising spending.”

Again, not challenging to monitor. The amount of money spent on government advertising in the guise of information when it is nothing more than political propaganda. This also to party advertising during elections where the truth seems to be ignored completely.

Fourth:

“… introduce legislation to identify and penalise false, deceptive, and misleading conduct, as is done in business. Politicians need to be held accountable for what they say, promise and do.”

The Prime Minister and many of his cabinet are an example of what Dr Hewson is suggesting here. The pace at which they speak. The half-truths-lies by omission and full-on lies are just calculated to mislead the public on the true meaning of the words they use. The voter doesn’t need to be lied to at all, let alone at the Coalition rate.

Fifth:

“… set independent standards for those who stand for election. The parties would still vet and verify their candidates – their CVs and their citizenship – but they would also be accountable for lapses and subject to penalties.”

Hewson again is correct. As a Coalition, the standard or intellectual quality of its MPs is nothing short of deplorable. People like Christensen, Kelly, Canavan, McCormack, Price, Robert and others would be passed over in private enterprise for a job of a similar standard.

And sixth, Dr Hewson recommends:

“… a fully-funded Independent Commission Against Corruption to oversee all activities of our politicians, bureaucrats and federal government, with the capacity to receive anonymous references, and with defined links to the Australian Federal Police for prosecution.”

Being elected to politics is not a ticket to put your snout in the funding trough.”

Such a body wouldn’t be necessary if politicians were honest, but they aren’t. However, the problem is that the party with the most corrupt offences is expected to write the legislation.

As justifiable as Dr Hewson’s six points may be l would, if reshaping our democracy is the purpose, treat his suggestions as the first salvo in a more significant reconstruction.

There still remain the questions of what sort of democracy we want to be and how far we are prepared to go to achieve it.

Nothing goes on forever without some form of repair work so we could start with the Constitution. What about Question Time and states’ rights? Then we might have another look at becoming a republic. And of course, the recognition of our First Nations People in the Constitution.

What about the voting system? Is it fair? What about the breakdown in the conventions and institutional arrangements of our democracy that Tony Abbott wrecked?

The reader might like to add to my list.

There was a time when we trusted our politicians to do the right thing while we got on with life. It was a time when politics was a principled occupation. Those times are long past.

My thought for the day

Debate is not of necessity about winning or taking down one’s opponent. It is an exchange of facts, ideas and principles. Or in its purest form, it is simply the art of persuasion.

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Freedom of Speech is Dead!

“Free speech is dead and controlled by leftist overlords.” Thus the shrill voice of Donald Trump Jr. informed those who were prepared to listen to him. I know, I know you are saying why would anybody listen to a junior Donald Trump? It’s akin to listening to a fence post although the latter serves a very real and important function that cannot be attributed to the former.

There is no legal responsibility for any privately-owned platform to host anybody. Indeed there is a strong argument that social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have a duty of care to ensure that what they allow on their platforms – dare I say what they publish – should be moderated to standards generally accepted within our community.

Trump senior has used Twitter constantly for four years to peddle his misinformation and lies and so far he has been able to get away with it. But when he uses a privately owned social media platforms to whip up hatred, perpetuating unfounded claims of a stolen election with no supporting evidence, that’s another matter entirely.

In weighing up the rights and wrongs of shutting down Trump’s Twitter feed I thought of how it was before these platforms were created. In those days, if we had something to say we would write to out local newspaper and take our chances on being published. If you live in Queensland as I do, you would write to a News Corporation publication as there are no others.

But should you want to write a critique of an article by Andrew Bolt for lack of balance or Miranda Devine for lack of objectivity or accuracy that would immediately go into the bin at News Corporation offices.

So, freedom of speech it seems to me is very much in the eye of the beholder. Rupert is evidently very much in favour of Donald Trump’s rights to speak freely and without censure. The memo it seems went out to his editors, print and online, that he was aghast that the leader of the free world should be so arbitrarily shut down by Twitter and Facebook. Sky-after-Dark went off like the proverbial ‘frog in a sock’ to support Donald’s right to his constitutionally guaranteed freedom to speak his mind. But they seem to forget that we probably all agree with the right of the president to speak on matters of global and national importance but that doesn’t include the right to incite violence or to tell lies.

If he wants to communicate with the world he merely has to call a press conference with the White House press pack in attendance and it would – at least for the next ten days – be considered by all the major networks for national and global coverage, but he would be questioned: and that’s as it should be.

In my view Twitter and Facebook have every right, indeed a duty to ensure that their platforms are suitably moderated – just a pity they didn’t think about it earlier.

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The Electoral Swings And Roundabouts

Nate Silver was suddenly a genius because he called the Obama victory in 2012 when so many people had written him off. What was Nate’s secret? Simply that he looked at each state and worked out – based on the polls – what was likely to happen and who was likely to end up with the most Electoral College votes. Of course, he predicted that there was high degree of certainty about Hillary winning and he got that wrong… Well, not exactly wrong, but people expect that when someone says this is ninety percent certain, it means you can presume that it’s a hundred percent certain and if the ten percent actually happens then you were wrong…

Malcolm Mackerras was the go-to man for elections in Australia before Antony Green but made the terrible mistake one election of looking at the swing and declaring the election for the wrong side. He looked at the overall swing and not the individual electorates. Yes, based on the nationwide swing, the government lost. They’re just wasn’t a uniform swing and, in the electorates that mattered, the government held on.

I mention all this because I’ve been reading a number of people who are all telling me that Morrison will win the next election because he’s just so popular and a number of them despair for Australia and the education system when a man like him can pull the wool over people’s eyes so easily.

Now, I could launch into a defence of schools here and say that it’s all the fault of the media, but that would be wrong of me because I think that there’s an element of truth in the accusation. Of course, it’s also true that if one attempts to educate children to think clearly and dispassionately, one may be in trouble for introducing one’s political views into the classroom. In other words, some of us don’t want kids thinking and if you ask them why some people may call Australia Day, Invasion Day, then you’re introducing a whole political flavour to the classroom… Personally, I’ve preferred to ban ideas like that and any talk of climate change and just relied on the fact that most adolescents want to rebel so it gets them thinking….

Anyway, while some of you are sowing the seeds of despair and saying that there’s no way that Scott Morrison won’t be PM for the rest of his life, I’d like to offer these little titbits of hope…

And, I’d also like to apologise if anyone found the word “titbits” offensive. Honestly, political correctness gone mad… it’s got so you can’t try to launch a violent overthrow of the government without social media banning you…

Moving on, I’d like to say at this point I’m not predicting the next election result. Yes, I did tell you that Tony Abbott would be dumped and replaced by Malcolm Turnbull. And I did predict that Morrison would do a Bradbury and skate through as Peter Dutton slammed Malcolm into the fence…

No, this is not a prediction. This is a reminder that most election predictions have been wrong for the past few years; this is a reminder that Nate Silver got it right.

So, let’s look at the state of play in the House of Representatives. The Government hold 77 seats, Labor hold 68 and Independents hold 6. This gives the Coalition a reasonably comfortable majority. However, if a government MP voted against them and all the rest did as well then they’d need the Speaker to use his casting vote to win the vote. I don’t think that this will happen, mind you, but I’m just pointing out that this Parliament is as tight as most of the previous ones and Morrison didn’t win a landslide, so he’s never going to stand up to Kelly, Christensen or indeed anyone.

So when we move on to the next election what’s likely to happen? And yes, the answer is: How the fuck does anyone know, when events can change everything in a minute?

HOWEVER!

Let’s just do the Nate Silver thing for a minute here.

A net gain of two seats to Labor puts the Coalition into minority government.

A net gain of five Labor seats makes Labor the major party.

Now for those of you who want to check this out for yourself, I’ve included the list of marginal Coalition seats 2019 and margins at the end, but I just want to ask you what you expect in each of the following cases and ask you to suspend your disbelief and assume that Labor hold all their current seats which – yes, I know that won’t happen, but stick with this, people…

Seat 1: Gladys Liu holds Chisholm by less than one percent. At the 2019 election, the Liberals had all but conceded it, but Gladys pulled off a surprising victory. Given that Morrison is going to hit his “We need to stand up to China schtick”, do you think that this will play well for Gladys or do you think, they’ll work on the theory that winning over the racists is the way to go and we’ll just accept that people may think that she’s a spy.

Seat 2: Dave Sharma won Wentworth by a margin of less than 1.5%. He seems to have presumed that this means that seat is his for life and that he can ignore the electorate and tweet things that will have the Matt Canavans backing him in future leadership spill. He completely overlooks the fact that Malcolm Turnbull may be prepared to back me as independent and donate a million dollars for my campaign for no other reason than he can put his arm around me and say, “I’m ambition for this guy!”

Seat 3: Steve Irons holds the electorate of Swan by a margin of less than three percent. This a Western Australian electorate. If the election is held too soon then all that they’ll remember is the “Come on, open up your borders and join the rest of Australia with the virus!” And yes, we did support Clive Palmer suing you, until we realised that was so stupid that even Christian Porter might lose his seat… And not just the one at the bar. (He’s a barrister, for god’s sake, what’s all this talk of suing me. He could lose the right to be a barrister. This has nothing to do with any other bars that he may have been in!)

Seat 4: Katie Allen won Higgins by slightly less than four percent. I would say Dr Katie Allen but I’m unsure about whether she’s ever delivered a baby and I do remember a kerfuffle about President Biden’s wife calling herself a doctor when she’d only earned a Ph.D in education. Anyway, there was some talk about this being a three way contest between Labor, The Greens and the Liberals. Like Dave Sharma, she seems to be trying to impress her colleagues rather than the electorate. I’m not the sort of man who makes predictions except when I think I’ll be right, but I am willing to say that I suspect that next election we’ll be crossing for the latest results from Higgins.

Seat 5: Terry Young holds Longman in Queensland but less than four percent. At the 2019 election, Queenslanders were upset when Bob Brown’s caravan of greenies told them to stop the Adani mine. If the next election happens too soon, then not only will they still remember Morrison telling them to open their borders, but Bob won’t be able to get in there and annoy them because their borders will be closed.

Ok, there’s the five seats that make the Coalition the minor party. And, anyone had actually done the arithmetic then you’ll see that I’m actually wrong even if all my predictions are correct, because I predicted that some them would go to other people and not Labor.

But, gees, when has being wrong ever stopped people from being successful in politics?

Just do what our leaders are doing and look at what’s below and make your own predictions about what to expect…

 

GOVERNMENT SEATS
Marginal
Bass (TAS)Bridget ArcherLIB50.41
Chisholm (VIC)Gladys LiuLIB50.57
Wentworth (NSW)Dave SharmaLIB v IND51.31
Boothby (SA)Nicolle FlintLIB51.38
Swan (WA)Steve IronsLIB52.69
Braddon (TAS)Gavin PearceLIB53.09
Reid (NSW)Fiona MartinLIB53.18
Longman (QLD)Terry YoungLNP53.28
Higgins (VIC)Katie AllenLIB53.88
Leichhardt (QLD)Warren EntschLNP54.17
Robertson (NSW)Lucy WicksLIB54.24
La Trobe (VIC)Jason WoodLIB54.49
Dickson (QLD)Peter DuttonLNP54.64
Casey (VIC)Tony SmithLIB54.64
Deakin (VIC)Michael SukkarLIB54.78
Brisbane (QLD)Trevor EvansLNP54.92
Lindsay (NSW)Melissa McIntoshLIB55.04
Hasluck (WA)Ken WyattLIB55.39
Flinders (VIC)Greg HuntLIB55.64
Stirling (WA)Vince ConnellyLIB55.65
Kooyong (VIC)Josh FrydenbergLIB v GRN55.70

 

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Seeking the Post COVID Sunshine: The Bipartisan No Malarkey Era Approaches

By Denis Bright

Civil disobedience in Washington has cleared the decks for a quite proactive era for President Joe Biden. More irreversible foreign policy escapades by Donald Trump or his chosen international supporters are now unlikely as the countdown to Inauguration Day moves forward.

Politically progressive commentators might have preferred a more liberal, greener or charismatic president.

History gave the nod to Joe Biden by a narrow margin of US Electoral College votes as in the 1960 presidential campaign when John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon.

The results in Georgia’s two Special Senate elections were an added ingredient to a smoother than expected transition of power.

Even here the result was closely contested by Republicans with an extraordinary expenditure of campaign funds on both sides of US politics as in other swing states last year

 

 

It would be expected that the Biden team would strengthen its hold on Congress in 2022 with a pragmatic outreach to states like Florida and Texas which were held by the Democratic Party in the Kennedy era.

By good fortune, the US has now more in tandem with allies in Britain, Europe and Japan to shape the return to normalcy and bipartisan commitment to the challenges of COVID-19, global warming and détente. Perceived adversaries in Russia, China or even Iran and Turkey are likely to support the new global consensus. The financial burdens and sheer risks of Trumpism justify support from even Israel and Saudi Arabia.

These changes are impacting on Australia. Scott Morrison is already in consensus-mode. Our official Australia Day rhetoric for 2021 is a now long way from nostalgia about the arrival of Captain Cook:

 

 

Image: Australia Day advertisement 2021

 

Foundations of the Wider New Global Change Consensus

Unexpected and tragic events have a capacity to bring the leaders of humanity to their senses. Contemporary challenges coincide with the current US leadership transition.

The Global Health Consensus Trumps Last Minute Strategic Manoeuvres?

The devastation caused by COVID-19 and its new variants have cast a shadow on all sides of global politics.

With its lighter incidence of COVID-19 Australia has a capacity to lessen these divides and to intervene on behalf of people in difficulties as with the Tsunami crisis of 2004 in the Indian Ocean Basin. Details of the current COVID-19 map are offered by the WHO:

 

 

Whilst the incidence of COVID-19 in Indonesia is far from being the worst by global standards, our neighbours could certainly do with more assistance in prevention and management of the virus as shown in Worldometer data.

 

 

There are pockets of higher than average COVID-19 infections across Indonesia as shown in the older WHO data across Indonesia from 21 October 2020:

 

 

In these times of health crises across parts of Indonesia, it was highly inappropriate for the Trump White House to be fostering last minute strategic tries with Indonesia as a reward for new foreign aid incentives to outsmart the incoming Biden Administration as noted in the Jerusalem Post (23 December 2020):

 

 

The Economic Consensus?

Trumpism has extended its polarization over global management of the COVID-19 virus to attacks on the benefits of globalization with tariffs on trade and barriers to investment flows. Such actions have pushed our perceived strategic opponents towards more self-sufficient directions without any real benefits to neoliberal economies.

The closer than expected result in the US Presidential election was engineered in part by anticipation of the rebound in US growth rates in the September Quarter of 2020:

 

US Growth Rates (Per Cent)

 

This statistical illusion leaves US economic growth rates still 3.5 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.

Long before the current pandemic era, labour intensive US manufacturing has been largely outsourced to developing countries.

Even US investment is being tracked through a network of tax havens which are of great value for tax minimization globally. This global network of tax havens is an immense resource for US corporations investing in Australia as noted by Anne Davies in the Guardian (28 September 2020).

A political illusion persists that global capitalism continues to operate in the traditions of a struggling family farm or the corner grocery store which survives on a commitment to thrift and moral integrity.

Image from ABC News 6 March 2020

The regression to contract labour and piecework deliveries has been a feature of the current COVID-19 era for pizza and food deliveries by multinational brands.

Strategic practice insists on offensives against countries with legitimate but alternative economic systems. Nothing imperils our strategic security more than pushing perceived adversaries into a return to old commitments to self-sufficiency and rigid central planning.

Ironically, central planning can be incorporated into capitalist economies as achieved by countries like Japan, Germany, France, South Korea or even Israel during their own miracle years until the arrival of the tax revolt era policies of Richard Nixon and Margaret Thatcher with the support of the Murdoch Press.

Now the paradigm change to No Malarkey Politics is perhaps in the wind.

No More Social Malarkey?

Reducing political choice to confusing marketing choices has continued right up to the recent senate elections in Georgia.

 

Image from techchrunch

 

Data on the extent of US campaign marketing challenges the very foundations of democratic processes.

Cheers then to the arrival of this new No Malarkey era in the traditions of John Kennedy’s New Frontier (1961-63) and to momentum for the politics of hope:

 

Image from Irish Central 29 October 2020

 

Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.

 

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Trump, Insurrections and the 25th Amendment

How strange it must have seemed for US lawmakers to be suddenly facing what was described as a “mob”, not so much storming as striding into the Capitol with angry purpose. A terrified security force proved understaffed and overwhelmed. Members of Congress hid. Five people lost their lives.

With the US imperium responsible for fostering numerous revolutions and coups across the globe during its history, spikes of schadenfreude could be found. China’s state paper Global Times found it irresistible to use the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a point of comparison. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remark that the Hong Kong protests were “a beautiful sight to behold” was rubbed in the face of US lawmakers. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, remarking on the gloating reaction of Chinese netizens, also referred to remarks by US lawmakers on the Hong Kong protests.

It did not take long for carelessly chosen words such as “coup” to find their way into the political stuttering, as if President Donald Trump had somehow been having beer hall meetings in an atmosphere thick with plotting. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss was one. “This is a coup d’état attempted by the president of the United States.”

Many members of Congress concurred. “What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” concluded Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. “This president should not hold office one day longer.” Republican Senator Mitt Romney also stated that “an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States,” had taken place. Republican Rep. John Curtis went further, calling the move on the Capitol “an act of domestic terrorism inspired and encouraged by our president.”

Meaty words for scenes more nastily absurd than politically planned or devised, despite assertions by Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming that “the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob.”

This summation is all too tidy. It would have been far better to see the rioters much as the commander-and-chief himself: disposed to chaos, unrepentant in petulance. There was the QAnon conspiracy theorist Jake Angeli, sans shirt but donning a fur hat with Viking horns and spear, treating the occasion like a Christmas panto. There was Richard “Bigo” Barnett, who occupied, for a moment, the chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leaving a note reading: “Nancy, Bigo was here, you bitch.”

There is no denying that such protestors had been offered rich encouragement by the president to protest the certification of the election results by Congress. “You’ll never take back our country with weakness,” he said coaxingly. Preoccupied with his own version of the stab-in-the-back theory involving a “stolen” election, Trump is crafting a version of history that, should it stick, will propel him for a future campaign to retake the White House.

The Capitol incident had tickled and teased out the prospects of a real coup, currently being hatched by a rerun of the impeachment narrative and suggestions that the 25th Amendment of the US constitution be invoked. Section 4 of the amendment establishes a process by which the president can be declared “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” provided the vice president and a majority of “the principal officers of the executive departments” think so. The prospect of a hazardous use of that amendment is in the offing.

The wording of the amendment is broad and undefined, even though the original intent of it remains one of removing an executive who suffers true incapacity. The idea of medical emergency lies at its core. Even then, a letter has to be signed to the speakers of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The president is also given a chance to offer a written response contesting the finding, leaving it to Congress to decide. A supermajority of two-thirds in both congressional chambers would then be required.

Press outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post, and organisations such as the National Association of Manufacturers have not bothered themselves too much about the original nature of the provision and its purpose. President and CEO of the latter, Jay Timmons, took the broadest interpretation for the sake of urgency. “Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment to preserve democracy.”

Various lawmakers have also adopted an expansive, if cursory interpretation. In the view of Vermont’s Republican Governor Phil Scott, “President Trump should resign or be removed from office by his Cabinet, or by the Congress.”

 

 

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, in their note to Pence, urge him along with a majority of Cabinet secretaries, to find Trump unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. They even go for a layman’s diagnosis of his mental wellbeing. “Even his video announcement this afternoon, President Trump revealed that he was not mentally sound and is still unable to process and accept the results of the 2020 election.”

When the Democrats refused to believe the results of the 2016 elections, showing a persistent inability to process and accept it, they could never be said to be mentally unwell. Unhinged and delusional, maybe, but hardly a case of mental corrosion.

Law academic Brian Kalt, a keen student of the 25th amendment, advances two scenarios where section 4 might be used. The first involves “a president whose impairment is severe enough that the helm is, effectively, unmanned, even if he is still somehow able to claim that he is able to discharge his powers and duties.” Examples might entail severe strokes, a psychotic break or moderate dementia.

The second instance, which still suggests psychotic behaviour, would involve impairment “to the point of teeing up a disaster,” much like General Jack D. Ripper’s flight of murderous fancy in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove. “Consider, for example, an unhinged president who orders a capricious nuclear strike against another county – the problem here is not that the president is ‘unable’ so much as all too able to wipe out millions of lives.”

While Kalt was writing this in 2019, his views convinced Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School and David Priess, chief operating officer at Lawfare, that Trump had met the standard of removal set by the 25th Amendment. He had shown an “inability or unwillingness for weeks to distinguish reality from fiction about the results of the election” and had shown a “detachment from exercising the basic responsibilities of the office.”

Andrew C. McCarthy in the National Review prefers, with much justification, that this is simply pushing things too far, confusing delusion and character flaws with incapacity and inability. He has pointed out, with some accuracy, that the amendment was “not applicable to a situation in which the president is alleged to be unfit for reasons of character, or due to the commission of political offences that may arise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanours.” Trump might be delusional and self-interested, but these were not “competent diagnoses of mental instability.”

Within the various disturbed readings of the 25th Amendment lie the same rages that caused Caliban to despair at seeing his own face. Trump is the symptom, the agent of chaos, the disrupter making much of a bedridden Republic, a good deal of it the making of his opponents. To use the language of constitutionalism masquerading as an insurrection is intended to finally entomb Trumpism. What this risks doing is politically martyring a man who will leave office on January 20.

So far, Pence is resolutely opposed to using the measure and has the support of various Trump cabinet officials. According to the New York Times, “Those officials, a senior Republican said, viewed the effort as likely to add to the current chaos in Washington rather than deter it.” Utilising it would add the most combustible fuel to the argument Trump has been making all along: that establishment forces, always keen to box him during his administration, are now intent on removing him.

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Why I Don’t Believe Anything Unless It’s From Some Conspiracy Theorist On The Internet…

Ok, the heading is a complete lie and I’m sure that twenty five people have already pointed out the intrinsic absurdity…

Anyway, I’m actually the sort of person who believes absolutely everything… for about ten seconds. I mean that I’m so gullible that I double check everything I’m told – including any conspiracy theory – because I’m included to believe it. I just don’t want to be fooled again into going to the bar and asking for that cocktail that doesn’t exist but has the bar attendant giving me their phone number!

For example, I spent the early years of my life believing that Captain Cook discovered Australia before I remembered that there were already people living here. After that, I was completely cynical about every history book that I read. Sometime later I read some quote about history belonging to the victors and I understood completely.

When I say that I understood completely, of course, I can only say that because – so far – I am one of life’s victors. After all, I’m still here, I have access to a computer and the internet and I can write whatever version of history I’d like to think is true… and yes, for it to be accepted as true, I need a few more victories but at least there’s a bigger chance of my version being the one stamped “Acceptable, please read!” than all those who perished looking for a pencil and sheet of paper…

Long preamble, but simple question:

Did you ever think that it would be the supporters of a man like Donald Trump who would mount the revolution and storm the Bastille? (Ok, ok, it wasn’t the Bastille and the revolution sort of drifted away once they realised that they, like a dog chasing a car, had no idea what to do if they were successful…)

I mean, didn’t you always think that it would be the intelligentsia who’d organise the revolution? Didn’t you think it would be the ideological descendants of Abbie Hoffman and Germaine Greer and John Lennon and all those sixties figures and not those followers of a reality tv star who couldn’t even keep his show on TV?

So who gets to write the history of the past few days?

Will Donald Trump move his people to a new media empire/party and leave the powers that be floundering? Will he actually drain the swamp by splitting the conservative vote into those that have and those that only believe if they keep voting for those that have then they too will benefit from the abundance when the billionaires have decided that they have enough and it’s time to share?

Or will Rupert Murdoch reign supreme and make us all believe that somehow it was all the fault of the leftwing communist Democrats? (Irony font needed desperately!) I’ve already heard someone suggest that this was the Democrats’ equivalent of Hitler blaming the Jews and the socialists for the burning down of the Reichstag and that they’d use this as an excuse to attack certain people… like Republicans and Rupert.

Wow, this is just like watching a Sci-fi movie where you have an alien from outer space pitted against Godzilla and you don’t know whose side you’re on. Ok, you sort of feel that if they tear each other to pieces it would be a good thing, but the terrible danger is that whichever one is left standing, then we’ll have a whole new world and we’re not sure that we’ll like it.

It’s sort of like when Craig Kelly speaks and Scott Morrison says that we have free speech so I can’t disagree with him because we have free speech and I certainly can’t say that he’s an embarrassment to the party because I’m the PM and we can’t tell you our views on anything apart from our right to holiday.

Gee, this clip didn’t age well because the revolution was televised!

 

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Corruption viewed within fine print of super reforms

Australia’s union movement has steadfastly rejected the Morrison government’s latest proposed reforms on superannuation on the grounds that workers would be worse off if choices about such accounts were left to the banks rather than to themselves or their employers.

And in addition to leaving Australia’s working classes potentially being worse off for retirement, the proposed reforms would leave the banks richer and grant the government’s superannuation minister – presently, Jane Hume – with a set of new powers that would go unchecked and with zero accountability.

In essence, the government seeks to use its Parliamentary and legislative powers to overhaul the superannuation system.

And doing so in a manner which leaves a trail of corruption in its wake, especially after the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has recently called for an ending of a freeze on superannuation rates that have been a LNP government policy staple since 2014.

“The union movement stands ready to resist any attacks on workers’ retirement savings. Like with Medicare, we need to improve and strengthen our retirement system, which is already the envy of the world – not tear it down,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said last month when defending the status quo of the superannuation system.

Under the government’s reform proposals, whose exposure drafts and explanatory materials are being weighed up in the midst of a Federal Senate Inquiry on the Superannuation Sector, would take the rights of choice among superannuation funds away from workers, particularly those new to the workforce or to a new employer, and be steered towards any for-profit funds run by the banks.

The ACTU, by labelling these reforms as “predatory”, views the suggested reforms as being politically motivated and as an attack based on ideology, and have unsurprisingly called for their legislative defeat.

“The federal government’s superannuation reforms will shortchange workers and erode the hard-won retirement savings of millions of Australians,” Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s national assistant secretary, said on Monday.

“A worker could be locked into an underperforming for-profit fund that is funnelling money to shareholders through exorbitant administration fees – and be misled by the Government that they are in a good fund,” added Connolly.

The ACTU juxtaposes the Industry Super network of superannuation funds against the perils of the banking-based for-profit funds advocated by the LNP and the Morrison government, due to the fact that Industry Super-linked funds perform better via all profits going to each of its respective fund’s members.

However, under the government’s reforms, that would change, thereby leaving workers worse off in the long run towards planning their retirements.

“If these laws are passed, for-profit funds will have a systemic advantage over all-profit-to-member funds, leaving workers worse off,” said Connolly.

“The exposure draft legislation represents an attack on working people, their retirement savings, and the best performing and best-governed superannuation funds,” he added.

As the superannuation sector inquiry is scheduled to resume in the Senate next month when the federal Parliament returns from its summer break, and expected to wrap up in March, the Department of the Treasury highlights its reform package to include:

  • Members being given notification upon whenever a superannuation fund fails an annual transparency performance test administered by the Australian Prudential Review Authority (APRA), and if this occurs two years in a row, trustees for such superannuation products are prohibited from accepting new beneficiaries into the product
  • Providing certainty and transparency about the basis by which superannuation products will be ranked and published on a website maintained by the ATO
  • Invoking a new set of standards to ensure that superannuation trustees work in a manner upholding its members’ best interests

Employers will still be required to make contributions into an employee’s single nominated superannuation fund. However, wrinkles are being proposed to ensure that unnecessary fees and insurance premiums are not paid on unintended multiple superannuation accounts.

“It is no coincidence that administration fees are excluded from benchmark proposals, as for-profit funds performances will be overstated to members and potential members,” said Connolly.

The ACTU has also brought the recent memories of the Banking Royal Commission into recall, as the proposed superannuation reforms would grant extended powers to whomever its minister would be.

As Hume currently holds the portfolio for superannuation, as she has within the Morrison government since 2019, a bit of background about her history is required – especially since she is facing the prospect of having her powers expanded in a big way.

Although Hume served as a senior strategic policy advisor with Australian Super prior to her ascension to politics as a Senator for Victoria in 2016, she possesses a storied past in the banking sector.

Hume was a former Deutsche Bank Australia vice president in 2008-09 after previously working as a National Australia Bank sales and marketing research manager, investment manager and a private banker from 1995-99 before moving on to Rothschild Australia as a senior business development manager in the asset management division, and briefly as a key accounts manager from 2000-2002.

Any superannuation minister, present or future, would be given the power to possess the authority to deem as illegal any expense, investment, or activity, by any fund, at any time, as well as extending the preference for a single superannuation fund over any or all others while lacking the transparency in not required to give notice nor reason for those actions.

Moreover, the decisions of the minister nor any new regulations undertaking under the minister’s watch do not require to be challenged in court.

Given the context of what the Banking Royal Commission revealed, Connolly and the ACTU have called out the rogue nature of these reforms – as well as the extended, unchecked powers of any current or future superannuation minister for the government of the day.

“Despite the Banking Royal Commission finding for-profit funds blatantly rorting members, the government continues to favour them by making benchmarking based on net investment return,” said Connolly.

 

 

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